New Head-Fier
Great sound, meh fit
Pros: Technical performance
Bass quality and extension
Realistic Timbre
Soundstage (for an IEM)
Treble extension
Cons: Fit and size
Semi-proprietary MMCX
Slight mid recession
I've owned the IER-Z1R for a couple years now, since 2021. At the time, I was looking for the step up from the Blessing 2 and these seemed a perfect fit. Not that they were similar in tonality, but past me didn't pay enough attention to notice that before buying. With headphone shops few and far between, and often closed for pandemic restrictions, I bought them blind and eagerly waited.

This will by my first review as I go through and finally review my collection. The IER-Z1R is one of my favorites and seemed like a great place to get started.

No photos for now, since I don't have a good spot to take pictures. Might add them later.

Build and Accessories

If you ignore the fit (more on that later), the IER-Z1R is one of the best built IEMs or earphones I've ever used. The metal shell feels solid and sturdy - it's got the heft of something built to last. The semi-proprietary MMCX is both a positive and an issue here. It's slightly more recessed than usual, with a bit of a lip around the cable-side connector. This makes it (theoretically) more resistant to bending and more durable. In practice, it makes finding third party cables a bit of a struggle.

In the box are 2 superb cables, 4.4 mm balanced pentacon and a standard 3.5 mm unbalanced. As far as stock cables go, these are also some of the best I've seen. They're well-behaved, soft to the touch, and minimally microphonic. After 2 years, however, the silicone of the ear hooks on my 3.5 mm cable has started to degrade a little, becoming sticky. The rest of the cable is still fine, so paying Sony's $110 replacement price is little questionable. Maybe something from Hart Audio?

As for ear tips, the IER-Z1R comes with a good selection of foam and silicone. I personally found the silicone to be the more comfortable of the two, and to work best with the fit, even compared to some 3rd party tips I've tried. But if anyone has recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

The black leather box however is largely useless. It's way too large to be practical, has no pockets to store accessories, and worst of all, only sticks closed magnetically. I guess it works as a display or storage box?


Fit and Comfort

This of course is the IER-Z1R's weakest point. As everyone knows, the size and shape of the IER-Z1R is simply not conducive to most people's ears' comfort. It's large, heavy, and not quite shaped right. If you have had comfort issues with IEMs before, it would be pretty important to demo these before plunking down $1700 on them.

Even with my Dumbo ears, the IER-Z1R becomes uncomfortable after a few hours of continued use. And of course, the sound quality depends greatly on your insertion depth. Deeper is better, but also less comfortable.

One trick I've found is to open your mouth when inserting/removing the IER-Z1R (and all IEMs). This will help you get a deeper insertion, better seal, and not leave the ear tips in your ears when removing.


Technicality and Tonality

The IER-Z1R has a mildly v-shaped sound, with a slight emphasis to both the bass and the upper mids and treble. This generally fits with my preferences, although the mids are a little more recessed than I'd like. However, they're a wonderfully detailed pair of earphones, with great separation and imaging. There is rarely, if ever, any sensation of congestion, bloating, or resonance in any part of the frequency response.

The bass on the Z1R is its standout quality. It digs deep into the subbass, hits hard, and attacks fast. On something like
Hilight Tribe's Free Tibet (Vini Vici), there's rumble yet clearly differentiated bass hits. The bass texture, as with timbre across the entire range, is realistic and natural. It never sounds bloated or overbearing, nor bleeds into the mids. Overall, some of the best bass in any IEM I've heard, even if it's not the most emphasized bass.

As mentioned above, the mids here are a little more recessed than I'd like. This is very slight however, but as a result male vocals and lower female vocals can sound a little distant at times, as if they were placed further back in the stage/mix.

On the technical side, the mids come across natural in both timbre and tone. As a whole, no parts seem unnaturally gritty or thin like they can with other headphones that have either too much / too little treble and mids.

The treble on the IER-Z1R just barely rides the line between 'clear and emphasized' and 'sibilant and piercing'. With a deep seal and the right tips, it shows off an incredible extension without being fatiguing. I could definitely see it being too much for some listeners, but I personally found it right where I'd like it.

At the end of the day the IER-Z1R is still an in-ear and will never have soundstage performance matching ToTL full size headphones or speakers. However, they've one of the best soundstages for IEMs. Rather than being a 3-blob imager, the Z1R does well in placing sounds and instruments at distinct places in space, with enough depth to separate them out. They also avoid that 'in your head' sensation that some IEMs can have.


The IER-Z1R is a pair of earphones that hardly lacks in any sound-based quality. It's wonderfully balanced, detailed, and natural. Yet that one glaring issue - its horrible ergonomics - means that unless you're very confident in your ears' size and worthiness, everyone should be demoing them before making a purchase.
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I am a fan of your direct style of review. Looking forward to reading a glowing review of an item you find at some point. That item will warrant a look from me based on your previous reviews here. Thanks!


