on 20 September 2013
I firstly had a pair of Bose QC15 but lost these on a recent rip so decided on a change and bought the Sony's, I nearly didn't having read a review by a customer saying the noise cancelling was poor, we let me assure you it is very good at least equal to the Bose! The noise it blocks is a slightly different frequency so to some people they will appear better (this is myself included) and some people will prefer the Bose but there is very little in it either way both are very good.
Where to Sony wins is the sound quality which in my opinion is superior to the Bose, also the Sony can be run without the noise cancelling feature on which is a bonus.
If your after a fantastic pair of headphones then purchase the Sony's.
on 28 December 2012
These headphones are absolutely spot on, from the sound, design, functionality, accessories and all the way down to the packaging they come in.
The headphones come in a lovely hinged box which slides out of a cardboard sleeve. The headphones come packaged with the earcups folded flat and in the high quality mock leather soft shell case. Fitted between the headband and the earcups is a small soft bag that contains the accessories - 3.5mm cable with iPod/iPhone inline remote, a plain 3.5mm cable, USB charging cable and airplane adapter. It's a quality set of accessories and it's nice to have both a plain and iPod compatible cable. The other half of the box contains the instruction manual (in about 50 languages languages), the warranty and registration information leaflets. The instructions are as fuss free as they need to be and detail nicely how the iPod remote works, charging the battery and other bits of sensible advice about the noise cancelling feature.
The cables have grooves running from end to end which work well in preventing tangled cables. The 3.5mm ends are sturdy enough. Some people have noted there is a loose fit between the supplied cables and the jack on the headphones, creating a ticking noise when walking moving that can only be cured with a slice of rubber or bit of blu-tack. I haven't encountered this and the jack and cable seem well fitted to me. Maybe Sony have made a small change since launch. The USB cable is pretty ordinary, as is the in flight adapter. As I've noted with other high end/pricey rechargeable headphones, in the case of these Sonys £449 RRP, a charging dock would be a nice addition at this price point.
The headphones themselves are beautiful, and strike what I think is a perfect balance between a classic headphone design and some of the more contemporary designs (i.e. Dr Dre beats style headphones) without looking cheap. The red accents work really well against the graphite and the chrome parts add a feeling of genuine quality. The construction on these is largely aluminium for the ear cups, unlike their bluetooth and passive brothers (MDR1RBT and MDR1R) which are plastic. The Noise Cancellers certainly don't look budget..
They fit beautifully, the earcups are large and encircle the whole ear easily. The padding is very soft, not quite as soft as what I've seen on the Parrot Ziks but the Sonys have a reassuring "firmness" that forms an excellent seal. The headband provides the perfect amount of tension and is well padded and doesn't dig in to my head at all. The length of the headband can be adjusted easily, maybe a little too easily for my liking and I would prefer more of a click as I move the notches but this is all very minor stuff. They really do sit very nicely on the head. The only piece of concern is for those with larger/protruding ears is that there is a small hard ball that protrudes out of the driver behind the mesh. This should line up directly with the ear canal but for some people it might not and could be a bit annoying. This protruding piece seems to contain the internal microphone used in the noise cancelling, placing it as close to the ear canal makes technical, if not ergonomic sense.
Now to discuss the sound and noise cancelling capabilities. These shouldn't really be described in terms of "with noise cancelling on and noise cancelling off" but rather they should be discussed as "Active" and "Passive" because Active mode, as well as Noise Cancellation also turns on the S Master Digital Amp and Digital Sound Enhancement Engine which claim to restore lost waveforms and higher frequencies lost in compressed music. You can definitely hear this working when you flip the switch to Active mode.
In passive mode the headphones sound very good for a noise cancelling set operating without its fancy circuitry and amplifiers. They do sound different to their Bluetooth and Passive brothers with a bit more low end grunt and a thicker sound to the low mids. The bass is a little unfocussed and a bit boomy, meaning the individual notes on quieter bass lines are harder to pick out. The trebles and mids have a good amount of punch and clarity but suffer slightly from the very thick mid-low range. This all gives a sort of warm "fuzzy" listening experience, like a bigger and thicker set of Bowers and Wilkins P5s. Passive mode is still a decent listening experience but the sound changes wildly in the active mode as if it were another set of headphones completely.
Hitting the active mode switch (bottom side of the left ear cup, easy to find/feel for) my first thought was "where did the bass go??" The difference is that the active mode really brings the bass under control - it's tight, it's focussed and it's not murky nor dark. It's lean and powerful. That thick lower mid drops away quite significantly as well. I will say the bottom end of these headphones is less pronounced than I expected given these headphones were tuned in conjunction with Skream/Magnetic Man and designed for "modern music". The cups certainly don't bounce around on your head like the Beats Pros do but when the bass is called on it still delivers a good growl, especially right down at the deepest lows where Sony's "Beat Control" must be working.
