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Sony MDR-R10 comprehensive review. World’s Best Dynamic Headphone?

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
Warning
This is a magnum headphone opus, so get a cup of coffee and settle in. There is a review in here somewhere, I promise.

Intro
Information on the Sony MDR-R10 is very hard to find. I am not aware of any major print magazine review or web zine review. Surprisingly, there are few owners of the R10 on either Head-Fi or Headwize, and even fewer reviews. The R10 is a serious attempt at creating THE BEST headphone in the world. You’d think there would be more R10 owners in our community (there seem to be plenty of Stax owners, why not the R10?). This expose is my attempt to try to fill in the knowledge gap on R10, so please forgive its pretentious length.

The Sony R10 is positioned as the “Ultimate Headphone”, and as an individual component, indeed constitutes the most expensive headphone ever produced. Yes, the Stax Omega and Sennheiser Orpheus electrostatic phones do cost more, but you have to buy the whole system—headphones and amp—together.

Even if you don’t consider dynamic phones “serious” audiophile devices, the sheer cost of the Sony R10’s ($4000 list), forces you to take them seriously. Besides, how do we know that expensive electrostatics are ALWAYS better than dynamic phones when there are so few examples of “high-end” dynamic phones on the market? Is it fair to compare the $350 HD600 to the $10,000 Orpheus? I should certainly hope that the Orpheus sounds better!

Anyway, I feel that automatic prejudice against dynamic phones is unfounded, so that was not necessarily a consideration for me. It should also be noted up front that I have never had the chance to hear a single electrostatic headphone, let alone the Omega or the Orpheus. Therefore, I can’t really answer the question of whether the R10 is in fact the world’s best headphone, but I have owned or extensively auditioned all the best dynamic phones on the market today with the exception of the AKG K1000. I can therefore give you a reasonably good idea of where the R10’s stand in relation to the best dynamic phones.

There are only two known U.S. distributors for the “King of Headphones”, www.themegifts.com and www.audioadvancements.com. Their asking price is an astronomical $4000, and it seems that both of these U.S. distributors charge full price. It has been reported that these headphones were primarily intended for the Japanese market where they were first introduced in 1989. It has also been suggested that these phones can be found for substantially less than their $4000 U.S. asking price if you can find a way to import them directly from Japan.

I paid $1600 for a “used” pair with a mere 500 hours on them—just barely broken in! These things just don’t show up on the market very often, so I decided to jump at the chance as soon as it popped up.

Why Would a Reasonable Person Consider the R10s?
For those of you who would never consider spending $1600 on a headphone (let alone $4000 at full price!), do this little calculation: how much money do you have invested in cabling (cabling!) compared to what you have invested in the one thing that is chiefly responsible for reproducing the signal you actually hear—your headphones? Do you have $350 worth of cabling and $350 worth of headphone? Is THAT sensible? To me, no, especially given the relative importance of the transducer vs. the source and amplification (let alone cabling!) to sound quality.

In the speaker world, you are encouraged to spend twice as much per channel on speakers than on amplification. The dearth of truly high-end cans limits our ability to achieve this balance with headphones. As a result, we have folks here with $1700 Headroom Max’s attached to $350 Sennheiser HD600’s.
If spending more does indeed give you a better headphone (and why on earth should it not?), then $1600 seems more proportionally correct to me considering the cost/value/performance of my source (Sony 333ES with Modwright Mods) and amp (Berning MicroZOTL).

I also happen to own and love the CD3000, Sony’s top-of-the-line mass-produced headphone that incorporates many of the technologies developed specifically for the R10. I like the 3000’s better than the RS1, HD600, and ER4S, and until now, they were my all-time favorite headphone. Do a search to find my views on the CD3000. One of the important questions this review hopes to answer is: “how much of the R10’s performance can you get with the CD3000?” I appreciate that most will never be able to swing the R10s, but you can probably afford the CD3000.

All that said, however, I would NEVER have paid $4000 for the R10’s, even if I had that kind of money to drop. It’s just not a justifiable expense. However, at $1600, they seem about accurately priced in terms of their utility to me. You may feel otherwise, and that’s your prerogative.

