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Originally designed to make you feel

SONY IER-Z1R

Rating:
5/5,
  • We designed the drivers in the IER-Z1R headphones from the ground up, to work in total harmony together. The consistent sound signature carried out across each driver works as if they were a perfect single driver.

    Hear everything with a frequency response to 100kHz
    The super tweeter in the IER-Z1R was developed to deliver ultra-high frequency extension with a new aluminum-coated LCP diaphragm and external magnetic circuit. Its ultra-fast response faithfully follows the fast dynamic transience of music, which provides you with live concert hall atmosphere.

    • 0.20" Driver
    • 0.47" Driver
    • Balanced Armature Driver
    • Network

    Features
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    In pursuit of perfect sound
    To deliver music with true emotional impact that takes your breath away; every element of the IER-Z1R headphones has been designed and developed for this one purpose. By paying attention to the smallest details, you can distinguish every nuance and subtle characteristics, in astonishingly faithful sound reproduction.

    [​IMG]
    Originally designed to make you feel
    We designed the drivers in the IER-Z1R headphones from the ground up, to work in total harmony together. The consistent sound signature carried out across each driver works as if they were a perfect single driver.

    [​IMG]
    Hear everything with a frequency response to 100 kHz
    The super tweeter in the IER-Z1R was developed to deliver ultra-high frequency extension with a new aluminum-coated LCP diaphragm and external magnetic circuit. Its ultra-fast response faithfully follows the fast dynamic transience of music, which provides you with live concert hall atmosphere.

    [​IMG]
    For deep bass and fine details
    Inheriting MDR-Z1R's diaphragm structure, the 0.47" dynamic driver's diaphragm consists of magnesium dome and aluminum-coated LCP. This full-range driver offers deep bass and fine mid-high sound.

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    Faithfully reproduce every note
    The newly developed Balanced Armature driver is equipped with a magnesium diaphragm, silver-coated copper voice coil and gold-plated terminals. These realize high definition sound that reproduces even the smallest fading note.

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    Audio grade capacitor without distortion
    Developed from thousands of listening tests, the dedicated film capacitors on the network give much lower distortion. Audio grade solder is also used throughout to ensure maximum signal transparency.

    [​IMG]
    Naturally controlled acoustics
    The vast experience and sense of our engineers is the key to acoustic design, which delivers the most natural sound. The finely tuned IER-Z1R acoustic structure steers audio from the trio of driver units as though they were a single, ideal driver.

    [​IMG]
    A perfectly straight sound path
    The super tweeter is on a coaxial position against the nozzle. This layout directly delivers accurate super-high notes to your ears with an ultra-wide frequency response up to 100 kHz.

    [​IMG]
    Refined-phase structure for accurate acoustic blending
    Time coherence of the sound from the three drivers is just as important as their wide frequency response. The refined-phase structure ensures sound waves are aligned, through precision adjustment of the width and length of each sound path. The magnesium-alloy construction also further eliminates vibration and unwanted resonance to deliver perfect clarity and liveliness across musical genres.

    [​IMG]
    Sound Space Control for wide sound space
    For balanced sound, from low to high frequency, an acoustic tube connects to the cavity behind the driver unit. This technology presents a wide sound space with rich and natural notes.

    [​IMG]
    Quality cable for preserving signal purity
    Engineers didn't overlook the quality of the supplied cable, which releases the full potential of the IER-Z1R. From sound quality to comfort and less touch-noise, the cable helps you immerse yourself in music on the go.

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    Balanced connection available
    The IER-Z1R in-ear headphones come with a 0.17" standard balanced connection cable which separates left and right signals completely. This minimizes cross-talk that results in sound deterioration.

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    Silk insulator and non-magnetic plating
    Silk braid in the supplied cable reduces touch noise and works as an insulator against vibration. Using twisted pair wiring and a non-magnetic undercoat for gold plating on the plugs ensures legato and clean signal transmission.

    [​IMG]
    Silver-coated, oxygen-free copper cable
    The IER-Z1R uses silver-coated, oxygen-free copper wire, designed to minimize resistance and signal-transmission loss. The result is less sound degradation, finer detail, and smoother treble sounds.

    [​IMG]
    Expertly crafted in Japan
    Sony products made in Japan are synonymous with absolute quality and performance, and the IER-Z1R headphones are no exception. They are lovingly crafted with only the finest components and manufacturing techniques, resulting in exceptional sound quality.



    General Features
    Headphone Type
    Closed, Hybrid
    Driver Unit
    Hybrid
    Impedance (Ohm)
    40 ohms (1 kHz)
    Frequency Response
    3 Hz–100,000 Hz
    Sensitivities (dB/mW)
    103 dB / mW
    Cord Type
    Detachable Y-type
    Cord Length
    Approx. 48" (1.2 m), silver-coated OFC strands
    Plug
    L-shaped, non-magnetic, gold-plated stereo mini plug/L-shaped, non-magnetic, gold-plated balanced standard plug
    What's In The Box
    • Clip
    • Carrying Case
    • Cleaning Cloth
    • Cable holder
    • Headphone cable (approx. 47 1/4" [1.2 m])/balanced-connection headphone cable (approx. 47 1/4" [1.2 m])
    • Hybrid earbuds (SS/S/MS/M/ML/L/LL), triple comfort earbuds (SS/S/MS/M/ML/L)
    Price - $2,299.99

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Recent Reviews

  1. Redcarmoose
    Welcome To The Matrix
    Written by Redcarmoose
    Published Mar 4, 2019
    5.0/5,
    bright top z1r.jpg DSC_0212.jpg DSC_0222.jpg





    Hi Kids!
    [​IMG]

    Every once in a while a product will come around and change our viewpoint of audio. Most of us have been searching, scratching an itch to simply get new stuff. This searching can go on for years as the “magic unicorn” doesn’t exist; or does it?



