Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sony MDR-EX85 (EX85LP) a.k.a. MDR-EX082 Consumer Headphones - Good Bass and Warm Sound

I tried and returned the Sony MDR-EX85 in black color (MDR-EX85LP/BLK). Not only does it look (and sound) similar to the Sony MDR-EX082 (and probably is the same headphones) I already have, it costs too much for the way it sounds. Let me elaborate.

I already have a lot of headphones at home, some of which I use frequently and some infrequently or not at all. Some examples of the headphones I have include Sennheiser HD201, Sennheiser HD202, Koss KSC75, Koss SparkPlug, Philips HS500, Creative EP-640, and others. The headphones I use most frequently are the Sennheiser HD202, Koss KSC75, Microsoft Zune Premium, and Creative EP-640.

I used the Sennheiser HD 202 most of the time, when I could. It had the best detail level of the above headphones, decent bass, is comfortable and provides good insulation. But it is bulky since it is not an in-ear model.

More About Sony MDR-EX85LP Headphone

The Sony MDR-EX85LP headphones are somewhat similar to the Creative and the Zune Premium headphones. They provide semi-compact, moderately noise-insulating design. Unlike the fully in-ear phones like the above models, it does not fully sit in the ear - the driver and its housing are outside and the ear bud is inside the ear canal, which results in somewhat less noise insulation but an ability to use larger drivers of 13.5 mm, providing better bass. The claimed frequency response is 5-24,000 Hz.

The silicone rubber ear buds provide a moderately secure fit and good sound insulation (in addition to the ear buds installed on the headphone, extra sets of different sizes are included). The noise insulation is almost as good as that of the canalphones, which is good when you actually need to be able to hear some ambient noise (e.g. for safety reasons).

The headphones' driver housings are part plastic and part metal. As most Sony products, this model looks stylish. They also appear solidly built with good fit and finish.

Some specs: frequency response of 5-24,000 Hz, impedance of 16 Ohms at 1 kHz, sensitivity of 105 dB/mW, 1.2 m cord with a 3.5-mm compact plug for use with portable gear, approx. weight of 6g without the cord. The headphones come with silicone replacement ear buds and a decent carrying case.


Upon getting them, I plugged the headphones into my iPod connected to the AC jack with a power adaptor, and played random music nonstop for 45 hours. The jack is compact, which lets me connect it to my iPod while it is charging, something that is difficult to do with the Koss KSC75's large plastic molding around the plug. I did not use my Sony NWZ-S639FR 16 GB Digital Media Player because I need to find extra uses for my iPod now that the Sony MP3 player is my primary listening device.

Once I put them on, the silicone ear buds fit well, insulating my from the outside noise rather good. The lack of ports in headphones further contributes to sound insulation and better-defined bass. And the bass is something these headphones have in abundance. In fact there is a bit too much of it, but I will provide more information about it later.

The EX85LP features relatively high sensitivity and decent insulation, which in turn allows you to use lower volume on your portable gear and still get loud enough sound. I have tried a variety of music, including classical (Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto in D Minor, some Sibelius and Wagner), Euro-dance, pop, rock, electronic music and even rap (albeit the latter is something I don't generally listen to).

In addition, I listened to audio books and movie soundtracks. I used my iPod for a short while, but mostly the Sony NWZ-S639FR 16 GB Digital Media Player, for it provides better sound and a graphical equalizer to boot. I also employed a portable CD player and a laptop as well as my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver's headphone out (fed from CD as well as DVD-Audio). For comparison purposes, I alternated between these and the over-the-ear Koss KSC75, Zune Premium headphones as well as the in-ear Creative EP-640 headphones.

These headphones have plenty of bass, more than the Creative EP-640 and Creative EP-630 and even more than Zune Premium. The abundance of bass (and lower midrange) creates a pleasant, warm sound. Although it is a bit too much for my taste, since I prefer a bit less lower midrange and upper bass.

I think that the Zune Premium headphones have just the perfect amount of bass, but the EX85 have a bit too much and the Creative EP-640 and EP-630 are slightly lacking. In contrast, the Sennheiser HD202 needs a very slight EQ bass boost and then produces well-controlled bass, but this is comparing apples to oranges. I like apples, but sometimes you need oranges too.

The overall sound was moderately transparent and detailed with clear instrument separation and definition. Even classical music sounded good. But the upper frequencies and even some regions in the midrange were a bit veiled. Overall, the sound was a bit dark. There was a moderate de-emphasis of upper midrange and treble, which is curable with equalization but only if you have it at your disposal (my iPod doesn't have it, by the Sony player does).

The Cord

The headphones come with a cord that separates to left and right ear buds with the right part being much longer for the "behind and around the neck" arrangement. I dislike it.

Pros: Plenty of bass and lower midrange, warm sound, good contruction, detail level.
Cons: Sound too dark for my taste, overpowering bass if no equalizer is available.

Something new: I recently got the Ultimate Ears 300 and they are clearly better of any in-the-ear headphones I have used so far. Stay tuned for the review.

Bottom Line

The Sony MDR-EX85LP are good headphones with plenty of bass and warm, pleasant sound. With moderate level of sound insulation, stylish appearance and an "around the neck" cord, it is a good choice overall, especially if you are going to use it with sources that have an equalizer. I returned them because they are no better than other headphones I already have.


  1. Thank you for this info. I bought a pair of Klipsch yesterday to replace my old EX85 set ... and can't stand them. I could spend days reading reviews and such just to find a replacement, but decided to dig around and see if I could find anywhere selling the out-of-production EX85s (yup, got 'em). And now I have some models of comparable models, thanks to this article!