Sony MDR-MA900 Over the Head Style Headphones

Average User Rating:
4.02778/5,
  1. bpandbass
    4.5/5,
    "My Impressions so far: Great all-rounders"
    Pros - lightweight, iPhone case-friendly jack, easy to drive, neutral, mid bass, soft treble; airy, musical mids; good soundstage, good with synths
    Cons - skinny, non-detachable cable; slightly floppy (has lots of magnesium though), sub bass, initial ear pad comfort, sometimes shouty upper mid range
    I purchased the MA900s to go along with my AKG K702 65 Anniversaries, as I wanted a headphone which didn't require amping and would be a little more musical with synths (AKGs tend to be too honest and 2D and untextured sounding with electronic and synthesized bass, and prefer instruments more). And so far, my impressions are that these are a great open-back, all-rounders for beginning audiophiles who want a headphone that goes well with almost every genre (save for bottom heavy stuff like dubstep and more mainstream rap) but do not have the amps and other equipment necessary for other open backs such as Beyers, Senns and AKGs to perform at optimum levels.
     
    Much of my electronic music is disco, diva and deep house; and liquid funk (downtempo drum and bass), which I prefer to sound more airy, quick and upper to mid bass-oriented with emphasized vocals. The MA900s handle both of those genres admirably well and remain quick. They have a slightly rolled off, although still airy treble, which is what I prefer for downtempo music. The MA900s also handle downtempo trip hop and neo soul well with their smooth vocals and dark sound. The MA900s are overall a mid bass and mids-heavy headphone with roll-off on both the high and low end. Sonically, they remind me of a cross between a slightly rolled off AKG Quincy Jones Q701 (with its musical, neutral but lean misds) and the laid back sound Sennheiser HD500-series but without the thick lower mid bass and echoey, somewhat reverberated vocals. Although on paper it would be similar sounding to the AKG K702 Annies and K712 with its slightly elevated mid bass and rolled off highs, the MA900 is less analytical and has a more airy sound from my listening experience with less thickness.
     
    Ear cup comfort is a little so-so FOR ME, and this is due to the fact that I have overly sensitive ears. If I shift the earcups all the way forward, my ears do not touch the driver cover padding, however the edge of the pads dig into the cartilage behind my ears, causing them to become sore. I find that shifting the headphones slightly back to where the driver pads lightly touch my ears is the most optimum position for comfort. I usually hate having things touching my ears and creating hot spots, but it over time it ceases to become an issue, and my ears quickly settle in. Will most people experience initial comfort iffiness like I will? No, but for those who have sensitive ears, you might want to keep this in mind. The MA900s do not have the roominess of Sennheiser ear cups, but they don't have those echoey vocals and head clamp, either. 
     
    The MA900s are fairly light and lack that bulky feel that AKGs and Beyerdynamics have. Which means they don't feel overly cumbersome and are ideal for longterm music listening sessions, but this does mean their build quality is unfortunately rather on the floppy side. They don't have that chunky, substantial feel like Sennheiser HD518s or HD598s have. However, the MA900s have a large amount of magnesium in their build, comprising the driver back grill, the yolk and the yolk arms attached to the ear cups. The MA900 does look and feel premium, it just does not feel rugged or chunky.
     
    Another small complaint I have is the cable, which is hard wired, skinny, long, terminates to a standard 3.5 mm jack which oddly has a plastic barrel surround. On a positive note, the jack is fairly slim and will easily fit in an iPhone case. And that ties into my final point. The MA900 has a nominal impedance of 12 ohms, and although they benefit from amping, you don't need one to get them to sound good (unlike AKGs). You could run them off a potato if you wanted to. The phone case-friendly 3.5 mm jack and included snap-on stereo plug that seems like an afterthought hint to me that the MA900s are not mainly targeted towards the audiophile who has tons of high end gear and likes to swap for higher end cables, but to the average consumer who wants a no-fuss, elegant, relaxed, dynamic-sounding headphone.
     
    If you have a good amp and want a drier, more analytical sound, I would suggest instead checking out the new AKG K612 or Q701 instead. But if you are a beginner with open backs and do not have an amp to work with, I cannot recommend the MA900s highly enough. Just make sure to treat them well and not be rough with them. They retail for 300 US dollars, but you can get them for less than 200 on Amazon. A great headphone for around 200 dollars.  
     