Headphoneus Supremus
Excellent but hard to recommend
Pros: - Very authentic and realistic, impactfull bass
- Insanely fast and detailed mids
- Soft crossover > no timbre change from low to high
- No soundpipes
Cons: - Fit and comfort with silicone tips
- Tuning limits its accuracy, but its not advertised as an monitor
- Way to overpriced (compared to its competition it may look cheap, but its still overpriced)
This review is for the people who already watched every Z1R Review on YouTube, read every Review here on Head-Fi and just wants an additional opinion from an long-time owner about if he should really pull the trigger or not.

After i tested tons of tips to find the ones that have the best sound, i settled on the COMPLY Ts-200 (The sound quality optimized Version of the T-200), but i used them quite some time with the stock tips too and tested other tips.

The Ts-200 enabled me to use them for hours without comfort issues and are the tips that seem to make them sound most unmodified (if that makes sense).

I compare them to the IER-M9 as this is my reference for pretty much everything and the first thing you notice is the pushed treble. It is a very delicate and well done push that does not cause female vocals to hurt (thanks god non monitor earphone still exist that do not do that), but it causes one issue. If you listen at slightly louder volumes music starts to turn into noise. That is common for all non IEM and it even happens with an IEM at one point, if its too loud, its too loud, but it happens too early with the IER-Z1R imho.

With the IER-M9 this happens much later compared to the IER-Z1R and the reason is exactly this push in the treble. That is not an issue as nobody should listen at loud volumes (especially for longer times) anyway, but if you have songs with a lot of dynamic range, this can make you run into issues. Especially with Hans Zimmer i noticed that things just got too loud at peaks too early.

Over time, this also causes some listening fatigue, even at medium volumes.

The next thing is the typical recessed lower mids to make everything sound clear (i'm not a fan of this) and a bit cold but thats a slight change. Its still done very tastefull, especially in comparison with its direct competitors. Other than that, the mids are excellent. You can grasp even the slightest change and the tiniest details as they are just insanely fast.

The Bass is most likely what makes the show for most. Its as strong in terms of volume as the IER-M9, but the feeling of air, the impact, the physical sensation is much higher.

In combination with the pushed treble, they give you an unique impression of an speaker system in an perfect room which is a very fun tuning, i am absolutely admitting that, but it can get tiresome and it is not an accurate rendering of the song (again, not an IEM, so no issue). You should be aware of that. They are not objectively perfect. They may be subjectively perfect for some, but there exists songs who do not cope with this tuning well.

Would i recommend the IER-Z1R over something like the Vision Ears EST, UE LIVE, 64 Audio Fourté and similar? Absolutely yes. Its significantly better than these and this is what makes it look cheap but(!), and here comes the caveeat, its still insanely overpriced imho. If the price is no issue for you and you already have an good reference like an IER-M9, Mach 70, TG335 or even SE846, then grab these. There is nothing for a lower price that gives you what it is.

If you're still lacking a good reference earphone, i would recommend to get that first. Something that isolates much better and is better balanced overall + has better comfort so you have an daily driver that always does the job, no matter what. Plays every song well, every genre, from every source. Something that just performs and you can rely on to provide you the best possible sound quality like the above mentioned. And objectively perfect IEM.

The IER-Z1R is, like the A8000, an fun earphone for the person who already has everything and wants something unique and special in addition to that. If you are this person and the price is no issue, than get it! If not, wait for a good used A-Rank deal. you can easily get them 50% off, used in like new condition.

Don't get this thinking, this is all you need and you're done and your earphone journey is over. If you want such an product from Sony, that is the IER-M9.


New Head-Fier
Sony IER-Z1R : Endgame (?)
Pros: Amazing technicalities
Wide soundstage with depth
Detail retrieval is superb with macro and micro details
Instruments sound very natural
Female vocals sound very presenting
Cons: Fitment issues such as heavy headshell and unintuitive ergonomics
(NITPICK) Slightly recessed mids
It's literally only over a year after I've got my BL-01s that suddenly, one of my friends finally had their hands on (what I constantly hear from him) one of the best sounding IEMs on the market. We all know there's an endgame to every hobby so when I heard my friend just spent money on something that retails for ~1800USD (at the time), I was genuinely intrigued. To be able to spend such an amount on a pair of IEMs is just unimaginable.

But anyways-

He lent it to me, and here we are.
Big thanks to Whang for lending me his pair to test drive for a few days, and as of the time I am writing this I have probably stole it from his hands and listened to it for more than 50 hours already


The IER-Z1R is literally Sony's top of the line flagship IEMs. What you're getting out of this is the best that Sony can offer, courtesy of Eiji Kuwahara. But whether it delivers and justifies it's hefty price that most people cannot even comprehend for an "earphone", let's talk about it now.

Now, before I even talk about the IEM, let's just take a moment to appreciate the packaging that Sony did to made you feel like you've got your money's worth.



In a nutshell, the unboxing experience is literally the equivalent of a jewelry box. Opening the top of the lid reveals a hard case that houses the 2 headshells within. Underneath that are literal magnetic trays that can slide out like drawers to reveal the other accesories, which are the 2 cables, balanced and unbalanced to MMCX terminations, as well as two types of tips with a wide array of sizes, to ensure the fit is good for almost everyone. To say that this unboxing experience doesn't heightens the experience of getting this pair would be an understatement.



