GadgetsLab: Sony MDR-1R

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Specifications:

Weight: 241-grams

Freq. Response: 4 – 80000Hz

Sensitivity: 105dB/mW

Impedance 24-Ohm

Diaphragm: Liquid crystal polymer – 1.6in

Magnet material: Neodymium

In-line volume control, microphone

Cable length: 4ft.

What’s Hot:

• Comfy as anything I’ve ever tried

• Great mids

• Great isolation

What’s Not:

• Warm

Bottomline:

Despite the price, I would very seriously consider this as my next audio purchase.

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Headphones are  a key part of any audiophile’s arsenal. They are the bridge that connects the listener to the music to which they intend to listen. As such, it’s always a pretty good idea, if you really mean to make the most of your music, to do two things: keep your music in the highest practical bitrate you can use, and get the best sounding headphones you can afford. The first is easy enough. You have full control of the bitrate at which you rip and store your music. The second can be an agonizing struggle between competing brands, wallet size and personal preference. While there is quite a large number of good brands out there, it does help to narrow things down to a few reputable brands with a solid track record. There are brands that are more marketing hype than performance (yes, we mean those two), but a solid performer, we usually find, is Sony, and the MDR-1r is no exception.

These headphones came to our office in the form of a beautiful black and deep red that immediately had my attention. It’s  that really eye-catching shade of red Iron Man himself chose, and while there isn’t much of it, this pair is seriously going to turn some heads. The 40mm drivers are housed in extremely soft, comfortable cups with a comfy leather exterior. The cups, in turn, swivel around 90 degrees, if you fancy yourself a DJ, and comfortably pinch against a shoulder and ear if need be. For the rest of us, there is a thickly-padded leather headband that keeps tension just right, and evenly-distributed across your head. I know I say this a lot, but headphone manufacturers are really stepping up the levels of comfort, particularly on their luxury headphones. I was able to wear the MDR-1Rs for the better part of a nine-hour work day without having to take them off.

The weight and tension are distributed evenly, so no one spot really pinched uncomfortably; not even the stiff parts of my ears. If you spend long hours listening to music, you really should consider this pair.

These headphones come with two sets of cables: one standard 3.5mm cable, and another one with an in-line mic, call, and volume buttons for use with a mobile phone. The cables plug in to the left ear cup, and then into your device, which is a design that I have always appreciated, since snagging means the cables just break away from the cup instead of rendering your headphones nothing more than a shiny, but useless, fashion accessory. The soft cups mold very snugly around your head, and as such, offer pretty solid noise isolation. More than once I missed parts of conversations directed at me because I simply did not hear them, even at moderate volume. The price of the superb isolation, however, is heat. This is not really a pair of headphones you want to be using in the sweltering heat of your daily commute. Your ears will sweat buckets in very short order. For indoor use, though, it’s pretty hard to beat. The cable included is plenty long enough to trail from a pocket, bag, or table, and is thick and slightly rubberized, which helps keep tangles down. The microphone proved adequate for calls, though tended to drag across my face or clothing, creating noise for the listener on the other end. It worked best when just left alone to pick up my voice, so don’t touch it while in a call, and you should be fine.

Sound quality is at par for Sony headphones, that is to say excellent. These headphones gave me the kind of sound I look for in headphones: more of an emphasis on mids than bass, and very vivid highs. This is not to say that the bottom is missing, it’s just not overpowered, and does not drown out all the other tones. Vocals in particular come out very nicely; something I value in audio equipment in general. There is also a pleasant absence of sibilance (the sharp, annoying “S” sound), even on some tracks that I knew it to be present. This doesn’t mean you can give up higher bitrates; just that it is a little more forgiving than some other headphones in the market.

They aren’t the cheapest headphones available today (they are available online for just under USD 200) , but the Sony MDR-1R is a pretty good investment. Great comfort, Sony quality, and excellent sound reproduction all make for a great pair of headphones to own and use.

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First published in Gadgets Magazine, April 2013

Words by Ren Alcantara