All that aside, this is a headphone fetish site is it not? If anyone should be able to sympathize with my obsession, it’s you people! Sheesh.

My Adventures in Headphones to Date
After becoming a gainfully employed adult, I set about creating my dream audio system. Some guys dream all their adolescence of a car; I dreamt about an audio system. Assembling my HT/music system took 3 years of intense study and auditioning of components (and lots of money). You guys know the drill. Eventually, I ended up with a stellar system that gave me incredible joy. Then, the neighbors lost their patience with my noisy “hobby”, and forced me to listen so low that I no longer got enough satisfaction out my music. Broken-hearted, I turned to my old reliable HD580s, but they were a poor substitute for my PSB Stratus Goldi’s. So I went on-line in search of better headphones and discovered Headwize and became as addicted to cans as the rest of you.

I first went out and auditioned the Grado RS-1 but hated it. So, I settled on a pair of Senn HD600s that provided a great deal of enjoyment. I flirted with the ER4S, but couldn’t live with them ergonomically. Then I took a gamble on the then fairly undocumented Sony CD3000 and was richly rewarded. Those cans are a notch above all the others in their price range.

So why not stop with the CD3000 if they’re so good? Exposure to the CD3000 made me mighty curious about the R10. Further, due to the advent of the new audio formats (SACD/DVD-A), it became even clearer to me that my phones, the CD3000, were the weak link the audio chain. I still had never encountered anything in the world of headphones that fully compensated me for my inability to listen to my PSB Stratus Goldis. I wanted to find such a device. Enter the Sony R10!

The Review
This is not so much of a review as it is a love letter. It resulted from days of careful listening to all my favorite CDs that I know like the back of my hand (or did I, really—now I’m not so sure), and taking careful and copious notes of the things that most caught my attention. I think that’s the best way to do a review—record your first impressions as they are happening. For me, those initial observations tend to capture the essence of a new component best. So, here they are. I will probably add to this review if any impressions change over time.

Fit and Finish
For $4000 (list), frankly, I was expecting build quality on a par with, say, a fine watch. Yes, the R10 is the best built headphone I’ve ever seen, hands down. However, I don’t feel it’s a sufficiently proportional leap in build quality when comparing it to the CD3000 (at $700 list). In short, for my money, the R10 is not 5 times better than the CD3000 in terms of build quality. I would say it’s more like the build quality I would expect from a $1500 headphone, if there was such a thing.

For example, the coconut shell wood enclosures on my R10 do not seem to be snugly connected to the headphone assembly. You can push the wooden earpieces down into the assembly by applying even slight pressure. There is also some weird rubbery ring (o-ring) that connects the wooden enclosures to the headphone assembly that is kinda loosey-goosey. I do not have a digital camera, so I am unable to show you exactly what I mean. You’ll just have to try to picture it.

Also, the wooden enclosures are not completely finished (that is stained and coated) all the way around where they connect to the assembly. It’s hardly visible unless you look, but who’s NOT gonna look all over their new $4000 headphones?

The leather on the headband and ear cushions is nice, but not quite thick enough to prevent you from worrying that they’ll ever wear out. After all, the R10 is something you keep a long time, so it matters. I also don’t feel there’s sufficient padding in the ear cushions. There’s too much play between the leather and the padding as if the leather was cut larger than the amount of stuffing they are given. The headband strap, though made of real leather, is no more substantially built than the faux-leather one on the CD3000.

OK, is there anything I did like about fit ‘n finish? Yes, there is! The wooden enclosures themselves are very, very attractive. Based on the beauty and uniformity of the grain structure, Sony obviously took great care in selecting the wood it would use to transform into the R10’s enclosures and then in matching them to one another. I also like the cord very much, it’s substantial yet supple and pliable.