The Z1R itself is has a very big shell and it is entirely made of zirconium alloy, so it overall has a heft to it. Its overall design in terms of ergonomics depend on the medium-longish nozzle to be inserted into your ears so that a good seal exists, as well as being able to hear the full effect of the super tweeter. The stock cables also feel premium with a rubberized feel to it (not those soft rubber where it gets sticky), and has little memory to it, making it look as natural as well.

However, with such builds come sacrifices, such as half of my ear canal's virginity.

Due to the weight of the Z1R, personally, my ear canal does start to hurt a little after listening to it for more than 1 hour due to the constant pressure, so keep that in mind. Its not that I love to make my earholes feel like they're being f'ed, but you really need to shove it in deep to create a seal and to get all of that treble extension. And to add to this, the hook design is just not functional because the length and angle of the hook just totally goes over your ear. I think this is best described by Joshua Valour in his reviews.

Source : Foobar2000 -> JCally JM10 Dongle DAC (CS43131) -> S.M.S.L. SH-6 Amplifier -> Stock IER-Z1R


At this point I don't even want to comment on the graph and what-not, if you're talking about IEMs of this calibre, the graph can only tell you so much because other than telling you the IER-Z1R is a mild V-shaped IEM with slightly warm characteristics and recessed mids, it clearly doesn't show anything about its technicality, which I will actually go into first.


Now I usually start talking about the bass, mids, and highs, but the Z1R can only be so good due to its technicalities. When I first listened to this IEM, the first thing that made me feel awe was the amount of resolution. Every single element in every song somehow gets a balance to shine regardless of whether they're main tracks of the song such as the lead guitars and vocals, or just layered, accompanied tracks, such as synths, layered vocals, and the micro detailed stuff from chimes to bells and strings in the back. Everything just comes in a full package.

Dynamics on this thing, paired with one of the widest soundstages I've heard then (only to lose to the Elysian Annihilator by a margin, but a lot to the Elysian X) makes the busiest tracks sound even more amazing than congested. You have like 10 things going on from vocals to cymbal crashes to kick drums to guitar leads to horns etc etc? Yeah we got you covered. The ability of the Z1R to retain resolution of everything is just elevated with the amazing separation it delivers.

Detail retrieval is only slightly behind the Elysian Annihilator but at this point, I'm literally comparing supercars. Anything at this price point will not disappoint to make you have an intimate and immersive experience with the music. One way to describe the Z1R's detail retrieval performance would be everything is presented in a more controlled and smooth manner, while the Annihilator sounds more organic and will not be shy to sound strong when its needed.


  • Bass on the Z1R is well controlled and has a polite amount of subbass to it; low ends sound clean and lean without any bloatiness or muddiness
  • Subbass sounds amazing with the extension, giving it a very smooth end to it
  • Midbass seperates from the subbass well, showing its own characteristics from the rumbles
  • Kick drums sound thumpy in the most organic way possible

  • Vocals do sound slightly recessed but its only noticeable if you try to nitpick, other than that it still sounds so much better than anything else
  • Male vocals such as Mac Miller sound clear, crisp, sharp
  • Rap vocalists from Tyler, The Creator, Logic, Kanye West, EARTHGANG will probably show the most instance of recessed vocals, but otherwise still slaps a ton of dynamics, making each vocalists' sound having even more characteristic
  • Vocals of Sampha from his album Process will sound slightly hollow and less prominent
  • Vocals from Stromae sound more sharp, rough and dominant within the mix ever so slightly, but is never shadowed, nor-overemphasized compared to the entire ensemble (eg. Fils de joie)
  • J-pop female vocals will tend to shine the most, with vocalists such as Lilas Ikuta (from YOASOBI) delivering her pieces with dominance
  • Aimer's raspy and low voice aided by the dynamics ot the Z1R sound strong and immersive
  • Hana Kanazawa sounds airy, intimate, and sharp, maybe a tad bit sibilant
  • LiSA is a little hit or miss, personally thinking it might have more to do with the mixing
  • Occasionally voices will sound sibilant but nothing else
2. Instruments & Everything else
  • Polyphia - Playing God with their Flamenco sounding acoustic electric guitars have never sounded ever so organic with the amount of harmonics and plucking
  • Microdetails such as nails plucking the nylon strings are accentuated enough to make it sound even more raw and as live as possible. One way the owner of the Z1R describes this is that the Z1R basically makes everything sound like its a live session.
  • Micro details such from slight finger slides on the guitar to the moment the finger leaves the strings all adds to the organic experience of the songs
  • Violins sound airy and light, while retaining its clarity
  • Pianos sound sparkly and each note is accented with the pianist's intention - to make it sound strong when it needs to, and to make it sound subtle and soft yet maintaining its presence
  • Layered vocals accompanying the pieces shines in itself, giving tracks with stuff like this to have another layer of ambience to it

  • Treble has never sounded so resolving and is so well controlled
  • Chimes and bells are sparkly, bright, yet retain a lot of body
  • Microdetails are emphasized like a separate piece with its own area
  • Cymbals, Rides and Crashes having natural timbre with decent amount to treble extension, giving it pleasurable decay
  • Piano and guitar notes going this high have great tonality aided with the transparency
  • Anime-esque mixes with a ton of electronic synths will shine the most here with bright and sparkly notes all over, without even making it sound congested what-so-ever

Honestly, I don't think there's anything else I can add to this other than continuously simping on this pair of IEM. Listening to it for the first time is the equivalent to seeing new colors. But one of the best part of listening to this IEM is that it taught me about almost everything IEM related, mainly the depictions. I finally understand what's called soundstage, bass bleed, bloated mids, sparkly treble, tonality etc., the list just goes on.

