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Sony MDR-F1 Review

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I just got a new pair of MDR-F1’s a few weeks ago to add to my collection. I have used closed headphones most of the time and so went searching for a great open set of cans that were comfortable and had a wide sound stage. Of the open air headphones I have used over long periods of time the Grado SR-225, Thanks Extreme 4099 and the HD-600s and HD-580 I was disappointed in them all. The sound stage was not much better than the MDR-7506 on ether the Senn or Grado’s. Grado’s have a tizzy high end that can get annoying but image somewhat better than the HD-600s. Bass is great on the Grado’s. The HD600’s are way to dark for me but have a more natural sounding midrange than the Grado’s.

This brings me to the F1’s, having listened to these in the past I remembered they had a nice sound stage and smooth natural sounding mid range. So I went a searching to hopefully confirm my previously held view of these cans. I read the review hear
http://www.audioreview.com/PRD_11804...x.aspx#reviews
http://www.goodcans.com/HeadphoneReviews/bigreview.htm
http://www.sonicstudios.com/mdr-f1.htm#mdr-f1
http://ecoustics.epinions.com/elec_A...splay_~reviews
http://members.aol.com/headphone2/review.htm

These are but just a few and the primary one I based my decision is not listed in goggle however I decided to get these anyway. I Bought these at http://etronics.com because they have served me well in the past and have a 30 day refund.

My first impressions of the MDRf1 were ok but not spectacular. So I left them connected and played music at low volume for about 3 days and re-listened to the F1’s. They changed a lot. And I was impressed by the wide sound stage and comfort. These do not have the typical headphone sound of two blobs on each side of your head but rather float a nice holographic bubble around your entire head. They also let you hear the outside world quite well. This can be a disadvantage since they leak sound out just as easy as that let sound in. The Basic tonal signature is like the HD-600 in the Midrange. The Bass can be somewhat week however I use these with the PPA using Bass boost and this balances the low end out nicely. The F1’s have the natural sounding Voice, Acoustic guitar and Piano that I have heard from Dynamic headphones. When combined with the wide open sound stage I became real pleased with the sound of these Headphones. I now use these exclusively for light chamber music, Acoustic guitar and Movies. They do not work well on Rock, Techno or anything else that is Dynamic. I am listening to the California Guitar trio at the moment with the F1’s http://www.cgtrio.com/yamanews.htm and previously was listening to Arvo Part: Te Deum http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...80944?v=glance a review of this fine recording is http://www.classicalmusicreview.com/...000024ZDF.html and I must totally agree with that as this is one fine performance indeed. This is the type of Music the F1’s are born and Bread for. Another genre that works magic on the F1’s is ambient electronic music. Again the wide holographic sound stage and the totally accurate tone quality of the Midrange of The MDR-F1’s allow ambient Electronic music to transport you into another dimension as it should.
These Headphones convey emotion extremely well. The sadness of Magnificat is hunting and almost gives Goosebumps. This quality I have yet to experience on the Grado and senn headphones. I would also like to point out that unlike other Sony headphones these will not handle a lot of power in the bass so one must resist the temptation to apply Bass boost at loud volumes with Bass heavy Recordings. I must confess I am a Bass head at times and am so used to the prominent low end of the MDR-7506 headphones that if I try and recreate that with the F1’s the Drivers Bottom out. This only reminded me of the fact that these cans are for light music where tonal accuracy and smoothness are important qualities. The MDR-f1’s add a further dimension to that by providing about the widest soundstage of any other headphone or headphone system I have heard with the possible exception of the AKG-K1000. It has been a year since I last listened to the K-1000’s but there open airy quality is something I was looking for but did not want to use an Ultra high power Amp to drive them. Also the K-1000’s have a pad that rests in the wrong place on my head making them uncomfortable in the long term use where as the F1’s I can were all night and hardly know they are on my head.

Sony claims the F1’s are not sensitive to Amplifier output impedance and will work optimally from a portable CD player and similar device as well as the output of a preamp. The operating manual says “Conventional Full Open Air Type Headphones need to be connected to the Speaker output terminals or be driven from a special Amplifire in order to reproduce intended sound quality” Well nothing could be father from the truth. The F1’s are quite Amplifier sensitive and as such there sound is greatly determined by the Amplifier driving them. They sound horrible on the output of Portable CD players and Creative labs Zen. Using the output of a typical Preamplifier employing an op amp as the output device also results in reduced everything and make these totally unlistenable. IMHO the F1 not only require a special Amplifier to get the intended sound but a high current one at that. Sure they are sensitive enough to play loudly from portables but sound compressed and rolled off on both the Bass and treble on less ideal Amplification. Head-Fi member Hirsh suggested a Tube Amp for the F1 to me so some time ill try one and see how the F1’s respond. The Amp he recommended is somewhat rich for my blood however other tube gear might work if it is not an OTL type. I think an OTL Tube amp would totally lose it in the low 12 ohm impedance of the F1’s. The Amplifier driving the F1’s must maintain complete control on these cans or they will ring in the upper midrange. This is a quality of a lot of Sony Headphones. However if given a good source they are completely clean and undistorted. I use a PPA with mine and this works well if an otherwise Bright sounding chipset is used. These Cans respond well to a fast Amp and the Difference in Op amps and other internal Amplifier components are easily heard.

