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Music:

  • Basement Jaxx
  • Burial
  • Celldweller
  • Daft Punk
  • Massive Attack
  • Rob Zombie
  • The Chemical Brothers
  • The Crystal Method
  • Skrillex


Setting:

  • Files are all in Apple Lossless (.m4a) format, exept for Basement Jaxx and Celldweller that are in MPEG-1 Audio Layer III (.mp3 @320kbit/s, 44100Hz).
  • Google Nexus 5, running Android 4.4.4 KitKat official ROM.
    • Google Play Music (v. 5.6.1609P.1258283)
    • Neutron Music Player (v. 1.78.3)
  • Apple MacBook Pro 7.1, running OS X 10.9.4 Mavericks.
    • iTunes (v. 11.2.2)


Design and comfort:

I think that along with the AKG K550/K551, the Sony MDR-1R are the most comfortable available headphones in the $0-$399 market segment.

They are lightweight (240g), the faux leather pads are very soft and fits perfectly around the ears. The headband is not tight, I didn't feel any kind of pain or discomfort during extended use.

Remember that comfort is one of the most important things (if not the most) while listening to your music: if you feel a bit of pain, then you'll focus your attention on the pain rather than on the music. So, I'll suggest you to take the comfort factor seriously.


Sound perception:

I've used the Sony MDR-1R for about 7 months, 2 hours a day at least. I think that to sounds like Sony wants they sounds, the MDR-1R require several hours of running and not necessarily at maximum volume.

During the first test, in fact, they seemed to me fairly anonymous. But trust me, give them some time and you'll fall in love with them.


Bass: [7/10]

There's some difficult with the lower bass frequencies: the output volume drops dramatically. This fact gives you the sensation like "Ok, probably I'm asking them too much, too bad!". I've found it particularly evident with "Basement Jaxx - Stay Close" track.

With the upper bass frequencies, instead, they gives you their best: tight, precise and fast beats, not boomy sounding like Beats by Dr. Dre that covers all the other music' details.

Overall, it's easily distinguishable a broad spectrum of tones in this frequency range.


Mids: [8/10]

I think that the Sony MDR-1R sounds better than how the charts show because Sony has found the perfect balance beetwen upper bass and lower mids, and between upper mids and lower treble. This is the magic of the Sony MDR-1R.

I found the resulting sound of the MDR-1R slightly warm and dense. I've never had the feeling of separation between low/high frequencies, typical of headphones designed to deliver overwhelming bass and sharp vocals.

The upper mids are clear, crystalline, female voices emerge out in a firm manner, without being too invasive or detached from the rest.


Treble: [6.5/10]

As I already said, the lower treble are perfectly combined with the upper mids, but I've found some problems with the highest frequencies.

To me, it seems the same problem that I found with the lower bass: the output volume is a little bit lower than in the rest, so the upper bass and mids tend too cover the perception of these frequencies. Nothing serious, consider also the possibility that my ears might have a lower sensibility to these higher frequencies.

Overall, the Sony MDR-1R doesn't reproduce airy vocals with a well-defined texture, but consider that it's "normal" for sealed headphones. Indeed, the voices seem a little too sharp.


Soundstage: [7.5/10]

The soundstage reconstruction of the Sony MDR-1R is quite good. The only criticism is that the sound that should come from the front and placed at the same height of the listener, instead of coming from the front it seem positioned more on the top, at about 60 degrees from the listening plane.



So, why I consider the Sony MDR-1R the best headphones available in the $0-$199 market segment? Simply because they can reproduce a very good sound with a large music genre, from EDM to rock and jazz, and because they are very, very comfortable and even after several hour of usage, you forget to have them on your head.