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Sony MDR-EX1000: The cake is not a lie

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

IMPORTANT NOTICE

The EX1000 in my hands are purchased from the PRC. It is claimed to be the Hong Kong version, which is simply the Japanese version with Simplified Chinese in place of the Kana. However, there is a great chance that this is what they call "water goods", which is a product that is smuggled from outside of PRC (Hong Kong actually is). I am claiming this due to the fact that its retail price is much, much cheaper than the "legit" PRC Mainland versions of the EX1000. Please remain calm, as the phones are legit due to its sound, which I shall cover sooner or later (probably sooner).

 

Also, if you're not used to my writing "style", keep this in mind when reading this thread: Prepare for unforeseen randomness.

 

Prologue

Before I actually start the "impression" or "review" part, i should tell you that one day or another, you should stop reading reviews, get out, and try the items for yourself. Here in North America we have a perfected 30-day return system so there is basically no risk (well, you lose shipping if you order online). Yes, Firefox, online is a word. Or does it take a hyphen? On-line? Yeah that's better.

Also a thing to note is that I like Sony. Go ahead and interpret that "like" part however you like. Just please keep that in mind.
So please take my impression (and preferably every other review/impression) with an adequate amount of NaCl. If you are unable to do so then I would advise you to leave this right about now. Any further reading is done at your own peril. You have been warned.
The purpose of this review is to spread the knowledge of these hardly-known phones. Any further "purpose" you may come up with is from the incorrect interpretation within yourself. I destroy no data to UK military standards and I do not cover any legal liabilities originated from reading this work. Do not blame me if you flush your money down on this phone and do not like it.

 

(If all the above feels eerily familiar, do not be alarmed. It was merely copied over from my EX600 review.)

 

Now, all this is written within the first "few" hours (about two and a half) of pwning the EX1000. Now some of you might want to spit on my face for that. Relax, I believe in burn-in, too, but my EX600 review was written within the first two hours of pwning them, so I kinda figure, why change? Plus, I am listening to them as I write.

 

This thread is created without the intention of "competing" with the excellent EX1000 thread that was created before this one. Discussion is welcome. Heated debates are most preferred to be avoided but if it has to happen, please keep it clean or GLaDOS will.

 

Good, the two above lines should cover all foreseeable face-spitting. Why don't we start?

 

Packaging & accessories

As Sony's current highest-end IEM (excluding the legendary Qualia 018, the IEMs included with the Epic-grade Qualia 017), They went with a large black paper box with some special treatment applied to the top cover. It resembles brushed black steel or aluminum (see the SE530 metal box), but it is indeed paper and is very delicate. An accidental fingernail impact WILL leave an irreparable mark on the box, as I have found out the hard way. This may damage resale value, so heads up.

The interior is similar to that of the EX600, but more luxurious. Opening the top cover, there is an additional, plastic cover, with a piece of foam underneath it. This foam is to protect the delicate shiny surface of the EX1000 from rubs during transport.

The cradle which cradles the IEM themselves has a thin layer of what seems like felt on it. Right below it you find the chocolate bar-type paper box that contains ten pairs op eartips. Seven pairs of regular Hybrids and three pairs of Isolators, which are basically the Hybrids with a bit of foam stuffed inside their crevices (crevasses?).

Again, Sony has an interesting presentation going here, with the round and curvy (and shiny!) IEM lying within all this serious-looking environs. But I believe that for a person who purchases an item of such high price, the interior presentation would not be important unless it is really shabby. This isn't a house.

You get two cables. A long one (1.2m - 4ft.) with an L-plug for use with pocket DAPs, and a short one (0.6m - 2ft.) with a straight plug for use with a device with a remote control.

Other than that, a genuine leather carrying case. First thought: Too big! Second thought: Really smooth! Yes the leather here, compared to the leather used on the EX600 case, is much smoother and has a different scent. Sony says "users can look forward to that wonderful and intimate leather feel that emerges with age and use" [in manual], but due to its size I doubt that you can pocket this every day. I personally use a Pelican case with a carabiner.

And no ¼" adapter. Sony wanted this to the the top-level portable solution and they sure kept it that way.

 

Build

First up, the cable is thicker than the EX600 cable. Both the Y-split and cable cinch are beefier in general. But the cable is more rigid than that of the EX600, with a smooth and shiny surface. It would be nice if they simply thickened the EX600 cable.

The L-jack sure is pretty. It is metal. It has a little bit of a tapered section for use with first generation iPhones and other DAPs with recessed headphone connectors. The strain relief looks stiff in the pictures, but is very flexible in person. That said, I still prefer the EX600 jack to this one, mostly because it less resembles a pistol (or a hair dryer).

Now to the IEMs themselves. Sony employed the "Teknorote" material, a polymer developed by Mitsui Chemicals. This is actually the same thing used on the EX600 (and EX800ST - MDR-7550). Also Sony went all-out and used an all-metal housing for the speakers. It is a magnesium alloy. They are indeed light, but I have yet to weigh them and compare with the EX600 housings, which have more plastic on them. There might be an elevated risk of static discharge if you listen to them when it is cool and dry. Not that you should be operating electronics below 0°C (32 F).

