Sony MDR-EX81 Earphones | iLounge

Reviews

41

I recently purchased these headphones from igearbox.com, since they have the lowest price! These headphones are quite simply the best earbud headphones around $50. The sound is absolutely great. In the past, I have always liked earbud style headphones because they are somewhat more discreet than other types, but was always disappointed with the sound quality, especially the lack of bass. I use them for activities, too... gym, jogging, etc. And they have never become dislodged or even come close. They stay in place until I take them out. This alone is enough to spend $50. These Sony have completely restored my faith in earbuds.

Posted by PowerBook on November 28, 2004 at 3:19 PM (PDT)

42

Purchased from Audiocube - fast delivery, $60 price.
Headphone sound quality is ok, bass response is weak. They do stay in place while exercising, but can be intrusive when wearing glasses (depending on style of temple). The cabling is bad (length & appearance) always having to unravel it from one thing or another - could be more streamlined and I don't understand the need for a midpoint jack. I'm not totally satisfied, will continue to look for ultimate earpiece.

Posted by SJG on November 29, 2004 at 9:02 PM (PDT)

43

Typed "71s" by mistake, meant the "81s" (sorry Nuke666) and yes, the cord is evenly split, but longer than is really necessary

For Jazmaan: my impression is the same as Pat M.'s and SJG's. Sound quality is pretty subjective and unique to each individual, like all perception, but to me, even the Apple std ear buds (under $100) have better sound, despite all their ergonomic drawbacks. I concur with Pat M. the weak/muddy bass from the 81s sounds a little too much like AM radio.

Posted by Slim in Chicago, USA on November 29, 2004 at 9:41 PM (PDT)

44

While I enjoy the sound quality of the 81's, I am having a horrible time getting the earphones to fit properly. I never thought I had abnormally large or small ears, but I just can't get the "rubber mounts" to rest properly on my ears or establish a proper seal with the flanges. When I do get a good seal, it's because I'm in front of a mirror and have adjusted it for a minute or so. I must be doing something wrong, because everyone else commends the 81 for its comfort. Help!!

Posted by Louis Chow in baton rouge on November 29, 2004 at 10:07 PM (PDT)

45

I wear glasses and I am also having a hard time keeping the earphones in place, especially while jogging. Also, I have noticed that the volume level is substantially less with the 81"s. Perhaps I have a faulty set. When I compare them with a cheap set of Sony outside the ears , I have far less volume. Anybody else notice this problem?

Posted by taid in california on November 30, 2004 at 11:07 AM (PDT)

46

gruff, yeah, I've noticed at the gym that the volume must be fairly high to satisfy me. I didn't expect that at all.

for those of you who are thinking of getting the 81's to workout, I can share with you my experience. It has been Horrible!!! The fit has been bad ( I wear glasses), the rubber mounts don't rest on the tip of my ears like they should. And the uneven cord lengths, right one is much longer than the left (or vice versa, I don't remember right off hand) are really irritating. The cord is also twenty inches or so longer than I need, and becomes inconvenient in the gym.

When I can get a good seal (takes about a minute) the sound quality is nice, bass is controlled and mid and highs are clear and warm for the price. But all in all, very disappointing purchase thus far.

Posted by Louis Chow in baton rouge on November 30, 2004 at 3:00 PM (PDT)

47

Thanks Louis, nice to know I'm not the only one having these problems. Can we get refunds?

Posted by taid in california on November 30, 2004 at 3:17 PM (PDT)

48

One thing I liked about the EX71's was that the portion that covers the wire and the back of the ear buds was rubber. I could lay my head down and sleep on them without a problem. Can this be done with the EX81's?

Posted by Robert Y on November 30, 2004 at 5:15 PM (PDT)

49

Hang on, Slim says the cords are evenly split (Y shape) but Louis Chow says they are uneven. Can someone plase confirm what the cord lengths are on the 81's?

Posted by Nuke666 in Melbourne, Austalia on November 30, 2004 at 10:28 PM (PDT)

50

Definitely uneven Robert, mine at least...and if mine's an anomaly, I want a refund!!!! smile I don't know Gruff, I'm pretty sure audiocubes policy is return friendly, but you might want to read the fine print. I'm thinking of selling mine on the forum.

