Picture of the Sony DR-EX12iP Headset Earbuds, carton front view.

Sony Make Believe Headphones DR-EX12iP Earphones Review

The Sony Make Believe DR-EX12iP Earbuds  shine in their crystal clear high-end, treble clarity, but at the expense of an unmistakable bass presence.

The 9mm drivers here, while pretty good at reproducing the musical highs without appearing to back away from the task, the lows, owing to the very small size of these buds, do indeed suffer.  On the good side however, these earbuds will accept boosted bass from an equalizer without distorting it much.  So you can compensate for the reduced bass if your mobile device has an equalizer.

We’d describe these as a basically natural-sounding, in ear headphone, whose ear drivers are unusually small (9mm speakers); sort of like those transistor radio ear buds of half a century ago, though admittedly, these sound much better than those private-listening single earphones of decades past.  The sub-miniature size means that they can easily be pulled or jerked out of the ear, and even when not tugged, gravity itself can loosen them after just a few short minutes.  So regular adjustment to keep them correctly positioned for best bass sound is necessary.  Also, these needlessly small speakers mean that the bass response is weak.  However, the crisp highs are a marked improvement over other, cheaper earbuds that we’ve tested, and the included remote microphone offers good frequency response for speech; iPhone cellphone conversations sound great on both ends of the call.

At between $17 and $32 per pair, depending on where you shop, these earphones cost a bit less than Apple’s Earpods model, and feature about as much reduced sound quality as they save you in dollars.  But after having gotten used to the $10 to $15 caliber earbuds, it was initially hard to embrace this added cost over the cheapest units, until we spent several albums listening to out music collection on the iPad Mini with them. This earbud set represents a higher class product than sub-$10 earphones we’d enjoyed for years, and after examining several of those low-medium to low-end models, we now accept, and happily too, that to get truly transparent audio reproduction, you simply cannot skimp on your earphones.  Indeed, these buds are cheaper and sound cheaper, simply resemble a lower class of headphone than the Earpods, but sound good enough in a pinch.

Picture of the Sony DR-EX12iP Headset Earbuds, unpacked.
Sony DR-EX12iP Headset Earbuds, unpacked.

The DR-EX12iP headset offers practically everything that’s important, from weak but non distorted bass, to strong midrange, to snappy and resonant high frequencies. They don’t distort, even when playing an iPad at full volume, though they may not play as loudly as other, larger driver diaphragm models. They insert into the ear easily, and remove just as quickly, and wearing them rarely grows tiresome, and their low-mass and flexible cable minimizes microphonics.

Rigid strain relief is provided at each speaker unit, and Sony has incorporated flexible strain relief at the gold-plated 3.5mm plug end of the cord.   However, we find no strain relief at each ear driver or at the microphone / remote control. None exists at the Y cord slider either, where the single cord splits into two (left and right). Nonetheless, they appear reasonably well constructed for as low-cost as they are, for months, or perhaps years of trouble-free listening, talking, and remote controlling an iPod or iPhone.

Benefits, Pros, Features, and Advantages 

Included users manual.  Instructions tell of how to safely listen and avoid possible hearing loss, as well as detailed procedures for how to use the built-in in-line remote control and microphone with various devices and services found on Apple and Apple compatible mobile devices.

Strain relief on some joints.  Flexible and effective strain relief on the 3.5 mm male plug (that plugs into your audio device), and rigid relief at each earpiece.

Cord slider.  Allows you to adjust how big the Y cable joint is, where the left and right ear driver cables come together into one. This enhances comfort and reduces snagging on clothes buttons and catching in zippers.

Gold plated connector.  A stereo gold-plated 3.5mm male plug is included, along with a very light-weight, low mass audio connecting Litz cable. Though light, the cable appears quite flexible and rugged. We’ve used this headset for several weeks now on daily walks at the apartment, and have jerked them numerous times when we dropped the attached iPod Nano. Still they continue to function perfectly.

Very low microphonics.  The cable also does not transport vibrations too much into the ear pieces, nor does the built-in microphone pick up much when chatting on an iPhone using this accessory.

In ear.  The DR-EX12iP headset drivers insert deep into the ear, to the far end of the ear canal, for improved fidelity and isolation from surrounding sounds and noises.

Water resistant.  Smaller sound ports means less exposure of the drivers inside, to sweat, rain, and other foreign debris.