The cable screw mechanism seems a bit more compact compared to that of the EX600. It operates just as well.

The IEM has a more prominent bass vent in the middle of the body, as compared to the EX600 with a very discreet vent.

Right, we are moving on!

 

Fit & comfort

Not much to say here. Please read the corresponding section in my EX600 for more details. Other than that, the wind noise becomes noticeable at Beaufort 2 and goes completely way-too-loud by Beaufort 5.

 

Sound

So here's where the promised cake comes in. However it may taste to you, though, is totally dependent on you (and your gear).

Source: Sony PCM-D50 playing 320kbps LAME MP3, encoded from WAV or FLAC lossless (ripped from legit HMV-purchased CDs) using dBpoweramp, Slow setting, no DSP.

Out-of-the-box, you will not have the glaring-high highs problem of the EX600. So right there, that.

The first thing I noticed was the sound-stage and general instrument positioning. This right here, my dear Test Subjects, is a wonderfully "open" and "envelopping" sound-stage (those are not massive sarcasm quotes). Not that "I am surrounded by sound" thing that you apparently get with the Sennheiser IE 8, but it feels certainly, um, spherical. On some Judy Collins songs, it is the first time in my entire headphone and IEM journey (including amped DT880) that I feel something is coming from behind me. But generally, I find the sound-stage to be elliptical, as in it is much farther in front of your eyes than it is wide from your ears. What I mean to say is that vocals are pulled a distance away. It certainly feels more open and more airy, but can't have both the salmon and the bear, right? You lose the "live" feeling. Insdead of a singer singing in an open valley, it feels more like the singer is 200ft. in front of you and you're listening though amplified speakers. I'm making it sound like a bad thing, but it is not. Well, if you want your vocals to be up-front and intimate, the EX1000 is not the way to go. I'm not saying that the vocals are recessed, just distant.

Now to the bass. Several preliminary reviews I have read say that the EX1000 has very hard-hitting bass. With the PCM-D50, I do not get this. It certainly hits harder than the EX600 bass (which doesn't hit at all, to me) as I can feel the drums for a bit, but I do not agree with the "EX1000 has best bass in all top universal IEM" thing. Now, consistent burn-in will most certainly change that, but as of right now, it is a clear bowl of soup. There is adequate depth, but not the best that I've heard. Turbine Pro-Copper has the deepest bass I have ever heard.

Treble. Well, no hot-spots. There is a little bit of sibilance, enough for me to bring it up, but it is very inoffensive. It extends very very well and is incredibly smooth, yet not recessed. Basically my treble requirements are about that. The EX1000 fully satisfies my treble desires.

The entire frequency band is smoothly connected. There are no suck-outs at any frequency, except at maybe the very lowest bass tones.

Now. Transparency, detailing, positioning, all that. The EX1000 is more transparent than the EX600, hands down, no arguments. Its detailing, however, is not significantly better than that of the EX600 (which is quite a bit darn good at that anyway). It still has very strong detailing and resolution, much thanks to the very analytical PCM-D50 that I am using right now. But while it is very detailed, it does not lose musicality nor involvement, which accoding to my experience, is very hard to obtain with the PCM-D50. Now I have an iRiver coming in and I expect lots of fun time on the bus and whatnots.

Ah, positioning. Close your eyes and after a while, you can start to imagine the entire scene of the music, with the different layers of performers and instruments. Provided that it is well-mastered, that is, which brings me to an important point of the EX1000: It is not an IEM for Metal-type music. Something is missing with the metal on EX1000. I cannot name it, but I will call it "aggresiveness". The EX1000 is more of a relaxed and open IEM that is not suited to hard-and-loud metal music.

Large-scale epic-grade classical is rendered with absolute inpwnity. I have previously thought that the IE 8 does that with unchallenged supremacy, but the EX1000 here takes the, uh, cake. Even North Korean propaganda songs (in mono!) sound majestically awesome on the EX1000.

So. EX1000: Open, smooth, transparent. Distant vocals, light bass. But the sound-stage is worth an extra mention. It is truly amazing.

 

Conclusion

So you've found the cake. Was it worth it? I am not going to crown it "the king of universals", because that's not it. But on most points, the EX1000 can fire upon its competitors, beat them down, throw the husks under a Crusher panel and beat them some more. Certainly, the IE 8 has a boarderless sound-stage and the Turbine Pro-Copper has deeper bass and electrostatic-like resolution while the EX600 provides a very front-row-seat vocal experience, but the EX1000 wins on every other point. With the rave of good reviews received by the EX600 and the EX800ST (MDR-7550), I'm not going to say much but... Brace yourselves. Sony shall rise again.

 

Epilogue

Not much to write here, since a $400 (that much now?) IEM is much less accessible (and acceptible) than the $150 IEM. Umm... Audition the EX1000 if you can, even if you don't have the intention of buying them. The major slice of cake here is the amazing sound-stage. And remember, this is a closed IEM. Then there's always the EX600. If you can't afford the Viper, go for the Copperhead, eh?

Also, that was loooong.