The real highlight of the active mode has to be the clarity it brings to the mids and highs, which I believe is partly due to the reduction in that thick mid-low region and a boost the amp gives, it's impossible to tell what effect the noise cancelling circuitry really has on the frequency response but my reasoning with noise cancellers is always that they are designed to block out the low frequencies with low frequency anti noise so some of the low end must be given up to this task. Guitars really crunch and solos soar, vocals come right to the front of the soundstage. Complimenting the tight bass the treble and mid response really help to grind out dirty basslines - you can then begin to see the pedigree of these headphones as designed for modern music. It really makes you appreciate these parts of the music more. Only slight gripe with all this treble and mid boost is that it does take a while to get used to when you switch from passive to active mode but it's all clarity and no noise that you are hearing. Now that I've been using these for a good 1.5-2 hrs a day for a month I've noticed the treble and mids settle down a little with use and the initial sense of harshness has disappeared. However, as with these things it could just be me adjusting to the headphones.
The noise cancelling is good and I've now given them the back of the bus treatment where they have proved themselves as a solid bet. They also work great on ambient traffic. I must say the frequencies ithe Sonys will block out tend to be in a lower and narrower range than those of comparable headphones (therefore leaving some more of the mid range uncancelled, such as the glug of an engine ticking over still there). Testing them against a slightly rattling extractor fan the rattles were almost unscathed by the noise cancelation but the low hum was completely eliminated. Other headphones, Bose QC15 and Parrot Zik, on the same fan have done a better job at eliminating the mid range rattle. Sony do say the headphones have 3 built in noise cancelation modes that are automatically selected depending on the sound environment. There is some hiss from the headphones when the noise cancelation is on, but it is quite slight and you'll only notice it if you're in a quiet room and once music fires up it it's gone. I do however feel Sony could have done a slightly better job on the noise cancelling here as the premium over the regular passive MDR1Rs is huge. They could have made them a bit less hissy and they are useless at blocking anything in the mid-high range. Maybe I'm asking for too much, but I certainly don't feel I'm getting the "99.7% Noise Cancellation" Sony claim (whatever that is benchmarked against, more of an advertising ploy I think).
Comparing to other sets out there the Sonys sonically blow the socks off Beats, Bose QC15 and Parrot Ziks. If you're really keen on noise cancelling you might want to go for the Parrots as I thought these were excellent when I owned them for a week before they fell apart. The Bose set are always a good bet but I think they are overpriced for the thin sound they produce. I prefer these Sony's to the B&W P5s by a good length too as the Sonys have better bass, and meatier mids and highs and a host more detail helped by them being full over ear cans. The Sonys may not be the most accurate set of headphones as the trebles and mids might be a little too pronounced for some listeners but they're certainly the punchiest and clearest set of headphones I've heard amongst the current £200-£500 range.
The one real problem with these is the price. These things aren't cheap, £450 RRP is too much. £350 would be a more sensible amount as they are physically and sonically superior to the comparable Bose QC15 model which usually sells at around £280. I reckon in the months to come these could be got for under £300.
In summary these Sonys are a great option if you want a punchy, detailed and crystal clear sound and want to benefit from noise cancelation. They also look and feel really fantastic.
on 20 July 2013
So I've been saving up for these pair of headphones for a while now and only just managed to get enough money to buy them. And I have to say, I got it out of the box and tried the sound straight away. What I noticed was the bass was a bit low for my liking but then I just went on the sound setting and turned the bass up and that seemed to have solved the problem!, The Digital noise cancelling is what really impressed me with these headphones. I own another pair of Sony headphones which are MDR-V55 which are also really really good for the price but they didn't really block out that much noise and did get a little uncomfortable after a couple of hours because my ears didn't really fit all that well, it was comfortable but just about. But with THESE!, holy mother of god these are comfortable! I can easily wear this for 24 hours! Possibly the most comfortable headphones I've EVER tried. My friend's collects all of the Beats by Dre, I tried them out but found them to be rather uncomfortable.
If you want great noise cancelling, great sound, great bass (may have to mess around with the setting but worth it in the end), GREAT COMFORT. I recommend these. Yes the price should of been a little lower but I didn't have to pay much because i had Amazon vouchers which I was given as gifts so it ended up being cheap for me anyways!. I also recommend you go to your nearest electronic shop and tried these out first. I went to PC World to try the MDR-1R which is the cheapest version without noise cancelling and everything and they were pretty decent as well!.
