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Sony MDR-Z1000

Posted

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.

Posted

Pros: Fairly neutral, deep and controlled bass, very detailed treble. Sturdy built.

Cons: Small soundstage, unremarkable upper mids.

Excellent closed headphones for their price.

They come in a fairly good package, nothing luxurious like a pair of HD800, but a normal cardboard box, but there's a satin piece of material where the headphones rest to give you the impression.

Inside there's the usual manual and a booklet praising how revolutionary the Z1000 is :D

 

A leather/pleather carrying pouch,  fairly unremarkable but well made enough, there's a secondary pouch inside to allow to to separate the cables and the headphones.

 

There's a 1.2 m cable with a nice angled jack and a 3 m one with a straight one, both are 3.5 mm and the converter provided only fits the 3 m cable. The cables are very nice in a functional way, very flexible and solid looking. They are somewhat microphonic though and tend to pick up sounds at the junction between the cable and the headphones. Imagine a decently made USB cable and you have an idea of how the main bod of the cables is.

 

Concerning the headphones themselves, they feel pretty nice in general. some precisions below

  • False or real leather?  IMHO, false leather, but actually there are 2 kinds of leather, one that feels pretty nice (if a little thin), which is on the headband and the external part of the earpads, on the internal part, another one is used, it's both thinner and looks less resistant, only time will tell how it will fare. The pads smell like leather, I wouldn't bet against chemists having developed a leather smelling false leather.
  • They are pretty small as far as circumaural headphones go, the inner back of my ear touches the pads no matter how I position the headphones, nothing like a pair of K701 or HD600. Pads are fairly shallow, a little more than 1 cm, the exterior of my ear barely to the material covering the driver.
  • They are hot, well not really but my ear are in a small confined shell which doesn't allow them to breath much, maybe it's due to my not being used to close headphones, but they are hotter that the SH 840 for example. Some microphonics issues since your ear is touching the pads.
  • They feel sturdy, really solid, the shell is magnesium (an alloy I presume) and I'd guess they'd survive a few bumps without scratch. I wouldn't be sure of being able to preserve their good looks (the leather) but it would be difficult to break them, the structural strength looks good.
  • They would fit without difficulty on a big head, no excessive pressure (I'm told my head is fairly large) and the branches can still be stretched more.
  • Despite their rugged look, they feel polished, as if everything was designed with a purpose in mind. The different articulations feel as is they were oiled before as they rotate so smoothly.
  • No flashy looks, not big MDR-Z1000 written to attract attention, there are 2 "Sony" on the side though, still I think that I could use them outside without attracting unwanted attention. A big reason for that is also the matte finish.
  • Sensitive, at 108 dB/mW, at 5/100 directly from the headphone out of an Macbook Pro is a high enough volume for a long listening session.
  • Fairly isolating compared to open headphones but nowhere close to a good pair of Etymotics with tri-flanges on. They leak very little sound, about the same as a pair of IEM on a table playing at moderate volume I suppose.
  • Wearable with glasses as long as your glasses are adapted to headphone wearing. biggrin.gif
  • There are 2 ports/holes on side to the cups, the wind plays havoc on them, making all sorts of noise, in short, do go biking with them on.
  • These headphones are fairly subject to break in, or more exactly, the earpads get a lot softer after 50 hours or so of use, allowing the drivers to get a little closer to your ear, it results IMHO (and considering my own HTRF) in a better soundstage and a better tonal balance.

Posted

Pros: Balance sound, lush mids, good music separation, clean sound, good minimalis looks, solid build, perfect fit

Cons: need a bit of punch at low end, narrow soundstage

Fist time i use this z1000, it did not impress me at all. I feel like a dull sound and not open. until i realized that i need to get used to it before i can enjoy this cans. After i have had brain-burn in..spend about almost a week...than i started to enjoy the lush of its mids. Excellent for vocal song. Thou sometimes i feel like the sound staging is not that good. Is a bit too narrow. The bass need to be a bit punchier so it can suitable for pop/rock songs as well. It does not mean they are bad. Still good tho. Treble is fine. And the MIDS...this is part where i can forget all the cons. The mids is very, very good. Listening to vocal songs is just that excellent. The clarity, detail, and they way they reproduce the vocal is very enjoy to listen although is a mid-centric kind of sound. Is like a life-like sound i may call. Considering the size of this cans, the fit, the weight, i think i consider this is an excellent semi portable cans u may carry everywhere you go...especially for those who like vocal song...this is a must have cans.