 

Trivia

Originally the title suffix was to be Developers, developers, developers, developers, but whatever. Didn't I warn you about my randomness?

post #2 of 16
Thread Starter 

So I got the (Rockbox 3.2 applied) iRiver H340.

Solid small plastic brick. There is a blue button marked "NAVI" on it, which either means iRiver has predicted the film Avatar, or Cameron got his idea somewhere else.

I need to be soft with this thing, HDD and all.

Sound... EX1000, of course. Same MP3 files that are used in the PCM-D50. No sound enhancements applied.

An LCD remote control is used.

 

I seriously cannot hear much difference between this and the D50. Maybe the sound stage is a bit more narrow on the sides, but sibilance has increased yet the treble sounds a bit more recessed.

Hmm.

 

Yep, I'm outta Head-Fi.


Edited by 3602 - 7/19/11 at 10:03am
post #3 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3602 View Post

Even North Korean propaganda songs (in mono!) sound majestically awesome on the EX1000.

 

 

After reading the above statement, all I can say is I'm sold - I'm finally pulling the trigger on the EX1000s!

 

Other than that, when you actually get to the point, this is a very worthwhile review, with some very interesting observations.


Edited by music_4321 - 7/14/11 at 1:55pm
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 

Mah, you coulda just said "you're way too random, dude!".

It's all good. But seriously though, I think there's something majorly wrong with me. I'm not joking.

post #5 of 16

^ No, you have your very particular style of reviewing/writing - which I'm sure others will appreciate (more than I do) - and I don't see why you should change that. Like I said, there are some very interesting observations to be found in your post/review (at least to me). I may not agree with some of the things you say - perhaps more than a few even - but I do value impressions/reviews like yours a lot more than the overly enthusiastic fanboy type of posts, or even posts where people will agree with me 100%.

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 

Yep, it's all good. Different opinions welcome. And thank you for the your support.

post #7 of 16

Excellent post! popcorn.gif

post #8 of 16

Nice review.  One thing though.  I've never noticed things behind me in the spherical sense of the SM3 though.  I would most certainly have sent them on their way withing the first hour had that happened to me.  YMMV.  =)

post #9 of 16

I'm pretty sure the bass of the EX1000s can go deeper than the Coppers', the EX1000 is just more effortless in those regions. The "vets" here rate it that high because it is controlled and not overdone like in the case of the Coppers. Both are bottomless to the human ear but I think the EX1000 can go lower, the Copper just has it a lot more boosted and thus more apparent.  Usually bigger drivers do better bass and this LCP driver does those regions better than most and much more. It's not for bassheads but the performance is there, try a ZO and you'll notice that the EX1000 has authority there when called for. The best "big" bass in a universal is imo the FX500, but the MG7-MG5s will probably also be up there, both with more subbass than midbass.  


Edited by Inks - 7/14/11 at 4:26pm
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 

You may be right, Inks. I certainly need to listen some (a lot) more. When I had the Coppers, the entire lower region surely impressed (read: scared) me.

post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 

OK. On Madonna's Miles Away (Grooveshark stream), I am constantly turning my head around since there is something on the right side that resembles my telephone ringing. And my telephone is not ringing.

Holy carp.

post #12 of 16

And so, it begins... eek.gif

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
  • The individual earpieces do not weigh any more nor less than the EX600 earpieces, despite being all-metal. I have not weighed the cables but I say they are heavier than EX600 cables.
  • To my ears, Isolator tips tip up the extremes, making the whole thing more V-shaped. GLaDOS does not like this.
  • After a simple 10-hour burn-in, the bass hits harder now.
  • You may or may not find this important, but much of the EX1000's cable is hollow. When you bend it at a sharp angle or in a U-shaped shape, the bend area is quite flat - flatter than the EX600 cable bent in the same form. This reminds me of some of the Sennheiser earbud cables (MX 70 VC and OMX 90, I had both) and those are not quite good.
  • Right now, even on the PCM-D50, the sound is open, relaxed, yet detailed; there is "some" bass. The bass is getting better, so right now it's still a bit too early for me to properly judge its bass.
  • Jazz is rendered effortlessly.
  • You can chuck Monster SuperTips on the EX1000. I tried. The Gel ones grip really loosely and don't enter my ears at all. The Foam ones grip much firmer and can actually enter my ears. Much improved isolation, slightly better bass and slightly less treble. Also it may or may not have mucked up the sound-stage. Need to re-listen. Now I need to down some tea.
  • Also the Foam SuperTips cut down wind noise by two Beaufort scales.

Edited by 3602 - 7/30/11 at 1:17pm
post #14 of 16

I'm able to get a pair for $324 from Amazon.  I have the Westone 4's currently.  I'm debating if I should go ahead and get them or just pass...

 

I guess the only way to find out is to get them and compare...

post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by kevroc View Post

I'm able to get a pair for $324 from Amazon.  I have the Westone 4's currently.  I'm debating if I should go ahead and get them or just pass...

 

I guess the only way to find out is to get them and compare...


 

 

Get them... then sell them to me if u hates them..

 

if not.. then sell the w4 to me LOL

 

 

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