    Update: The ear pads, which were initially too pokey and hard have since broken in over time, and have become much more comfortable. I expect this comfort to get even better over time. 
    rocksteady65 and vidzegg like this.
  2. DrikTheTroll
    4.0/5,
    "Comfortable with a very wide soundstage"
    Pros - Soundstage, natural slightly warm mids
    Cons - Bass is there but not particularly engaging
    Without a doubt, the MA900s have the widest soundstage that I have ever personally experienced. To provide some context, I don't think my personal soundstage processing is particularly sensitive at all (actually I would characterize it as bad). In many instances, I can't discern the difference between headphones that many others notice significant differences between.
     
    When I 1st put the MA900s on however, it was an eye opening experience for me - the soundstage was wiiiiiiide - immediately and easily discernable.
     
    Comfort is very good - better than anything I have owned with the exception of Koss PortaPros (very light, low-pressure on-ears).
     
    Highs are bit rolled off, but not lacking too much detail (for me - I experience fatigue easily with aggressive highs - not an HD800 kind of guy). Mids are a strength, leaning slightly towards warm. Bass is there. but not particularly engaging, depending on the style of music you are listening to. These are not LCD-2s 8)
     
    Almost perfect on something like Phildel (highly recommended), lacking somewhat on bass-heavy EDM (Subfocus).
     
    I find myself using these a lot simply because of their comfort - if you are looking for a headphone to listen to for hours at a time, these fit the bill (I have a small male head but fairly large ears - 70mm.
     
    Recommended.
  3. a_recording
    4.5/5,
    "Sony MDR-MA900: Comfort Kings"
    Pros - Supremely comfortable, light weight, natural laid back sound, wide soundstage
    Cons - Lacks a little sparkle, bass slam could be tighter, flimsy feeling build
    Along with the summary below, I have posted a comparison review of the MA900, Audio Technica AD900X and AD1000X here:
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/654161/review-comparison-ath-ad900x-vs-ath-ad1000x-vs-mdr-ma900-its-still-over-900
     
    I've also got a youtube review of the MA900. If you like the video check out my channel for more reviews :)
     

     
    Summary:
     
    BUILD
     
    The build of the MA900 is interesting. The headphone feels very light weight and almost flimsy in the hand. This isn't because it is badly built - on the contrary build quality is quite decent. It is the proportion of the parts, the super light weight and the way the frame is so flexible which makes it feel flimsy. As soon as you put them on your head you realise how much effort has been put towards minimising the MA900's weight though, which is almost enough to forgive them a little. That said if the MA900 was at least made out of metals it would have inspired more confidence, even if it were a little heavier.
     
    SOUND
     
    The MA900 has a neutral sound, slightly on the warmer side but overall very balanced and generally inoffensive. The bass has good definition but doesn't dig terribly deep (as per most open headphones) and the mids have a somewhat dry tone, whilst lacking a little extension at the top. They sound great with female vocals. The MA900 actually sounds like a Sennheiser HD650 with less lower bass and more forward upper mids. Because of the steeply angled driver the MA900 has a open and relaxed soundstage, with good definition and instrument placement. However with the relaxed treble it does sound a tad more intimate than say, the AD900X or AD1000X. Overall they are very agreeable and the main negative that can be said about the sound is that it might be too conservative. It's perfect for hours and hours of listening with different genres, and the comfort helps a lot in that regard.
     
    Overall
     
    I love the MA900 as a workhorse headphone and it's what I wear most of the time at home on account of its comfort. The build quality is okay but won't inspire any collectors of Sony gear. I really think the MA900 has been overlooked on Head-Fi on account of initial bad reports about the build, and though it's not the most exciting of cans it certainly is a fantastic all rounder. At the current Amazon Japan pricing it's a steal.
  4. draven5494
    4.0/5,
    "Great sound, questionable build-quality."
    Pros - Open, clear sound. Detailed and refined. Nice tight bass with plenty of texture. Superb soundstaging and imaging. Very comfortable and light.
    Cons - Flimsy build-quality. Extremely long and cheap cable.
    First off, let's just get the negatives out of the way.  The MDRMA900s feel and look like $20 headphones.  I have no idea what Sony was thinking when they designed these.  They feel and look cheap.  The cable is also extremely long and thin.  It does not exude quality.  However, I suppose there is a bright side to the cheap materials used here - the MA900s are feather-light.  When I say light, I mean they are the lightest full-size headphones I have ever used.  They truly disappear on your head when wearing them.  They are one of the most comfortable headphones I have used and when wearing them I quickly forget how cheap they feel in my hands.
     
