Monday, June 15, 2015

Gear Review: Sony MDR-ZX770BN - Bluetooth and Noise Cancellation?!

...a brief pause from Norway...

About four months ago, I picked up a pair of SOL Republic Tracks Air. They were a good set for around the city, as I discussed here, but on the plane they came up a bit short. I've been using them a lot a work and I've been happy with them for the most part, but the lack of noise cancellation on the plane has sent me looking for another option. I want the convenience of a bluetooth headset combined with the noise cancellation needed for travel. Oh, and I don't want to spend three hundred dollars.
In reality, there are very few options in this space. Most bluetooth headsets don't have noise cancellation. Most noise cancellation headsets aren't wireless. The few that have both end up being $250, plus. Enter the poorly named Sony MDR-ZX770BN*. Bluetooth? Check. Noise cancellation? Check. Price? $189 at Costco (for the deluxe package with the carrying case).

Popping the packaging open we have the headset themselves and the carrying case. The carrying case has the rest of the accessories inside it, including a solid USB charger, USB Micro B cable, a wired input cable (more on that later), and mini case for your accessories. Everything fits comfortably in the case seen above. One important note is that these are over the ear, not on the year. In my experience, this is far more comfortable (although they do get warm with extended use).

The wired input cable above is one of the nice features that immediately pops out at me. The input is only on one side of the headset, which means that there is only one cable to deal with. One side goes into the left earpiece and the other plugs into a standard 3.5mm jack. The Tracks Air that I also have also has a similar cable, but requires one plug per ear. It's a small annoyance, but once you get used to no cables, it feels like a mess.

On the left earpiece (above), you can see from left to right the reset hole, mic, noise cancellation button, the connection for the wired input cable, the charging port, and the silver power button. Pressing the NC button turns on or off the noise cancellation, while a long press triggers an optimization process. Sony claims that they have three different profiles of noise cancellation tailored for different environments. The optimization take a couple seconds and tries to select the best profile for noise cancellation.The real test of the noise cancellation will be on my next flight, so I'll follow up with the final verdict then.

The other has controls for music and calling. The headset does double as a bluetooth headset if needed. Flicking the controls up advances the track, while flicking it down does back. The volume buttons feel solid (as done the rest of the construction), but the rocker is my bet for the weak link. We'll see if it goes out in a year or two or never.

Soundwise, solid. They don't feel as heavily tweaked towards the bass as the SOL Republic set does, but the soundstage is larger and it is clear enough for me. The noise cancellation helps even more. If there is any loss of quality other the bluetooth, I don't think I could tell you that level of difference for what I am playing. I tend to listen to high quality Spotify and for that these perform well. The loss in quality -if there- is slight to none. These also come with aptX support, if that is a thing that you have and care about. My phone does not support it. Consider me a happy customer.

*Seriously. What's the difference between The MDR-ZX770BN, ZX770BT, and ZX770DC? BN is bluetooth and noise cancellation, BT is just bluetooth (and $100 less), while DC is the code specifically for Costco (which includes the BN version of the headset with accessories). Add to that the ZX750 series and you have a bunch of research that Sony is expecting the consumer to do.


  1. You definitely need to go back and get your price adjustment if you haven't since they came down to 149 until 11JUL.