Yeah, but what about the case. Don’t get me started on the case. I refuse to describe it to you. Of course, the case is absolutely fabulous, but WAY, WAY over the top for me. I don’t give a hoot about the case my cans come in (you can’t listen to a case!), and I admit (shame on me) that my “storage” of my headphones generally consists of setting them gently on top of my speakers. So I have no use for this fabulous, ridiculous case. I wish I didn’t have to pay for that case as part of the $4000 price tag. Worst of all, you’d think that they’d have designed it so the R10s could actually FIT in that case, but it’s almost like it was designed for some other set of headphones! I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to cram them back in to all that red velvet. I believe there was a communication breakdown between the R10’s designers and their case manufacturer. Ugh! I’d be happier if they’d plowed the extra money on the stupid case back in to build quality on the headphones themselves! But, that’s just me. I know some of you weirdos fetishize your headphone cases as much as your headphones. Perverts!

Ergonomics
Hands down, the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn. It’s obvious that Sony spent a lot of time figuring out how to make this headphone conform to the natural contours of the human head. Even though they are easily 30% larger and more substantial than the CD3000s, they are much less noticeable on your head. They feel no more heavy than any other pair of full-sized cans I’ve owned.

I, for one, liked the clamping action of the HD600 when I owned them—it just didn’t bother me. In comparison, the CD3000 are loosey-goosey—too much jostling and boogeying and they’ll shift around on your head. If the CD3000 represents one end of the “snugness spectrum”, and the HD600s the other, the R10’s are the happy medium. They caress your head, yet they stay in place even if you like to rock! I can’t imagine anyone being anything but completely delighted with the fit of the R10s. They don’t constantly remind you that you are wearing headphones and that has a psychological impact that I feel adds to their perceived performance.

But it’s not just comfort alone that improves the quality of the headphone experience with the R10. I now realize just how important proper resonance damping can be for the performance of a headphone. The R10’s assembly is built from magnesium. The assembly is thicker and more substantial than that of the CD3000, which is nicely built in its own right. Here’s what Sony has to say about the R10’s housings:

“Hangers made of magnesium that attach the housings to the head-band reduce resonance. Magnesium was chosen because of its excellent vibration attenuation and absorption qualities. To prevent mechanical vibration, such as those of the cord or headband, a housing insulator was placed between the ear pad and the baffle plate.”

Sounds like marketing fluff, but believe it! It makes a world of difference. I’m convinced that this plays a substantial role in what sets these cans apart sonically.

Similarly, the wooden ear cups themselves were carefully chosen for very specific anti-resonance properties:

“After extensive testing of materials from all over the world, the heart-wood of mature Zelkova trees was selected as most suitable for the housing of the MDR-R1O. Evaluation was made in terms of hardness, timbre, weight, and overall sound-transferability characteristics. In order to overcome the problem of designing housing that could produce a natural, distortion-free sound, engineers used the FRESDAM (Freeform Shape Design and Manufacture) computer-aided design system. A delicate waveform was carved out of the interior wall, achieving sound expansion and acoustics equivalent to that of a concert hall.”

Again, all I can say is you have to take my word for it when I tell you that you will never believe this is a closed headphone. It totally disappears. The wooden enclosures do not create echo, boominess, or impart any extra “ambience” whatsoever. To my ears, these enclosures just evaporate. You don’t “see” them in the sound the same way you might “see” the enclosure with other closed headphones. I hear no “cave effect” or “concert hall” effect. I believe that the wooden enclosures dissipate the resonances and energy generated by the driver, adding to their sense of linearity and purity of sound.

But the R10 has another secret weapon that’s not included in any marketing sheet. The R10’s drivers disappear as well. With all the other headphones I’ve tried, you are always aware of the action of the driver. In other words, you can feel this thing vibrating back and forth mere millimeters from your ear. With the R10’s, I am much less aware of the existence of its drivers than I am with any other phone. Yes, you still know the drivers are there, but they’re far more invisible than in other dynamic phones. Perhaps given the greater size of the R10s enclosures, the drivers can be placed farther away from the ears. Perhaps all the resonance damping of the assembly, combined with the carefully designed wooden enclosures and a very carefully voiced driver (more about this in a minute) combine to create this effect.

In any case, I dub the Sony R10, the “Disappearing Headphone”. Your ability to just relax and let the R10’s take over contributes mightily to your musical enjoyment. Of course all this comfort and resonance damping wouldn’t be worth a darn if the driver itself sounded like crap. Gladly, this is not the case.