Personally I wouldn't shell out this much money for an IEM, but if I actually have a surplus of money and years later I'm still into this hobby, maybe. But for now I'm just going to continue and bother my friend to lend me his pair.
Great review! Funny thing is I’m listening to Polyphia right now on my Blessing 2 Dusk and have been wanting to up my game. These may be it.


100+ Head-Fier
Cheating on my Z1R - not really a review.
Pros: - HIgh Quality Build, Gorgeous
- Sony
- Great box and accessories
- Best sound I ever heard
Cons: - Fit (my ears fits perfectly, but this is really well known issue)
- Need to find proper eartips (To date, I'm still experimenting)

What if your first car is a Tesla? Can you truly appreciate the exquisiteness and elegance? Can you appreciate the experience? How could you even, when you never drove your grandpa's old 1995 toyota Corolla? It would be hard to impossible to tell, what more appreciate, how much a technology has evolved without having experienced something to compare with.

Thats what happened to me when i bought Z1R and WM1A a few months ago. I abandoned the Head-Fi world for about 10 years and had suddenly came back and bought the two TOTLs purely based on general recommendations.( I only had Triplefi10, Superfi5, and Westone 4 back in 2011 and thats about it).

I thought my search for the best IEM would have come to an end with Z1R. However, I still found myself reading online reviews of other IEMs. I couldn't help but to wonder.. how different is Z1R compared to other TOTL IEMs?

And so, I went back into searching and exploring for the best IEMs, only this time, I started with getting the entry level IEMs first. I figured from having Z1R from the get go that it's hard to appreciate something amazing without having a point of reference.. You would definitely appreciate a Porche and a Ferrari now if you have had driven a 1995 Toyota Corolla previously.

First of the entry level I bought was Moondrop Aria. Its okay, certainly huge difference, but okay for the price.

The next one i got was 7Hz Timeless. I somehow feel that Aria is better, maybe because to the fit but a close competition with 7Hz Timeless. Love the overall package tho. But again, i dont like the fit, even worse than my Z1R, but better than BLON-01. I like it when its inserted deep inside my ears, 7Hz somehow doesnt really go deep due to the big circular housing.

Unsatisfied, I still want to know how different it is among other TOTL.
Went to any audio shop i could find and here are the test drives (total of 4 hours only though):

  • 64 Audio Nio
  • 64 Audio U12T
  • Fir M5
  • Moondrop S8
  • Moondrop Variations
  • UM Mest Mk1
  • Campire Solaris
  • QDC Anole VX

Since I have the Tesla, I feel that the driving experience feels the same. Nothing really wows me. The only 2 that wowed me are Anole VX and M5. Probably because they are so easy to drive. But VX is the one that caught my attention the most. Iem itself is gorgeous, fit perfectly in my ears. Since Z1R is kinda my first time, other than Anole VX, the build for the rest of the iems feels too light and cheap, But Anole VX is almost double the price than Z1R, its like maybe Electric Bugatti without the Self-Driving feature.

As I’m auditioning them I started to wonder, so Z1R is really are the best if not one of the best? But then, its subjective to everybody. Beauty lies on the eyes of the beholder. To me, The waifu on Aria box is more beautiful than the waifu on Kato box, and your might have different opinion. So yes, its subjective. Unlike the waifu where we can judge by their looks and character, we have the luxury to try the earphone before we buy them (if the store have the demo!).

I was testing to get some context so that I can prepare for the 11/11 sale. But at this rate, maybe I will end up not buying anything.

To be honest, I discused about this hobby with my wife (my real wife, not the waifu box!), and she somehow prefer the Sony in general due to their track record and the quality. And the conclusion she gave from the discussion was; “if you wanna keep buying audio stuffs, then wait for Sony to come out with the new product next time”, and I agree with her. But in this world, the tech is growing fast, quality is increasing, there are new IEMs every other week that come out. Lets see how the future unfold.

I end this not technical review or thoughts by apologizing to my Z1R because trying to cheat on it.
Its time to stop looking and enjoy the music!?

Sony WM1A
Apple Music > L&P W2

PS: Those who have Z1R, have a listen to Silver Lining Suite by Hiromi and be prepared for multiple eargasm~

The Waifu:
IMG_3127 2.JPG





The mistresses






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Hi @Intralaust , Its Dunu Blanche. Pretty cable and comfortable, but a bit hard to take it off. Recommended.
HI @cinc its Azla Sedna Xelastec
Hi @ponson , I never heard ie900, i heard ie600 and its quite fun. COmfort wise maybe anybody should opt for ie600. But overall sound i pick Z1R on any days since its also comfortable for my ears. Cheers!


