CrossRoads MylarOne X3i & XBi Review

crossroads mylarone x3i xbi main CrossRoads MylarOne X3i & XBi Review

The Korean audio brand CrossRoads and their Singaporean distributor Jaben gained quite some positive reputation for their MylarOne line of canalphones. Their now discontinued X3 and XB phone variants are said to be among the really good choices in the $60 price range of in ear phones. Recently, CrossRoads upgraded their product line with the newly introduced X3i and XBi models. The X3i is the more “linear” sounding model, while the XBi is the bass heavier one. Let’s see if they live up to the hype and reputation of the former MylarOne phones…

  • Quick Look
  • Driver: 10mm dynamic Mylar driver
  • Sensitivity: 95 +/- 4dB/mW
  • Impedance: 16 Ohms
  • Frequency response: 20Hz – 22kHz
  • Cable: 135cm, Y-style, straight 3.5mm gold plated stereo plug
  • Accessories: case, cable wrapper, shirt clip, silicon sleeves (S, M, L, double flanges), airline adapter
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Accessories

The MylarOnes come with a nice selection of accessories, with rather decent build quality. The case is of the semi-hard variety, made from sturdy reinforced cloth. It has enough space for the phones and all accessories. The silicon sleeves are very soft and thin. In the box are three standard pairs of sleeves (small, medium, large) and one pair of double flanged ones. The airline adapter CrossRoads added to the bundle might come in handy, it’s the same design one can buy in any electronics store. For some people the rubber cable wrapper sure might be useful. I find it to be a bit too big, just adding unnecessary bulk to a portable setup. The preinstalled shirt clip is actually non removable. If you want to use it, you can leave it on the cable – or if you’re like me, you break it on the first day trying to remove it.

Design

Is it politically incorrect to call an in ear phone “fatso”? The X3i and XBi sure are the tubbiest earphones I ever saw. However, there is method to this madness: the earbud “balls” literally snap into the outer ear, fitting very securely in place. Some people with small ears might have problems with this big housing, but for most people it should give a better fit than other, slimmer phones. The MylarOnes don’t stick out once they’re properly seated in your ears, they’re certainly on the more stealthy side. Wearing them with the cables up around the ears (instead of letting them hang down) provides an even better fit for me. This way of wearing the cables also prevents most of the dreaded cable noises these kinds of phones usually suffer from.

Build quality is plain and simple bad, maybe even worse than the former X3 and XB models. I sure might have bad luck, but the cable near the right earbud of my XBi disintegrated after a few hours of usage – hours, not days or weeks. The wire inside the rubber coating is laid bare and probably won’t last much longer. The X3i are still fine, however. Let’s hope Jaben’s and CrossRoad’s RMA department is up to the task, replacing all the faulty MylarOnes that will be returned to them…

Another decrease in quality compared to the earlier X3 and XB versions is the filter on the tone canal. It’s now a flimsy piece of paper instead of a metal mesh, and it looks like it might come off any moment. The incredibly tiny 3.5mm plug also looks a bit delicate – thanks to making it compatible with the iPhone’s poorly designed recessed headphone jack.

In conclusion, the unique shape and design of the MylarOnes works really well and provides a more secure fit than many other earphones – but don’t be surprised if you receive a pair that flunked quality control and needs to be replaced sooner than later.

[EDIT: I was told the build quality on newer batches of the MylarOnes has improved. The cable issue should be fixed on recently made phones.]

Specifications

CrossRoads seems to be quite proud of the fact the drivers in their phones are made from Mylar. “Mylar” actually is a DuPont trademark for “biaxially oriented polyethylene terephthalate film”, the same stuff yoghurt containers or paper laminate are made of. It is a good, durable, and sturdy material for speaker diaphragms, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

A frequency response of 20Hz to 22kHz sounds fairly standard, and the X3i and XBi indeed handle bass down to 20Hz and treble up to my ear’s limits (which should be somewhere between 16 and 17kHz).

The low impedance of 16 Ohms means they can be driven by any weak portable player with ease. The downside to low impedance phones is possible background hiss on some audio players. Luckily, the MylarOne’s don’t hiss much, even with the quite picky Cowon D2, for example.

Technically versed readers might raise an eyebrow at CrossRoad’s sensitivity specifications: 95 +/- 4dB/mW indeed does sound weird. This is the first time I saw a tolerance margin for sensitivity, usually it’s the frequency response of a phone that is specified like that. Either it’s a typo on the MylarOne’s box, or it shows a thing or two about the tolerance limits and quality control in the manufacturing process of the phones.