Associated Equipment
Before going into the sound of the R10s, I want to disclose my associated equipment:
Berning MicroZOTL headphone amp
Sony SCD-333ES SACD changer with Modwright mods

Voicing
The voicing of high-end speakers tends be quite different from the voicing of speakers for the consumer market. In the consumer marketplace, busy people with only a passing interest in audio go to the big electronics chain stores. There, they are confronted with an array of different speakers and must do critical evaluations in noisy environments, receiving less than “expert” advice from store help. Consumer-oriented speakers are notoriously voiced to sound sharp, crisp and loud, and typically have exaggerated bass for a “wow” effect. After all, it has to leap out from the crowd and get the consumer’s attention during a 30-second “demo”, or it’s on to the next speaker. In fact, speakers voiced to grab your attention may well satisfy people who listen for short periods of time, or use music as the background to other activities. But for obsessives like you and me who will listen to those speakers with an almost supernatural concentration, poorly-voiced speakers will quickly start to grate on your nerves. This is known as “listening fatigue”.

The Sony MDR-R10 is voiced a lot like a high-end speaker and is designed for the long haul. These are headphones you develop a relationship with, a bond, and a trust. I think Vertigo-1 was so nervous about my initial reaction because the R10s are not a showy, splashy whizz-bang product in the traditional sense. They are a refined musical instrument, and it didn’t take me long to spot that. I am NOT making excuses for the R10; these are in fact high compliments.

However, if you were to pick up the R10s on one of those abominable “headphone kiosks” and compare it to consumer models, they might not really stick out. You might gravitate toward the Grado’s bass, AKG’s soundstage, the CD3000’s “clarity”, the HD600s “airyness”, or any other headphone’s signature “gimmick”. The Sony R10’s do not employ any gimmicks, tricks, or exaggerations. They give pure music exactly as it is. Maybe just sounding “right” is in itself is a gimmick, but who cares, just listen!

The result of this easy, steady, and distortion-free presentation is the enhanced ability to listen to these headphones long-term, and that’s what we like to do isn’t it?

It should be noted that this quality might actually turn off some listeners of hard rock or electronica. The R10s are in control of the sound, presenting it clearly and cleanly, thus removing some of the “visceral” experience of this kind of music. I think this may be what Vertigo-1 was reacting to when he listed all the kinds of music the R10 are “not suited for”. For me, though, the ease and command of the R10s make them the best hard-rockin’ phones of all. They really let you ease into the sound, making it much easier to listen to intense music for longer periods of time. They make sense out of the chaos, without losing the energy of the performance or truncating the sound on top or bottom.

So, does it sound more like the HD600, the CD3000, or the RS1? None of the above. Although it’s been months since I’ve had them, the R10’s remind me somewhat of the ER4S. Chiefly, this is due to the linearity of both headphones’ frequency response, along with that wonderful fluid, grain-free quality both headphones possess. The R10’s seem to lack distortion almost completely. The music just flows, delivering the sound in its entirety without comment, much like the ER4S.

Also like the ER4S, the integration between lows, mids, and highs is seamless. You aren’t aware of any anomalies, irregularities, or gaps between frequencies. In contrast, the CD3000 sounds like the treble, mids, and bass are being delivered by separate drivers.

Tone and Timbre
Again, these sound more like great speakers than headphones. By far the most “natural” sounding headphones I’ve heard. She caresses, she soothes, she seethes, she tingles, she effervesces, she delights. She does not slam, screech, squeal, wallop, hammer, stab or scratch. Some might find the sound a touch on the dry side, but I’d call that “transparency”. I don’t find them “warm”, but remarkably “clear” and “open”. On the other hand, they are not “clinical” or “sterile”. Again, the R10 just gets out of the way of the music.

The R10s truly paint with a bigger sonic palette than any other headphone I’ve tried. Everything sounds new through these phones. There’s a hidden treasure of sounds and tones in your CDs that you don’t even know about! With well-recorded CDs the sound is just amazing. SACD’s and DVD-A’s give me chills.