    You may like the IER-Z1R or you may not. It all rests on a persons subjective sound personality preference. But if your truly into the modern Sony sound, I recommend the IER-Z1R wholeheartedly; as there is nothing not to like about it.


    The Magic Unicorn:
    For some the IER-Z1R could be that unicorn. And why not? There was a time in each of our lives when we had one headphone for years and years. It was a simpler time when only the music mattered and everything was magic. So what if? What if the audio landscape paradigm was changed, could we become monogamous again? Could there be one single IEM for everything, could there be the IEM that changes our ideas of what’s possible in sound reproduction?


    Let’s investigate the history and realization of the IER-Z1R. As only out in the wild a week, we’re going to find out if it’s possibly the mythological unicorn; the thing that didn’t exist.


    The Signature Sound:
    For Sony the Signature Sound is a statement. It shows the world they are leaders not followers. It’s a robust concoction that they are right and everyone else is absolutely wrong. If this concept is true it must be eventually accepted. In the world no new ideas are brought forth without controversy. The world is hard to change; especially the audiophile world where everyone thinks they are right.


    So in 2016 we saw a couple new products introducing the Signature Series and celebrating the 70th birthday of the Sony Corporation. The introduction was the WM-1Z digital audio player, the WM-1A digital audio player and the TA-ZH1ES DAC/amp and finally the full-size Z1R headphones arrived.


    At the time the gold plated WM-1Z was the most talked about; and for good reason; no one had ever produced a real gold plated, one pound, $3200 digital audio player before. These products were a bold statement because they were different. They basically said we don’t care what you think, this is our new sound; take it or leave it. Our IER-Z1R continues with this statement only somehow they perfected their sound even farther. The sound is more polished, more articulate and more accessible than anything they have ever made. So it’s apropos that it would come at the end; the crown jewel of the signature statement. A statement which has turned the audio world upside down, causing tears of joy and tears of shock.


    The Signature System:


    The DMP-Z1 Transportable Desktop DAC/amp


    The full-size Z1R Headphone


    The IER-Z1R IEM


    The TA-ZH1ES DAC/amp


    The 1Z Walkman DAP


    The 1A Walkman DAP




    The Sony XBA-Z5 IEM
    We should get the subject of the XBA-Z5 IEM out of the way right at the start. First off it’s a stepping stone to the IER-Z1R. It’s safe to say the IER-Z1R would not exist without it’s older brother. Sony learned about improving form factor and fit. Sony has basically taken the Z5 sound and super-sized it; more on that later. If you loved the 2014 Sony Flagship your going to love the IER-Z1R.

    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/sonys-new-2014-flagship-iem-xba-z5.733404/


    The Sony IER-Z1R IEM Review:

    Test Equipment:
    In my review I will be using a couple pieces of the Signature Series. This ecosystem is actually designed to work together to bring about enhanced results. As equipment combinations are close to infinite; I can say with a small amount of testing that the Signature Series does go together well; not being simply a marketing ploy.


    I have been given audio stuff before for review; but I must admit I purchased this Sony gear with my own cash, as I’m an Audiophile with my own money, same as you.


    In this review I will be using the DAPs, the TA-ZH1ES, the Z1R full-size headphone and the IER-Z1R. I’m using the full-size to try and substantiate the Sony claim that the IER-Z1R is the IEM version of it’s full-size namesake. Spoiler alert: The IER-Z1R is not only the linage successor to past flagships like the Z5 IEM, but is actually a sonic improvement over the full-size Z1R.


    Hold on, don’t faint!
    In many ways it’s impossible to compare apples and oranges. Some may argue that I’m off my medication that the IER-Z1R is an IEM and the Z1R is a full size headphone. Ahh yep? But.......their sound signatures are actually closer together than apart. They do sound the same and have a list of similarities in sound. The difference is imaging placement. So I’ve simplified these concepts for you here. But seriously that is all it really is. The full-size headphone has transducers outside your ears so the soundstage is outside your ears. An IEM goes inside of your cranium so the sound is inside of your cranium and outside your cranium. Also amazingly both the IER-Z1R and full-size Z1R reacted the same way to burn-in with both smoothing out after 100 hours and gaining bass detail and finesse.


    We now are going to need to center on subjectivity. Some listeners like IEMs better and some listeners like full-size headphones better. I like IEMs better than headphones due to how the soundstage is presented. The last couple of years I have concentrated on IEMs more. So yes, your going to get an opinionated review; DEAL WITH IT. Still the reason the IER-Z1R IEM is technically better than it’s full-size namesake is actually due to frequency response. Frankly the IER-Z1R does vocals better.


    There I said it.
    The IEM is simply more a well rounded performer in the end. Most of us full-size Z1R owners have had to switch to aftermarket cables and get the exact correct amp to dial-in the sound of the Z1R full-size headphone. Sony actually reiterates how they are now including perfect cables for the IER-Z1R and they really are perfect, both physically and sonically! There is no need to buy another cable. You probably will not even want different cables here.


    The full-size Z1R
    And remember too, for some listers the sound of the full-size Z1R was never going to work for them. Some folks are simply looking for audiophile neutrality and not our warm U shaped Sony House Sound. What Sony did was dial in a less U shape into the end sound signature of the IER-Z1R. Maybe it was simply easier to do? The IEM has three drivers per side, the full-size Z1R only has one? But to summarize, the IER-Z1R is completely usable right out of the box. It’s doesn’t need a special cable to be it’s best. Obviously the IER-Z1R is so transparent that it reveals what is upstream; so better information in, better information out. In fact let’s get into the sound signature............