500+ Head-Fier
Sheer Bass-Head Delight
Pros: Build and accessory pack
– Great stock cable
– Bass slam, texture, rumble – the sheer physicality of it
– Sparkly-yet-smooth treble
– Engulfing soundstage
Cons: Recessed mmcx port on Sony IER-Z1R housing can be an issue for 3rd party cables
– Bulky housing gets uncomfortable and might not even fit
– Can deliver over-bearing bass at times
– Mids are lacklustre, average in terms of resolution and engagement factor
– Center-imaging isn’t class-leading
– Somewhat source-picky

Sony needs no introduction.

I mean, you have used at least one of their products in your lifetime. Thus, let’s cut to the chase. The Sony IER-Z1R is their flagship (universal) in-ear monitor. Priced at $1700 retail, these are true top-of-the-line contenders in the IEM space and is looking for a place among the best of the best earphones around.

Does the Sony IER-Z1R justify the hefty price-tag, or is it another underachiever? Let’s find out.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. The IER-Z1R was a loan unit from a friend.
This review originally appeared on

Sources used: Cowon Plenue R2, Sony NW-A55, Sony WM1A, A&K Kann Alpha
Price, while reviewed: $1700. Can be bought from Sony’s Official Website


An accessory set fit for a king, preceded by a regal unboxing experience. The IER-Z1R puts most flagship packaging to royal shame *cough* 64Audio *cough*. It’s a TOTL product through and through and Sony spent considerable time into the packaging and accessories. The jewelry box like assembly with sliding trays keep the various items into their own compartment. The stock cables are built well and is very ergonomic with no touch noise, but they are a tad too long for my liking. Does help when you connect the IEMs to desktop amps though. There are too many tips to count and you get an oversized box to store the IEMs with felt-lining inside. Overkill, impractical, but very cool.


The Sony IER-Z1R is built and sized like a tank. The zirconium alloy shells are absurdly large. Everything but the nozzle is super-sized, including the recess into which the mmcx port sits. As a result one must choose after-market cables carefully. Most third-party cables have a thinner mmcx stem that will be literally eaten up by the Z1R (thus I’d recommend the Sony stock cable or the kimber cable).


Back to the housing, the backplate has a perlage pattern often seen on luxury watches (a metal tip rotates on top of the metal plate to form such a pattern). The shape of the housing mirrors the shape of the inner acoustic cavity (more on this later) and thus have a unique design rarely seen elsewhere. The top of the IEM houses the color-coded channel markings, where I can see something that resembles a vent. Other than that, no other vents or asymmetries in the housing.

The design stands out and draws attention, as is customary for Sony’s signature line of gear.


Comfort = horrible. Fit = atrocious. Isolation = above average (when pushed deep into the canals, basically how these IEMs are supposed to be worn). Wearing the Sony IER-Z1R for any length of time is a challenge and will definitely be the deal-breaker for most people. Auditioning the IEM before purchasing is strongly advised.


The best source for the Sony IER-Z1R is Sony’s own WM1A Walkman DAP. People often talk about “synergy” between source and IEM, and very few pairings showcase such synergy. I myself tried the Z1R mostly with the Cowon Plenue R2 during review, however, and used the stock Sony Hybrid tips. Later on I tried it with the WM1A and that did improve upon my issues with the mids. If you are planning to get an IER-Z1R, the WM1A/WM1Z DAPs are recommended.


The Sony IER-Z1R has a triple-driver hybrid setup, with two dynamic drivers in charge of bass/mids and upper-treble, and one BA driver in charge of the treble.

The largest driver in this array is the 12mm bass/midrange driver that has a Magnesium dome with Aluminium-coated LCP surround. This ensures better pistonic motion and a very high excursion. The excursion is further aided by a resonance chamber and tube structure in the back of the driver. All of these results in the signature hard-hitting, dense bass of the Sony IER-Z1R.

The upper-treble tweeter also has a very interesting design. It’s a 5mm micro-dynamic driver with Al-coated LCP diaphragm and offers up to 100KHz response — a figure that’s inaudible by all humans but aces the numbers game. In practical use, the 5mm driver has very fast transients and offers the timbral accuracy of a dynamic driver instead of the artificial BA timbre or the fleeting, lightweight nature of EST tweeters.

Lost in all these is the miniscule side-firing BA treble driver that mostly handles lower and mid-treble. It’s a Sony proprietary T-shaped armature pin and has better timbre and slightly slower decay than typical Knowles BA drivers.

Sony doesn’t just stop here, rather they place these drivers in a coaxial orientation in a 3D-printed magnesium alloy chamber. The material choice is to reduce resonant frequencies and also the unique design results in a straight sound path for each driver, thus avoiding the usual cross-over tubes. Very fascinating driver setup all in all, but it’d all be for naught if the sound quality isn’t up to the mark. Fortunately, that’s not the case at all.




The Sony IER-Z1R has a V-shaped sound signature, but that’s a reductionist statement to say the least. The IER-Z1R lives and breathes bass. The sub-bass sets the foundation of the entire sonic delivery and boy oh boy if this ain’t the best bass response in an earphone on this forsaken planet. I’ve heard IEMs with even more emphasized bass or faster bass, but the delightfully textured bass on the Z1R is second to none when it comes to providing the sense of rhythm. The slam, the slightly extended decay (unlike the super-fast BA bass), the subterranean reach of the sub-bass — it’s the whole package. The mid-bass is no slouch either (unlike the DF-tuned IEMs around) and snare hits/pedals have superb definition/body. Macrodynamics are some of the best I’ve ever heard. If you’re a bass-head, this is your endgame (as long as your ears are large enough).

