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Sony MDR10RBT review: A wireless Bluetooth headphone that's a better deal than Beats

The Sony MDR-10RBT gets you about 75 percent of the way to the Beats Studio Wireless for a lot less money.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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Beats currently makes one full-size wireless headphone, the Beats Studio Wireless . Sony, on the other hand, has a few different models to choose from, including the newly announced MDR-XB950BT and NWZ-WS613 . Herein, we're focusing on the MDR-10RBT, a more affordable over-the-ear wireless Bluetooth headphone that has a list price of $200 (£169 in the UK, or AU$300 in Australia), but can sometimes be had for less online (its price seems to fluctuate).

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8.0

Sony MDR10RBT

The Good

The Sony MDR-10RBT is a well-designed Bluetooth headphone, sounds good for the money, and is comfortable to wear. Battery life is rated at a solid 17 hours and the headphones come with a carrying case.

The Bad

While the transport controls are well-placed and easy to operate, they're a little prone to accidental button pushes.

The Bottom Line

The Sony MDR-10RBT gets you about 75 percent of the way to the Beats Studio Wireless for a lot less money.

The first thing you'll notice about this headphone when you put it on is that it's pretty lightweight and very comfortable (build quality is good but not exceptionally so). It doesn't clamp down on your head too firmly and the earcups are nicely padded. It doesn't do a great job of passively sealing out sound, but it's not bad, and is well suited to office environments.

I like how Sony's done the controls. Both the volume switch and the raised rocker switch for advancing tracks forward and back are easy to operate by feel and the power button is clearly labeled and easy to find on the left earcup. On a small critical note, the raised rocker is so easy to operate that when a jacket or another piece of clothing bumps up against it, you might find that you've unwittingly jumped forward or back a track.

Sony MDR-10RBT headphones product photos

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Extras include NFC tap-to-pair technology for phones that support it (many Android models), as well as Apt-X support. Battery life is rated at 17 hours, which is quite good, and a cable is included in case the battery dies or you just want to use the headphones in wired mode. As far as the flavor of Bluetooth goes, it's version 3.0.

The headphones charge via Micro-USB and like all of this types of headphone, there's an integrated microphone for making cell phone calls (call quality was decent). An inexpensive but useful carrying case is included. Weirdly, the flap doesn't seal the case shut, so you end up kind of having to tuck it in to close everything up. A bit of Velcro might have made for a more elegant solution.

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The Sony MDR-10RBT comes with a simple carrying, USB charging cable, and a headphone cable so you can use it as a wired headphone if you want. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

For a Bluetooth headphone, the sound is quite decent. It isn't quite as full, dynamic, or natural sounding as hat of the Beats Studio Wireless, though; it's a little bright, with some treble push and lots of bass. So it's pretty forward sounding and lacks some warmth, but it works well with a variety of music, and seems to designed to appeal to mainstream users who prefer a little bit more of an "aggressive" sound to their headphone.

In general, it's hard to find sub-$100 Bluetooth headphones that sound good. To get to a higher caliber wireless headphone usually means stepping up to a model that costs $200 or more. This Sony may not sound quite as good as some of those higher end Bluetooth models, but it's definitely a nice step-up from from those sub-$100 models that tend to suffer from a lack of clarity.

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A closer look at the integrated volume and transport controls. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion

I'd say this model gets you about 75 percent of the way to the Beats for a lot less money. Alas, when I first went to test this headphone (and posted my first look video), it was only $130 on Amazon, but at the time of this writing its price is now back up to closer to $200.

At less than $150, it's a great deal, but Sony's swankier MDR-1RBT doesn't cost that much more (it's currently around $260 online), so the value equation for this headphone is a little murky. That said, it's a very good wireless headphone, and worth a long look if you're in the market for a decent performing full-size Bluetooth headphone that's comfortable to wear and costs significantly less than the Beats Studio Wireless.

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8.0

Sony MDR10RBT

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Sound 8Value 7
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