    Sound Signature:
    What if I told you that you have been lied to your entire audiophile life?


    “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”


    Color and bass response does not effect transparency! It’s all a lie!
    Ok, I was making all that up. It does to a point (only to a point) but somehow the IER-Z1R works around the concept offering so much detail along with the color that you could almost believe the above.


    So you’ve just been lied to about being lied to your entire audiophile life? Of course you knew that.
    What the IER-Z1R does in the end is provide a really big soundstage. Ok stop. It’s kinda beyond soundstage.......it’s the Matrix. It’s the biggest most darn soil-your-shorts-soundstage you or I have ever heard. It’s not just big, it’s everywhere. It’s behind your ears where those things that hold your glasses on end. It’s above your head a distance and almost where the top of your shoulders are. Hold your hand three inches above your head in the center.......yep..it’s there too, it’s everywhere it’s the Matrix.


    How can this even be?
    Seriously I don’t know, I’m speechless? I’ve never experienced anything like this in all my years in audio. I put my first real audiophile headphone rig together in 1982 along side my Cerwin Vega 12”X4 horn system. A system which you could hear a city block away and subsequently a team of police cars would come if turned up full volume. Now you know why I’m into headphones........less sirens!


    So for most of us this is already going to be the largest soundstage ever created my mankind in an IEM. But you already knew that before you started reading right? But if I may, I would like to introduce another concept that is going on here.



    Density:
    The additive to this strange new spectacle is density. So what is density? I mean it doesn’t sound like it would be good. We have been told we need transparency not density? Density seems like it would occlude everything. Density in life blocks light rays and sound. What?



    Imaging with density:
    Due to our bigger than life soundstage an imaging creation has now been provided. With this imaging sound characters almost seem literally like real cognitive sounds outside your head. These “sound creatures” simply swim or run across our sonic inner and outer head movie screen and we simply sit back in dumbfounded open mouth drooling amazement. Get your tissues kids. But because density stuff has more weight, it’s thick and substantial. I’m not going to do any side by side IEM comparisons here, it’s simply not fair to the other IEM companies. There is nothing quite like the IER-Z1R. But after you listen to the IER-Z1R for a day, other IEMs, even the latest more expensive flagships sound like the image elements are translucent where our IER-Z1R image density makes those elements real. Real life! Welcome to the Matrix.



    Ok........are you taking notes? Wait a second....I’m making notes for you.
    Let’s get back to our list as stuff is starting to add up. The end result is an amalgamation of these elements to form a cohesive end paycheck. Are you with me? Probably not.........It’s fairly hard to explain what all this is. But I will do my best.




    Image


    Density


    Timbre





    Of the three ingredients the top two would mean nothing if the last concept didn’t come into play. Timbre; the differentiations in sound of the same pitch. This ends up supreme importance because at times multiple instruments are playing the same pitch. So we add density, we have imaging in the expanded soundstage and due to Timbre we are now able to identify each element for what it is. And.....this is how color and transparency can coexist in the same IEM. The final paycheck ends with separation of elements. For some it’s not going to be that noticeable, but that’s because they are not using the right front end gear. To look into this world the Sony 1Z DAP shows 90% of the world. With the 1Z you can see from the outside into a window and see this world inside. But for that door to open like in The Wizard Of Oz, you really need something with better imaging like the TA-ZH1ES. Sony basically outdid themselves with this endeavor making an IEM so transparent that it requires more than their best DAP to push it home. Also let’s not sell the 1Z short here. First off there is amazing synergy between the IER-Z1R and the WM-1Z DAP. Considering it’s portable it’s wonderful for what the team can do. You can actually go to high-output mode to power the IER-Z1R to almost it’s full potential. Though the TA-ZH1ES offers just slightly better imaging. Besides imaging they are two different products made by two completely different engineering wings at Sony. So they actually sound different. The transparency of the IER-Z1R is simply showing the character of what’s upstream. The TA-ZH1ES seems to actually offer more bass than the 1Z. This bass can be very different if you listen to the same song on both devices. After listening to the TA-ZH1ES the bass on the 1Z sits a little closer to the rest of the display without seeming to go quite as low too. Though this talk is splitting hairs here. If someone just had the 1Z and IER-Z1R it may be all they would ever need; the combo is that incredible!


    And finally for the last lie.

    Headphones and IEMs don’t need a room response bump.

    This IEM has no color except for the emulated room response. Speakers in an room have sound waves which radiate from the speaker cabinet wall. These waves bounce around inside the speaker and can actually compete in a room with the forward facing waves projected out front. The lower frequency waves emulated by the cabinet are projected sideways and backwards into a room and add a darker lower frequency “hump” called the room response. It’s called room color and folks stay up at night trying to figure ways to combat it. Still some can’t be stopped and it ends up being one of the the definitive differences between headphones and speakers.


    So with all these lies, it’s probably a good place to add a truth.
    Sony has made it the main goal to add room response to the Signature Series. That is what is different. That is what you hear different and that is what will separate these IEMs in Head-Fi history.


    Of course you already knew that these sound like speakers in a room right? All I can say is if you never heard them then you actually don’t know what they sound like. I’ve done my best and it’s still inadequate.


