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Thread Starter 

Magnifying a short point in the massive history of Sony, I would like to showcase the awkwardness of Sony in its R&D between early 2000 and a decade after. I would explain my take on two of Sony premium products - one is the SA-5000(SA5k) from early 2000 and the latter era is represented by the Z-1000(Z1k).

 

Both were at one time or another the flagship headphones of Sony. The SA5k costed over $600.00 on its release and is open back) while the Z1k started in the market at around $450.00, is closed back in design and now available under $300.00.

First for some pictures of the SA5k.

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             

 

 

 

                                         (Yes it comes with glorious full metal stand)

 

 

 

 

Let me disclose that the weak point of this product was the rather weak soldering that Sony did at the cable to driver links. They used to cause symptoms like sound loss in one channel to complete de-linking. As obvious, my pair is re-cabled with a Quad-braided 7N OCC cable (probably 1.2m) from Via-Blue which looks excellent in strength and build quality.

 

 

 

OK, now I have tried SA5k with different sources and amps, and so far my favorite is the Tube Magic A1 Hybrid Integrated Amplifier from Maverick Sound via an HRT MS-II for DAC. The SA5k rated at 70 Ohm of nominal impedance is easy to drive to high volumes with low end DACs like the FIIO E7 and the HiFiMediy Sabre DAC, however show marked improvement with better source and DAC.

The SA5k is very very transparent of source and amp colorations and an easy reference headphone in so many ways. My proof for this is the awful shouty vocals that were evident when paired with my Home Receiver and Amplifier(Onkyo DV-SP402 via TX-SR501 A/V receiver). This is definitely the worst combination that I have heard as far as source/dac for the SA5k is concerned. However better than most in many ways, so to speak. 

 

 

 
 
 
DRIVER TECHNOLOGY
 
Sony is known for using avant-garde technology for its drivers. The one in SA5k is the same material in the Bel Mondo Anti-aging mask cosmetic product a.k.a Bio-Cellulose, a common type of bacteria which though easily found, needs time and great efforts to refine for consumer use. This was a weird move from Sony at the time(early 2000s) but more and more companies have been adhering to this technology ever since.

      

 

 

 

                                                 

 

                     

                                    

 

 

So how does the bacteria made beauty mask perform with regard to Sound reproduction ?
 One word - Spectacular!
More over the driver is angled at the ear to provide excellent imaging with a convincing soundstage(sonic space) which while not so wide(like a Beyerdynamic DT-990) is still great in height.
 
 
 

 

 

(angled drivers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE( Sound Quality)
 
Sound is always distorted when described in words mainly due to the acute sense of listening that varies like finger prints. This is a bitter universal truth. Best is to explain in a relative sense to a reference system(which to me is Electrostatic(E-stat) headphone & I bet most of my readers wouldn't have had the chance to audition an E-stat due to their rarity today)
 
So I would rather try my best to write up an absolute sound description in relation to over all driver tuning and frequency response/emphasis. The frequency limits of the SA5k are 6Hz at the low end to a whopping 110KHz at the other extreme which is silly and the largest frequency gap I have seen in the past 5 years of audio research and reading. While the highs are marvelous and tuned forward, the bass is low in impact and thickness - making the over all sound bright, tactile and fast in reproducing musical data. The bass is tight and goes rather low but doesn't bleed into the vocal area to make the mids warm or lush. The vocals are very transparent though far from being completely transparent of source. The detail level is stunning at the very least. I think this is easily the most detailed sound I have heard. The sound, in a nutshell is in the bright side of neutral and thinner due to the tight, slightly impactless and very fast decay of the bass. Over all very analytical presentation due to the extremely resolving treble and transparent mids. The bass though low in quantity is brilliant in quality due to the slightly E-stat feel I get out of it.
 
On a whole, the sound quality is not very short of spectacular. The sound suits analytical listeners at best and not those needing musical ecstasy and thick lush vocals. I think Sony really did come out with a gem of product with the SA5k. Thanks to their weird experimental sense and out of fashion engineering.
 
