Pros: controlled bass, good detail, clear rich sound, solid construction
Cons: LOUD, a bit bass heavy to my ears,
First, as a long time passive observer of this forum and I must say that what has interested me most about all of the reviews and comments here is how we all seem to hear differently. No surprises there since each of us has unique physiologies and experiences that affect our perception of sound—for the latter, think about the difficulty Japanese supposedly have hearing r and l. So, to understand my comments here, you should know that I am an older listener whose hearing is, admittedly, not what it used to be.
Although looks don’t count for much by me, I find the Z1000 pretty. It does bear a faint resemblance to Sony’s other close-backed “monitors” such as the MDR 7506 and MDR CD900ST; the red sticker under the Sony logo, which says “for STUDIO USE” further suggests these headphones share family roots.
And they certainly could withstand studio use. Yes, the Z1000 is made in Thailand, but Made in Japan purists need not fear. In hand and on the head, they feel the business, a well-made tool that will be a pleasure to use.
Compared to the K702, the Z1000 feel solid and grip your head reassuringly—you could wear these outside without worrying about them coming off in a strong wind. The K702, on the other hand, keeps a relatively gentle hold on your head and will let you sit for hours to concentrate on your listening.
And the sound? Besides having aged years, there’s something else I should admit: I am not a big believer in burn in or of the benefits of the redundant amping of a headphone (or the magic of fancy cables; see http://sound.westhost.com/cables.htm and also http://tone-lizard.com/.) If you have trouble with this, fine, you are welcome to dismiss my comments as the uniformed ramblings of an infidel.
The K702 sounded clear and detailed to me right out of the box and plugged right into my Sony discman. I didn’t find it bass-shy or overly bright. I thought the balance was just right and have to agree with all the other adjectives used to describe the sound of the K702—airy, transparent, revealing etc. But again, that may be my ears. With the K702 I had to turn up the volume on my discman (an ancient D-NE900; I do have better equipment at home) a bit more than with other headphones, but I never knew that little machine had so much sound in it.
On the other hand, the Z1000 is LOUD right from the bottom of the dial. I found the sound “rich” or “full” and the bass powerful yet controlled and more “forward” than the K702. If you think the K701/2 are “lean” and lacking bass, the Sony will probably sound better to you. Although this fullness seems to rule out airiness, the Z1000 is detailed and the highs also come through clearly. I never liked Sonys until now because of their signature sound—dark—but these have better balance to my ears, and better detail and bass control than the other Sony monitors I have used (MDR 7506) and other headphones I have owned (cheaper AKGs, Grado, and Sennheiser.)
And another thing I should confess to: while I appreciate the special jargon used by reviewers to explain what they are hearing (the glossary here is very helpful) I am a bit leery of some of them—one listener’s warm is another listener’s dark, muddy or veiled, and where I come from analytical is good but others here use analytisch disparagingly. But honestly, the biggest reason I will avoid some of these terms or put them in quotes is that I do not have confidence using them myself. They are fun to argue about, I suppose, but more about sound.
For example, the vocals on Stan Getz’s “The Girl from Ipanama” were more realistically reproduced, more “natural”, with the K702, the singer’s breathing and tremulous voice were easily picked out. The Z1000 was good, but perhaps because the highs on the Sonys are a bit rolled off or because the K702s are faster, I'm not sure, I missed those auditory cues that would have tricked my brain into thinking Astrud Gilberto was standing next to me and singing for me.
On the other hand, at the start of the song, someone whispers, “Ipanama,” which when played through the Z1000 sounds like someone whispering directly into my ear. I had to strain a bit to hear it with the K702. Interestingly, the Z1000 also picks up the tape hiss on the mediocre re-mastering of the CD better than the K702; maybe a difference in voicing or the difference between a “wet” and “dry” headphone, the K702 brighter and drier than the Z1000 which in turn is brighter and drier than other Sonys, but still darker than the K702. Hopefully someone else can listen and tell me what I am hearing.
Another track I used to compare is Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick. At about 2-3 minutes into the album, there is a guitar solo with a rhythm guitar backing. Some headphones emphasize one over the other. The Z1000 balanced them better than any other headphone I have used. On the other hand, the K702 reproduced the cymbals with more clarity and detail. Again, perhaps a matter of rolled off highs on the Sonys or the Sony's fuller sound.
And while it is a cliché, I did try a Pink Floyd track, “Father’s Shout” from Atom Heart Mother, enjoyable when listening with the Z1000s, but surprising when listening with the K702s. Ah, those aren’t soft cymbal crashes, it’s David Gilmour playing chords on what sounds like an electric guitar that has not been plugged in.
Finally, another cliché, Bach’s "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” Of course, no headphone is capable of reproducing the visceral effects of a pipe organ, yet this is where the Z1000 excels. While you can hear people rustling their concert programs very clearly with the K70, you do get that, too, with the Z1000, but you also almost think you are feeling the rumble created by the organ.
When things do quiet down, both headphones will reveal flaws in the recording—tape hiss, clicks and pops in the original mastering, digital static, poor mic'ing. But that is why I bought these headphones: for their detail and clarity, for their honesty and what they will reveal to me about the music, my equipment and the recordings. If you only want to enjoy the music, maybe better look elsewhere. Nonetheless, I myself find both very enjoyable for non-critical listening, too.
So, in conclusion, one is not necessarily better than the other, just different and not necessarily opposites but nonetheless complimentary. The K702 may have better dynamics than the Z1000, but the Z1000 has more punch. Neither really seems laid back to me, but the K702 has a pleasing sense of spaciousness while the Z1000 is full and rich. The K702 is a sit-down-and-listen headphone; the Z1000 a go-anywhere headphone. In short, the K702 is all that they say and is suited for use as a reference headphone. The Z1000 follows in the path of earlier Sony monitors, but an improved monitor to satisfy audiophiles with its full sound, controlled bass, clarity and detail.