Sony MDR-1R over ear headphones come in three variations, the Sony MDR-1RBT which has Bluetooth and can be operated wirelessly, MDR-1RNC which has active noise cancelling and the version being reviewed here, the plain Sony MDR-1R which use a good old fashion cable.
First, you need to know that these headphones were given to me for free by a PR company in Canada that I assume does promotional work for SONY Canada. The PR company contacted me asking if I would be interested in reviewing these headphones after having seen the HeadphoneAddict Youtube Channel, to which I said yes while eagerly clapping my hands in joy.
I think you will find that even though this was a free review sample, I have no scruples about being critical.
Accessories that come with MDR1R
The headphones come with a high quality pouch and a couple of cables. Although the pouch is of high quality, I’m not comfortable throwing these headphones into the pouch and having them in a backpack full of heavy books. Headphone manufacturers should understand that while pouches are nice hard cases are king. The user does not want the hassle of putting their headphones in a pouch and the pouch in a towel to get some decent protection.
The fact that they have a detachable cable is very welcomed and an absolute must for all headphones in my opinion. They come with two cables. One that works with Apple devices but unfortunately is pretty useless with Android. The other cable is a straight cable with no bells or whistles. I find that both cables are a little short for desktop use, as I constantly has to remind myself not to pull on the cable. For portable use the cables are spot on in terms of length though.
You can replace the cables with any old cheap cable, because the input connector on the headphones is not proprietary. This is awesome and the way things should be, as the user does not want to buy overpriced cables from the manufacturer if the ones they come with are to short or long for their needs.
Build Quality and comfort of MDR1R
The build quality of these headphones is only semi decent. They are mainly constructed out of plastic which makes them light weight and portable but a little cheap to the touch.
Also, the ear cups are not dampened so they sound very hollow when you tap on them. Unfortunately, this is very common with most headphones and chances are you will be able to improve the sound quality and noise isolation by adding some damping material to reduce reflections and leakage from inside the cups.
It’s also evident why they also offer the MDR-1RNC version which has active noise cancellation because they only have average to below average noise isolation in passive form.
The MDR-1R’s are far from the most expensive cans I’ve heard but among the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. The soft ear pads, large pads, light headband padding in combination with the extremely light weight make for a hyper comfortable pair of headphones – for most people.
However, the ear cups are pretty shallow, and if your ears stick out from your nugget you will experience that your ears will touch the padding in front of the driver. Some people hate this, so hater be warned.
Furthermore, only the middle of the headband is padded, so if you have a very big head with awkward proportions (lol) you might find that the sides of the headband will put some force on the sides of your head.
They do extend a lot though, so they will fit people with huge normal shaped heads.
Review of MDR-1R’s sound quality
In the marketing material SONY boast of extreme extension both high and low, but as usual we have to take the manufacturers’ specifications and marketing messages with a fist full of salt. They by no means deliver the extension that SONY says in their marketing.
I have done some measurements of the headphones and they drop off after 2kHz and have a spike in the 9kHz region and then quickly roll off quite a lot. The lows are also a bit rolled off from 40 Hz down.
In a nutshell I’d say these headphones are a bit bass shy and have extreme clarity in the mids and an airy non sibilant treble, so these are not headphones for you bass heads out there. Those who like spacious and detailed headphones with good layering and little to no sibilance, will find these being spectacular.
They have a very big sound field to them, probably because of the large angled drivers. This will give you a sense of space and layering, meaning that each instrument will stand on its own and be positioned clearly within the sound field. So with these headphones you never get the feeling that you’re listening to a mosh of instruments being squeezed together in a blurry continuous flow of sound.
They have a particular sound to them, the mids are detailed but the upper mids a bit emphasized for me personally. It’s not like the P’s, T’s and S’ in vocals will rip a hole in your ear drums – because they are not sibilant – but they are emphasized and that makes the upper mids to highs sound a bit aggressive and misplaced on some types of music.
The bass in these headphones is of good quality, but not emphasized down low or in the midbass. If you expect headphones that will be punchy these are not for you and you will be better of considering a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x for example. The MDR-1R’s do dig fairly deep even though I’d like to see them dig down another octave without rolling off. I boosted the low frequencies with a parametric equalizer to make up for this, and it worked out like a charm making them sound fuller with more low frequency body.
Basically the headphones has good bass quality but – again – not a lot of bass quantity. Also, one thing I’ve noticed is that if you play bass heavy songs very loud the bass will sound somewhat “hollow” and loose. This is probably because of the hollow ear cups resonating and me hearing the resonances. Again, damping material is your friend.
To sum up, the MDR-1R are very dynamic and fast sounding, with very clear mids without being sibilant, although there are some emphasis there. The treble has air to it, but is rolled off before becoming sibilant. I’d like to see a little more bass extension and some kick in the midbass, but overall they are a pleasure to listen to because of their qualities and their great sound field. If you are ready to use an equalizer with these the yield will be enormous.
Review of MDR-1R conclusion
So are these headphones worth it? When they retailed at the original MSRP they were a bit on the expensive side considering the build quality. Sound wise they are spectacular for what they do well, which again is clarity without sibilance and beautiful layering and placement of instruments in the sound field.
Also, they are selling far below MSRP nowadays, and for the current price they are definitely worth it in my humble opinion.
- Pricing, user reviews and availablity at Amazon US (affiliate link)
- Pricing, user reviews and availablity at Amazon UK (affiliate link)
The listening impressions for 1R is based on driving the headphones with the recently reviewed Objective2 + ODAC headamp & DAC, but I also used iPad and a smartphone with very similar results.
I hope you enjoyed this review of the SONY MDR-1R headphones and if there is anything you are curious about don’t hesitate to write me up below.