Review: Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones MDR-ZX770BN

Our review of Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones MDR-ZX770BN: resident headphone buff Joe Hirth gets stuck into Sony’s mid-price headphones. Our Rating | By Joe Hirth, Thursday, 15th March 2018

Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones (MDR-ZX770BN) offer me my first opportunity to listen to and take note of Sony’s mid-priced headphone offering, a set of cans aimed at wireless fans who aren’t prepared yet to spend big on Sony’s much acclaimed and premium-priced WH-1000XM2.

As a mid-priced pair of headphones (currently retailing online at £110 in the UK) a real-world audio workout – the hustle and bustle of commuting between work stops in London and Durham a 12 hour return journey – offers me an ideal opportunity to review the finish, the sound, and the switches, sliders and knobs on these Sony cans.

If you have a realistic budget and noise-cancellation is on your mind, these Sony wireless headphones have got something for you.

Features: Sony Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones MDR-ZX770BN

The wireless capability of these noise-cancelling headphones is a draw at this price, as is the Sony brand which is associated with affordable and quality audio reproduction.

In the box these headphones ship with;

  • Micro USB charging cable (0.5m)
  • Headphone lead (1.2m) with gold plated L shape stereo 3.5mm adaptor
  • Soft carry pouch
  • Instruction manual and quick-start guide.

The cans run on Bluetooth version 3 with a 10m range, 13 hours battery life with active noise cancellation enabled and 19 hours disabled; they boast a 40mm dome type driver with neodymium magnets and Near Field Communication (NFC) capability.

Near Field Communication. When I received the headphones, I hadn’t read the instructions (because we men never do, do we?) and their NFC logo immediately caught my interest. Tapping my phone (Samsung S7 Edge) to this NFC logo, these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones automatically switched on and attempted to pair with my phone’s Bluetooth.

This is a leading feature of these headphones; it means that you don’t have to keep pressing and holding buttons waiting for strobing LEDs to tell you that everything is paired.

I can’t over-emphasise how much I like this! I frequently changed my devices during my journey, so NFC Bluetooth pairing for me was really helpful. Using these headphones NFC allowed me to easily swap them between devices, however I also recognise that many audio fans will want them to remain connected to just one smartphone or media device. If you don’t have NFC on your phone or device, you can still pair these headphones to a Bluetooth source via the on-board controls.

An image of the controls and buttons on these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones MDR-ZX770BN

The Sony MDR-ZX770BN feature controls on both ear enclosures, including power switches, Bluetooth pairing and volume and playback controls

But, herein lies an issue with these mid-priced headphones; the inability to connect to multiple Bluetooth sources. Big thumbs down from me on that one, because even my budget Kitsound Outrun wireless in-ear headphones, can connect to multiple sources.

On the left, these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones are equipped with noise-cancelling status and Bluetooth pairing advisory LEDs, decent size power and noise-cancellation buttons, micro USB port (for recharging), a 3.5mm input (for unpowered cable connection, which means that they can still be used when the rechargeable battery is flat).

On the right, there’s a three-way (auto-returning) slider for playback controls (next, previous and play/pause – which is a clickable button when set to its mid-position). These controls are accompanied by a volume rocker switch and the external mic (which enables the headphone active noise-cancellation capability).

If you’ll allow me to return to that (auto-returning) slider switch, which takes my trophy for my most disliked feature of these these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones; why, oh why did Sony make that switch so darn sensitive and so darn unlockable on these MDR-ZX770BN? When listening to my soundtrack, I was wearing a high-collared jacket and turning my head would repeatedly result in a skipped or replayed a song. Absolutely infuriating!! There’s no way to disable this switch and I couldn’t find a way to ‘lock’ the device out from my phone to prevent control inputs either. Sony, please take note.

The noise cancelling button is simple (a quick, one-press) and a good feature is the audible beep that accompanies noise cancellation switching on and off. A small LED next to that button illuminates when NC is active and unless you have a mirror to hand, you’ll need to take off the headphones to check this LED illumination.

The Kit

A great fit. I should state that I’ve recently, also been using a set of Audio Technica ATH-MSR7NC noise-cancelling headphones (wired). I have a fairly small head and in comparison those Audio Technica’s squeezed my ears more than I expected, however these Sony feel just right and given their lightness, a few minutes into my listening, I couldn’t feel them on the top of my head.

An image of these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones being worn on the ears

These headphones are lightweight and comfortable to wear on extended journeys.

For lightness-of-touch while working and travelling, these headphones are superb; perfect for my working trip, nice and lightweight and easy to carry. However, some audio fans might consider lightweight to also indicate ‘plasticy’ and cheap, so I would recommend getting a pair in your hands in a store to see if it’s a weight winner or loser for you.

