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Sony MDR-CD 780

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Pros: Very comfy, Good bass extension, Smooth top end, Big Soundstage, No listening fatigue, Long detachable cord, Durable

Cons: Isolation, Bass could be tighter, Midrange somewhat recessed, Mobile use barely / not possible

I can hear you thinking:

Dude… why are you writing up a review for a 14 year old Sony model?

Well, the answer is simple: They're the only decent pair of can's I own, and since headfi.org has given me a lot by way of information, it's time I started contributing back. So I'll share some musings on this headphone, if only for archives sake. Although I'll bet there's more users of this headphone still out there.

A couple of points I want to make before continuing:
- When attributing an overall score to a piece of gear, price paid plays an important role. The price that this model sold for varied from $31 to $200, with an average street price of about $120. I bought mine back in the early release days for $200 and will base my scores on that price.
- Although I have used the CD780 with a lot of different sources, I have yet to try it on a proper headphone amp! Please bear this in mind, as I am unsure whether I have actually heard the cans' full potential. I plan on buying an Ifi I-DAC soon, and will update the review with my findings.

Packaging / Build Quality
I cannot comment on actual packaging, as I got rid of that years ago. A long 3.5m detachable cord and 3,5mm > 6mm plug are included in the box. The silver can casings are made out of plastic that doesn't look or feel like anything special. It is durable though, no hairline cuts or cracks after 14 years of light to moderate use. And that includes outside use (don't ask…). The ear pads can be replaced, although I do not know whether Sony still actually sells them. As expected my pads look well used, but they haven't torn or fallen off after all these years. Overall build quality is good, the unit has lasted me a long time.

Comfort / Isolation
One of the 780's big plusses. Putting it on feels like putting your ears to bed with an on-ear duvet. They are truly comfortable. It's a shame that the extending rubber band that covers your head does not share the same level of comfort. Whenever I get tired of wearing the headphone, it is always because the rubber band starts to irritate, not the pads. The headphone can extend quite far sideways, so people with larger build should have no problem fitting them on. The CD780 is not a tight fit. Don't take them for a jog, they'll end up in the canal. When it comes to isolation, the CD780 does not score well. It leaks sound. A lot of it. Don't expect your partner to fall asleep next to you when the volume is up. Or down.  

Sound Quality
I have used the 780 with many (30+) different sources over the years. To name a few categories:
- Walkman's. Discman's, MD players and MP3 players (Mostly Sony & Apple)
- Receivers / processors from Classé, Arcam, Onkyo and Marantz
- Soundcards from Auzentech, Onkyo and Cantatis
- Phones, Samsung Galaxy S1, HTC One X+

So yeah… they're burned in alright ;-)
The SQ between these sources differs a lot. My rating is based on the best performance I have got from it so far. Would you believe the Galaxy S1 phone sports a top position as source? We'll come back to that in a minute…

Bass
Bass is well extended, but on an average source, even at high volumes, 5 Hz is definitely not happening. I don't own measuring equipment, but I'd say 10 - 20 Hz, the range where you're feeling rather than hearing, is the max. Despite the extension, bass can sound a bit muffled and inarticulate. This improves somewhat when using the Galaxy S1 with Voodoo sound mod as a source. The Galaxy S1 came with a good Wolfson DAC and powerful output amp on board. Because Samsung did not get even close to unleashing it's full potential, Supercurio wrote a custom driver and released his Voodoo sound mod, which took full advantage of the hardware on this phone. The result is a staggering difference in sound quality. So far, the Galaxy S1 gives the best SQ with the CD780, surpassing the headphone amp on my Cantatis Overture soundcard. With regards to bass, this tightens up a bit when using the S1, and extends yet a bit deeper, but still isn't as tight as I hoped it would be. Maybe the pad's are to blame, maybe the driver. Who knows. In any case, bass has good depth, but could be a bit tighter, and also a bit dryer and faster.

Midrange
Some have called the midrange performance of the CD780 a tad recessed. I would agree. Listening to classical or jazz piano music is one of the ways midrange can be assessed, and the CD780 falls a bit short here. Piano's don't sound as present as they should. Guitars (upper midrange) have a bit more weight and come with some of that satisfying snap when strings are plucked, but not as much as I'd like. Because of the midrange vocals sound ok, but again, they could be more present. Midrange is not the 780' strongest suit.

Treble
To me, treble is lovely and sweet. Perhaps due to some roll-off at the top? This headphone is not going to give you listening fatigue, the high's are not piercing enough for that. There's also no sibilance of any kind. If you like your treble to be strong, analytic and informative, the high's on this can are not for you. The treble on the 780 make it rather forgiving towards victims of the Loudness War: bad recordings can be stomached easily. I own quite a few bad recordings, and therefore like this characteristic. If you listen to good recordings mostly (ie: redbook), then the treble could be a bit too soft / mild.

Soundstage
The soundstage is big and spacious, thanks to the large 50mm driver. This makes it a real pleasure to listen to large orchestra recordings where instruments can be separated from each other to a large degree. The difference in soundstage coming from smaller headphones, like the Sennheiser PX200-II which I also own, is very big.

Conclusion
Depending on the price you paid, the CD780 is a good to outstanding headphone. Those who got it for $31 will find it nearly impossible to get better sound for their money. Those like myself who paid $200 got decent value for money, but perhaps not much more. All in all, the CD780 sounds extended, spacious and smooth. It is a very comfortable headphone with good durability.

Specs
Headphones Type: binaural
Form Factor: Full size, On ear
Headphones Technology: Dynamic
Connectivity Technology: Wired
Frequency Response: 5 - 30000 Hz
Sensitivity: 106 dB /mW
Impedance: 32 Ohms at 1kHz
Diaphragm: PET - 2 in
Driver unit: 50mm
Magnet Material: Neodymium
Mass: App. 300g (without cord)

Sony MDR-CD 780
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Description:

- 50 mm driver for deep bass, wide dynamic range. - High-power neodymium magnets for maximum power and minimum size. - Linear-crystal oxygen-free copper litz cord. - Aura-nomic design conforms to ear's anatomy. - Self-Adjust Headband for maximum listening comfort, hour after hour. - Replaceable cloth earpads. - Detachable single sided cord.

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