The other aspect of the IER-Z1R that is apparent right away is the sense of space it portrays. The stage width is as good as many full-size open-backs. The stage depth is remarkable, and coupled with precise imaging you truly get that out-of-the-head experience. The one aspect where it falls short of the likes of, say, Hifiman Ananda in terms of staging is the stage height. This is where the large drivers on full-size headphones flex their muscles.

Despite the bass focus the treble on the IER-Z1R is… perfect. It has adequate sparkle and air without veering into the “bright” zone. Cymbal decays are well-extended and even in sections with super-fast cymbal hits the notes don’t smear into each other. Transient response overall is excellent. There is a slight peak around 5.5KHz but that never became a bother for me personally. This is where insertion depth comes into play because with a less-than-adequate insertion the treble becomes splashy. If I had to nitpick about the treble response it would be the slightly soft leading edge of notes. This rounded nature of upper-frequency notes help in avoiding listening fatigue but can take away the rawness of crash cymbals. Nonetheless, Sony has made a good trade-off IMO and the treble is nearly as good as it gets in the TOTL range.

Unfortunately, Sony focused a bit too much on the bass and treble and the midrange played second-fiddle to both. The mids here are just about okay I’d say. Male vocals sound somewhat muffled and female vocals, despite having more focus than male vocals, are robbed off of the emotion that certain IEMs in this price are capable of displaying. Also instrument separation and microdynamics weren’t as great as I hoped it would be, partly due to the recessed lower midrange. String instruments lacked the bite and their undertones were often muddied by the bass. Mid-range performance is definitely the weakest link in the IER-Z1R signature and that’s disappointing given the stellar bass and treble.

To summarize: if you like V-shaped sound signature and aren’t too bothered about the subtleties of vocals — this is it, this is the IEM to end all V-shaped IEMs.

Bass: 5/5
Midrange: 3.5/5
Treble: 5/5
Staging: 5/5
Imaging/Separation: 4.5/5
Dynamics/Speed: 4/5


vs Campfire Andromeda ($1000): The tuning of the Andromeda and the Z1R couldn’t be more different. Whereas Campfire Audio went for a relatively balanced tuning for the Andromeda 2020, Sony is proud of their bass driver and tuned the Z1R with sub-bass focus in mind. Bass is where these two IEMs differ the most. Andromeda 2020 has typical fast BA bass that’s nimble without being punchy. The Sony IER-Z1R’s bass is slower but makes up for that with slam and punch and sub-bass that rattles inside your eardrums.

Midrange is where the Sony pulls back a bit whereas the Andro 2020 (in contrast to the Andro 2019) gains some presence. Vocals are more prominent on the Andro 2020 and midrange in general is better executed, I’d say. String instruments esp shine on the Andromeda.

As for the treble, the Campfire Andromeda 2020 has really well-executed treble that’s smooth, non-fatiguing, and well-extended but pales in comparison to the treble on the IER-Z1R. Cymbal hits have a presence and crunch that’s just missing on the Andromeda 2020.

In terms of soundstage/imaging, the former goes to the IER-Z1R whereas the Andro 2020 has slightly better center-imaging than the IER-Z1R but similar cardinal/ordinal imaging otherwise.

If you want visceral bass punch and some of the best treble under $2000, the Sony IER-Z1R shall be your pick. However, the Andro 2020 has a more balanced tuning and acts as a complimentary tuning to the IER-Z1R’s exciting delivery. Comfort is also much better on the Campfire Andromeda, so there’s that.

vs Final A8000 ($2000): The Final A8000 is their current single-DD flagship and sports a pure Be diaphragm driver. While the A8000 has north-of-neutral sub-bass rise, it pales in comparison to the level of mid-bass thump that the Sony IER-Z1R provides. However, the A8000 bass is faster and will cater well to those who prefer a nimble bass presentation.

In terms of midrange, I prefer the A8000’s vocals by a margin over the IER-Z1R. Final knows how to tune the midrange and the vocals/string instruments are as articulate as they can be on the A8000. Every subtle nuance is highlighted including vocalists breathing in/out. Timbre is another strong point here with the metallic tinge of steel strings being evident against the more natural, softer tone of nylon strings.

The treble region is where the Sony IER-Z1R pulls ahead with no sharp 6KHz peak (A8000’s biggest downside) and more extended upper-treble. This leads to an even wider soundstage (though A8000 has very good stage width). Imaging is about even on both with center-imaging being slightly less accurate on both IEMs. Overall resolution is about similar on both, with the more resolving A8000 midrange being counter-balanced by the smoother yet better extended treble on the IER-Z1R.

