REVIEW: Allen & Heath Xone XD-20 In Ear Headphones

Link: Allen & Heath – Price: $49/€54/£49

Allen & Heath xone XD-20 headphones (7)

Introduction

DJ Mixers. Production mixing desks. MIDI controllers. Allen & Heath is a company with immense reputation in audio circles. A relatively new foray into the headphone market spawned the XD-40s and XD2-53s for pro DJs, which garnered great feedback, including ours. The press release for the xone XD-20 in-ear headphones gives them a RRP of around £50 and claims they are for ‘track browsing and replay’. So… for your iPod then!

Allen & Heath xone XD-20 headphones (9)

In the box

There isn’t much to greet you when you get in there. The headphones only come with small, medium and large silicone earpieces. It’s a bit disappointing that there’s no little bag to keep them safe, considering which company they come from.

Allen & Heath xone XD-20 headphones (4)

Looks

These days, in-ear monitors come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. The XD-20s stand out not only by sporting the Xone branding, but by providing a shape that fits the ear canal. Allen & Heath helpfully tell you which bud goes in which ear, not that you can put them comfortably in any other way. Bottom line: they look like IEMs… made by Allen & Heath.

Allen & Heath xone XD-20 headphones (8)

Build quality

On first inspection, the IEMs feel light, with very thin wires. There’s none of that fabric-covered wiring that prevents tangling (as an aside, why the hell is that not standard on all headphones?!). Having used them as my main headphones for a few of weeks, I’m confident they’re able to take the usual knocks, yanks and twists of everyday commute. Although as with anything… look after your cables and they’ll look after you!


Allen & Heath xone XD-20 headphones (6)

Sound quality

Before this, my daily drivers for on-the-go have been my trusty Sennheiser CX300-II gold editions with a frequency response of 19-21,000 Hz. The XD-20s have a range of 20-20,000 Hz, technically taking the edges off the sound. Side by side, there is a very slight difference but this part of the review is so subjective that in busy everyday life, I doubt people will notice.

Isolation

Compared to the Sennheisers, which basically act like earplugs, the xone XD-20s aren’t as snuggly fitted inside the ear canal. This is due to the way they are designed to sit. Fortunately, it isn’t a huge issue and they still keep out the everyday noise.

Allen & Heath xone XD-20 headphones (2)Comfort

These IEMs sit well in your ear. Some earbuds fit really tight in the canal, causing discomfort. Not the 20s. They sort of half fit in, half rest in the hole. I’ve had them in for hours at a time during journeys quite happily. People with mutant ear lobes may struggle with them, but you’d have to ask them.

Summary

The XD-20s are a departure from what we come to expect in Allen & Heath… These aren’t designed for monitoring or production, but they still carry the Xone logo with pride. So, have I replaced my trusty Sennheisers with these? I’m not sure yet. Had I bought these first, I’d be a happy camper. Allen & Heath, affordable, secretly sturdy. These are great ear buds at a great price. It would just have been nice to get a bag, and maybe replacement earpieces.

Gallery

  • http://twitter.com/lsanoj Jonas

    While they might be pretty decent, there is nothing special here. This can be bought as white-label from catalogs and the manufacture will customize them to your needs/brand. This is exactly what companies like Skullcandy do. The same probably goes for the low end of Sennheiser.
    This is certainly not a good move for A&H’s brand-trust.

    • Craig

      They started with the Xone K2…china china

      • Ken Uston

        A&H has been manufacturing all but their high-end mixers in China for years. What is the big deal?

    • http://djworx.com/ Mark Settle

      A&H have never made the own headphones though. The XD-53s are made by Audio Technica, just like they do for Denon.

      • http://twitter.com/lsanoj Jonas

        Well Audio Technica at least seems to have there own R&D left in parts, this is one step to low for my taste.
        While the live sound area still looks pretty strong, with a healthy market share of iLive, i see nothing good for the dj section. For the EDM scene in europe i see simply no adoption of the new DB2/4 series mixers. The digital club mixer game seems to be mostly going down at Pioneer/Native Instruments/Rane (with Rane only being a factor in the states with the serato crowd). A hopefully soon arriving Kontrol Z4 will most likely kill the remaining market for DB2/4.

        What could A&H bring to the market? How about a solid update of the xone 92? Staying full analog on the mixing section ofc, ditching the midi, kick 4 band eq or make 3 band eq a option. And pls, replace that horrible plastic buttons!

        (that escalated more off topic then i expected x))

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511709777 Daniel Morse

          The crux of what I was saying here is that for fifty quid you get some decent every day headphones.

          • lsanoj

            I’m not challenging that. But this site is about gear for DJing, right?
            I clearly understand why this is test and also why vendors using there high end trademarks for stuff like that. It is also a sign. And not really a good one.

  • NZim

    This has me wondering whether you can slap Shure/Etymotic silicone plugs (the tri-flange kind, like on ER-20s) on these width/length wise. Trimming a bit off the end is not a problem.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511709777 Daniel Morse

      Probably. I tried some generic silicone ear-nipples and they fit just fine.

  • Sami

    I’ve never understood why people bother comparing frequency ranges of headphones. Hearing deteriorates over the years: the target market age for these phones won’t even be able to hear 20Hz or 20KHz. What’s more important is the frequency response curves.

  • Alex

    I’ve got a pair and I’d rate these as slightly better than average. The sound is reasonably good, with added bass which is nice. They’re an improvement on standard earphones, but don’t buy these for serious monitoring or dj’ing with.

    I wear these at the gym and I’ve found that I get a lot of Noise from the cable which is pain

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