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Sony has expanded the concept of headphones as fashion accessories with its Elements Of Style MDR-Q55SL models, part of the company's Wear line. The AIR version is targeted at the "hip-hop and rock lifestyle," but aside from its blue color, its external design accents, and its marketing hype, it's identical to its gold LQD and silver SLD siblings. All three are earclip headphones that deliver solid performance and especially impressive bass response. They retail for $30.
At about 20 inches, the braided cable is fairly short, so there's no slack when you hook up the headphones to a portable audio player's in-line remote. If you don't have that accessory, a provided extension cord increases the length enough for direct connection. The package doesn't include extra foam earpiece pads, so if the existing set suffers wear and tear, you're stuck with it. You don't get a carrying case, either.
To enhance bass response, Sony gave each driver casing a port--a trait borrowed from stereo loudspeakers. The design decision was a good one; these headphones deliver considerably more bass than typical portables. The robust kick drum in Alice DeeJay's techno track "Better Off Alone" was tight and didn't easily distort, even at loud volumes. And the kick drum, the vocals, and the melodic elements all had adequate breathing room in the mix, thanks largely to the Q55SL's relatively airy sound.
Though a bit snugger than the clips of some similar models, the Q55SL's aren't too tight, and we found the fit comfortable. Plus, the driver casings' lightweight design kept the 'phones from tugging our ears too much during physical activity. Anyone with earbuds that pop out of place at inopportune moments will appreciate these traits. All in all, these modestly priced Sony headphones are an especially good choice for bass aficionados on the go.