Between these two, I’d pick the IER-Z1R if you can get a fit and don’t bother too much about midrange. However, the A8000 is a great choice if you prefer well-realized vocals/string instruments, a faster bass response, and don’t mind the 6KHz peak/willing to tune it via PEQ.

vs 64Audio U12t ($2000): Finally, Goliath vs Goliath. The 64Audio U12t is one of the best IEMs available around the $2000 mark and is one of the best all-BA IEMs out there. By swapping the APEX modules you can also increase the bass response in them (M20 offers a bit more bass). This comparison is made with the M20 module.

The U12t has perhaps the best BA bass out there, and it’s quite a feat indeed. However, it can’t out-muscle the physical grunt of the Sony IER-Z1R’s bass response. The mids are better tuned on the U12t, as is a theme in this comparison. The treble is where we find interesting differences. The U12t goes for a smoother treble presentation with rounded notes, whereas the IER-Z1R has a more immediate sense of attack that gives cymbal hits/hi-hats a really nice bite. I think depending on taste you might prefer one over the other, I myself find the Z1R’s treble response more appealing.

Soundstage is wider and taller on the IER-Z1R but stage depth is about par on the U12t. Imaging is tad more precise on the U12t, though these are marginal differences. Where I found more palpable was the difference in coherence. U12t, despite the 12 drivers, sounded more coherent than the IER-Z1R. Also a slight note about build/accessories: Sony IER-Z1R is quite a bit ahead on those aspects.

In conclusion, if you want a smoother, laid-back listen with great all-round performance, the 64Audio U12t will serve you really well. For those who need more excitement and fun-factor, the Sony IER-Z1R shall be on the top of your list.


In hindsight, it’s quite easy to review and recommend the Sony IER-Z1R. If someone wants the best bass available in an IEM, they should definitely try the IER-Z1R. It’s an unabashedly fun, colored tuning that works well across various genres.

The big elephant in the room: the fit. Without a deep, snug fit you’d have a hard time finding what makes the IER-Z1R so special, making it rather necessary to trial these beforehand.

If you can get a fit, and if you love bass — the Sony IER-Z1R is a no-brainer really. I am yet to find something that tops it as the bass-head endgame, and if you know that’s what you want and got the right-sized ears — get ready for some brain-rattling.

Test tracks:
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> in-ear monitor

Maybe im nitpicking, but it is not. It is not marketed as a monitor and not listed in the monitor section on Sonys webpage. It can't be used on Stage due to the lack of Isolation and it can't be used in the studio as it is not neutral enough.

The IER-M9 (hence the M in the Name) is a Monitor (Stage Monitor to be precise). The MDR-EX800ST is a Studio Monitor but the IER-Z1R is not an Monitor. It is just an Earphone
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Really great and thorough review. Appreciated. Perhaps, I may pause a bit on U12T and IER comparison since I have compared both of them and agree on most part. I think IER aces U12T in width but U12T, IIRC trounced IER’s tall and depth. Probably, the best aspect of U12T is its tall. But, I may have to give them a listen again to confirm this since it was the last year and different source to clear the air a bit on my case. Thanks for the review and comparison
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thank you for the great review
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Reviewer at
Pros: beautiful, cohesive bass response
- elevated, pronounced upper-midrange
- lively, engaging tonality
- excellent soundstage size (for an IEM)
Cons: strong emphasis on stick impact
- doesn't play as well with male vocals
- fit is atrocious

Ever since I got into the audio hobby, I’ve sort of just turned a blind-eye to Sony’s offerings. Growing up in the US, I mainly associated them with TVs and cameras, so it was surprising to see how much standing they have in the audiophile crowd. To this effect, their flagship IEM the IER-Z1R garners a lot of respect in the circles I hang out in; it’s even a personal favorite of more than a few of the reviewers I enjoy following, so I had to check it out for myself. But as you might guess from the overly dramatic title, unfortunately I can’t share the same sentiment. Let’s talk about why.

The Tangibles

Normally, I don’t particularly care for packaging because at the end of the day, let’s be honest: After I pry out my shiny toy, it’s going straight to the closet to collect dust. But Sony has outdone themselves here, and as such, they deserve praise. This is how you do presentation and make your customer feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth.




You get the IEM itself, a ring-like case, 3.5 and 4.4mm cables, and a large assortment of tips. The cables are supple and well-made, definitely some of the best stock cables I’ve handled. The IER-Z1R itself is a heavy chonker. I’ve heard they’re using zirconium alloy for the build, which if true is definitely an interesting design decision. Fun fact: Depending on the grade, zirconium can be similar in hardness to copper or all the way up to sapphire. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s going to be the former, and much of the design language has a “bling” ethos. Nonetheless, the build of the IER-Z1R exudes premium.


Sound Impressions

Disclaimer: They’re impressions. This was a demo unit, so I only had about four days with the IEMs before I had to send them back. That being said, I rarely notice any audible differences in my IEMs even given more time.

Let’s skip the fit and comfort, and come back to that later. Because boy, oh boy, the sound quality of the IER-Z1R doesn’t disappoint. For this section, I’ll mostly be drawing comparisons to my only flagship IEM, the 64audio U12t because it serves as a good reference point.