    Treble:
    Maybe the best part of the treble is where it is. Huh? Where is it? Well at times it has little sparkles sparkling like fairy bells around your ears. Really this depends on the music, but I have purposely tried to listen to the same songs with other IEMs and have given an attempt to try and understand what is different that is going on, because stuff IS different here. Again maybe this sounds boring but it’s soundstage, imaging, density and timbre once again. The ahh ha moment comes when you realize that vocals sound completely natural and fine. With some darker headphones the vocal range can sit slightly farther back in the mix. Listening to a young Robert Plant on 1969’s “Led Zeppelin” we can hear him like never before. Not only is Robert Plant’s voice up front and center in the mix, but it also integrates with the music perfectly. The whole experience is simply organic and natural. This experience was so organic I had to break out the granola from the health food store. It got me thinking, you know, Patchouli Oil, Granola.....Led Zeppelin. :)


    Robert Plant’s voice is a really important test because we know it, it’s an experience that tells of a truth. When it’s right in this game it’s right, and when something is off, it sticks out.
    So I feel funny using Sony’s own full-size flagship to go head-to-head with their own new IEM, but it is what it is. On “Babe I’m gonna leave you” both transducers do Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar intro, but when Plant’s vocals come in they are just that slight faint hint more forward using the IER-Z1R, which the full-size Z1R leaves out. Not only that but Robert’s first sung word is “Babe” after that one word if you listen he takes a large breath of air. Interestingly enough IER-Z1R showcases that breath in all it’s detail and texture. And please, don’t get me wrong here, both headphones convey the soul of the song. Both headphones can take me back to the feeling of hearing the song for the first time. But I had to slightly train my hearing to say the full-size Z1R headphone did it right, but the playback was always acceptable. With the IER-Z1R, there is nothing left to say; the song is played back in all of it’s perfection for all to admire. If you have read any other of my reviews you may notice I rarely use the word perfection. Here is perfection. There! Most of us have waited a long time for something like this. But you know what they say......”Those who look...........may find.”


    Led Zeppelin One 1969
    After owning this headphone a couple of interesting concepts can come to mind. There are better recordings out there, but what about musicianship, what about sonically unearthing a classic? At times audio isn’t about the best sound possible. At times it’s about retrieving and excavating and old classic. For many Led Zeppelin’s first album is a liked album but not a favorite. Recorded prior to any fame, the album has a slightly rough recording style. At first it can seem minimalist in approach. But with the IER-Z1R the microscopic detail starts to unfold the classic in a new and profound way.


    I’m not going to bore you with a song by song description, but I want to. :)
    Simply put; the album has far more multi-tracks than previously heard. What’s magical is in-fact the recording artifacts. There are places where the drums redline-peg the tape compression. There are places where Jimmy Page’s Fender Telecaster has a previously unknown treble tone. In fact the only way to describe Jimmy’s guitar in places is “electric” .........it actually sounds like it has electricity in the sound? The simplistic 1968 studio trickery of stereo drum panning can come off simply charming. I have to say I have heard this album for well over forty years, but never quite like this; and I’m grateful for the chance. These sounds heard with the IER-Z1R are so different in such a beautiful way they become strange and alien. They are not enhanced in any way, just more accurately revealed. For many of us we never could differentiate between sonic elements. A big part of the Blues inspired Heavy Rock sound was emulating and following. Robert Plant plays a note on the harmonica, the studio makes an overlap with his voice copying the harmonica. Jimmy Page tries to make the same sounds as Robert Plant’s voice with his guitar. So to have timbre details take the sounds apart, a first in this style of listening. Not only is this phenomenon new, it’s historic. One of the biggest thrills here is the rendition of reverbs. I’ve never heard reverb done like this. The Z5 was great at reverb, but it was not as clear, upfront and detailed as we are now experiencing. It’s almost like we now notice when the recording engineer dials in the recording room reverb. Again another surprise, having us ask ourselves if these sound elements were there all along. If there was one argument against multi-BA IEM configurations it would be here in this exact area; no multi-BA-array does reverb this well.


    Led Zeppelin One is a once in a lifetime experience; unless you push replay again.
    Most of my love for multi BA IEMs is due to their enhanced detail. So having an 0.47” dynamic diaphragm in the IER-Z1R is getting us a more natural decay; but because of the magnesium alloy build we are getting minimal resonance. The build is why the IEM is so heavy; it’s needed to add clarity and minimize vibration. The placement of three drivers unifies the time domain element getting BA resolution with-out the lack of reverb drawbacks typically understood to be an occurrence with balanced armature technology.


    And to be truthful the sound IS different than just a BA arrangement. We have a single per side midrange balanced armature equipped with a magnesium diaphragm, silver-coated copper voice coil and groovy gold interconnects. Still this IEM does not sound like the regular balanced armature signature style.


    “U”
    What the heck is a U; and what can it mean for us?

    We all already understand that a U signature means a boost in the low end and a boost in the treble. So unless your a dyed in the wool treble head, your going to like everything that is going on here in the treble. Meaning despite the slight strangeness of the frequency response, it somehow starts to all sound correct after a day or two of listening. The treble is even more understandable due to how every little cymbal crash has it’s own 3D area. I know the whole 3D area is a cliche! Every IEM review talks about 3D soundstage. But I’m sorry.......this is the first really big........really really big soundstage in headphone history. Not IEM history, but headphone and IEM history. So it could be said it’s the first 3D soundstage. Huh?


    It’s the first to ever create a real 3D soundstage. It’s never existed like this before.
    Treble elements are like fireworks in the sky. And every once in a while you’ll hear new aspects of songs you never heard before. Small things like an accent which was always there but somehow hidden all these years. Thus the quality of treble that doesn’t need sibilance edging brightness for detail. The detail here emulates life. The decay and timbre emulates life. And finally the treble presentation is diffuse like speakers in a room. There is some slight guitar emphasis going on in Queens’s Bohemian Rhapsody, I guess it’s always been there but somehow the song sounds new? So we always read about some reviewer telling tales of noticing a small little new thing in a song. My cynical side tells me we hear these new details because of an unusual frequency response normally. But I must admit it’s most likely going on here due to ability of resolve. If you clean your windows the outside is more detailed. Still this style of listening experience is why we are here. It’s surprise, “they actually did that part like that?” “That part was always like that?” Huh?