Posted by Louis Chow in baton rouge on December 1, 2004 at 10:45 AM (PDT)

51

I, too, am disappointed considering the glowing review they received. I got mine on Monday. They are a pain to put on and get right. I think the treble seems a bit high also. I contacted audiocubes and they have deterred me from returning them. They suggested I try one of the larger sets of provided plugs. I reduced the treble on my Mini and it does sound somewhat better. 15% restocking fee + $9 shipping to the US + $9 shipping back to Japan = me making the most of it. Perhaps if I read a few more positive reviews, I'll convince myself how great they are. I generally suffer from buyer's remorse anyway.

Posted by jam2004 on December 1, 2004 at 5:46 PM (PDT)

52

These look great, and will definately get a pair when they come to the UK. I currently own a pair of EX70s and find them to be amazingly better than Apple's standard earbuds in terms of sound quality and comfort. I also found that a better balance could be achieved by setting my iPods EQ to 'Jazz', as this lifts the midrange and treble to compensate for the slightly muddy bass.
The only two problems i can see are that i too wear glasses, and the cable connection on the 3.5mm plug looks the same as on my 70s. I have taken these headphones back to sony three times because the joint between the cable and plug always becomes loose, detaches, and i eventually get a poor connection. Nevertheless, as this is currently happening, i have an excuse to buy some 81s, and sony's products are always covered from these defects by their 1 year warranty. Most dealers will simply give you another set when you wave your receipt and warranty around!

Posted by matt84 in UK on December 1, 2004 at 5:55 PM (PDT)

53

The MDR-EX81SL has an uneven cord, longer from the right ear than from the left, and intended to rest behind your ears and neck. If you're using treble or bass enhancement (any EQs for that matter) on your iPod with the 81s, turn it off and listen without enhancement for a while. As noted in the review, the only people who will have substantial room to complain (for the price) are bass-heads.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 1, 2004 at 8:20 PM (PDT)

54

I read the comment here and I'm thinking about getting the 71 (don't like the idea of something hanging over my ear...) but some of you ppl say the sound quality is not that good - is there a better thing in this price tag?!

Posted by LinkTree in IL on December 2, 2004 at 12:19 AM (PDT)

55

So does the ear clips thingies eliminate that annoying sound of the cord banging against your shirt or whathaveyou? I have 71s, and I guess I am in the minority but I really like the behind the neck cord thing. I think it keeps the cord in check, rather than grabbing it under my knee every time I bend down to pull a weed. Though I think the overall sound quality is less than the apple buds, I like the bass-y-ness of the 71s, but would prefer to have more balance. Sounds like the reviewer agrees with me, and thinks the 81s are an improvement.

Posted by tension on December 2, 2004 at 10:12 AM (PDT)

56

My EX81's just came today. The cords are definitely uneven, and the left cord is VERY short: about 3 inches from the left earpiece to the Y. (The cord to the rght is about 18 inches.) Even a user unaccustomed to using the Apple remote will most likely need to use the extra cord length, to avoid having the eft earpiece getting tugged.

For me, this poses a special problem, as I think I may have a defective unit. The connector at the junction point of (what would be the) Y seems to have been put on backwards. This is hard to explain without a diagram, but the narrower part of the connector goes to the left earpiece alone. The wider part of the connector serves the wide cord (to the iPod) AND the cord to the right earpiece. It seems as if that connection--or at least the little cover over the connection-- is installed backwards!

Now I wouldn't mind if it were just a matter of esthetics or symmetry, but the upshot of this is that if I use the extension cord, I get no sound to the right earpiece. I shall be writing to Audiocubes, and shall report on what they say--if they can even make sense out my description!

Posted by gmanucia in Metairie, LA on December 2, 2004 at 11:04 AM (PDT)

57

My EX81's just came today. The cords are definitely uneven, and the left cord is VERY short: about 3 inches from the left earpiece to the Y. (The cord to the rght is about 18 inches.) Even a user unaccustomed to using the Apple remote will most likely need to use the extra cord length, to avoid having the eft earpiece getting tugged.

