Sony DR-S4 Dynamic Stereo Headphone - Reviews
Pros: Sound with minimal EQ; Build quality; Price;
Cons: Sound without EQ; Stock comfort is downright worst;

Design is quite old-looking, as you would expect. I personally quite like it, but I for sure wouldn't wear these outside. In general, they look like unrefined V6s / 7506s.

Build Quality & Comfort

Excellent. Headphones are built from very tough plastic. Even after 42 years there isn't a single scratch on mine, and they feel like a tank. They are also pretty light and clamping force is not overly strong, so they are not uncomfortable, once you replace the original pads which are absolute trash. Foam inside basically disintegrated from age so when you put them on your ears will be directly pressed by plastic which is intolerable for more than like 15 minutes. When it comes to comfort with new pads (I used ones from my Sony WH-H900n) its quite decent and you can wear them as long as you want (Note: Replacement pads should NOT be ticker than around 2 cm / 2/3 of an inch, or headphones will sound like absolute trash). Headband is basically piece of synthetic leather and is okay for me, but I'm not sensitive to headband discomfort at all. Cable is coiled and can stretch to around 3 meters / 10 feet. It terminates in 6.3 mm / 1/4 inch jack so you will need adapter if you want to play them from your phone. These also have volume controls on each earcup, and allegedly opening the cans and bypassing these will increase fidelity somewhat, but don't quote me on that.


General description of sound would be: dark, boxy and closed. Interestingly, these use paper cone drivers like cheap full-range speakers usually do, and while they certainly do not sound like absolute trash, their sound profile definitely carries some resemblance to sound of those speakers. However, with very minimal EQ, these can be brought to sound quite acceptable, especially for the price.


Bass is unimpressive. Extension doesn't reach much below 50 or 60 Hz, so if you love your sub-bass, you might want to stay clear of these. Mid-bass is... weird. At around 100 - 125 Hz there is hump and it makes everything sound quite boxy, especially when paired with hump in high bass and lower mids. This hump is exactly large enough to make everything boxy and dark, but just small enough not to destroy clarity completely, and I can't really explain how that sounds. High bass is also slightly elevated, but not to an extent that mid bass is. It provides decent detail and texture to the bass. Now, issues with bass can be fixed quite easily. Equalizing 125 Hz and 250 Hz by -3 db and - 2 db respectively will get rid of boxiness, and it will open up the sound big time. After doing this, you will be left with quite neutral and detailed bass that hits decently.


Mids are decent. They are definitely pushed forward, so in vocal-focused music vocals will step forward. Now, as I mentioned earlier, there is also bit of hump in the lower mids, as well as general decreasing tilt of midrange. Low-mids hump increases boxiness and darkness together with the bass, and general lack of upper mids decreases detail of the sound. Now, don't get me wrong, amount of detail is decent, but is a bit lacking. These are definitely not revealing headphones. Fixing general issue of boxiness is achieved by decreasing 500 Hz by around -1 db. This, coupled with EQ of the bass, will get rid of most boxiness, and headphones will sound much, much better. I didn't play with upper mids since I didn't mind lack of detail too much, but 1-2 db increase in 4,5,6 kHz should solve most of the issues you might have.


Treble is okay. In general, I'd say its pretty flat, somewhat recessed and a bit rolled off. If song has lot of treble it will be brought forward, but it will never be in your face. Detail retrieval in treble is acceptable, but don't expect to tell subtle differences in metallic sounds. Treble is, however, very well defined (probably with help of quite full sounding mid-range), so instruments like Hi-Hats will sound well defined and full. Basically, treble is full, non-sibilant and non-fatiguing. I used +3 db boost at 16 Hz to match the roll-off.

Soundstage and Instrument Separation

Soundstage is lacking. While vertical soundstage is decent, due to its relatively neutral and mid-full sound, horizontal soundstage and soundstage depth are basically none. This is not really helped by the fact that headphones aren't very dynamic, so quite instruments won't sound particularly distant. Soundstage will improve slightly with new pads, but it will certainly be subtle and will depend on the pads used. Imaging is acceptable, stuff that is in center is pretty well centered, and instruments that are off to sides are also displayed okay. However, general lack of soundstage will render this more or less - useless.
Instrument separation is quite good actually. Even without EQ, every instrument is full and decently defined, most probably due to the quite full mid-range. After EQing the boxiness out (again, these somehow escape being muddy even when stock), it only gets better, with vertical soundstage improving and separation also getting a boost.


In general, for their low price of around 20$ I paid for them, and their age, Sony DR-S4s are very decent headphones, and I will go as far as saying that if you aren't looking for that sub-bass, have spare over-ear pads laying around and are willing to use bit of EQ on them these are some of the best headphones in 20$ price range you can get. If you like relatively neutral, but also not very 'excited' sound these also might float your boat. If you are producer / mixing engineer these can be quite useful for monitoring mid-bass to low-mids region, because if there is excess clutter there, these will tell you instantly.
For the simple purpose I got these - listening to synthwave with headphones from the 80's (well, 1979, so almost 80s) and getting lost in nostalgia for that time you weren't even born in - these will do. These will also help my amateur production / mixing work. However, I would not recommend these as your only headphones, especially if you are used to V-shaped sound profile of modern headphones in this price range.
Thanks for reading this absurdly long review, and have a great day.

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