    So it jokingly could be said the IER-Z1R is a IEM emulating the treble of speakers emulating the treble of music playing in real life. Now that may sound convoluted, but at times obviously it can not sound like speakers but sounds like your really there with the music. Also this is not a hard stretch when these sound elements are all around you. I listen to a bunch of electronic music which has high pitch synthesis washes which are panned way out right and way out left then are panned back and fourth and to front and back. Somehow they are created like real objects almost alive at times, but never grating or harsh. It’s the pace and detail in the treble along with the natural decay of a dynamic driver super tweeter which saves the day. This goes against science but at times you actually feel like you hear the extended frequency range. But most likely it’s simply the technical ability of the super tweeter to display all the included information with surprising accuracy and pace. I know there has to be a roll-off as the only tweeters with no roll-off exist on home speakers. IEMs need roll-off due to the short distance from the driver to your ear-drum. With home speakers the distance across the air attenuates the treble. The IER-Z1R treble ranges as high as it needs to, but again it’s the placement in the soundstage which creates the canvas to view the information at hand.



    Midrange:

    This section was to be left out as there is zero midrange. What? Yes you must have heard, the IER-Z1R has no mids at all. Huh?




    What?



    The infamous IER-Z1R Midrange: Can’t we have it all? I mean we are paying a lot of money here. Can’t we simply have everything? The best answer here is the word “perspective”. The midrange is a perspective. It’s actually there completely. Try listening to Bohemian Rhapsody, get yourself into a dark room. Turn-off your cell phone and close your eyes and listen to the Queen song in full while paying close attention and you tell me if the midrange is completely there? Also while your at it what’s your opinion of the vocal rendition? You decide for yourself. Still if that doesn’t work you may have to stay after school? Maybe some other dusty midrange album?






    Maybe some Riz Ortolani can help us find our inner-midrange here?



    After listening for a while, folks realize where the midrange is. It’s always been there but just like visual perception, the mind doesn’t always look where it needs to. What I’m saying is most of us have found the midrange after some style of mental meditation. But again, crazy as it may seem; once you have stumbled upon IER-Z1R midrange enlightenment it normally stays with you for life. If not, maybe the IER-Z1R is not meant to be with you in your future. They are not for everyone. But remember too these audio opinions are reached by using whole systems. The end result is the end result of a whole system, just as a car can not travel with three wheels. At the bottom I will list the whole system as so to lessen confusion.


    The Bass:
    Ok, from here on out remember when I write the word bass what I mean is sexy as heck bass. I’m not going to write sexy as heck bass every time but simply make a mental note, when I refer to bass I’m referring to that “sexy as hell-one of a kind-world class- smooth as silk- IER-Z1R bass”. :)


    It’s why we are here. First off let me describe it to you. It’s Sony Z5 IEM bass, only way way bigger. Think having a 20 inch TV all your life, you win the lotto and these guys in jump suits come over and install a 70 inch TV in your living room. You turn on the TV and your eyes also get wide for a moment. That parallels the exact moment when you hear the IER-Z1R bass for the first time. It’s bigger than life and bigger than anything you ever heard. You basically can’t even imagine it. But....it’s not because it’s so omnipresent. There are a few new flagship IEMs out there with actually more bass. Again, the basis for our results here center around the concepts talked about earlier. It’s the ultimate quality bass. It’s not as intense as some flagships, but comes off with ease. It has finesse and composure. It’s got class and linage. It’s the Sony sound only taken to such an extent you will be shocked. I was simply shocked it was that well done. It’s the fact that the bass grabs the imaging and phase position that’s there. It doesn’t cloud the air but like a good home stereo, simply sits in the room, like a gentlemen. You never get tired of it as it’s it’s own separate world of detail. Layers and layers of different frequency of bass all at the same time. If the mixing board pegged the bass input, your going to hear that compression ceiling. If there is a synth wash at exactly the same pitch, now the timbre defining quality comes in to make it two distinguished bass tones right along side each other. But because of the soundstage you fully hear each placement as it was intended by the producer. The bass is spectacular from a phone but texture and imaging get improved with better equipment upstream.


    Due to the phase character and build material there are no extra resonance frequencies going on. It’s the most beautiful bass I’ve ever heard. More controlled than the Sony N3, denser than the full-size Z1R. Tighter than the Z7. And bigger than all. Though I did think Z5 when I heard it. But that’s the fun part, you can kind of follow the Sony history in sound. They are bringing the best to the table and using all they know. Their prior products were stepping stones to the world this IEM/Matrix provides.



    Overall Character:
    Even with our “U” shape signature nothing seems out of place. If you go and listen to 20 albums everything sounds natural and organic. There is no added character transferred to the music. With all this talk of bass you would easily get the idea of some fortified sound; some enhanced and artificial sound. But if anything it’s actually the opposite. What we have is a window to the soul of the music. There is an effortless, nonchalant as it is a factual quality of the purity of the recording.


    At times other famous 2019 flagships have painted a pretty picture for me but it was painted on clear cellophane. At first I could recognize the musical information but at closer inspection it wasn’t truly there.


    The IER-Z1R does solidified real life sound. If it’s from the soundstage thickness or phase coherence, I simply don’t know, but it’s there. The way it’s done is unique to the headphone world. Soundstage this wide normally borders on unnatural, but here it adds to the realism at hand. The soundstage is not just wide but it goes out and wraps around your head like a fish-bowl. It seems this will be, and already is one iconic IEM for 2019.



