Not what I was hoping for..

A Review On: Sony MDR-MA900 Over the Head Style Headphones

Sony MDR-MA900 Over the Head Style Headphones

Rated # 79 in Over-Ear
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LugBug1
Posted · 13601 Views · 13 Comments

Pros: Comfort and weight. Airy sound.

Cons: lack of coherence, no sub bass, harsh upper mids.

Ok, this is a headphone that I've been meaning to try out for a while. So after spending most of the day with them I'm going to give a few quick impressions. (I don't believe in burn-in mechanically with dynamic drivers)

 

I've listened to all my usual recordings for testing equipment, from ECM Jazz, recent top notch classical recordings, Ambient from the likes of Tim Hecker, BT, Jon Hopkins. and some favorite rock Zepplin, Black Crowes. REM.

 

This is just my opinion... 

 

First impression was very good, smaller soundstage than what I was expecting but nice and airy. They are soo light! You can forget that you are wearing them. 

 

Going through some quality classical recordings mainly symphonic and the sound is very light and weightless. Floating there. Not much bottom end though. I put some Beethoven quartets on and the bass is much better suited here. The cello sounds very detailed and punchy. Played some Jaavi Sibelius and I noticed some added texture to the strings. Nice, but not sure if its pronounced a bit too much. 

 

With jazz I'm enjoying all the air and placement of instruments, but I'm immediately struck by a slight lack of oomph at the bottom end. By that I mean the kick of the drums with the double bass. Its very distant. There is bass plenty in quantity, only its kind of stuck at the lower mids and refuses to budge! I'm also now detecting some sizzle in the upper mids. Snare drum is pronounced or emphasized a little. I'm admittedly a bit of a tonehead so I appreciate realism more than any other attribute from headphones. So as the hours go by I'm getting more annoyed by the this. In fact this is the first headphone that has actually caused me some fatigue in a long while... (and I own HD800 and K701) Its the forward upper mids that are ringing. 

 

Ambient music works very well with these. Because of the forward mids all of the fine details and layering come across very well. The air of these is great for creating a big floating wall of noise. Really great with this genre of music. Electronica with deep bass is great from the top to mids but they fall short at giving you any bass satisfaction. E/Qing them doesn't help at all. They just can't give you sub bass.  

 

Rock music, I'm again a little disappointed. Electric guitar sounds great (Grado great) 'Whats the Frequency Kenneth' guitar sounds gritty and raw. Perfect tone. But as soon as the other instruments take part all focus gets lost for me. There is instant burring. This recording is commendable for its simplicity. A headphone such as the HD600 will clearly define the four instruments in use and create the space, even though they don't have that big a soundstage. What we have here is an airy sound, but the instruments are squashed too much together. Very forward and a little intrusive for my liking. I'm constantly thinking Grado. Maybe a Grado with a rolled off very top end and big airy pads. 

 

I used a Necosoundlab dual mono SS amp for my impressions with Arcam and Cambridge audio dacs, tried them on my other amps but there was clearly a massive impedance mismatch. I would not use these with anything of high impedance.

 

Remember these are just my honest opinions, and I can see why peeps like them, especially if you appreciate forward mids. But I wouldn't put them up against a DT880, HD600/650, K701. All these headphone are a clear league above these. You could ask what do you expect for the price of these?? Well for the same price you could buy a lot of good used headphones that will be better or a brand new K701. 

13 Comments:

"(I don't believe in burn-in mechanically with dynamic drivers)"
 
I don't believe in anything with regards to audio, but I accidentally discovered that some headphones do require burn-in.
 
I had a pair of dynamic driver headphones that I received right near release.  I listened to the out of the box, and I immediately disliked the harsh upper midrange, and the lack of bass.  I started thinking about what other cool headphones I could buy if I sold these.  So, my bias was definitely towards wanting them to continue to sound bad. :)
 
Since they were just released, I wanted to help the community by reviewing them, and I had just read a spate of reviews with burn-in times specified.  So, with relief, I put them in a drawer connected to a music player for 24 hours and then listened to them.  They sounded much better - contrary to what I wanted.  So no placebo, no expectation bias and no cool headphones bought with the sales proceeds.  I put them back in the drawer and they continued to improve a little over another couple of days, but the 24 hours difference was the most significant.
 
There is also no possibility of "brain adjustment", because I did not listen to them very much during the first period, and not at all while they were in the drawer.
 
So - not through any desire of mine, in fact the opposite of what I "wanted" - all the usual explanation of burn-in were debunked.
One can hear different from day to day as well. You might have been tired or something.
David - to put what you are saying in a different way " that is only one data point " and of course, scientifically it does not prove anything.
 
But tired wasn't the explanation - I listen to music all the time, and listened to speakers and other headphones before and after those sessions.
 
Note that there are easy scientific explanations for burn-in.  If you wear a pair of shoes for 100 or 500 hours, they fit differently.  It's not controversial.  I think that burn-in is controversial on head-fi simply because people do not want to wait 4 days to evaluate their headphones.
Perhaps. Audio is so damn subjective as it is so I prefer not to draw any conclusions. 1 opinion among many you know..
Uh.. so you rated these well but then proceeded to give them 2 stars? Why?
2 stars = 4/10 = bad. Yeah, these are BAD headphones. Right.
may be you got a defective unit or something .. and you say no sub bass, harsh upper mids ?? I dont agree with you at all !
The headphone is being compared to more refined, more expensive, and higher tier headphones, so I can understand them sounding a bit meh in comparison, although I'm personally not of a fan of either the HD 800 or K701 in terms of sonic signature; those headphones are clearly a league or two above the MA900. I do have to agree that the MA900 does have a slight lack of coherence and do lack sub bass. The upper mids I did find them harsh/grainy on some systems, other systems I found the upper midrange and lower treble fine. I think the MA900s are good headphones, but they aren't great headphones for the price in terms of sonic ability.
if you think ma900 is not great headphones for the price, then before that you might have to add more overpriced headphones for that list.. including hd800,hd700,hd650,hd600 .. yes those headphones are more refined but anyone could also argue those headphones dont have the the sonic ability comparing with their price too..
Yeah sorry guys, but I just think you can do better for the money in regards to sonic ability. Also, the only headphones I compared them to was the K701 and HD600. They can be bought for about the same price or cheaper on the used market like I stressed. And imo are much better headphones for music. 
I respect your review for your tastes - except a) Comparing Used and New prices is silly.  If they were the same, there would be no difference in price.  And b) Price structures in UK are different. And c) If you didn't burn them in for 24 hours, you don't know how they sound, as I previously explained.  Neither of us "believe" in burn-in, but burn-in doesn't care that we don't believe in it.
There are better headphones than the MA900 for the price, the MA900 does have it's flaws and I found he mentioned some in his review. I'm well aware the HD 800, HD 700, HD 650, and HD 600 are overpriced as are most higher-end headphones. If you are comparing headphones based on the original MSRP, it's better to compare the MA900 to something like the HD 598 or K612. I personally find burn-in real, sometimes it's very minor, but sometimes it's fairly obvious. And buying a higher-end headphone used doesn't mean it's not a better deal than a lesser new headphone so I don't really find it silly, you still paid the same amount in the end.
I found the DT880s to sound inferior to the MA900 in some aspects, and in most other aspects equal. Whereas the DT880 has better low-end extension it has far less oomph than the MA900 in the subbass regions, though that oomph isn't actually sound a tactile experience is just as well for movies and games -- and some orchestral music. (not for bassy music, though) I am considering buying a used HD600 though, they look great.