One of the best things about the R10 is their ability to literally make sense out of recordings I had previously thought were atrocious. CDs I thought were too bright or brittle now sound listenable. CDs that were dark or muddy are more clear and coherent. I now realize that it was not necessarily the CD that was at fault, I simply lacked the right equipment to reproduce the sound as it was meant to be heard. You suddenly start to appreciate why producers, mixers, engineers, and artists made some of the decisions they did. I chalk this effect up to the R10’s ability to effortlessly reproduce everything you throw at it. This has re-opened vast wings of my CD collection to re-examination.

In the future, headphone designers will measure brainwaves to determine the exact tonal balance that causes the maximum amount of pleasure in the greatest number of people. Until then, we have the R10.

Soundstage/Imaging
I am an imaging freak. I listen with my eyes closed, and part of the joy of music for me is in allowing my brain to imagine the performance. The R10 provides the best soundstage and imaging of any headphone I’ve heard. Left-to-right imaging is phenomenal, but the soundstage is wider than it is high. It’s like your sitting in a widescreen movie theater. These phones eliminate the 3 separate blobs effect common with other headphones; it’s all one large, wide continuous image. Electronic sounds that zip from one side of the soundstage to the other do so with an eerie reality. Although this is a closed phone, the soundstage extends well beyond your head, and is larger left-to-right than any I’ve heard.

No headphones I’ve experienced, the R10 included, convey the same sense of image depth that you get with good loudspeakers in a big room. The R10s have a superior sense of depth compared to the other headphones I’ve tried. Drums sound like they are actually behind the singer. Sound effects zoom in from the distance and smack you on the nose. You are positioned further back from the soundstage than you are with the CD3000. The R10’s are closer to the perspective of the HD600, yet the soundstage is much bigger and more substantial than that of the Sennheisers.

Part of imaging is the ability to keep separate sounds and instruments distinct from one another, even through the most intense passages. The R10s excel in their ability to add layers of sound one on top of the other without smearing or distorting. At will, you can choose to focus on any instrument, any voice, any sound effect, any track from start to finish and it will maintain its sonic integrity 100%. In the future, producers will make use of 500-track studios to build outrageously complex musical tracks to assault the ears of the teenagers in the year 3001. It will be necessary to develop headphones that can reproduce all those sounds simultaneously without it all turning to mush. The R10 is there now.

Detail
The R10s allow you to hear every single track, every sound on that master tape, but it’s definitely not tipped-up, brittle, or analytical detail. These are true “high-resolution” headphones. It’s like switching your monitor from 800 x 600 to 1024 x 768. The R10 reveals a bumper crop of new musical information from your favorite CDs. You get to hear them all for the first time again.

The R10 translates words that other headphones garble. You will find yourself constantly experiencing new revelations in the lyrics of your favorite songs. “Oh, so THAT’S what he’s really saying!”

Treble
OK, it’s not as showy as the CD3000. The CD3000 has treble that goes up, up, up, in an unfettered, free-flowing, crystalline way. The R10 is not truncated in any way, but the treble does not have the CD3000’s slight tendency to attack, pierce, and zing. That said, the R10s have much more up top than the woolly HD600, so if you are upgrading from those, you won’t experience any loss of highs. The R10s are also much, much more “airy” up top than the CD3000, which sounds “etched” in comparison.

Midrange
What is not to love? Welcome to the star of the show!
After listening to the R10, you realize that your current headphones are “scooped out” in the middle. Another pet peeve of mine about headphone listening is the nagging sense that headphone sound is “hollow” and “insubstantial” compared to regular speakers. Well, it doesn’t have to be so. The R10’s midrange is not disproportionately emphasized compared to the highs and lows—it’s fully integrated. Yet it has much more “presence” than the CD3000, which in turn I thought had more “presence” than the HD600.

In fact, I’d call the HD600 and the R10 the North and South poles of midrange—opposites. Where the HD600 is “light” and “airy”, the R10 is passionate and emphatic. The sound of the R10’s mids is full without being at all syrupy or colored, though it is certainly seductive and pleasing.