The Sony MDR-f1’s are also quite sensitive to the position over the Ears. I find I have to move the ear cups slightly upward from the position they naturally rest when first put on to obtain proper Tonal balance. However once you become accustomed to wearing them its just a quick move to get the best out of them. The F1’s are what I would consider a special purpose headphone as opposed to a more general purpose can like the HD-580’s and HD-600s. These Headphones do require some effort with regard to amplification and other system Synergy details to sound there best and also are not good on all types of Music however with Music of great expanse of image and Voice these are truly a marvelous sounding Headphone. They lack the Micro dynamics (Detail) of the Grado’s and HD-580 however the micro dynamics are as good as or better than the HD-600. The F1’s are best used to augment another set of headphones rather than being the only pair of cans to own.




Some Music that is just wonderful to listen to on the F1’s are listed in the below links
http://www.inkblotmagazine.com/rev-a...vilisation.htm nice space and image location on this Techno recording

http://www.vervemusicgroup.com/product.aspx?pid=9573 Diana Karall’s voice is right in front of you in such a way as to make you believe she is at your table in the Lounge singing only to you

http://www.buy.com/retail/product.as...0&loc=&rp=true Cowboy Junkies sounding like you are right there in the church with them and Height is well portrayed as are the acoustics of the interior this recording is also availably on Vinyl at http://www.musicline.de/de/product/C...//743211835619

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...50530?v=glance Dido’s voice is so real that in comparison the HD-600’s sound colored.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...03943?v=glance I am a big fan of Native American music and Flute in paticuler and the Drums on this recording are tight and you can easily hear the skin and body resonance and the Flute is crystal clear.

http://www.canyonrecords.com/cr7010.htm Music made for the F1’s soundstage is this fine recording from Carlos Nakai not only is the ambient information splendidly portrayed but the layering of the Flutes and the blend into William Eton’s Guitar are heavenly. That 360 degree holographic Bubble again. Echoes decay nicely

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...55348?v=glance This new age recording is another great on the F1’s piano is reproduced very accurately on the F1’s and this is mostly piano so it is a joy to listen to on these headphones. “The Narada Wilderness Collection”

This is just a short sampling of music that sounds truly magnificent on the Sony MDR-f1’s if you are looking for a second set of cans to supplement your present pair and or you like only the musical styles the F1’s are comfortable on then by all means get these before Sony discontinues them again.
post #2 of 15
Congratulations PPL on your very informative, great review! I'm very curious to audition those cans and somewhat puzzled by the fact that so many headfiers seem to dislike them. I understand they do not have a good price/performance ratio, but sound good in their own right. Some have said there are better cans for the money, but one should get whatever cans will make him/her happy. Forget the wallet. Let everyone else at the forum feel sorry about your wallet!
Cheers,
Alex Altorfer
post #3 of 15
Thoroughly reviewed, I must say - thanks a lot for the infos!

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally posted by Alex Altorfer
[B]Congratulations PPL on your very informative, great review! I'm very curious to audition those cans and somewhat puzzled by the fact that so many headfiers seem to dislike them. I understand they do not have a good price/performance ratio, but sound good in their own right. Some have said there are better cans for the money[B]
I'm not sure price/performance ratio is the correct measure in this case -- in part because these 'phones can often be found heavily discounted, and in part because performance is hard to measure. The phones don't support booming bass (although they use a bass lens which helps a lot) but are very comfortable. Try them and then decide if you think their "price/performance" is acceptable
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your Kind words. It is true there are better sounding Headphones at a somewhat lower price than the F1’s the HD-580’s and the Sony MDR-7506 IMHO offer the best bang for the price, However unlike these other two Headphones the F1’s are a specialty product that bridges the gap between the sound stage of a quality well placed loudspeaker system and the intimacy of headphone listening. I don’t think I could use the F1’s as my only pair of cans however for those times when loudspeaker listening is not an option but you want the open sound loudspeakers provide these headphones are just what the doctor ordered. Binaural Recordings sound amazing and life like. The Virtual Vietnam Tour recording done by another member on this Forum made some sounds seam to originate from outside the house. And placements of people talking are accurately positioned, more than one time I had to turn my head to see who was talking to me yet no one was. Kind of a reflex action I think.