For me, this poses a special problem, as I think I may have a defective unit. The connector at the junction point of (what would be the) Y seems to have been put on backwards. This is hard to explain without a diagram, but the narrower part of the connector goes to the left earpiece alone. The wider part of the connector serves the wide cord (to the iPod) AND the cord to the right earpiece. It seems as if that connection--or at least the little cover over the connection-- is installed backwards!

Now I wouldn't mind if it were just a matter of esthetics or symmetry, but the upshot of this is that if I use the extension cord, I get no sound to the right earpiece. I shall be writing to Audiocubes, and shall report on what they say--if they can even make sense out my description!

Posted by gmanucia in Metairie, LA on December 2, 2004 at 11:05 AM (PDT)

58

I guess you get what you pay for fellas...

These are no ER-6i's sound wise, but I am happy with the fit and sound quality for my $60 and I definately have no remorse about my purchase.

Given the complaints I have heard I still have seen no recomendations for a better earpiece under $100

Gmanucia - my left ear cord is about 3.5 inches so unless we both got defective models I'd say yours is typical.

The short cord is fine for a shirt pocket, or a arm band style excercise holder (left arm only though becaause of the asymmetrical cord) or as I am using it right now, short cord only sitting right in front of me at my desk. Or I use the long cord with my iPod in my right pants pocket, I think I would have made the cord 6-8 inches shorter, but 6-8 inches isn't such a hardship.

I am very active with my I-pod nearly every day I find myself on a bicycle or snowboard so the over the ear security is nice even if it makes putting the things on a little more difficult. For me the level of isolation the 81's provide is practicle. Riding my bike on the street I can hear vehicles approaching with enough time to react, and on the mountain I can hear that screaming 10 year old flying out of controll down the slope about to take me out! Normal backround noise is muted enough to get my enjoyment out of my music.

My biggest complaint I guess would be that I would have much perferred a symmetrical cord both for function and aesthetics. I think they look better and make it easier to just wrap the eatpieces around the iPod neatly when not in use. The uneaven cord complicates this.

Posted by surferchris1 in Southern California on December 2, 2004 at 2:16 PM (PDT)

59

I just bought a new pair of 81's last week and they have an uneven cord. The uneven length creates a pull on the left earpiece that causes it to partially pull off of the ear as I am jogging. This got to be so maddening that I went back to using the iPod headphones while running. Anyone have any bright ideas??

Posted by SamInJapan on December 3, 2004 at 4:26 AM (PDT)

60

I received my 81s recently. I've put them away and am back to using my 71s.

My reasons:

1. They don't stay in my ears, no matter how much I try to adjust them. I wear glasses. But I can't tell if it's my glasses (the frames are *extremely* thin), or the shape of my ears, or both that makes these phones fit awkwardly at best. I have to fiddle and fiddle and fiddle to get them to stay on, and in, my ears. And if I have to fiddle with them that much, something's wrong. This is what happens when a company decides that FASHION takes precedence over FUNCTION. I found myself continually cursing Sony out for making these stupid, curved earbud holders. I just wanted to rip the buds off, put them in my ears and throw the plastic pieces away. Bad move, Sony. IMHO.

2. When I *can* manage to get a decent fit, they sound pretty good. But still, the bass feels somewhat lacking. (And no, it's not a question of if they're seated deeply and/or properly enough in my ears.) I realize the 71s are too bassy and muddled in comparison, but I prefer their sound to that of the 81s.

3. Have I mentioned that I can't get them to fit?

4. The cord is uneven in length. The right-side cord is meant to be draped over the back of your neck. Unlike some of the other posters here, this doesn't bother me. What *does* bother me is that the length of the overall cord is ridiculous. It's way too long. Just what I need. More tangled wire to deal with.

So there you go. Buy at your own risk. If anyone wants mine, let me know. I'll gladly sell them.

Posted by eben on December 3, 2004 at 10:25 AM (PDT)

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