Sony MDR-ZX770BN review:

A wireless Beats alternative for less

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Sony MDR-ZX770BN (Black)

(Part #: MDR-ZX770BN)
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The Good The Sony MDR-ZX770BN is a well-designed Bluetooth headphone, sounds good for the money, is comfortable to wear, and has active noise-cancellation with three ANC modes. It can be used as a wired headphone with the noise-canceling on.

The Bad Doesn't quite have the look and feel of a premium headphone; the three sound modes introduce more confusion than convenience.

The Bottom Line While it isn't quite as good as the Beats Studio wireless, Sony's MDR-ZX770BN is a quality Bluetooth headphone and costs significantly less.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Sound 7.0
  • Value 7.0

Over the last few years Sony's put out a number of wireless Bluetooth headphones, some better than others. For 2015 we get four new models -- the MDR-ZX770BN (reviewed here: $230, £129), MDR-ZX770BT ($150 -- US only), MDR-ZX330BT ($100, £69) and MDR-AS600BT ($100, £69) -- which form the core of Sony's entry-level and midrange Bluetooth headphone lineup. (None of these headphones appear to be officially available in Australia.)

The Sony MDR-ZX770BN features both Bluetooth and active noise-canceling and is geared toward frequent travelers, because it can also be used as a wired headphone on flights that prohibit the use of Bluetooth.

The headphones come in an all-black model or one with blue trim. Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony also seems to be targeting consumers who can't quite afford the Beats Studio Wireless but want a quality wireless headphone that shares many of its features, including noise-canceling.

This is a quality Bluetooth headphone, though not quite as good as the Beats. It's comfortable, reasonably lightweight (around 240 grams or 8.5 ounces), with memory foam in the ear pads, and has well-placed volume and track controls on the right ear cup (the pause button also serves as the answer/end button when making cell phone calls).

Build quality is good, though not exceptionally so, and it doesn't quite have the look and feel of a premium headphone like Sony's own MDR-1A , a new wired model that offers impressive sound quality and superior comfort.

What comes in the box. Sarah Tew/CNET

As far as other extras go, you get NFC tap-to-pair technology (the ability to automatically pair the headphones to Android 'phones that offer Near Field Communication chips) and AptX for smartphones that support it. (AptX is supposed to enhance the quality of Bluetooth, but it remains unclear how much of an impact it has.)

Battery life is rated at a decent 13 hours with noise-canceling and Bluetooth turned on. Color options include an all-black design and black with blue trim, and the headphones ship with a simple protective pouch, plus a headphone cord and USB charging cable.

Performance

One thing to make sure of when you first turn the headphones on is that you have them in the right listening mode. The headphone has three levels of sound quality, which I didn't realize at first. There's a standard-quality mode that puts the priority on a stable Bluetooth connection. That cuts down on the sound quality, and it appears the headphones might ship in this mode. The big problem is that it's hard to tell which mode is activated (a little LED flashes to indicate what mode you're in when you hit the power and volume buttons).

What you want is one of the two higher-quality modes, one of which includes the aforementioned AptX streaming option, as well as AAC. (Frankly, I found the whole sound-mode option a bad idea).

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