    Now that the negatives are out of the way, let me get to the overwhelming positives - the sound quality.  As soon as I put these on, I knew they were something special.  The MA900s are very open and clear sounding.  To my ears, they have fantastic detail retrieval while not sounding the least bit harsh.  Vocals are very detailed while still retaining a full quality.  The bass is tight.  It's not boomy nor is it lacking.  Seeing as how these are open headphones, and I do mean open, the bass is actually a nice surprise.  I was expecting less bass but came away completely satisfied with the quantity and quality.  These truly are very well-rounded headphones.  
     
    As for the soundstage.  It is expansive.  Sounds come from all around and instrument separation is some of the best I have ever heard.  Imaging also seems to be very precise.  All of this may be due to the large 70mm drivers.  I don't know.  Whatever the reason, the MA900s are technically very impressive.
     
    All in all, the MA900s were a big surprise for me.  I bought them out of sheer curiosity and fully expected to return them when I took them out of the box.  That changed the moment I put them on my head.  
     
    It reminded me that while it's nice to have a pair of headphones that look good, it's far more important for them to sound good and the MA900s sound very good indeed.
    rocksteady65 likes this.
  5. Amarphael
    4.0/5,
    "Lightest headphones with the biggest sound "
    Pros - Can go loud with harsh recording with little or no penalty, Grain-free; Very convinciong sense of space for out-of-head imaging
    Cons - Some forwardness on lower mids lowers transperancy; Too polite treble
    The MDR-MA900's the current the top model in the latest open-back line-up from Sony. While  the latest  generaraion is definitely not the greatest with a distinctly less "hi-tec" vibe then the previous SAx000 models (as perhaps can inferred from the one-digit-less suffix and the of course a much lower MSRP pricing) the MA900s, in particular as a TOTL model,  comes with an altogether different concept- that of the "Full-Open-Air" design, Originally pioneered in the '90's with the MDR-F1 (by one of the principle desingers responsible for the legendary MDR-R10 by what i read in a certain blog, RESPECT).  
     
    How this design is differentiated from a standard Open-Back is the minimization of the chassis frame to just the base area needed to support the  driver assembly and  for the  mounting of the earpads.  The rest is left for the open-air  to fill in- Think open-baffle speakers on the head… This serves for both sound-quality and comfort pourposes: Main objective is to minimize resonances both from interaction of intial sound waves coming from the driver and reflected waves form the head with the frame, thus achieving a less "boxy" sound-field.  Second is to reduce total weight of the frame, thus achieving a better long-wearing experience. Major disadvantage with this approach is the weakend bass power because bass is omni-directional and with open-back headphones some reflection off the frame is beneficial for an adequate response (with potential added support from the earpads material). With the MDR-F1 Sony implemented a simple low-pass passive acoustic filter foam-like funnel  to enhance the bass impact (you can read about it here) and while it contributed to a rather acceptable mid-bass response the lower bass was still mostly MIA. For this reason probabley, the MA900 has gained a 40% increase in diaphragm size to a (presently) whopping category-leading 70mm (2 4/5"), With next largest AFAIK HD800's 56mm. This of course does not imply that size alone matters for quality and while MA900's bass is  indeed a major improvement from the F1 it still is lacking in authority in the lowest octaves (20-60hz) compared to some other open-backs. It is mid-bassy rather than plain-bassy, but in the context of it's design goal as described above it's is very good and I'd never describe it as an anemic response. To relate some sense of reference I'd place it as noticeably above the border-line anemic ATH-AD900 and slightly ahead of MDR-SA5000 in the upper bass presense.
     
    What defines the character of MA900's sound is of course how open it sounds- A very strong sense of sound that is originating outside of the head and in front of it, almost as if projected from a miniature soundbar on the forehead rather than coming from stereo elements hanging just next to the ear.  It's not as vast or extremely spacious (HD800, K701) but in terms of a sheer-openness scale  it's got to be  one of the best I've heard from a conventional headphone with earpads , barring electrostats.  Whether there's an added  psycho-acoustic side-effect from how light and non-intrusive it sits on the head I can't tell for sure but it the it's definitely something more convincing even compared to some very strong open-backs as the AD900. I feel that the mild treble response holds aback this "disappearing trick" some, a more neutral (=brighter) treble response would've done nicely to futher illuminate the notes' overtones and improve the imaging accuracy which is only slightly better than average, About on par with the F1 and AD900, but clearly inferior to a laser-etch grade projection of the likes of SA5000, ATH-AD2000. On the upside it depicts a very cohesive soundscape with absolutely stellar center-focus.
     