    Burn-In........your choice:
    This ends up to be a really important subject. You may not believe me but the IER-Z1R with 200 hours was a very different headphone. The 200 hour model became noticeably louder with less power. The 200 hours model seemed both warmer and less warm at the same time? The soundstage was noticeably bigger too. So even if someone refuses to burn-in.......all is well as the IER-Z1R doesn’t actually need burn-in to correct anything like some headphones. It’s fine out of the box but simply gets better with hours used. My personal IER-Z1R changed at the 70 hour mark from what they sounded like out of the box. Though at 70 hours they still sounded rather bass heavy. At 100 hours they really started to sound like the pair I heard with 200 hours.


    Physicality:
    This is an extremely heavy IEM. Though somehow it works due to how it balances on your ear. I use fairly gummy Sony Hybrid tips as well as the included tips. Sony Hybrids are actually very soft and will fail if a large amount of weight is positioned on them; meaning they deform with side pressure. Sony has included an expanded range of the firmer Sony Triple Comfort Tips, along with clear silicone. I can’t help but think Sony is encouraging the use of the Triple Comfort Tips due to their sound blocking ability and maybe stiffness? If you take your finger and touch your left earlobe then go forward until you feel the opening right below your ear canal, that area is where I guess the weight of the IER-Z1R rests. There is also a small area outside the ear canal where the IER-Z1R rests. Between these two points the extreme weight is spread out. They are the most comfortable IEMs I have ever used. They are handmade in Japan but have two sets of Chinese made silver plated OFC cables included. One has a single ended 3.5mm plug, the other a 4.4mm 5 pole Pentaconn balanced plug. Each end uses MMCX to join the cable to the drivers. Sony has used a unique technique of raised sidewalls to restrict the insertion angle of the MMCX plug. The design limits the angle of MMCX approach so joining connections becomes fool-proof.


    Packaging:
    The possibility of Sony emulating a jewelry box is a no brainer. That with the closest rendition of man-earrings makes these a first around these parts. Packaged like a pair of diamond earrings we find each pair having an included serial number on the back of box and above the actual IEMs stored inside. Included is a cable winder, a shirt clip, a polish cloth and both 3.5mm and 4.4mm cables. Included is a range of tips shown in the included photograph here and a user manual in multiple languages.


    Sony IER-Z1R have a one year international warranty.


    Equipment Used:
    AudioQuest Carbon USB


    The Walkman Cradle BCR-NWH10


    The full-size Z1R Headphone


    The IER-Z1R IEM


    The TA-ZH1ES DAC/amp


    The 1Z Walkman DAP


    The 1A Walkman DAP


    The Sony XBA-Z5



    As noted earlier, it’s safe to say the Z5 was the closest sonic precursor to the IER-Z1R. It may be debated weather it was the last flagship, there is also the CIEM Sony Just ear IEM, strictly in Japan. For me I am always reminded of of the Z5 rather than remembering the full-size Z1R while listening to the IER-Z1R. Even before the IER-Z1R, I knew that the new introduced flagship would be a continuation of the legendary Z5 sound. Though where they took the sound is far better than I could have dreamed.


    Pairing rating below from best to worst with stock 4.4mm cable except Apple Touch, which has 3.5mm single ended output.


    1. TA-ZH1ES
    2. Sony 1Z
    3. Sony 1A (The 1A is at times better due to the IER-Z1R adding parallels to the 1Z sound, all by itself)
    4. Apple IPod Touch 6th Generation 32GB 3.5mm cable/Lightning Cable Dongle


    The complementary union of 1A and 1Z:
    These two players were designed as Sony knows there are two distinct audiophiles. There are reference tune audiophiles and Hi/Fi tune audiophiles. Your never going to make both groups happy with the same sound signature, so Sony made two. Interestingly enough, the IER-Z1R brings out the best of both. We can notice different placement of elements in the soundstage. Also the 1A will draw in some of the big low-end with the IER-Z1R getting the bass a faster and uniquely detailed response.


    Final thoughts on sound:
    There are definitely sections of the audiophile community which will find the midrange fully scooped out. There will be folks simply wanting more frequencies and playfulness in the upper midrange. There may be a small group which are unable to get a good fit. In all the Sony extreme creations they seem to go and gain glory or go down in big flames. They are not attempting to please everyone. They have taken their ideas of correctness in tone and parlayed it into a legendary range of items. Definitely try these before you buy as your personal results may vary from mine described here. Some like blondes some like brunettes.



    Choosing an amplifier or DAP, which should you choose?
    This test had a slightly different outcome than I would have guessed. Remember too, stuff like this is purely subjective. Still this section will help understand the personality concepts involved.


    The Walkman 1Z:
    Interestingly this is always my favorite DAP. It adds a special authority to pretty much all IEMs, and powers the Z7 and Z1R full-size headphones well. It’s sonic personality is a V or U shape. If it was just that it would be simple. Because of the different internal wiring, different capacitors and OFC casework it projects a completely different soundstage onto IEMs, than the Walkman 1A. Coincidentally that soundstage is exactly what the IER-Z1R does naturally. It’s wide, it’s front and back and it’s forward and upfront. And as mentioned earlier that’s combined with a beefy low end and slight treble bump. Our Walkman 1A comes off more middle of the road. The 1A is not cold but it offers a complementary signature to both the 1Z and TA-ZH1ES desktop amp. So when we match the personality of the IER-Z1R to the 1A it ends up an amazingly good match. The IER-Z1R is already doing it’s soundstage expansions so in matching it makes the 1A more like the 1Z! Not only that but the bass texture actually gets cleaned up a little and brought into even higher resolution. So for folks wanting a more reference tone the IER-Z1R and 1A is the perfect match. This also reconfirms Sony attempting to give us a DAP which becomes complementary to the 1Z. So in hindsight could an enthusiast actually get more choices switching over from the 1Z to the 1A with the IER-Z1R for the weekend? Absolutely. Is the IER-Z1R a good match still with the Walkman 1Z? Absolutely! But you may wonder at this point, which is the absolute best amp/source for the IER-Z1R in the Sony ecosystem? Maybe the best is the The DMP-Z1 Transportable Desktop DAC/amp? The DMP-Z1 was designed by the Walkman design wing of Sony Engineers. The TA-ZH1ES was designed by a completely separate engineering team responsible for the long running TA series amplifier products. I have never heard the DMP-Z1 so I can not comment at this point. If Sony offered me one for free I would fly to Japan and gladly pick it up.