Good fidelity.  Reproduces low-mid, midrange, and high audio frequencies clearly. Not excessive sound coloration or harshness thus, although as noted, the bass output appears attenuated when listening on flat. But on the whole, they sound reasonably flat, while delivering the extra bass or treble you desire, if you apply an audio equalizer.

Easy LEFT and RIGHT channel identification.  The left and right earbuds are embossed with easy-to-read L and R letters respectively, located on the rear side of the driver assembly. Easy to find thus.

Symmetrical driver design.  Hard to confuse LEFT and RIGHT speakers. The DR-EX12iP employs a symmetrical ear bud design, in which the LEFT bud fits most comfortably and sounds the best, in the left ear, and the RIGHT bud fits best into the RIGHT ear.

Decent sensitivity, producing somewhat higher levels of clipping free volume than the original iPod stock buds for a given volume setting.

Long audio cable.  Over three feet of highly flexible cable is provided from the bottom of the Y vertex to the audio connector, and an additional twelve inches of cable from the top of the Y to the drivers.

Low magnetism leakage. You could make the drivers in other earphones repel each other if you held them the right way. And they’d stick to some surfaces. However no discernible magnetism leaks out of these drivers.

Multiple colors available.  The come in numerous colors, including the black model reviewed here.

Multiple ear cushion tips included.  Sony provides three color-coded pairs (small, medium, and large) rubber silicone ear tips.

90-day limited warranty.

Picture of the Sony DR-EX12iP Headset Earbuds, back view of carton.
Sony DR-EX12iP Headset Earbuds, back view of carton.

Disadvantages, Problems, Cons, Limitations, and Concerns

Require ear tips.  The little flexible cushions can come off the drivers.  Easily lost.

Somewhat pricey.  These are moderately expensive earbuds, and indeed most of us hate expense. But you nonetheless get what you pay for in this product; a good-sounding, well-documented earphone.

In ear design means less sanitary.  They’re more apt to become misaligned, and though they touch the eardrum and completely block the ear canal when fully inserted, you still hear the outside environment rather well.

Easy to hurt ears.  Do not play them too loud for too long, because they can deliver enough volume to mask out exterior sounds like cars coming, in addition to potentially damaging your hearing.  We’d not recommend playing these while walking along and across busy streets, because while they still allow in much external sound, they still, particularly while playing your music loudly, may prevent you from hearing approaching vehicles.

No travel pouch included. However, with a little effort, they can easily be wrapped back up and stored in a plastic zipper lock bag.

Reduce outside noises.  May be inappropriate for certain environments, where the user would like to hear well the surrounding noise. Since these buds fully “stop up” the ear canal, they somewhat reduce outside noises from being heard while listening.  So you may not perceive important sounds (like your baby crying or husband calling).

Could annoy your neighbors.  On the other hand, since the degree of sound isolation is reciprocal (works equally as well (or not) for keeping internal sound in while fencing external sounds out), and the DR-EX12iP does not keep the music inside the ear very well. So you may disturb nearby passengers on trains and planes, if you play your music too loudly.

Probably not fixable.  Given the highly miniaturized form of the cables and connections here, these earphones cannot be repaired, practically, as the wires inside are hair-thin. So once they break, they’re done. We don’t mind this for el cheapo earbuds. But we’d like to be able to fix our earbuds should they fail, the more expensive they become.


  • Type: Closed dynamic.
  • Driver unit: 9mm dome  (CCAW).
  • Power handling: 100 milliwatts.
  • Frequency response: 8 – 22,000 Hz.
  • Impedance: 16 ohms.
  • Sensitivity: 100 DB/mW.
  • Cord: 1.2M, 47.5 inches Litz cable, type Y.
  • Plug: Gold plated, four conductor plug, which is compatible with iPods, iPads, and iPhones.

Our Rating

We’d rate the Sony Make Believe DR-EX12iP Headphones ear buds at 85 out of 100.  Far from the best earbuds we’ve tested, they’re still among the best priced, given their not-so-cheap sound. But they fall out too often and require all-too-frequent adjustments to keep them properly positioned in the ear.   While they’re great for kids and novice listeners, we fear that you’d grow out of these buds quickly.  So we cannot recommend them to any audiophiles or refined music listeners.

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Revision History

  • 2015-09-28: Originally published.