    MA900's tonal quality is a mixed bag for me.  The moderately  forward  lower mids, along with the added bloom reminiscent of the mid-bass hump and the very polite treble response do hinder somewhat the sense clarity and refinement   of an otherwise a remarkably clean and grain-free sound. I do wish Sony would have continued the reference-type sound sig from the SA5000 in the frame of of Full-Open-Air  but I realize that it was not the intention from the very concept's beginning in terms of Ergonomics and technical restraints such a frame puts on overall fidelity. Perhaps if this concept would hopefully be continued in the future that a more advanced diaphragm material could be utilized instead of the "old-tech" Mylar PET, such as the LCP (Liquid Crystal Polimer) from recent models such as MDR-1R, MDR-Z1000 and EX1000.  
     
    Regarding the build quality: Many describe these as flimsy and cheap feeling. I partially agree. The frame indded doesn't retain a rigid composure such as similar models in the price range may, Certainly MDR-F1 and ATH-AD900 IME.  A notable "flaw" shows if the cans are held single-handedly from one cup the other will "flop" sideways. However, this design has to be taken in the context of Sony designers trying achieve the lightest frame and a minimalistic form-factor at the same time. So having definitely tackled both these goals with great success I personally thin the flimsiness serves it's purpose and it's totally forgotten as soon as they gently conform on the head .  Another common rant, as plasticky as they seem, the most vulnerable/thin areas which are the arms and forks between headband and cups are made of magnesium, not plastic. My only gripe would be the stiching of the headband could be better and I saw a couple of loose ends just a few weeks since I opened the box.
     
    To conclude my impressions, I think the main selling point of these headphones lies not in sheer  technical capabilities but in combining an incredibly light and comfortable full-sized from factor with a nicely articulate yet smooth signature , and especially with a great staging ability to make the music float (almost) as convincingly as  if it was originating much further away than few cm from the ears that the enormous  70mm transducers are reproducing it. These traits do add-up for a superb all-purpose headphones at a very competent price.
  6. fogwall
    4.5/5,
    "Perfect all-rounders for a perfect price"
    Pros - Detailed and musical, airy mid and treble, terrific soundstage, comfortable.
    Cons - Build quality perhaps, it's a Sony though..
     
    SONY MPR-MA900
     
     
    Value
     
    At $200-300 they are a steal. They are competing against the much more expensive high-end variants and partly excel at it. Overall, you cannot go wrong with these headphones – 10/10.
     
    Audio quality
     
    I have analyzed these using my laptop, connected to Audioengine D1 DAC/amp, listening to everything from piano concertos and symphonies to hip-hop. The bass goes deep and can be strong when needed without influencing the middle. The middle range is very clear and detailed. The treble is airy, soft and gentle, maybe a bit muffled at times. Soundstage is very convincing thanks to the open design and the placement of the membranes. I find these on par with much more expensive (1k+) high-end headphones. They are wonderful for acoustic recordings and work well also for studio productions. Overall, I find these very musical and pleasing – 9/10.
     
     
    Design
     
    At first sight, they may seem quite cheap and plastic and not a luxury item that is built to last for a long time. But still, it’s a Sony… The look might fool you. After a while, I have learnt to appreciate them for what they are, and they do have a certain elegance and unique design after all. The cable is ordinary and rather long, adjusted for comfortable listening in the armchair rather than in front of a laptop. Overall, the design and build are OK – 6/10.
     
    Comfort
     
    This comfort factor is very important to me when choosing headphones. Compared to most high-end headphones on the market these sit very light and gently around the ears. The slight opening in the cups prohibits sweat and heat during long listening intervals and leaves room for the ear lobe as well if worn correctly. The cups sit firmly enough not to fall off when moving the head in various directions. The headband is fine but could be a bit wider, for a more even weight distribution. Overall, comfort impresses – 9/10.
     
    Comparison to PFR-V1 and MPR-F1
     
    This is a special section that involves how the MA900’s compare to Sony’s discontinued models V1 and F1, all targeting the same kind of users. The V1’s may sometimes have the edge when it comes to soundstage, but most often, also with acoustic and binaural recordings, it is a dead heat. The V1's lose because of the cumbersome fit and weaker bass. Besides, they are rather mediocre for all-round listening. Unfortunately, I have not tried the F1’s yet. The smaller membrane size should bring less bass, making them a bit on the light side sound wise. They are more open and should therefore be a bit more airy, both in terms of comfort and sound. The comfort may have an additional advantage with velour cushions and a wider headband. Both the V1’s and F1’s are becoming scarcer nowadays and may cost more than they deserve to satisfy the curiosity.
     
