Sony H.ear on Wireless Bluetooth NC Headphone MDR-100ABN

General Information

The h.ear range combines High-Resolution Audio capability with bold, distinctive design. Vibrant sound has never looked so good.

Bluetooth® and One-touch NFC let you listen to music wirelessly, free from the restraints of a headphone cable. And LDAC transmits approximately three times more data (at the maximum transfer rate: 990 kbps) than conventional Bluetooth® Audio, which allows you to enjoy High-Resolution Audio content in exceptional sound quality near to High-Resolution Audio.

Whatever’s going on around you, Digital Noise Cancellation blocks out background noise so you can focus fully on the music.

Latest reviews


Pros: Wireless sound quality, comfortable, full gamut of options
Cons: wired non amplified sounds is pretty meh.
I'm just going to cut and paste my forum writeup. Has one media link that hopefully carries over.

So this headphone went through a slew of sales recently and I snagged the verdant blue up for $169. I have a few head phones under my belt now, mostly good ones but my last one, the sennheiser 4.40bt, was just all over the place and hard to enjoy. I am happy to say the mdr100abn has been a very enjoyable headphone. They are quite simular to my ostry kc06a with its solid but not over blown bass and crisp highs. Let it be known that I love my bass, but you will never mistake me for a basshead. The 4.40bt offered up quite a bit of the sub frequencies (it was essentially a crusher without the headphone shake gimmick) but I actually found it very fatiguing on the ears. The mdr100abn is a headphone that I can listen for an hour.. take em off and still feel like I could put them back on and keep listening. The sound signature is pretty much what I have read, a warm "listeners" sound in which I needed to boost the low and high end only slightly (poweramps 10 band eq, ) to suit my taste, I really like a good thump with crisp highs. With that I was able to set it and forget it, the sony's sounded great on all music genres without needing further eq touching.

It is also so far the best sounding wireless connection I have come across, the quality hit was very low. I don't spend a lot of money on my headphones but I like to make sure my other areas are strong, phone DACs, AptX support, and high quality versions of songs (I currently run around with my best stuff high bitrate AAC files made from my own FLAC libraries). So with AptX, honestly I only find one song that I can notice a definite fail point, the high end of when the chorus starts up at 1:17, it is so busy it turns to mush on re-compression. On the 4.40bt there was a definite quality difference between wireless and wired (which was unpowered to boot) but these sonys do such a good job I don't feel like I need to reach for the wire now. I also tried out a plain old SBC connection to my laptop and was yet impressed again when I actually found the sound to still be very enjoyable. I didn't notice the breakdown in the high and low end I usually do with SBC, instead the over all sound just sounded a little softer, usually I noticed it in vocals. I really wish I could play with the Ldac protocol on it but sadly I have no other sony devices around to use it. I should see android 0 not so long after release (galaxy s8) but that is still so many months away. For kicks and giggles I tried a wired connection with the amp turn down. Despite what everyone said I actually got a LOUDER sound with the amp turned off using my phones headphone jack. However I needed to use a bit more eqlizer work and I still couldn't get the mid range restored to "normal". So yea, funny things happen when you bypass the amp.

As for its noise canceling, I can't find much to complain about. It works quite well as long as you don't ask for impossible feats, but alas I am one of those people who get horribly nauseated because of the high pressure effect NC produces so I always have it off.

if I had to rate which music types I found this performed best with it would be electric, drum and bass, trap. Some of my rock albums sounded real good while some suffered, but that could be just me not liking how they are mixed. It is amazing how many songs I prefer a live show version over the cd version because of the mixing.
Pros: Long battery life, excellent sound quality, portable case, noise cancelling, ease of use, good comfort, wide sound-stage.
Cons: Some background sounds can still be heard. Recessed 3.5mm socket only works with supplied cable. Ear-pad replaceability not clear.
It's always a pleasure to meet Nao Tsunoda of Sony at the Tokyo festivals as there is plenty of interesting technology being developed and on display. At first when I saw a row of colourful "h.ear on Wireless" MDR-100ABN headphones it didn't bring up my interest (a range of colours is usually strike 1 for good sound quality) being told that they were Bluetooth (strike 2), and noise cancelling (strike 3!) didn't encourage me any more. However Nao did want me to try the new high-res LDAC Bluetooth transmission, which can send 96k-quality audio from one of their Sony NW-A25 Walkmans. So I got out a micro SD card and plugged it in, put them on to have that weird shell-cupping effect from the noise cancelling shut out most of the ambient sound. Starting up a well-listened Alexis Cole from Chesky Records I was then blown away with the sound quality. 

