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Quick Impression: Sony MDR-7550

post #1 of 637
Thread Starter 

I needed another pair of IEMs like a hole in the head, but the 7550s intrigued me. My current portable 'phones are the MDR-NC300D. Yeah, I know ... but on a plane, they work really well. And they actually sound decent all things considered. I'm not doing critical listening on a plane. For a long time I was using the Sennheiser IE8s (which I liked, but didn't grow to love), the MDR-EX700 (very medicore once I gave it time - I like the NC300D much better than 'em), as well as the FAD FI-DC1601SB. Now, I still like the 1601s, but they are impractical for being on the road for many reasons.

The MDR-7550 is the US-branded version of the MDR-EX800ST from Japan(reviews here and here). They're the same headphones, and are also made in Japan so they're the same thing, just rebranded. The EX800ST has had a few reviews here as well.


I'm also a musician, so I do a appreciate an accurate presentation but not *too* clinical. I kinda wanted a set of IEMs I could use in different situations, including the studio or on the road as just a headphone/IEM. I figured what the heck and ordered a pair. Tonight was the first time I had a chance to audition them briefly.


First impressions:

1. They seem to be a bit harder to drive than my FADs. Just switching between the two on my laptop, the FADs were louder at the same volume level.

2. In terms of balance and overall sound, the 7550 is a winner. I was comparing some stuff I recorded in the studio and you can hear everything cleanly. There's not too much top nor too much bottom and it sounds a lot like sitting in the control room and listening via monitors. It's not a presentation everyone will love, though. They're not ER4 clinical at all (I had two pairs of the Etymotics a few years back - I lost one pair, hence two). The 7550s are musical to my ears.

3. It's not bass light; it's accurate bass. It's not goosed. I know my bass sound (that's what I play), and these IEMs capture it well. A little bit more lower bass wouldn't be bad to have, but I can live with what the 7550s produce. 

4. The FADs sound cluttered compared to the 7550s, especially in the more midrange/upper bass. In listening to some stuff of mine that has trombone and baritone sax, it's veiled and a bit claustrophobic in comparison. The 7550 handles it all nicely. That's not to say the FADs sound bad, but not what I want to hear.

5. I also had a pair of custom IEMs, and I find these to be honest more comfortable and prefer the sound. Those died on me, and for half the price, these are a great bargain.

6. The cable may be long, but every time I move, I don't hear it whereas on other IEMs, if the cable brushes up against anything, you hear it.

7. The FADs have a little bigger soundstage, but not necessarily a better one. I do like it's "bigness" (for lack of a better term), but prefer the sound quality of the 7550. These are supposed to be monitors, so I wouldn't expect the soundstage of the FADs.

8. I'm not noticing any sibilance. I like the top end on the 7550. It's not in your face or goosed as far as I can tell.


MOre as I listen, but out of the box, I'm pleased. It'll be interesting to compare them to the NC300Ds which I'll do on an upcoming business trip.

post #2 of 637

Thank You for impression. I'm considering purchasing MDR 7550 or other portable IEM/headphones.

Do You think that MDR7550 are extremly durably built?



post #3 of 637
Thread Starter 

I've only had them a few days, so I can't speak to extremely durably built. I mean, they're not built to military grade spec. That said, they don't feel cheap nor do I think they'll fall apart on normal use - especially if you put 'em in the case, etc. I'm pretty rough on stuff and the only IEMs I've ever had durability issues with were the ER4s in 10 years. That is one of the reason I'd never buy Etymotic again.

post #4 of 637


post #5 of 637

Nice Anax, looking forward to comparisons. I heard some people say that even though it's probably the most balanced, it's also more in your face because it has less dynamic range. But, I also heard that the dynamic range is heightened by a cable swap but the response becomes different. 

post #6 of 637
Originally Posted by cliffroyroycole View Post

Just stick a ZO on it. Just kidding, but I am looking forward to that Sony 3-way, so to speak.

Lol, I'm sure they are too!  tongue_smile.gif  With the whole cable thing I foresee a lot of partner swapping. eek.gif


post #7 of 637
post #8 of 637

The model numbers are increasing rapidly!!!


soon it'll be MDR 9999


then MDR-OVER9000

post #9 of 637
Originally Posted by Anaxilus View Post

With the whole cable thing I foresee a lot of partner swapping. eek.gif


My Apple iBuds with the EX600 cable sound just as good as my EX1000!  ;)

post #10 of 637
Originally Posted by music_4321 View Post

My Apple iBuds with the EX600 cable sound just as good as my EX1000!  ;)

If only putting the EX1000 cable on the EX600 did the same thing!  =P


I do find it interesting Sony choosing the EX600 cable for the EX1000 release in the US.  It would not surprise me that the 1000 is voiced for Asia and they decided to change it for the US release.  Sony has done this regional tuning before.  I'd love to see some dfkt measurements on the swap.  Perhaps 3 sample measures of the 1000 cable and 3 of the 600 cable.




post #11 of 637



with the 272 coming in overpriced (imho), if these 7550 hit the sweet spot between the 600 and the 1000 (or just a more lusher, different presentation... perhaps), then I think will be all in on these suckers.