Speaking about manufacturing: while the old X3 and XB models were made by the Chinese OVC/Ocvaco company, I could not find any hint if these new versions come from the same factory or if they’re made by a different OEM company.

Isolation from outside noise on the MylarOnes is
decent, and it improves when using the double flanged silicon tips. Even though the new X3i and XBi have a little vent hole, they isolate as well as the older, non-vented models.

Sound Quality

Everything you’re going to read about the MylarOne’s sound quality below has been evaluated after the phones have been used for many hours. The X3i and XBi are certainly “slow developers” – they sound quite different right out of the box than when they settle down and reach their final sonic state. It can take quite some time until they are burned in, so don’t judge them on the first day.

I did a little experiment to see how drastic the change actually appears to my ears. Out of the box both phones sounded more or less the same. I attached the supposedly bass heavier XBi model to an audio player and let it play continuously for several days. In the meantime I only used the X3i very sparingly, for a few hours. Lo and behold, when I compared the 50 hours used XBi with the 5 hours used X3i – the supposedly less bass heavy X3i had actually more bass and less treble. This changed again, once the X3i caught up with the XBi.

Here goes nothing, on to the details…

Treble reproduction is good with these phones, although a bit rolled-off. They’re not harsh or fatiguing, although they’re not the most detailed ones as well. They sound pleasing, but can’t be considered to be overly analytic.

Midrange is somewhat recessed on the MylarOnes, noticeable with some vocal tracks and similar material. Those can sound further away than with other, more linear, phones. This makes the phones “fun” sounding, and should work well with electronic music styles or Hip Hop, but could be an issue for discerning Jazz, Classical, or acoustic music aficionados. However, there are far more “hollow” sounding phones out there; this shouldn’t be a big issue for most people.

While the old X3 model is infamous for anemic bass, the new X3i and XBi have plenty of it. As one would expect, the XBi have more bass, but the X3i don’t disappoint. Neither extend overly pronounced into the really deep registers, a slight midbass hump covers up the really low frequencies (and part of the midrange, as far as the XBi go). The bass is boomy on fresh MylarOnes but settles down after some time.

Clarity is fine on both models, with the X3i being a bit better than the XBi. They don’t reach the level of detail found on most balanced armature IEMs, but there’s nothing to complain about – especially in that price range you can find much worse veil and muddiness.

Soundstage and imaging is the strongest point of the MylarOnes. They provide an excellent, almost three dimensional image of instrument positions on well mastered recordings. Regarding this aspect, the X3i and XBi are among the best – no matter what price range of earphones we’re talking about.

So, which model is the right one? It’s not that difficult to say, they’ both sound more or less the same. With the XBi you trade bigger bass for a bit reduced clarity compared to the X3i. For the bassheads, get the XBi – everyone else get the X3i. Fans of “linear” phones like Etymotic and the old X3 – move along, nothing to see here for you…

Judging by the sound quality, these new MylarOnes are somewhat of an improvement over the older X3 and XB versions. However, if you already own one of the discontinued models, I don’t believe the difference would justify upgrading to a new model: what you gain in sound quality, you lose in build quality.

While the X3i and XBi are certainly better sounding phones than for example the popular Sennheiser CX300 or V-Moda Vibe, they’re not quite in the same class as the Future Sonics Atrio, q-JAYS, or better Shure models. But then again, these cost at least twice as much (but don’t sound twice as good). In the $60 price range, the MylarOnes hold their ground very well – you can’t go wrong with these if you’re looking for good sound on a reasonable budget.

Conclusion

“Never change a winning team” would be a bit too harsh of a proverb when comparing the old MylarOne series to the new one. Yes, the XBi and X3i appear to be even cheaper built than their ancestors – but they generally sound better and the new housing has an interesting, securely fitting form factor.

If you’re looking for good sound without paying too much for your earphones, the MylarOne X3i and XBi are the right ones for you. You just have to keep in mind that you might be one of the unlucky souls, receiving a faulty pair that dies on you after some time. (Check out this guide on how to recable them if they fall apart.) It may not be a game for the faint of heart, but I believe CrossRoads or Jaben will take good care of you if you indeed receive a dud. A convenient thing they have free international shipping.

If you’re the adventurous type, go for them – the sound quality is worth it.

[EDIT: I was told the build quality on newer batches of the MylarOnes has improved. The cable issue should be fixed on recently made phones.]