    But to stay grounded here, the TA-ZH1ES is absolutely the grandeur in amplification going on in my home. I know this is not a review of the TA-ZH1ES but I will reiterate why it would be a good choice over the more expensive Walkman 1Z if you wanted a home rig with the IER-Z1R. It’s one simple word......imaging!


    TA-ZH1ES imaging. Somehow the IER-Z1R has the ability to grab the imaging detail from the TA-ZH1ES and use it to fully separate the sonic elements. It’s more of a musical microscope. But here is the kicker...... it’s also just slightly darker than both the Walkman 1Z and way-way darker than the Walkman 1A. But just me writing the darker word is going to instantly install fear in readers. Along with curiosity audiophiles suffer from being paranoid about stuff maybe not sounding right. Still due to the increased clarity from imaging the TA-ZH1ES is by far my reference DAC/amp for the IER-Z1R. It’s also the reference amp for the full-size Z1R; as you could guess. Keep in mind I’m using the The Walkman Cradle BCR-NWH10 with the DAPs being file servers. The dock contains USB filters which help clean up the signal before making it to the TA-ZH1ES with the AudioQuest Carbon USB cable. I list everything here as we all know the end result is an end result of all equipment used. Interestingly enough the TA-ZH1ES has this same sort of magic with the past Sony flagship the The Sony XBA-Z5. Same personality in so many ways. But to be critical here the Z5 was missing some qualities. It just could not keep up with some of the flagship IEMs produced today in 2019 by competition makers. The Z5 has that nice well rounded personality of the IER-Z1R, it conceptualizes the Sony House Sound in all it’s glory for 2014. But in the last 5 years Sony has brought some serious game to the table with the new IER-Z1R. Higher detailed treble, expanded imaging treble. Sony boosted the midrange and made a more well rounded transducer topping not only the Z5 but topping the full-size Z1R. If this is not enough for you, I don’t know what is? Not only that but our bass became more detailed and less foggy straight out of the box with the IER-Z1R. It’s almost as if Sony was actually understanding the Head-Fi community. They realized that public opinion of their products could contain a grain of truth and designed accordingly. IMO


    So whatever the history is this IEM can be looked at as a success. It’s more even-toned than Sony’s prior product line. Still all this only matters if your personally into the signature at hand. In the end some will fall in love and some need to look farther. We all have read the reviews where respected headphone reviewers didn’t like the original Z1R. The Sony house sound is not for everyone. But......if your potentially a candidate for the Sony ecosystem you may find a home. This is a simple review by someone who purchased all their own gear with their own money. This review is real, I have no interest in writing a polished review so I can get another $100 headphone, as I have everything. With that said I’ve tried to be as clear as possible about this gear. But again if the Sony house sound is not your thing well........keep reading reviews. I’m genuinely interested in this hobby for the joy of music and understanding of technology nothing more nothing less.



    Disclaimer:
    IER-Z1R was purchased retail for full price from an authorized Sony retailer. The IEM had a continuous 100 hour burn-in. The actual serial number is 000124.


    No further modifications were done. Stock cables were used; primarily the included 4.4mm Pentaconn 5 pole. Sony Hybrid Large Tips were used as well as the included silicone tips.


    Sound File Questions:
    As you do.........I still have unproven ideas and concepts. One is sound quality from files higher than 16/44.1. The equipment used in this test is on the edge of actually being able to maybe hear the improvements of Hi Resolution Audio. After all these years I have remained believing that 16/44.1 was all that’s needed. Though at this fork in the road, I don’t know anymore. So for this review I have paid very close attention to the possible sound quality improvement from higher bit-rate. Obviously your results may vary from my findings. But I would be amiss if I didn’t simply suggest experimenting with High Resolution Audio at this level of replay. This level of reproduction is obviously not the end all, end all. Still your going to have to drop some serious coin to start to top it.


    The IER-Z1R and badly recorded music:
    All this talk about the IER-Z1R being revealing makes you wonder how it’s going to fair with bad recordings. Many of us at times have purchased ourselves into a corner. Climbing the audio resolution chain often ends at a precarious place where good recordings sound great but bad recordings sound really bad. Often we find ourselves with an audio-microscope in hand, analyzing the sound system instead of listening to real music. As much as we tend to think it’s a mental ability it’s not. Some systems are simply not forgiving of poorly recorded music. Most of the time it’s a let down to start an old song only to find out the IEMs are showing us what it truly is. Those romantic memories of the eighties are just that, simple memories. At times it’s hit or miss with these old recordings. Also because we think we know the music it can’t always be the headphones fault. My understanding is the IER-Z1R is simply conveying exactly what the file contains for better or worse. Amazingly there is a large amount of poorly recorded music that ends up listenable here. The only answer I have is the forgiveness is actually from the Sony House Sound included room response. As we all have found out; thin digital recordings sound even thinner from a super analytical response. Truth to be told, I listen to a lot of self produced underground music. Underground music could be 70% percent of my listening time. In a way that puts me on the opposite side of the street from the typical audiophile listening to his SACD of Steely Dan’s “Aja” once a day. Lol


