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Very clear and highly detailed neutralish headphones

A Review On: Sony MDR-7520 Professional Headphones

Sony MDR-7520 Professional Headphones

Rated # 139 in Over-Ear
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
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Price paid: $389.00
starfly
Posted · Updated · 5599 Views · 12 Comments

Pros: Clarity, clarity, clarity! Detail, neutrality, revealing, maybe even transparent? Very comfortable.

Cons: You will definitely hear the flaws in bad recordings

So, I've finally found MY headphones :) I tried the Sennheiser Momentum, the KEF M500, B&W P7, Sony MDR 1R, Philips Fidelio L2 (yes, the L2), the B&O H6, the Focal Spirit Classic (you read that right too) and the Sony MDR Z1000.

 

I was in search of a good sounding, but most of all comfortable closed headphone. All the headphones I've tried above sounded quite good, but none of them were comfortable enough for me (except for the Z1000, which is the 7520's less refined brother) so I ended up returning all of them.

 

So what was the first thing I noticed when I listened to the 7520? The amazing clarity. I'm not exaggerating when I say that all the above headphones (with the exception of maybe the L2) sound veiled compared to the 7520. Also the level of detail these headphones retrieve is amazing. It's actually leaning towards the analytical side, without losing it's musicality. I can listen to music for hours without the level of detail becoming too much, but when I want to close my eyes and focus on the music there is just oodles of detail to be found, I just get lost in the music :)

 

To my ears this headphone responds very well throughout the entire frequency range. The highs are nice and crisp but never sound harsh. Sometimes you will hear a bit of sibilance though, but that's only with less well mastered recordings. The mids are very neutral and detailed. And the bass is very very nicely done, very taught, controlled, and again I think fairly neutral. And it will still reach deep into sub-bass regions when the music calls for it. If a song is warm, the headphone will sound warm. If a song is cold, it'll sound cold. If the music is rocking, these headphones will rock. If the music is serene and quiet, these headphones will be very composed.

 

The soundstage of these headphones is also quite good. I'd say it portrays the soundstage the way the audio engineer intended it to sound (provided he was using good speakers/headphones as well of course :)). So with classical music the soundstage can sound quite wide, and with other music it can sound quite narrow, depending on how it's recorded. I also feel like the imaging is done very well and the instrumental separation is excellent. When you focus you can and will hear every individual instrument, easily. And if you don't want to focus, it turns into a nice ensemble so you can just do what music is intended for: enjoyment :)

 

The Z1000 is the 7520's brother. They look exactly the same, just that the Z1000 has silver accents. I think they also use the same drivers as the technical specs are exactly the same, but others have pointed out that they are actually different drivers with very similar specs. Whatever the case is, they certainly do not sound the same. The bass response is a bit rolled off I'd say on the Z1000. It's just not there, even when the music calls for it. And compared to the 7520 the soundstaging was less expansive when the music called for it. The rest of the frequency range sounded otherwise fairly similar.

 

These headphones put a smile on my face when I listen to music. Eventhough they are marketed to the professional audio engineer market (and I can certainly hear why), I think any audiophile will be able to appreciate these headphones. I've never heard a truly neutral high-end headphone, so I cannot compare it to that, but I think this is quite close to a neutral sounding headphone.

 

I highly recommend this headphone to you all. At least give it a listen :)

 

Edit 3/25/2014: I lowered the rating by half a star as there is a bit of creaking in the headphone that I haven't been able to fix. It occurs when I move my head or jaw. It can be quite annoying. The SQ is still superb, but the creaking sometimes distracts me from my listening.

12 Comments:

Great review Starfly. I'm glad you like them. I sure loved mine.
The drivers aren't the same, the 7520 improves upon the Z1000's.
Okay, the specs of the drivers are otherwise the same. They certainly don't sound the same :)
We have very similar ears.  I spent quite a bit of time with the 7520s at RMAF (Jude's pair) and it is every bit as good as you say.  I especially like your note about how some poor recordings may not fare as well through this can, agreed.  As for the notes on soundstage I think you hit it right on and I would add that for me the soundstage was a bit less in the head and more in front of the head, but very dependent on the recording.  I likened them a lot to my Shure 840s in this regard.  Where the 7520 trumps the Shure 840s, which are still good cans, is in detail, natural mids, treble detail without peakiness, and bass extension.  Wait a minute so they trump them all over the place.  I am a bit concerned about how well they will hold up physically over time, but they are one of the nicest sounding cans to come down the pike in a while.  My other favorite that I would put right up next to the Sonys but with a more intimate and slightly more forgiving sound is the Focal Spirit Pros, very nice as well.
 
Great review Starfly!
I've got the baby brother, the zx 700, and can only guess how your choice sounds.
@bixby, Thanks :) I think the angled drivers help to create that sense of the soundstage being in front of the head. But I know what you mean :)
Thanks, Very intriguing that you were able to compare to old the newcomers in the market, I'm in particular interstd in further comparative info with the Philips L2, Could you elaborate briefly on the similarities and key differences between them and the 7520's?
@Amarphael, I only had the L2 for 1 day, so I can't say too much about it. But if I recall correctly, the mids and highs were a bit more forward on the L2 and the bass was a bit more present. So overall a less neutral sound signature, a more warmish bass and somewhat more pushed mids and highs (not overdone though). The bass was still fairly tight though, but I don't think it's as tight as the 7520. It was actually quite an enjoyable headphone to listen to, just that the earcups were too small for my ears. In many ways they sound better than the P7, which is also a great headphone. And also I was really looking for a closed headphone, and the L2 is semi-open. But that openness certainly helped with creating a very expansive soundstage, if that's what you're looking for. Oh and in terms of design I think they're the coolest looking headphones of the whole bunch.
 
If you're looking for neutrality though, I think the 7520 is your best bet out of this lot. The pushed mids and highs could I suspect not sound too great on certain recordings, but if I'd had more time with the L2 I could've given you a more definitive answer. Sorry :)
I have the 7520 too and use them for mixing and mastering. I'm equally amazed at the details, the tonal balance and the resolution these headphones are capable of.
 
What surprised me the most is their ability to maintain all its qualities even down to very low listening levels. The clarity and resolution across the whole frequency range is contained all the way down to near silence, and I can actually mix at these low levels if I wanted to. I typically check my vocal and snare volume at these low levels - and none of the headphones I've used before in the studio comes even close to the 7520 in keeping clear and linear. The drivers must be very very sensitive or agile to be able to do this. And there is no congestion when you turn the level up. They stay clear and dynamic. Impressive.
 
I do have a small problem with comfort/fit. The lower edge of my ears rests on the driver grille. I don't notice this on the first 1-2 hours of use, but extending that to 2-3 hours of use, I feel a discomfort, a slight soreness. I am planning to place a soft tube or rope inside the cup to raise the pads a few millimeters and see if that helps.
any one tried to purchase the straight cable for these?
How about the bass comparing to Momentum and P7?
Instead of the stock cable get the pipeline et-1 or et4. Sounds much clearer than stock. ET-1 is a shorter portable headphone cable and ET 4 is a longer interconnect. The outer material is different but the they both sound great (even clearer than the Vmoda cables everyone recommends).
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