Pros

  • Good, clear, fun sound
  • Very good soundstage and imaging
  • Good sound quality at quiet volume levels
  • Stealthy, secure fit

Cons

  • Sub-par build quality and quality control issues
  • Slightly rolled-off treble, a bit too much bass for some tastes
  • Diameter of the housing might be too thick for smaller ears

Purchase

The MylarOnes can be purchased from Jaben Networks, the biggest headphone retailer in Singapore (free international shipping, payment via PayPal).

(Note: at the time of this review their website wasn’t updated, still showing the old X3 and XB models – however, you will receive the new X3i or XBi if you place your order.)




20 Comments

WalkGood on January 3, 2008 9:43 PM

Excellent review Martin…they just keep getting better ;) Even though I own a pair of the X3’s and XB’s which I truly enjoy and I’ve recommended them extensively, I’m not getting the new “i” series, as I’m very disappointed with build quality, product consistency and quality control.

Aardvark on January 4, 2008 7:47 AM

Another well paced thoroughly researched and balanced review.I have been looking forwards to reading about the new Mylars since they became available. My son’s xbi’s are still going strong, let’s hope this continues ;) Great pice of journalism. Thanks

Almoxil on January 4, 2008 8:09 AM

Excellent review Martin, as always. Plenty of info, unbiased and to the point.

Utew on January 4, 2008 12:13 PM

Martin, Excellent review.You’ve really become a Master at this and your commitment to a balanced perspective and straight, clear to-the-point writing style is a joy to read. =)

Xenodius on January 4, 2008 5:18 PM

AWESOME review! Sounds like these are the phones for me! I will purchase a pair of the X3i’s tonight. I cant thankyou enough for the review!

mike knox on January 5, 2008 5:41 PM

i just recently got a pair of mylar One X3 earbuds for christmas. what a disapointment!Great sound quality i loved them until today when the back part of the bud broke apart from the silver ring. good thing the wrie did not snap. i would not suggest these headphones as they felt cheap when i got them and as a result are. i never complained about the sound quality but was dissapointed when this happened. dont think ill ever buy a pair of crossroads headphones again. very very poor durability. took great care of them aswell. BUYER BEWARE. i guess it is my fault for testing out an unknown brand.

dfkt on January 6, 2008 10:16 AM

Mike Knox, did you contact Jaben and ask for a replacement? Since you got them for Christmas you’re certainly entitled to a replacement pair.

k_j on January 7, 2008 10:14 AM

*yawns*i slept through the review,what did i miss?! =P

Name on January 7, 2008 5:35 PM

So, what would be a good alternative now? Price range, sound quality?

dfkt on January 8, 2008 2:20 PM

Same sound quality in that price range? I don’t know of any alternatives, sorry.

Name on January 8, 2008 2:59 PM

Ok, thanks. How about the closest alternative in the next price range and the price range just before the Mylarones? Thanks!

dan on January 10, 2008 3:24 PM

Damn… I’m sad that you like the sound quality on these 65 dollar phones better than the vibes, which I bought a while back for $85. :( Anyways, thanks for the detailed review, keep em comin!

dan on January 10, 2008 3:24 PM

Damn… I’m sad that you like the sound quality on these 65 dollar phones better than the vibes, which I bought a while back for $85. :( Anyways, thanks for the detailed review, keep em comin!

John K on January 10, 2008 9:56 PM

How do these Mylars (new “i” versions and old) compare with Altec Lansing’s iM716? (if you have tried them before?)

dfkt on January 13, 2008 4:09 PM

I’ve posted a tutorial on how to recable the MylarOnes, getting rid of that flimsy cheap piece of wire and plastic… http://www.anythingbutipod.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24771

dfkt on January 23, 2008 1:52 PM

Updated the review with an important edit: I was told the build quality on newer batches of the MylarOnes has improved. The cable issue should be fixed on recently made phones.

QBoi on February 20, 2008 11:45 PM

I’ve had my x3i for a month now no problems. I sleep with them on every night and work out with them too.

screw on April 15, 2008 6:07 PM

are the first generation CrossRoads MylarOne X3 better . i just wont them to be durable?

spleen2060 on June 21, 2008 3:47 AM

what about soud isolation of this (semi)in-ear?

JY on June 29, 2008 1:18 PM

Just bought a pair of X3i. These are crap. They sound no better than my old sony ex-71. oreover, my X3i just died after a few days.My advice: stay axay from these earbuds.

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