I already owned the Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones, which are the same price as these, and wanted a second pair of noise cancelling headphones to use at another location. So I thought I'd try this Sony pair, based on the positive reviews.
In terms of build quality the Sony are superior. They look and feel solid, metallic and professional. Alongside them the Bose look slightly plasticky and cheap. However, a consequence of this is that the Sony are very noticeably heavier. I found that this makes them more tiring to wear for long periods and also gives them a tendency to shift position as you move your head. The ear padding on both the Sony and the Bose is soft and generous, but I was aware of more points of contact when using the Sony, so for long term use I would prefer to wear the Bose.
For audio quality the Sony has maybe a slight edge but I did not have any strong preference. Both are adequate. Neither is the best you are going to find in this price category, since the high price is largely for the noise cancellation feature.
Comparing the active noise cancellation, the Bose is unquestionably superior. Both headphones focus their noise cancellation on the low frequencies, and this is where I noticed the biggest difference. I'm sitting by a window overlooking a busy road and if I put the Bose headphones on, the traffic noise is eliminated, with the exception of the loudest vehicles, and these are quietened to a whisper. With the Sony the traffic noise is definitely reduced but every vehicle is still quite audible. I'm actually surprised that the Sony headphones are being seriously compared to the Bose for noise cancellation. They're just not in the same class.
My advice is, that if your top priority is audio quality, don't buy either of these: there are audiophile headphones in this price range that will outclass these. If you need the noise cancellation feature, get the Bose.
on 10 June 2015
The first impressions created by these headphones is excellent. The packaging has a suitably premium feel and upon opening the box there is a real feeling that the product is rather special. The headphones are beautifully made from very high quality materials and give the impression of a product which has been engineered and manufactured to extremely high standards. OK these things may seem trivial in terms of product performance but there is no doubt to me that they do enhance the ownership experience. There are three things that these headphones need to deliver, comfort, sound quality and noise cancelling. They are light yet feel very solid, some lightweight headphones feel like they’ll fall to bits within a few weeks or if dropped whilst some professional headphones feel indestructible but are heavy. These despite being light feel like they are pretty much bomb proof which is a terrific testament to Sony build quality here.
I have place comfort first as with headphones it does not matter how good the sound quality is, if you do not enjoy wearing them then sound quality is almost irrelevant as you will just not use them. These headphones feel wonderfully comfortable, the high quality materials do come into play here, the over ear fit is perfect for my ears and the pressure is just right. Some headphones feel like putting your head in a vice while others are so loose they are constantly sliding off your head. These are tight enough to stay in place but apply very little pressure, some of this is down to the ear cup design. These are amongst the most comfortable headphones I have ever tried and they really are headphones that you could use all day. That said I am not sure they’d be suitable for people who go out jogging as I suspect the pressure might be just a bit too light for joggers.
Next, sound quality, and here the headphones have a split personality. Without noise cancelling the sound is warm and rich and is really rather lovely. They have enough bass to give music kick without falling into the classic headphone trap of becoming intolerably bass heavy. They actually work reasonably well in isolating outside noise without using noise cancelling within reason. With noise cancelling on the sound becomes noticeably brighter and less warm, rich. That said, the noise cancelling is effective and the change in quality is still preferable to using the headphones without noise cancelling in environments such as flying where the noise cancelling is extremely effective in combating the constant low frequency drone. As home headphones used without noise cancelling these are good enough to do justice to serious home hi-fi equipment and deserve to be used with a decent headphone amplifier. They are way too good for low end MP3 files on smart phones etc and really they deserve a good lossless output from a good portable music player or a smart phone output via a separate headphone amp or a laptop output fed through a separate amp and DAC.
That brings us to noise cancelling. Here some expectation management is needed. These headphones do not suddenly silence the world. The noise cancelling works very well indeed with steady low frequency noise, such as in aircraft cabins or the air conditioning and electrical hum in trains etc. These noises are shut out very effectively. What they do not really do is shut out people talking, pneumatic hammers, people banging away on keyboards etc. The noise cancelling works very well within its limitations and in my opinion it works as well as makes no difference as Bose competitor products. Crucially, if the battery goes flat these headphones continue to work without noise cancelling hence there is no need to feel much battery anxiety. On that point they have a rechargeable battery rather than needing a AA or AAA like some cheaper noise cancelling products.