Not all Head-fi members are dissatisfied with the F1’s quite a few people are happy with them. Hear is a Review from a few years ago that capture the essence of the F1’s however some differences are noted on my Pair vs. the older ones that member Kubernetes is referring to. The Plug is a metal housing just like the MDR-V6 using the Uni-match plug i think perhapps the old F1's used the plastic covered Plud like the MDR-V600. http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/showt...ural+Recording
post #6 of 15
Yeah, Music Fanatic, I'd definitely try them if I had access to a pair, but that's a bit unlikely in this part of the world. There are no F1s being sold anywhere and there are no HeadFier meets.
Cheers,
Alex Altorfer


Quote:
Originally posted by Music Fanatic
I'm not sure price/performance ratio is the correct measure in this case -- in part because these 'phones can often be found heavily discounted, and in part because performance is hard to measure. The phones don't support booming bass (although they use a bass lens which helps a lot) but are very comfortable. Try them and then decide if you think their "price/performance" is acceptable
post #7 of 15
ppl,

Your review is exactly what I am looking for.

I am checking out F1. I am looking for a 3D holographic type of soundstage.

I see that this is a 2003 thread.

Do you still recommend F1 now? Or, is there better model for this type of cans? I see others recommend AD700 too.
post #8 of 15
What is your price point? To get a wider ss you would need to get the Sony field speaker headphone or the AKG 1000.
post #9 of 15
I've read the K290 Surround has pretty wide, albeit fake sounding soundstage. The Float framed headphones and Stax Sigmas are also supposedly amazing at creating a giant soundstage.
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by kool bubba ice View Post
What is your price point? To get a wider ss you would need to get the Sony field speaker headphone or the AKG 1000.
AD700 and Sony F1... which is better?

I'm ok with the price point of both.
post #11 of 15
For the scope and range of the 3D imaging, the MDR F1. I prefer them over the AD700. Less colored, and a bit edgy. I feel the AD700 put too much of their sound signiture into the music. Doesn't bother me for gaming, but for music and movies it does get a bit annoying at times.
post #12 of 15

im sorry to update this old thread

 but i would to know if this can is good for gaming and movies too

post #13 of 15

The F1 is very light and one soon forgets it is on the head.  It is very open and has an excellent soundstage.  Although not a gamer, I would think that these would be ideal for gaming.  They do take several hundred hours to reach its full bass potential. 

 

I have owned my F1's longer than I have owned any other set of cans.  They are addictive. 

 

post #14 of 15



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ppl View Post

The Basic tonal signature is like the HD-600 in the Midrange. The Bass can be somewhat week however I use these with the PPA using Bass boost and this balances the low end out nicely. The F1’s have the natural sounding Voice, Acoustic guitar and Piano that I have heard from Dynamic headphones.

 


Thank you for the review, it certainly spark my interest in the F1

 

I guess that's quite a compliment that the F1 could approach Senn in terms of tonality. I have not heard every Sony phone there is but have come across a few samples lacking in this regard. The best Sony I heard so fast is the MDR CD900ST which has to be sourced directly from Japan. Amongst other things, the reason I consider they are above other Sony I came across is because it has a much better tonality. The MDR 7506 has a darker tone which I also like. Looks like the F1 may be another that I could live with.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ppl View Post

 It is true there are better sounding Headphones at a somewhat lower price than the F1’s the HD-580’s and the Sony MDR-7506 IMHO offer the best bang for the price,

 

 I guess you mean the HD 580 and MDR 7506 offers better value and are more all round contenders than the F1, or are you saying that they are simply better than the F1 (even for the speciality which the F1 do well) ?

post #15 of 15

Beeing a Sennheiser man and looking at my 6 last cans all of them have been Senn I have to say that I love the MDR-F1. 

I totally second HiFlight, no other pair has come close to beeing as comfortable as these. You can litterary keep them on for hours without any problems.

I use them for movies, gaming, music (except when I want the that bass)..

 

In short, brilliant cans and I think ppl and HighFlight are spot on.

 

 

 

 

My heavily biased pros/cons.

Pro:

Clarity of sound.

The feeling of beeing there in the middle, surrounded by sound.

Most comfortable headphones ever.

 

Con:

Lack of bass, I can't go full on 'Prodigy Bass under siege mix' with these.

 

I say a pair of F1 and 558 and you're set.

 

 

Personal setup is: HD598, HD555, HD490, HD201, MDR-F1.

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