Posted

Pros: Well built, comfortable, nice sound, detachable cable, scales well with better equipment

Cons: Wind noise is bad, not a wide soundstage, harsh treble with some gear

Let me start with build quality and comfort. Upon first holding them in my hands, I was surprised at how durable they felt, while still being very light weight. The cups themselves have a very nice finish that has been very resistant to any scratches or markings over the time I've had them (about a month). The hook parts that connect the cups to the headband are plastic, which I kind of have mixed feelings about. It's held up well so far, but we'll see as more time passes. For what it's worth, they haven't scratched or lost any paint so far. The part that goes into the headband is metal. The "leather" is not genuine, but it is still incredibly comfortable. The headband and earpads are well made and feel great. They are circumaural for me and I would guess most people, but they are not very roomy; nowhere near my HD580s. Actually, the earpad feels like it's enveloping my ear. I don't mind but it might not be for everyone. In fact, part of the reason I bought them was to have something "portable" and usuable with portable equipment (not only DAPs, but for example PSP). I don't feel them getting hot or uncomfortable either until I take them off.

The Z1000s don't come with a whole lot of extras. There is a nice and simple pouch for the headphones which has another small pocket inside for whatever you want to put. There are two cables of different lengths, a long one and a short one, which are the same other than the length and termination. To clarify, both are terminated with 3.5mm plugs, but the long cable has a larger and nicer plug with threads for the included 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter. The short cable has a right angle plug which also feels durable. The cable feels a bit thick for portable use to me. Of course, that's one of the huge benefits of detachable cables; you can use whatever you want.

I'll talk about sound now. Note that I'm using a Twisted Pear Audio Opus DAC and AMB Labs CKKIII amplifier as my main setup with these. Sound is largely compared to my Sennheiser HD580s and IE8s.

The first thing I noticed when I tried these out was the treble. Coming from the Senns, the treble was a big change. While it is more pronounced, it's still very smooth. Not harsh, piercing, or really fatiguing overall. It sounds well extended to me as well.

The midrange is wonderful as well. It's also incredibly smooth and is more present than my Sennheisers. At first, I felt like it was missing something in the lower range of male vocals, but upon further listening it sounds just fine. Perhaps I was conditioned by the Senns which have a bit of a hump in that section. Now I can go back and forth between the different cans and it's all good. String instruments are also beautiful.

Bass did not impress me as much. It's by no means bad; decent quantity, crisp and clear. After reading some other reviews, I was actually expecting it to be almost overwhelming. I'd still say they have a slight emphasis towards the low end, but it's a very slight emphasis and I wouldn't mind having just a smidge more. It extends deeper than my HD580s, but not by a whole lot.

Other sound properties;
Soundstage is small when compared to open cans like the HD580, but in comparison with other closed headphones I've owned or heard (SRH840, ESW9, D2000, M50), it's about the same or a little bit larger. Positioning and spacing between instruments is good. It's good enough that I can enjoy classical music, if that's any point of reference.

Timbre is spot on for pretty much everything. I've sold a lot of headphones because I thought they didn't reproduce sounds as I've heard in live performances.

These are more detailed than any headphones I've owned. They are more resolving and expose some things that I haven't heard before.

Isolation is pretty good. Can't compete with IEMs of course, but I bring them to the arcade when I go to play DJ Max Technika and it blocks the sound around me well enough.

These headphones seem to scale well with better equipment in my experience, as well as some others.


As I mentioned earlier, the Z1000s come with a short cable, about 4ft long. This might lead you to believe they are good portable headphones as well. In my opinion, they are not. If you're looking for something to use with a portable set up or while you're out and about, you can find better headphones at lower prices.

The greatest thing I notice with my main portable sources (iPod Touch 2G, Sansa Clip+) is sibilance. It's completely under control with my home set up for most recordings, but with both of those portable sources if there is even a hint of sibilance in the track, it will be exaggerated to the point of pain. Treble just becomes harsh.

Wind wreaks havoc on these headphones. They have a port on each cup, which lets wind make horribly loud noise.

Just those two factors is enough to make me not want to use them outside (of course, in addition to risking damage). Beyond that, the sound is just less refined, bass is a bit weaker. These are to be expected though. A portable amp may help, I can't really say since I don't have one. I will say that I prefer them with my iPod Touch vs the Clip+, surprisingly (I much prefer the Clip+ with my IE8s). I think they work well with my Rio Carbon as well, but I haven't spent as much time with that one. Basically, if you plan to use these mainly with a desktop rig but want something reasonably portable for bringing around to other (indoor) locations, these can work. If you live anywhere windy and want to use them while walking outdoors, look elsewhere.

To finish this up, I'll just say I'm pleased with these headphones and don't regret my purchase. A large part of it was for portable use, but even though I won't be using them while walking between classes, they do fine at the arcade, the library, and for when I want to play PSP or something at home but don't want to use IEMs or hook it up to my amp. The sound is very suitable for me; my main genres are classical, hip hop, jazz, metal, classic rock. They work great for all of them, though depending on the recording and the piece, I may prefer my HD580s for classical still. Build quality and comfort are great.

Hope this was helpful!

Sony MDR-Z1000
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Sony is aiming these stereo headphones towards professionals, and has engineered them to excel in audio post-production. There are several new features in this headphone that have never been integrated in a Sony headphone before. In the official press release, Sony states that the development of the technology within the Z1000 has taken years of expertise in headphone design to accomplish.

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