OK, I have an "almost complete" impressions of the MDR-1R. If you guys are ok with something that's almost, but not completely done, here you go. Naturally I'll be padding this post and updating it as I complete it and will inform readers of the update :-
Notes: No unboxing pix. Go see Jude's Gallery for it's unboxing.
Comfort And Design
These are extremely comfortable headphones. Probably the most comfortable headphone I've ever worn. They are a true circumaural that encompasses my ear however, they're not excessively large (i.e. they're not like the Denons D2/5/7000, nor Fostex TH-900) and the pleather is really soft on the earcups as well as the headband.
Sony was extremely nice enough to give us a presentation about the design of the MDR-1R and they spent a lot of time thinking about comfort during the design.
As you can see from the pictures, despite a thick frame earpad, where it's coupled to the actual earcup itself is only a thinner frame. Sony explained that the logic behind this is to allow the inner portion of the earpad (the part closes to surround one's ears) to be the softest part of the earpad and they were bang on the money on that - at least to my sized ears.
Note also the angle of the driver. This was done on purpose for prominent ears and the driver angle actually is parallel to mine.
Another detail Sony highlighted to us was the way the cups swivel, it was designed to swivel at an angle. This was to ensure a decent seal.
Whilst walking around though I did some microphonics from the squeak of either the headband or one of the swivels creaking. It was a little distracting but I've not determined the source of the squeaks.
Overall comfort and design though, it's an extremely comfortable headphone to wear around the head and hang around the neck. I've not actually tried another headphone that's that comfortable (and I've tried quite a few). The 235g weight contributes to the comfort quite a bit.
Having said that, at least to my experience, I do feel that it's a delicate headphone. The materials used does make me wonder about the durability of the product. Let's just say that I probably wouldn't cramp it into my bag of hefty Nikon camera body and lenses, nor would I simply throw it around.
The MDR-1R comes with a rather simple ballistic material softcase with two pockets (one for the headphone and the other for cables), and with 2xcables for straight audio and for smartphones (3xbutton). For both cables, the amp/source end is a right-angle plug. Sony mentioned one of the issues with cables in general is getting tangled up. So they have designed the cables to have mini parallel grooves all laterally back to front which prevents sticking. I'm not certain if this actually works or if the groves help, but I've not had tangles with these cables so far.
I have had a problem with the plug loosening out of my player quite a few times especially when I'm walking. This doesn't happen to my other headphone cables and I've not measure the diameter of the plugs to see if they're they same or smaller than other 3.5mm plugs. Another possibility is the right angle plug may not be a natural position especially when I have the DAP in my pocket or pouch.
In my honest opinion, Sony is going to have extremely stiff competition releasing these headphones out now with their current pricing (approx $300?). There's a wave of headphones released all around now - V-Moda M-100, Sennheiser Momentums, Ultimate Ears UE6000/9000 - some priced less, some the same, and some more than the MDR-1Rs but all around the same category. Each of them have their unique SQ targeting to the similar audience. I myself have the M-100s and Momentums which I can compare directly against the 1Rs.
To my ears (after spending a few weeks with the M-100 and Momentums), the MDR-1Rs have a somewhat more flattish signature. Whilst in my opinion former two were more U-shaped (one more than the other), the MDR-1Rs seem to have more mids - typical of a Sony signature. Although from memory not as much as the Z1000. I'll need to head to the shops to do a direct comparison so please take that comparison with the Z1000 with a large grain of salt.
Sony mentioned that the MDR-1Rs were designed for the current style of music. They had a slide presentation which showed how over the past 3 decades, bass in popular music had shifted lower into the spectrum (primarily due to digitally produced music) and the MDR-1Rs were to designed to accomodate this trend. They consulted experts in the industry in UK during the defining of the MDR-1R signatures.
So with that said, the MDR-1Rs do seem to have more bass than the past Sony headphones I've heard (as such my remark about taking the comparison with the Z1000 with a large grain of salt 'cos I'm not certain if the Z1000 has more mids, or if the MDR-1R's bass/treble forwardness has given the apparent illusion that the MDR-1Rs has less mids than the Z1000 - if you follow my meaning).
Here's where I start comparing the MDR-1Rs with the other new headphones I have on my shelf. Despite the MDR-1Rs having more bass and still some forward extensions to the trebles, I find that they're conservative. As mentioned in the 2nd paragraph, to my ears and my interpretation it feels flattish because of this conservative signature. From Sony's presentation, I have a feeling this was meant to be their more bassy headphone.
Comparatively the Sennhesier Momentums have a more forward bass and treble. And the V-Moda M-100 have an extremely engaging lush bass. As such by comparison the MDR-1Rs to my ears don't feel as exciting as those other headphones. Having said that, I'd probably describe the MDR-1Rs to be more accurate in presenting acoustic instruments. Again this is probably contrary to Sony's expectation as from their presentation, I get the sense that electronic music was what they had in mind.
Aside from the frequency response, the soundstage and separation is quite decent. It's not as wide as the V-Moda M-100 (which to be honest, is unusually wide for a closed headphone in this price category) and leans more towards the Sennheiser Momentum's more intimate presentation, but somehow doesn't feel as congested as the Momentums. Instrument separation is still quite distinct.
Imaging: [Yet to be filled]
I find these headphones to benefit from amping. At least for my iDevices, I find the bass to feel somewhat thin but after having something like the V-Moda VAmp or VentureCraft Go-DAP 4.0 drive the MDR-1Rs the bass fills in more nicely.
As per above, in summary from a physical comfort perspective, I feel these are one of the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn. And it's isolation is also very decent, way above average and one of the better ones. In terms of balance of isolation and comfort, I'd have to say this is the best next to the Denon D7100/5100's. Sound quality-wise however, I'd categorise it to be more of a flattish accurate sound signature. It lacks the "fun" factor however to my ears, it represents the music accurately. Despite being designed for more modern music, I find myself liking older music with lots of vocal and natural acoustic instruments. Such examples include :-
- Nicki Parrott's Sakura Sakura
- Lana Del Rey's Born To Die (Video Games good rendering of the voice but harpsicord lacks detail)
- Billy Joel (most of his albums actually)
- And the only electronic music I like that goes well with the MDR-1R is Hideki Matsutake's Digital Moon Album (for those who don't know, Sony's very 1st Walkman came with a demo tape with Hideki Matsutake's version of "Diamonds Are Forever")
EDIT: Added macro pix of the grooved cable