So these are beautifully made, supremely comfortable, sound fabulous without noise cancelling and pretty good with noise cancelling and the noise cancelling is effective within certain limits. And those limits include use on aircraft and trains which are normally the key requirements for a product like this. Included within the box is a pretty good case, cables, USB charging cable (but no mains adapter) and an aircraft adapter, everything you need to go. The elephant in the room is cost. When launched these were £450 and that is still the price if bought direct from Sony. At that price they are expensive, very good yes but there is no hiding from the fact they are expensive. At that price it is hard to recommend them ahead of some other products from manufacturers such as Bose and Sennheiser. The build quality of these is way ahead of Bose (Bose headphones feel cheap by comparison) and the sound quality without noise cancelling is better than Bose, although Bose have a slight edge in noise cancelling performance. However, at the discounted prices you can find these for (below £200) they are a bargain and at that price are a much better offer than any of their competitors in my view. They really are rather lovely headphones and there is a real joy in using them. Very highly recommended at the discounted price, 5*, if paying full SRP (why would you when discounts are out there?) then it is a more qualified recommendation but nevertheless even at full SRP these headphones still feel beautifully made and sound good.
Was a little concerned by how long these have been on the market (launched 3 years ago now). However I shouldn't have been. It's a classic design, extremely well made, sound amazing, and very comfortable to wear.
I went for the wired, noise cancelling variant, and am impressed by the NC abilities, especially in a model that's been around for a while. It easily matched some competing "current-gen" NC headphones. It is also smart enough to work out the best NC mode, so it will adapt after a few minutes to match the most suitable mode.
No noise cancelling headphones will cancel out all forms of noise, it's simply not possible from a technical challenge, and these perform as good as competing products.
I guess one thing to mention, the product mentions it's iPod, iPad,iPhone compatibility (I guess these were launched when people still thought Apple products were the bees knees). Don't let that put you off, it works with anything with a 3.5mm audio jack. There is a plain cable in the box, and also one with an inline remote.
On my Android devices, the inline remote centre button functions worked as follows:
Single Press: Play/Pause
Double Press TrkFF
Triple Press: TrkRW
Long Press: Google Now Voice Command (using inbuild mic that works).
The volume up/down are Apple specific and didn't do anything, not
**3 Month in review**
Love these, worth every penny. By far and away the most I have ever spent on headphones, but love them. Used them on several long trips, and uber-comfortable on 15 hour plane trips, they are very effective at cancelling out aircraft drone. I also use them daily at work, and it totally cancels out air-con hum, and vastly lowers general office noise.
on 7 October 2014
The noise cancelling is brilliant, ventilator (I believe it would be the same for aircraft engines) noises are (at least to me) perfectly cancelled. Typing noises are also greatly reduced when the noise cancelling is on. I am however, not sure about the battery status indication system.
However, the music appears to be played in a lower quality when the aforementioned mode is turned on. While this could be bothersome to some, I still find the overall experience pleasant.
The comfort of the headphones are great, despite wearing glasses I did not feel any discomfort while using it.
on 20 June 2013
Just come from a similar priced pair of noise cancelling headphones that, while were of great sound and build quality, had ear-cups that were far too small and caused physical pain (I have average-sized ears).
Now have a pair of these Sony's and its a difference of night and day regarding comfort; I just might never take these off.
Sound quality and build quality are great (as you would justly expect at this price) and also have the ability of recharging these while still listening to 'em.
Noise cancelling works just fine (good passive reduction too)though a bit more "body" would have been appreciated (though a quick change to an alternate equaliser preset solves that). Can't detect any discernible white-noise while NC is on either, which can be a common drawback with other such headphones.
Perfection would have been combining these with the bluetooth capability of another headphone in this Sony range; using a Sony MW600 bluetooth device while I wait for this development.
on 14 April 2014
These headphones are great if you need NC and also for non NC use - these are my portable headphones - I prefer the non NC sound but the effect of the noise cancelling on flights and in the is just excellent. At the current price they are a bargain and come with a great carry case and additional cables and adaptors.
I have had nuemerous NC headphones but these are the most comfortable and best sounding.
on 3 July 2015
As most people have pointed out, this headphones have a sort of weird feel. Without the NC they are a bit too warm and with it a bit too bright. Anyway my feeling is that if you are very keen and picky about your sound you should be probably looking at conventional headphones rather than NC ones. The reason I bought these was to use them in the gym (a bit of an expensive choice for a sport headphone I know), my problem was that the music in the gym is way too loud and I needed to crank my previous headphones to appreciate what I was listening. With this, problem sorted, although the NC is almost unefective at high freq, all the loud mid/low freq noise is completely gone, and one you play any tune at a normal volume the high freq are not a problem... Therefore, if you are looking after getting rid of loud noise and enjoy your music I will definitely recommend these.
Also, as many others have said, these headphones are incredibly comfortable