Bass
Let’s face it folks, there is just no way to get that 1000 watt 15-inch subwoofer sound with a pair of headphones. If any headphone in history had a shot at providing that kind of visceral bass experience, I think it’s probably the R10. Electrostatic speakers are often cited as being bass-shy, and aren’t physically able to deliver the same kind of impact as a standard dynamic design. The R10 is the world’s most expensive dynamic phone, so I held out the hope that they might re-define headphone bass response. Well, that was not to be.

Nevertheless, this is tight, tight bass. It attacks with surgical precision and is very quick and firm. This is extremely accurate bass, but it lacks the slam and weight you get through floor-standing speakers let alone a subwoofer.

The R10’s do solve one “problem” with typical headphone bass. To me, bass through other headphones is somewhat amorphous, non-directional and disconnected from the rest of the sound. It never really sounds like an instrument is being played. Through the R10’s, however, you get that tactile suppleness that well-powered full-range speakers give you, enabling you to “see” where the bassist is standing, and fully hear the pluck of the string, the attack of the note, and the resonance it gives off. The bass is “seen” as much as it’s “felt”.

Drum hits have the same tight thump and thud of the CD3000. It’s a very realistic presentation of percussive sounds that brings out the tightness of the drum skin and the weight of the strike. The R10 has more substantial-sounding bass than the HD600, and goes almost as deep.

IMHO, the only people who would complain about the bass of the R10s are the usual suspects—“dumbasses” or inexperienced listeners looking for that “wow” effect. The R10s don’t seem to go any lower than the other headphones I’ve owned, but the bass is more complete and more carefully defined and even “detailed” than any other. I give the bass very high marks.

To summarize: tight, distortion-free bass that won’t wow you with its depth, or pummel you with excessive, flabby energy. The CD3000s now sound amorphous and “rubbery” in comparison.

Summary
The Sony R10 is superior to any other headphone I've heard. This is a much greater increase in performance than switching between the HD600 and the CD3000, for example. The R10's are truly in a different class altogether. It makes other headphones sound like toys. I'm sorry I had to say that to you, but it's true.

So, how much of the R10’s performance do you get with the CD3000? This comparison is not really fair as the R10s don’t sound that much like the CD3000. The leap in sonic quality from the CD3000 to R10 is not like the jump in performance you’d expect by simply going up to the next model in a headphone manufacturer’s line. It’s more like jumping up to the best model in an entirely different audiophile line, which in fact is what you are doing!

Are they worth $4000? This may surprise many of you after reading all my rhapsodic remarks, but I’m afraid the answer for me is “no”. I think they are over-priced for what you get. Build quality is not up to its price tag, period. Sonically, it’s a huge jump up from the $400-$700 headphones most of us are familiar with. If you paid $2500 for them, that would be fair. I would wait and find a used pair, but you may be waiting a long time for that!

Are there any kinds of music the R10 is not suited for? I just shake my head when I see people ask “what are the best headphones for classical”? Headphones specifically designed for one kind of music are “colored” to my mind. Sound is sound, period. A good headphone is a good headphone, period, and should be able to reproduce all sound frequencies and all musical styles with equal aplomb. By that definition, the R10 is definitely a “good” headphone, make that a “great” headphone. No matter what your musical taste, the R10 will satisfy you.

Is there “more” and “better” out there? What about the Omega and the Orpheus? Frankly, I just don’t care anymore. What’s THAT feeling worth to you? What price can you put on that kind of satisfaction? For me, it was definitely worth the money I invested in the Sony MDR-R10!

markl
post #2 of 46
Great review Mark, good job! I am now listening to my CD3000, pleasured and happy, but still, thinking which of my non-vital organs I should try to sell on the streets to get the R10s.
post #3 of 46
Will trade Kidney for R10!

