Pros: imaging, soundstage, mids
Cons: mid centric (personal sound preference)
Just as a disclaimer, everything mentioned in this review pertains strictly to the headphone POST dynamat mod- this is not a comparison nor a review of the original headphones.
If curious about the dynamat mod, refer to this thread:
So, having owned these headphones for a while (200+ hours approximately) I felt it was time for a review. I performed the dynamat mod within 10 hours of use so I really don't have much to say about the original headphone except for slight impressions.
So starting off with the accessories: 2 cables (one control talk, one regular) and a carrying pouch. Nothing too radical but not too bad either. A couple small nitpicks though: (1) for a headphone retailing at $300, it would have been better if they included a hard case- I want to use these portably but I'm always concerned about damaging the headphone and/or smashing the ear pads and (2) the control talk cable has a plastic piece that connects to the headphones while the regular cable has a metal covered head- really a small nitpick but the metal looks a lot nicer and you would expect more attention to detail for a headphone priced in the premium segment of the market.
As many have noted, these headphones are extremely comfortable- probably one of the most comfortable around the ear, portable headphones I've personally tried. They are also fairly light so they shouldn't cause discomfort for most people. Both the earpad and headband are made of a synthetic (protein?) leather I believe and are very soft but well padded.
In terms of aesthetics the headphone is beautifully designed with a design reminiescent of sony's traditional monitor headphones with a more modern take. The dark chrome looks very nice and compliments the other parts of the headphone nicely. The yoke extending into the cable is also a nice touch. The build is mostly plastic with the exception of parts of the ear cups and the headband. However, despite the less *premium* materials utilized when compared to competing headphones like the momentum, the sonys do not feel flimsy in anyways.
Other complaints about the headphone include the squeaking and cable rattle issue. The squeaking from the joints is non existent in my pair, but the cable rattle does exist. However, I do not feel that the headphone is worth skipping if the cable rattle is your primary concern- it has a very minor effect and I do not feel truly affects the listening experience.
So, this is obviously the most important piece of a headphone review so lets get to it. I used to try to split up the sound spectrum in reviews but in this review I'll give it my best effort to create a cohesive image of the sound as a whole even though I may still have certain parts of the sound singled out. Please note that the audio gear used in this review goes like this: laptop -> aune t1 -> mdr 1r or htc one (poweramp-unrooted) -> mdr 1r. I will specficially state when switching between the 2 sources, since this is a portable headphone, more weight will be given to how they sound directly out of the htc one.
(with beats eq thing turned off of course)
While, I listen to a lot of edm, I also have a fair collection of orchestrated music. I'm just going to start out saying that if you like classical or anything orchestrated or really most non - electronic music, these headphones are some of the best portables I have heard for these genres. The soundstage is fairly large for a closed headphone and the imaging and instrument separation is among the best I've heard out of the portables I've tried (m100, momentum, hd 25, not sure what else is considered portable really but I haven't tried the dt1350 unfortunately). For classical specifically, I would like a little bit more sparkle in the highs but the overall presentation of the music, to my ears, give the sony mdr-1r the edge over other portables regardless of technical capabilities.
With what I have been saying, it may be fairly easy to assume that the mdr -1r is somewhat lacking in technical capabilities. In a way, say compared to a sennheiser momentum, this may be true. However, standalone, the mdr 1r is fairly transparent and colored, to me though the transparency doesn't necessarily match say an akg q701. The high extension and bass extension are both good but not great. The highs are a bit laid back for my tastes but is definitely present - this may be a good trait if you know specifically that you are treble sensitive. Despite my complaints about the treble, I stil find it generally adequate - I am really just nitpicking, but a little more sparkle in the treble would have helped with a little bit more air. The bass, after the dynamat mod, is not bloated as many regular mdr 1r owners have noted. It is has good impact (though not super punchy) with decent extension which makes it good for non-bass focused music. However, the sub bass rumble and extension leaves room for improvement. Again despite my edm preferences, I do not find this a particularly large issue but if you are a basshead the bass may be leaving you unsatisfied.
The mids are definitely the most well executed portion of this headphone as many have touted the mdr 1r as a "mid centric" headphone. Vocals are generally pleasing to listen to Anyways, since my phone doesn't have many vocal tracks on it, what I can say is that directly the vocals and mids in general are fairly clean though the male vocals pertaining to the lower mids are a bit more prominent. This next part will be focused on the aune t1 (however this may not be a good reference because of the colorations the amperex orange globe adds). Listening to some Celine Dion, you can really tell the prominence of the vocals. The vocals are really smooth and definitely stand above the rest of the spectrum.
An analysis of the sony mdr 1r's on edm:
Being an EDM fan, leaving a lot of electronic opinions out of the review due to the sound signature has been a bit odd, but that's why I have this section. I'm not going to lie here, but the sony mdr 1r's simply are not the best (not even close really) headphone for edm- for that purpose I would recommend looking into the ultrasones or v moda m100 based off personal experience. These headphones work for for edm, they have good enough impact for it, but personally I would prefer a bit more sub-bass rumble and bass extension- the quantity, suprisingly, is not an issue here. The thing about these headphones is that they still do edm decently meaning that if your library consists fully of edm then I would skip these, but if you have a variety of music, these headphone do edm well enough that its capabilities on other types of music will be well worth the compromise.
A nice thing about the sound is that the non-aggressive highs make these headphones a lot more comfortable to listen to without any ear fatigue.
These headphones really are really interesting in a way. The individual aspects of the headphones aren't necessarily super spectacular but the aspects combined creates a versatile headphone which really is only weak, to me, for EDM or other bass driven music. While these headphones don't compete with the major open backed headphones (like my q701), the overall sound is a lot more engaging especially with more organic music but the headphones really do suffer from bass in electronic music. These headphones kind of lack the finesse and refinement of higher end or open backed headphones when playing something like classical but as an all rounder these work extremely well.
These headphones, being a nice all rounder (good but not perfect) for me ( though others may disagree), do have its weaknesses due. The momentum, to me, improves on a lot of the technical flaws of the sony mdr 1r. However, where the senns fail to match the sony is the overall presentation of the music where the imaging and presentation isn't as 3 dimensional, so to speak, and the smaller sound stage. Overall, I feel that these headphones have been vastly overshadowed by the other major headphones. I would highly recommend these for "organic" music (non-electronic though it does do pop ok). The presentation of that type of music is truly where the sony's excel when faced with the stark competition of the many other great closed back headphones.
Just as a side note, the aune t1 I reviwed this with I really don't feel is ideal in terms of synergy. The sony mdr 1r even post dynamat modded still has a slightly warm tint to the sound and I feel something purely solid state would fit better.