needless to say, looking forward to some future comparisons/more impressions. popcorn.gif

post #12 of 637

Nice.  Had a feeling, call it a hunch, intuition, whichever, that the 800/7550 might be the one out of the Sony lineup for me, as well.  Looking forward to hearing more impressions, but it looks like I better start looking at my wallet (again).

post #13 of 637
Originally Posted by cliffroyroycole View Post


The MDR-7550s just arrived, and it took me one song - Buena (Artist: Morphine) out of my iPhone4 (using Equalizer app set to flat) to know that I found the sweet spot in the Sony lineup. I have the EX600s here, and to me, the 7550s certainly are a notch above them, and definitely different than the EX1000s, which I owned but returned because I didn't feel they were worth $526 (what I paid at the time). Now, I am pretty much convinced that the $259 MDR-7550s are more to my liking than the EX1000s, which I liked fine, but apart from price, there is something about the 7550s that right out of the box have me convinced I made the right move. I can't really explain it, and there are EX800ST and MDR-7550 reviews (this thread starter, for example) that say it better than me. I do believe in burn-in for most dynamics, and if these get even better after 25-50 hours, fantastic.


Time to pack up the EX600s for return (30-day MBG). And I am in no way saying the EX600s are anything but an excellent value (esp at the $150 I paid). However, there is something about the balance and detail of the 7550s that is different from the EX600 (not sure about the EX1000s, because that would be from memory). I still prefer the JH5s to any other IEMs I own, but the 7550s are very very good. I need more listening, of course, but I also like the shorter ears memory wire (for lack of a better term). With the 600s and 1000s, I always felt like the cables were going to flop off my ears. Yes, you only get three tip sizes, but the smalls work fine for me. Wonder if they want the tips back for the EX600s if I told them I tried them all. LOL.


The more songs on my HP demo mix that roll by, the better they sound. I did have to change from medium (turquoise) to small (orange) tips though, not a problem. More comfy now. Anyone who has it should always listen to "Wrap My Head Around That," from Lucinda Williams. I love that track, and great for a phone audition.


FenderP got it right, that's for sure.




post #14 of 637

@cliffroy, your impressions on MDR7550 vs JH5 pls? TIA!

post #15 of 637
Thread Starter 

So right now I"m on the Acela from the Boston area to Philadelphia. I'll be flying on Monday, but I figure the train is as good a place as any to determine any differences (good or bad) between the MDR-7550 and the MDR-NC300D. The NC300D has been my travel solution for a year (see my review here). They do a good job at cancelling noise without any large impact on the sound. One nice thing about the NC300D is that you can turn on two different modes: Bass and Movie. I've used them both, but for sake of this comparison I turned that stuff off. One of the main reasons I decided to try the NC300Ds was that as good as some IEMs are, they just don't always block out things like enough engine noise even with a great seal.


A few things to note based on my year of using the NC300D:

1. I don't like the fact the 7550s only come with a few sizes of tips. The EX700 and the NC300D came with I believe something like 6 or 8 sizes. The default size was OK, but once I took the tip off of the NC300D, it was much more comfortable.

2. Over the past year, I've come to not love the one short, one long approach to the cord for each side of the NC300D.

3. I wish the NC300D had a "passive" mode so that if the battery dies (which has happened to me), you can use it like a normal IEM.

4. While infinitely more portable than the big noise cancelling headphones, the little NC unit (which you can't detach from the earphones) is a bit of an albatross. The cable can get microphonics (not badly, but definitely possible), and it's not the cable with the best relief. It's better than the FADs which get tangled up if you look at 'em. Sony did at least provide a decent case. In that battle, I really like the little case Sony provided with the 7550.


Some sound observartions of the 7550 vs. the NC300D here on the train:

Noise Isolation - With a good seal, the 7550 does a good job, but I won't lie: there is more of a sense of 'black' with the NC300D. The 7550 does better than the FADs and the IE8s based on my recollection of those on trains/planes.

Sound Quality - The 7550 wins - definitely more detail and resolution as compred to the stock (no Bass/Movie setting) NC300D, but the NC300D does OK. The 7550 responded pretty well to futzing with the EQ on the NW-A847. For example, cranking clear bass and the .4 band didn't make the bass get bloated at all. It is still accurate but there's more of it. The NC300D with the same settings really didn't impact the sound, and if anything, got a bit "mushy". There was no definition. Again, as a bass player, I key in not only on presence of bass but accuracy of deliveing the notes themselves.


For fun, I cranked the treble (1.6) and again, the 7550 responded nicely. The treble didn't go off the rails or get too tizzy, especially on cymbals.

Sound Stage  - Again, the nod goes to the 7550. It's definitely a bit wider. It's not as expansive as my FADs, but in some ways I like it a bit better. It balances well.

Comfort - I like how Sony designed the 7550, but it's not as comfortable as the in ears on the NC300D. The extra tubing and stuff on the 7550 adds a few ounces of weight which does make a little bit of difference. Having said that, they sit well and I like the guides that go around the ear. You're not going to easily yank it out of your ear as I've done a more than a few times on the NC300D.


I'll do some more comparisons on the plane on Monday but the 7550 may become my new #1 all purpose, take everywhere IEM. I'm really pleased, and SOny really has in my opinion a winner especially at a street price of under $300.

Edited by FenderP - 6/24/11 at 5:25am
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