 
 
WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE( Sound Quality)
 
Sound is always distorted when described in words mainly due to the acute sense of listening that varies like finger prints. This is a bitter universal truth. Best is to explain in a relative sense to a reference system(which to me is Electrostatic(E-stat) headphone & I bet most of my readers wouldn't have had the chance to audition an E-stat due to their rarity today)
 
So I would rather try my best to write up an absolute sound description in relation to over all driver tuning and frequency response/emphasis. The frequency limits of the SA5k are 6Hz at the low end to a whopping 110KHz at the other extreme which is silly and the largest frequency gap I have seen in the past 5 years of audio research and reading. While the highs are marvelous and tuned forward, the bass is low in impact and thickness - making the over all sound bright, tactile and fast in reproducing musical data. The bass is tight and goes rather low but doesn't bleed into the vocal area to make the mids warm or lush. On the contrary, the vocals are bright & very transparent of source. The detail level is stunning at the very least. I think this is easily the most detailed sound I have heard. Over all very analytical presentation due to the extremely resolving treble and transparent mids.
 
On a whole, the sound quality is not very short of spectacular. The sound suits analytical listeners at best and not those needing musical ecstasy and thick lush vocals. I think Sony really did come out with a gem of product with the SA5k. Thanks to their weird experimental sense to always try something new and set new trends and landmarks. 
 

 

 
FAST FORWARD to 2011!
 
 
A NEW BROTHER IS BORN (Sony MDR-Z 1000)
 
 
The Z1k provides an outrageous yet similar frequency response(5Hz-80Khz) though rated at 6 dB more in loudness at 108 dB/mW than the SA5k(102 dB/mW).  Sony has employed another piece of weird technology for their drivers which is relatively newer than Bio-Cellulose. 
The diaphragms are made of Liquid Crystal Polymer(LCP) films. Some of the characteristic of LCP is its inertness and temperature sensitivity which is next to nil and the ability to resist high power -
 in this case a crazy 4W.  The voice coil connected to the diaphragms are marketed as Oxygen free Copper(OFC).  Definitely you can count on them to serve you for a good period of time and this might be a counting factor to some buyers. Also the build quality is truly excellent and much above the SA5k, along with the detachable cable and magnessium alloy housing employed. Sony has done the impossible in achieving very high output rated at 24 Ohms and can play to deafening loudness even from a very weak source. 
For the sound quality, I find the bass distorts a bit and find it 'glassy', the vocals are very forward and the highs are tamed yet not the most refined either. I couldn't find much of a difference while upgrading the source and amp, although if I were pressed, I would say the sound-stage got tiny bit wider. Talking about sonic space, it is rather congested due to the closed back design but is accompanied by the excellent isolation. A comparison with the SA5k is not worth really, as I find the SA5k better in almost all aspects except the isolation and portability. I still wouldn't say the sound is due to the LCP made drivers, because another product using this technology by Sony( the MDR EX-1000) is pretty much hailed by audiophiles, and my initial impressions upon its audition was full of praise.
 
I think the SA5k is a true marvel of engineering and an example of  Sony's potential, while the Z1k is not anything too bad but an opposite sight, a sight where Sony has emphasized on the wrong things. Both are excellent products in their own right but at the end, its the consumer market(you and me) that decides and the Z1k has not reached its target consumers. Well, I am not really here to demolish the reputation of the Z1k by any means, just voicing my opinion on the outcomes of Sony's R&D.
 
 
 
 
CLOSING DOORS 
 
 
Audio Manufacturing is now a very standardized industry using standardized products and most manufacturers today rather mass produce the same thing and satisfy customers with massive advertisement. This is where Sony does things different and maintains the old way.
 Along with advertising their products(annoyed with the MDR-1R ads all over the internet), they are excellently creative with using new technology like making drivers out of Bio-cellulose, LCP etc. in Audio and DSLT technology in imaging. I, for one, feel that this is an amazing practice and the consumer market is always welcoming experimental products,different materials and  new technology ;
 Well at least I am!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 THANKS FOR READING!
 
 

Edited by ayaflo - 5/4/14 at 7:13am