These MDR-ZX770BN Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones feature a crisp blue insert and edging, and while some headphone fans may like that cool edginess, my personal preference is the black version (Sony MDR-ZX770BNL).

Compared to increasingly expensive headphones, the padding surrounding the ear enclosures and the headband felt a little too firm, but considering the reasonable price of these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones, I could be accused of being pedantic!

After walking and travelling around the London underground for an hour (which is usually a warm environment) the MDR-ZX700BN began to stick to the sides of my head (around my ears). It’s either the material, the seal between the headphones and my head, or a bit of both, but these headphones didn’t breathe well for me (and honestly, I’m not a sweaty person!!), so if you should consider this if you’re looking to become physically active with these headphones; perspiration warnings!

Performance

Sounds played on these Sony MDR-ZX770BN were Amazon’s Startup TV Series and my Spotify playlists (audiophiles – all songs were played on Extreme Quality setting). I sought stereo tracks that challenge budget and mid-priced cans and my tunes included:

  • Alt-J  – Every Other Freckle
  • Alt-J – Tessellate
  • Steely Dan – Jack Of Speed
  • Lou Reed – Walk On the Wild Side
  • The Rolling Stones – Melody (Remastered)
  • Beck – Morning
  • Bela Fleck and the Flecktones – Flight Of The Cosmic Hippo (silly song but great tester)

For a mid-priced pair of Bluetooth headphones, these sounded respectable and I can’t complain about their performance, the bass was centred, and remarkably bodied for a pair of headphones at this price.

For me, these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones struggled with the highs and lows of Tessellate’s intro (a tough ask for any headphone) and a lack of clarity and crispness to the mid and upper range became apparent, especially when the bass punched; Tessellate got caught in itself, mimicking the audio range of a budget amplifier that is working too hard to separate bass, mids and trebles cleanly.

An image of Sony MDR-ZX770BN noise cancelling headphones

A hallmark of Sony headphones is their solid bass, and these wireless headphones don’t disappoint, the MDR-ZX770BN offer a good response to dynamic tracks and the sound is rounded and firm with crisp treble delivery.

I noticed no audible difference in quality when switching between using the 3.5mm jack or connecting the headphones via Bluetooth, which means that if you don’t have Bluetooth to hand or your battery is flat, you’re still going to get the full audio experience from Sony here.

The noise-cancellation capability reflects the price of these headphones, MDR-ZX770BN employs an automatic setting process for its active noise-cancellation, which is activated by an extended button press. For stable, low frequency background noise, these cans perform well, there is definite sense of isolation from external hustles, but in variable noise environments, their limitations become apparent. On the underground I could hear everything going on around me in my carriage, people talking (and their conversations!), so as a pair of noise-cancellers, these Sony wireless headphones still need more work to really achieve a deeper level of background cancellation.

Battery life was great, the wireless connection and noise-cancellation lasted the full trip (12 hours or so) after a 3 hour USB charge. This is really impressive, and means that you’ll get good mileage from all the features of these Sony headphones on a single charging cycle.

Yes, these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones can’t frequency hustle with higher spec noise cancelling headphones (Bose QuietComfort 35 and Sony’s WH-1000XM2) and their active noise cancellation prowess can’t match other, more expensive ANC headphones, but I do like these wireless headphones for their punchy bass (I use floor standing speakers at home) and their dependable audio capability at this affordable price, for me, this is a real bonus for any budget headphone buyer.

Verdict

These are a great set of everyday headphones with a reasonable price tag. It would be amiss of any headphone buyer to overlook these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones MDR-ZX770BN while browsing and shopping for new wireless noise-cancelling kit.

Out of the box these MDR-ZX770BN offer playback controls, a built-in rechargeable battery with up to 13 hours performance (wireless and active noise cancellation) and easy-pairing with devices that have NFC capability. The ‘phones are lightweight, their wireless performance is solid and they attempt to block out background noise as well as possible given the price, but this noise-cancellation is limited to stable, lower volume background drone, over dynamic and noisier environments. So if it’s absolute noise suppression you’re seeking, spending more on a premium set of dedicated ANC cans is advisable.

A hallmark of Sony headphones is their solid bass, and these wireless headphones don’t disappoint, the MDR-ZX770BN offer a good response to dynamic tracks and the sound is rounded and firm with crisp treble delivery. Don’t expect miracles on complex audio arrangements, and if you’re realistic in your expectations on what a mid-priced pair of headphones can deliver, then these Sony wireless noise cancelling headphones won’t disappoint.


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About Joe Hirth

Joe has always been in and around technology from a young age. Audio is a big part of his social life and when he's away from his day job in IT, he likes nothing more than to review headphone kit and blog about the latest Hi-Fi equipment.