    What happens normally with bad recordings is a major reduction in dynamics here along with a reduction in soundstage. So surprisingly the IER-Z1R doesn’t just boost up these low-fi soundstage responses like you think it would. That in itself is a clue as to what the IER-Z1R is doing well with great recorded music as well as a testimonial to what the IER-Z1R is doing always. The IER-Z1R is showing us the truth in soundstage. Poor recordings can actually have a charm all their own once you realize what they are. Though the best part is they are listenable. And not only listenable but enjoyable. Again the contrasts here are dynamic, as putting on a modern OST in High Resolution reconfirms just what year we are alive in. Strangely for the fist time I seem to hear the difference in bit-rates. So if you do have a collection of high quality “big” files, put them on, as there is no better time and no better IEM to figure out the question of bit-rate, and if it’s actually worth a darn in the end.



    The Good:
    1. The ultimate Sony House Sound period.
    2. They are low maintenance (somewhat); getting great out of the box.
    3. They are impressive to women who think they are earrings.
    4. My wife’s wedding ring had less fancy packaging.
    5. Dogs love the high frequency driver.
    6. They come with the nicest set of tips ever.
    7. The cables match the IEM, and the tips match the cables; again more fashion.
    8. No compromise; for once we have a flawless IEM. F.L.A.W.L.E.S.S.




    The Bad:

    1. They truly only shine from the best of gear.
    2. Weight (but the fit is the most comfortable ever, so disregard 2.
    3. They cost 2K
    4. Your wife will be jealous you have nicer earrings than her.
    5. The sound will be lovely for some; for others.... not.
    6. You will have to listen to all your music over again. All of it.





    This ends the review:



    Below is technical information explaining how Sony did it.


    DRIVER UNIT

    Hybrid

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE

    3 Hz–100,000 Hz

    CORD LENGTH

    Approx. 48" (1.2 m), silver-coated OFC strands


    Hear astonishingly faithful sound reproduction with the IER-Z1R In-ear headphones. A custom high-resolution HD hybrid driver system and Refined-phase structure, along with the sonic purity of a 0.17" balanced audio connection, elevates your listening experience to the one you can feel.


    We designed the drivers in the IER-Z1R headphones from the ground up, to work in total harmony together. The consistent sound signature carried out across each driver works as if they were a perfect single driver.


    The newly developed Balanced Armature driver is equipped with a magnesium diaphragm, silver-coated copper voice coil and gold-plated terminals. These realize high definition sound that reproduces even the smallest fading note.


    Developed from thousands of listening tests, the dedicated film capacitors on the network give much lower distortion. Audio grade solder is also used throughout to ensure maximum signal transparency.


    Inheriting MDR-Z1R's diaphragm structure, the 0.47" dynamic driver's diaphragm consists of magnesium dome and aluminum-coated LCP. This full-range driver offers deep bass and fine mid-high sound.


    The super tweeter in the IER-Z1R was developed to deliver ultra-high frequency extension with a new aluminum-coated LCP diaphragm and external magnetic circuit. Its ultra-fast response faithfully follows the fast dynamic transience of music, which provides you with live concert hall atmosphere.


    The vast experience and sense of our engineers is the key to acoustic design, which delivers the most natural sound. The finely tuned IER-Z1R acoustic structure steers audio from the trio of driver units as though they were a single, ideal driver.


    The super tweeter is on a coaxial position against the nozzle. This layout directly delivers accurate super high notes to your ears, with an ultra-wide frequency response up to 100 kHz.


    Time coherence of the sound from the three drivers is just as important as their wide frequency response. The refined-phase structure ensures sound waves are aligned, through precision adjustment of the width and length of each sound path. The magnesium-alloy construction also further eliminates vibration and unwanted resonance to deliver perfect clarity and liveliness across musical genres.


    For balanced sound, from low to high frequencies, an acoustic tube connects to the cavity behind the driver unit. This technology presents a wide sound space with rich and natural notes.


    Engineers didn't overlook the quality of the supplied cable, which releases the full potential of the IER-Z1R. From sound quality to comfort and less touch-noise, the cable helps you immerse yourself in music on the go.




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    DSC_0194.jpg full tilt z1r.jpg ier zir.jpg pamplet 1.jpg pamplet 2.jpg portrat z1r.jpg r z1r sony.jpg screenshot_20160907_050958614.png sony z 1 r grand opner.jpg sony z1r 2.jpg sony z1r 3.jpg sony z1r 5.jpg Sony z1r 34.jpg Sony z1r 55.jpg Sony z1r second opner.jpg sony z1r side.jpg thrird opener sony z1r.jpg topper z1r.jpg z_7_sony_2.jpg z1r 1.jpg z1r 2.jpg z1r 5.jpg z1r 6.jpg z1r 9.jpg z1r 10.jpg z1r side.jpg z1r sony 4.jpg z5dddd.jpg DSC_0164.jpg
      flyer1, Aslshark, Lohb and 38 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Aslshark
      What a wonderful review! I enjoyed it very much. Can I live without these IEMS? Is life to short? I gotta save up some funds for these..
      Aslshark, Mar 15, 2019 at 7:16 PM
      Redcarmoose likes this.
    3. Dvdlucena
      Thank you for this review. I know it’s a long shot and complete different tech, but did you demo the shure kse 1500 or 1200? Sony vs shure, which one has better technicalities ?
      Dvdlucena, Mar 16, 2019 at 11:39 AM
    4. Redcarmoose
      Have not heard the 1500 or Shure kse 1200. Sorry.
      Redcarmoose, Mar 17, 2019 at 2:08 PM

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