Sadly, we have not done much investigation into the selection of headphones recently on offer from Sony. Today changes all that as we take in a massive earful of their newest set of high end cans, the Sony MDR-1R Premium Headphones were announced just last month, along with the company’s new trademark Bravia with its eye-popping 3840 x 2160 resolution.
The MDR-1R over-ear style headphones are meticulously designed to seize your attention. I’ll be hard-pressed to convey the full extent of the aesthetic allure for these new headies from Sony. The main theme is smoke and ebony. The headband is all black with a surprising degree of padding. Moving down to where the band meats the arms for the earpieces… These are colored in a metallic smoke and look as if made of metal. But they are constructed from plastic. The earpieces themselves are all black with black padding. There is also an attractive metallic red band that wraps around the earpieces right in between the section with the logo and the padding. The back section of the left arm is actually where the 3.5mm tip inserts into the MDR-1R.
The MDR-1R ships with the main headphones, instruction manual, carrying pouch and two audio cables. You get their Apple control headphones with in-line controls and mic for phone calls and a standard 3.5mm cable for general music listening. This is a pretty Spartan package for the lofty price. However you’re not paying premium ends for the accouterments. You’re paying for performance.
In the way of drivers, Sony has opted for 40mm dome type (HD, OFC Voice Coil) liquid crystal polymer. The frequency response is 4-80,000Hz with an impedance of 24 ohms at 1khz. The headphone type is closed super-aural dynamic. Yet the resulting performance has us stumped on whether it matches the price. For some it certainly will and for others, not so much. The audio quality is solid but the set fails to carve out a specialty for itself. Everything is almost too well balanced. Highs and midranges could be more distinct within the soundstage of each audio track. Moreover, the bass is not as deep as the marketing-speak would have you believe.
But don’t get it twisted. The MDR-1R are great audio solutions. It handles calls just fine with adequate clarity and responsive in-line controls. The audio balance goes a long way as well. The playback quality is very good, while staying to the middle road on all music genres. So don’t expect acoustic sounds to pop with enhanced clarity like the California Laredo headphones. You can also release your dreams of Beats Audio-level of bass punch and distinction. I found the best use scenarios are classical music, reggae, Soca, and pop songs that are not overly bass-heavy. Vocals in Hip Hop (Thrift Shop) are clean and easily discernible. But again the MDR-1R could use a touch up around the highs and midranges.
Look, the construction quality and dashing aesthetics show skill and commitment at least on the surface. But a quick listen will reveal these are definitely high end headphones that are well-balanced for the listener who welcomes all genres. Oh and all the padding! Comfort is not an issue. The headband features sufficient “give” and is not overly tight and the padding at top is thick and abundantly cushy. Same goes for the ear padding. But if tracks replete with deep punchy bass and crisp clear highs fill your music play lists, then the Sony MDR-1R Premium Headphones are not for you.
Excellently styled and handsomely designed. Endless comfort. Packed with 2-different audio cables.
A bit overly balanced and lacking distinction. Bass needs more punch. Highs could use more crispness in the clarity. Pricey!
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.