Sony MDR-EX85LP Inverness

Stepping up a notch in quality, Sony's EX85s follow a more traditional cord design, although the earbuds themselves deviate slightly from the more usual bullet type of the Shures.

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Sony MDR-EX85LP

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Stepping up a notch in quality, Sony's EX85s follow a more traditional cord design, although the earbuds themselves deviate slightly from the more usual bullet type of the Shures. Set at a 45-degree angle from the main body, the drivers prevent the units going very far into your ear.

While that prevents them getting stuck in your ear canal (a less than pleasant experience, believe us), we couldn't get quite the level of separation required to block the noisiest of external sounds. Our main day-to-day complaint, though, was that you can only wrap the cord over the front of the ear and insert them upside-down (a trick that helps keep your earphones in) if you switch left and right around, which makes some tracks sound odd and is hopeless for classical music.

The cable is reasonably resistant to tangling, and there's a sturdy faux-leather case for stowing them in, complete with a solid plastic insert for the obsessively organised. The three sizes of supplied bud cover a good range and fit securely on to the drivers, and aside from the slight confusion caused by the 'L' and 'R' labelling being hidden on the inside, they're quick to put in and relatively comfortable to wear.

But our favourite aspect of the EX85s is that once they're in, they're markedly more capable than the cheaper Creative units. In fact, it proved very hard to trip them up, with only a very slight harshness in the upper-mids emerging from an otherwise warm, lively and detailed listen. They don't have quite the sensitivity of the Shures, but we found them more than loud enough for commuting, and about at the limit of what's safe anyway.

You'd have to spend a fair bit more to better the EX85s, and while they're not the last word in capturing every subtlety, the difference between these and the Shures will be largely lost unless you're paying scrupulous attention - particularly on compressed MP3 files. So unless you're obsessive about your music's quality, the EX85s offer an excellent balance of performance and price.Specifications: 13.5mm neodymium driver, 5Hz-24kHz frequency response, 105db sensitivity, 1.2m cord length
Enjoyable to listen to and not too painful to pay for. Great sound quality and good comfort. Unless you're an audio fusspot, you'll be very happy.

Author: Ross Burridge

Sony MDR-EX85LP