     
    rocksteady65 likes this.
  7. colgatetotal
    2.5/5,
    "Remarkably average"
    Pros - Super comfortable, smooth treble
    Cons - Veiled midrange, weak bass, limited availability
     
     
     
    70mm drivers, fully open design, premium materials, and simply the best comfort of any headphone at any price. The MA900 has many things going for it. The sound signature is a little laid back, but ever polite. One would think that a 70mm driver could provide a hearty slam. This isn't the case -- sub-bass is almost nonexistent, and midbass is inferior to that of a Grado. Decay is slow on the MA900, so the midbass isn't super-crisp. Treble, on the other hand, is quite smooth on this headphone. It's not a bright headphone, so even the shrillest of instruments, such the piccolo, won't pierce your ears.
     
    The big problem, however, is the midrange. It's clouded. At $350 (imported from USA to Canada in June 2012 -- Sony Store only carries up to MA500) I wanted a headphone that was crystal-clear. Unfortunately, I think the thick fabric covering the driver has ended up muffling the headphone a little. Soundstage width is a little congested unless the MA900 is worn in reverse. But in reverse, bass extension and impact are reduced even further.
     
    I suspect the frequency response is tuned to more of a studio monitor headphone than a musical headphone. Unfortunately, it means the MA900 is miserable-sounding at a low listening volume, as the bass is too neutral to provide any spark to the music. Ultimately, while the MA900 is a good headphone if you blast your music, I like to normally listen at <75dB SPL. For that, my Grado vented SR225i (2 large holes, 8 small) bettered it in most aspects, as its frequency response better follows the equal-loudness curves. I ended up returning my MA900.
     
    There's a good reason why the street price has dropped from $300 to $200, and that Sony Canada only carries the lesser models (MA100/300/500) in stock. It just isn't very good. The lesser models are even worse, however, so I don't know what Sony's thinking.
     
    Viber likes this.
  8. Gu Sensei
    4.0/5,
    "Excellent Price/Performance Value"
    Pros - superb soundstage, excellent clarity, light, comfortable
    Cons - flimsy feeling build quality
    I have been using the MA900s since they came out. I like them a lot and think they are an excellent value. I use them at my office where I need cans with minimal isolation in order to hear door knocks. I have cycled through a lot of different headphones for this role and until the MA900s, had settled on the F1s. I really like the F1s but feel the MA900s are a notch superior in terms of sound quality. They just sound cleaner- better focus and clarity. More present bass. The soundstage is excellent but I slightly prefer the F1s for that.
     
    I find the F1s to be more comfortable as well (they would get my vote for most comfortable cans ever). The pads and headband material feel softer than what is on the MA900s. The MA900s headband touches only on one small area whereas the F1s seem to more evenly distribute the pressure. The MA900s seem to slightly clamp a bit more. My ears have a little more clearance with the F1s also. They both are exceptionally light. The MA900s build quality seems a lot closer to something in the $50 range. They just seem flimsy and I really am not that impressed with the feel of the material for the padding. The F1s feel and look a lot nicer. I love the metal microphone driver coverings. The MA900s are a bit sleeker and perhaps offer less of a geek factor and probably function better for listening while lying down.
     
    I think the F1s are a supremely cool pair of headphones and are under appreciated around these parts. I would much rather listen to them day in and day out than a lot of other higher/high end headphones that I have owned and tried for use in my office (HD800s, LCD2s, AD2000s, HE-500LEs, RS1s, PS1000s, GS1000s, HD650s, and quite a few others). All of those phones has aspects of their sound signatures that ultimately I found disagreeable or too distracting. While I absolutely love the soundstaging and comfort of the F1s, the MA900s are just a touch behind there and seem a bit more than that ahead in terms of sound quality. They are not the last word in refinement or detail but nothing bothers me about them and there is plenty I like.
     
    Both the F1s and MA900s are sitting side by side and I have completely gravitated towards Sony's newer offering. The other open pair of headphones I use at home are the Stax 009s, and there is no comparison there. However, the MA900s deliver enough of that high end feel to my ears that if I ever step back and truly realize what a ridiculous sum I have spent on hi fi headphones and components, I could scale back to the MA900s and an iPod and live a very content audio life.
     
    I really like the Z1000s too and hope that an MA1000 is in the works.
     
    As usual, that is just me though, and no one should ever buy a pair of headphones based on what I think.
     
    [​IMG]