Well done Markl nice review... Now if I only I found $4000 in my shoe...
post #4 of 46
Congrats on the r10s. I like the personal approach you took for your review and, based on your impessions, I totally agree that you got a good value for the money. I can't wait to hear the R10s tomorrow.
post #5 of 46
Great review markl. I copied it into the Featured Full Review Forum.
post #6 of 46
Thread Starter 
Thank you for that, JMT. It might be instructive to include the whole thread, especially when Vertigo-1 and jatinder get to weigh in. Also, I have made a new observation just now that changes part of my review. I originally said:

"For example, the coconut shell wood enclosures on my R10 do not seem to be snugly connected to the headphone assembly. You can push the wooden earpieces down into the assembly by applying even slight pressure. There is also some weird rubbery ring (o-ring) that connects the wooden enclosures to the headphone assembly that is kinda loosey-goosey. I do not have a digital camera, so I am unable to show you exactly what I mean. You?ll just have to try to picture it."

Ha-ha. I'm afraid I have to retract this statement. It finally dawned on me that this action is deliberate and part of the design. It gives the wooden earcups additional flex at the point it joints the assembly, thereby damping resonance, no doubt. Ingenious. My apologies for doubting the great minds at Sony!

markl
post #7 of 46
For the "King of all Headphones" you certainly did them justice by giving us the "King of all Headphones Review".

Bravo!
post #8 of 46
What a well done review!
post #9 of 46
That was a really awesome review markl, and I must say I'm particularly overjoyed about this part of it:

Quote:
The Sony MDR-R10 is voiced a lot like a high-end speaker and is designed for the long haul. These are headphones you develop a relationship with, a bond, and a trust. I think Vertigo-1 was so nervous about my initial reaction because the R10s are not a showy, splashy whizz-bang product in the traditional sense. They are a refined musical instrument, and it didn’t take me long to spot that. I am NOT making excuses for the R10; these are in fact high compliments.

However, if you were to pick up the R10s on one of those abominable “headphone kiosks” and compare it to consumer models, they might not really stick out. You might gravitate toward the Grado’s bass, AKG’s soundstage, the CD3000’s “clarity”, the HD600s “airyness”, or any other headphone’s signature “gimmick”. The Sony R10’s do not employ any gimmicks, tricks, or exaggerations. They give pure music exactly as it is. Maybe just sounding “right” is in itself is a gimmick, but who cares, just listen!
I'm glad it didn't take you long to realize what I was trying to communicate with words before. I think you got it right. You're right, I was at first worried you'd end up like me at first and look at the bass or treble or midrange first and foremost before truly realizing the extent of the entire musical package. It took me much longer to realize the R10s full potential, poor me...like a good 3+ months. But now, the R10s in turn make other headphones sound uneven and unnatural don't they? Hopefully at the meet tomorrow, people that hear my R10s will be able to pick up on this idea of natural sound, and not feel disappointed because it doesn't wow them at first with huge amounts of treble or bass. I think the R10s naturalness is by far its biggest wow factor, not its bass, treble, or midrange.

You actually gave me some new things to consider such as dampening...I never really felt that played a part at all, not so much as that it was audible.

Regarding the carrying case: I'd strongly recommend you store the R10s in there period. The case is specially treated to prevent corrosion, insects, etc. I'm guessing it's the same case even with M Rael's new Audiotechnicas. I do find the case a little huge, but hey, the R10s are no doubt a luxury item, and I think it's only fair they get such a fine case, and not a cardboard box, don't you?
post #10 of 46
Nice review job markl !
I'm going to take a page from your book and actually try to write a full scale review myself, instead of just bits and pieces of impressions. I have to say its great to read your full account of what led you to buy these AND the resulting thoughts and impressions afterwards. You boldly went where few men have gone before, and you seem to be truly digging it- I'm really happy for you!

p.s. get or borrow a digital camera. lets make an 'all-wood' info and picture website for our tree cans.
post #11 of 46
WOW!!! Great Review!!!

So I guess you are in love, huh? I would have to wait about a little over 6 months before I get the chance to try the R10's, it should be fun.
post #12 of 46
Thanks, markl! This review was definitely worth the wait. It seems you like your new cans.
post #13 of 46
Awesome review... Thanx for the time and effort. Loved the way you laid out the personal feelings and reasons rather than a straight analytical view.
post #14 of 46
Nice Review markl!

Looking forward to hearing these later today at the honolulu head-phoners meeting.
post #15 of 46
Fantastic!

So, could I "borrow" them? I'll even pay shipping.
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