That lead me to arrange to borrow a pair, along with a Sony Walkman to review, meet impressions being what they are. So a couple of weeks later a box arrived with one of their demo pairs and a well-worn NW-ZX2.
What hadn't been clear at the show were two main things. The first was that the headphones fold neatly inwards, though the cups don't fold flat. Secondly once folded, they fit into an included zip-up shell case. Accessories included are the requisite micro-USB cable for charging (and firmware upgrades, though I don't know at the present time whether this can be done by customers or not. The pair I demoed at the show were upgraded on the spot by the engineer with new firmware that improved the sound quality noticeably).
Design-wise, aside from the range of unusual colours, they are of a fairly straight-forward common design, plastic surrounding metal components at key points, such as in the headband and hinges. The cups rotate enough for fit and size adjustment is the usual click-y sliding arrangement on either side. The Sony logo is suitably discrete on the headband. 
Clamping force is moderate and the earpads unusually slope inwards and only have a relatively narrow contact margin of 1cm. That makes them press neatly and reasonably comfortably around my ears. I'm sure people with big ears are going to have the usual issues though. It isn't clear if the earpads are easily replaceable. 
In the middle is a 40mm titanium-coated driver in front of which is what looks like a small microphone, which is part of the noise-cancelling system. On the outside are microphones that are part of the noise cancelling system and also double as voice mics for use with your phone. 
A micro-USB port for charging and a 3.5mm socket for input completes the picture. The problem here is that the 3.5mm socket is recessed, so the included 3.5mm cable is needed if that input is to be used, something I found out the hard way when I tried to use a regular cable. However the headphones work best in wireless mode, and the battery life is listed as 20 hours of playback over Bluetooth with noise cancelling switched on, this isn't likely to be a problem. 

Of the three ways to play back music -- over Bluetooth, via the 3.5mm socket in active mode, and via the socket in passive mode (power off), surprisingly using the high-res LDAC transmission or APT-X (almost CD-quality transmission) sound best. In passive mode, the impedance goes down to 16 Ohms (from 32) and the sensitivity down to 98 dB (from 103) and the sound becomes rather bad, with the highs rolled off and the bass a mess. The MDR-100ABN were clearly intended to be used in active mode. 
Between the LDAC and APT-X transmission methods, I had trouble making out any noticeable difference in the limited time I had to test them, where in the past, with other equipment, I had observed a very slight degradation in the sound quality using APT-X transmission versus USB or S/PDIF.
As I believe the analog input has to be digitised for the noise cancelling system, using a good DAC doesn't derive any benefit. That doesn't matter, as the sound quality is good enough that I reckon if you blindfolded someone and put the cans on their head while they were playing music over Bluetooth in noise-cancelling mode, they would have no idea that they weren't listening to a regular pair of $500 or better headphones.
Their sound signature was another surprise. I was expecting a warm "consumer" tuning, with more bass and less treble than neutral. However what I got was closer in balance to a pair of MrSpeakers Ether C, as they have a fairly neutral sound signature with very present treble and sufficient, but not overly strong bass. Combined with the angled earpads, I felt I was receiving a good degree of detail and instrument separation in the sound, giving an overall feeling of spaciousness. Poor recordings couldn't be glossed over, which meant that my favourite Julie Driscoll tracks from the '70s, with their less than stellar and quite bass-light mastering didn't fare so well. 
On the other hand, I found great results with acoustic music. I know Sony likes their headphones to have good deep bass delivery, so I was surprised that the didgeridoo in Dead Can Dance - Song of the Stars didn't quite have the reach-down-and-touch-you deep rumble I was used to with, say the MDR-Z7s. There was a good amount of spaciousness to the delivery and an impressive degree of instrument delineation with no hint of degradation from the noise cancelling system. 
Some of David Chesky's latest binaural albums have been my go-to lately, their depth of soundstage and strong drum lines being instantly addictive. While I wasn't quite hearing the shifting of clothes or the lips of performers parting with the MDR-100ABN, as I could with high-end headphones, they rendered the feeling of the music incredibly well.
I decided that I should give the noise cancelling system a proper run, so I took them with me on the train to and from the city. I've used Sony's noise cancelling on airplanes before and the experience was much the same with the MDR-100ABN. While mostly low frequency sounds are eliminated, voices and higher pitched sounds, such as the fans of the air conditioning units on top of the trains, were still audible, even when listening to music. It wasn't a major issue, as there was still sufficient noise cancellation that I could enjoy listening regardless. On the train itself, with binaural tracks making instruments seem to jump out of space, I had to remember that nobody else was hearing what I was on the train and just relax. 
In my video, I put the noise cancelling to the test with a microphone, and it was still possible to hear my voice outside the cups with the noise cancelling on, but background music with a low bass rumble was readily cancelled out.

Before now, I had the idea that noise-cancelling headphones were only really useful for flights, and mainly to help relax and sleep, as I find IEMs too uncomfortable to use for long periods.  With Sony's MDR-100ABN headphones, they have created a device that could very satisfactorily used as a main pair of headphones, such is the quality of sound. When everyone is talking about direct digital connections with headphones, Sony has achieved the same thing with wireless.  The only downside is that, as far as I know, the high-res LDAC transmission method is exclusive to Sony, so you'll need a compatible Walkman or Experia phone, though I found APT-X to be of sufficient quality with most music.
tried older generation of these Sony MDR ZX770BN: Warm, with mids and treble taking back seat, more like a sleeper headphone for long term listening comfort. Good to see they seem to be changing signature. The NC is quite there and noticebable, better than Plantronic implementation.
In the video, you demonstrate the noise cancelling by cupping a mic in your hand and holding it into the HP cup.  Can you get a pretty good ball park sense of the dB's created by producing various volumes in the HP, while doing the same thing with the mic feeding a dB meter, even if it's just an iPhone app?
Hey there Currawong, look forward to a small comparison against the original MDR-100AAP. I owned the 100aap and liked it but not enough to keep it but am syatting to think about the 100abn for convenience. The biggest knock on the 100aap for me was wind noise through the port hole and the dynamics were not quite as high as I like. If you can comment on either it might help ke make a decision. I will have to sell the B&O H7 which i picked up so am concerned about the loss i will incur if not happy.


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