Review: Sony Fontopia MDR-EX70LP Earphones
Pros: Outstanding full-range sound at a low price.
Cons: Most territories appear to have only the black EX70LP version, the white EX70SL are apparently only available in the Far East. Silly miniscule case holds only earphones, not the cable.
Ingenious iPod - shame about the earbuds.
The iPod’s fatally flawed by those ineffectual white push and twist earphones which just won’t stick in your ears. One size never fits all.
Over the years I’ve tried every kind of earphone to find a pair giving full-range bass and top notes with cassettes, portable DAT, portable CD players and hideous cardboard sounding MP3 players. Sony used to make a headband in-ear model, with huge 12mm drivers which could just be slotted into your ears if you twisted the sides of the head-band diagonally then forward, which always gives better bass anyway. Then Aiwa (now a division of Sony) introduced better lightweight phones, taking the bass response from 12 down to 10 hertz. In 1999 Sony produced the MDR-EX70LP in-ear ‘buds’ lowering deep bass response down to 6 hertz… yes, 6 hertz. The EX70 retrieves all the bass you thought was lost forever when converting CDs to MP3s. Just like the neoprene elasticity of KEF loudspeakers bouncing bass back into life, so does the integral silicone-rubber earplugs on the Sony earbuds seal out external sounds and produce real bass resonance in your ear canal. This isn’t artificially boosted bass, but the true sound of the recorded data.
At (UK prices) 30 pounds sterling per pair, I’ve bought a set for everyone I know who has an iPod. The US price (quoted on the Sony website at $49.99) is a steal, too, and in the rest of Euro-land the average cost is about €49.99. Their high-performance neodymium magnets need more power than normal earphones (like the miniscule Bose ‘invisible’ Acoustimass two-&-a-half-inch room-filling loudspeakers need more than normal power for their comparably tiny drivers). So instead of, say, the halfway position on your iPod’s volume bar, you’ll probably need two-thirds to three-quarters volume, depending on how loud you like your music. This has minimal effect on the iPod’s battery life, as most juice is spent on spinning the hard drive.
The Sony EX70s pick out every hint and shade of musical nuance usually lost when full-range audio is shoe-horned into compressed MP3; thus, paring down the sounds into 2D shadows of their original 3D presence. These phones do provide an extra ‘top’ (not hiss, but sharp 23,000hz ‘brilliance’) which takes a while to become comfortable with. But, this is definitely acceptable considering the hugely enhanced overall tonic it brings to every genre of music.
It’s like taking wax out of your ears, peeling gloves off your hands, or slipping in prescription contact lenses - suddenly the world is sharper, clearer, more realistic, a pleasure to live in again. And on the back of the earphone packet it says “80% more powerful compared to conventional Sony earphones.” I believe it.
I can’t praise these earphones enough. They reduce almost all external noise; they ‘plug you in’ to the fullest natural bass and the widest range of musical fidelity. No over-the-ear or in-ear phones I’ve ever tried (not Sennheiser, B&O, nothing) comes close to these for full-range razor-sharp sound, with head-drilling bass And they’re inconspicuous, almost invisible, featherweight, inexpensive, and don’t leak sound out to non-willing listeners, can be comfortably worn for hours at a time, and are perfectly matched to the iPod. It’s just a pity Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ive didn’t seem to know this.
Only one point against them: presently only available in black/silver, so you need a small can of rubberised white paint if you want to make them visually complement your iPod. Although, Asia and Australia have them available in white/silver to match your iPod perfectly. I give the MDR-E70 an 11 out of 10 for phenomenal sound. There are three sizes available, S, M & L in each earphone pack, though the Sony website mistakenly states only two sizes.