Testing Methodology:
  • FLAC files off of a Shanling M0 with stock tips and stock cable.
  • Burn-in – don’t really believe in it unless we’re talking about your ears and brain getting used to the sound. This is a demo model anyways, so it has at least several hundred hours on it already.
  • The IER-Z1R is pretty power-hungry for an IEM. No trouble driving it off of any of my sources, but I needed to give it a little more juice than usual. I also rarely listen any louder than 75dB, so take that for what you will if you’re a head-banger.
Bass: Sometimes I can convince myself that the bass on my U12t is good enough for an all-BA set. But “sometimes” just doesn’t cut it, and the IER-Z1R serves as a stark reminder of why. In particular, there’s a powerful sub-bass emphasis and a long, drawn-out decay (in the best sense possible) which the U12t lacks by comparison. Other desirable qualities like texture, punch, and rumble are present in spades, yet they’re coherent and never muddle. The bass hooked me on my first listen, and without doubt it’s the IER-Z1R’s standout feature: Bass-heads look no further, this is your IEM.

Midrange: Vocals are a bit of a mixed bag. Higher-pitched male vocals have a noticeable dip; I got this impression while listening to Keith Urban’s “Sweet Thing”. His voice takes on a slightly hollow or recessed quality that I don’t get as much with the U12t. And just in general, I wasn’t particularly impressed with male vocals on the IER-Z1R. Conversely, female vocals are more pronounced. I listen to a lot of K-Pop/J-Pop, and stuff by the likes of Taeyeon and Aimer simply shines on the IER-Z1R.

Highs: I don’t think I have a 100% ideal seal with the IER-Z1R, but it’s certainly far from resulting in the dreaded peakiness at 6K that some users with a poor seal may experience. Admittedly, treble is not something that I pay much attention to; as long as it’s not too bright or rolled-off, I’m a happy customer. Anyways, the IER-Z1R’s treble has a very energetic presentation. I hear good extension to instruments up top; however, it’s somewhat overshadowed by an emphasis on stick impact.

Overall, this is a moderately V-shaped response to my ears, and it has a warm, energetic timbre. This is not the IEM to purchase if you want something reference or neutral-tuned; however, if you like Sony’s unique, house sound then you won’t be disappointed. The IER-Z1R also has quite the interesting presentation – I would describe it as “speaker-like” or “larger than life” for lack of a better phrase. At the risk of entering shill-territory, it simply makes you feel like a king, and for me this feature is superseded by only the stellar bass response. Weebs and anime OST lovers will also rejoice in the IER-Z1R’s tuning, and I’ve heard no better IEM for female-centric genres.

As you might expect for a flagship IEM, technicalities are stellar, and the IER-Z1R has top-tier resolution. It’s not U12t clean, but comes close enough. The soundstage is also impressive; however, I’ll refrain from absurd superlatives: It’s only large relative to other IEMs. And to this effect, it barely edges out the U12t’s soundstage which is above average in its own right. It’s still one of the few IEMs that kind-of-sort-of breaks the in-your-head barrier; maybe my expectations are just too high. Finally, while the IER-Z1R certainly isn’t slow, it does seem to fall behind the U12t in terms of transient speed.

Test Tracks (just some of the ones I went through)
  • Aimer – Hakuchumu
  • Aimer – Dawn (Album)
  • Brooks & Dunn – Red Dirt Road
  • Dreamcatcher – Raid of Dream (Album)
  • Edens Edge – Amen
  • Illenium – Ashes, Awake, Ascend (Albums)
  • Jason Aldean – 9 (Album)
  • Keith Urban – Defying Gravity (Album)
  • Sabai – Million Days
  • SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] – Best of Vocal Works (Album)
  • Taeyeon – My Voice (Album)
  • Taeyeon – VOICE (Album)
The Verdict

Now that I’ve gushed over and praised the IER-Z1R’s sound quality, there’s just one problem here: The fit is atrocious. Ergonomically, these are by far the worst IEMs I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of using. Nothing about the IER-Z1R’s build remotely conforms to the human ear’s natural shape, and to this effect, every time I stuffed the IER-Z1R into my ear I felt like I was smack-dab between heaven (sound) and hell (fit) – hence my review’s title. And let’s not even get started on the poor isolation. Fit is always subjective though, and in all fairness some individuals that are, shall we say, christened with “blackhole” ears will probably find these comfortable. But for mere mortals like myself with small-to-average sized ears, the IER-Z1R’s fit will only make you question your inner-masochist tendencies.

IER-Z1R fit-pics are basically obligatory in the audio Discord servers I hang in. Yeah, it sort of fits and I get a decent seal, but at the expense of my ear’s viriginty.

Thus, I am led to a bittersweet conclusion with the IER-Z1R. Because frankly, no matter how good an IEM sounds, it doesn’t matter if the fit is utter garbage. And I wanted to like the IER-Z1R, I really did. The bass response is leagues ahead of the U12t, and it more than holds its own in terms of technicalities. To this effect, purely on the basis of sound, I find myself going back and forth between the two with the IER-Z1R having the edge overall because of my music genre preferences. But being literally violated by the IER-Z1R’s gargantuan shell every time…sorry, that ain’t it chief.

So if you take anything away from my review: Demo these IEMs before you purchase them. More than anything, it’s just disappointing knowing that such a great sounding IEM – considered the best of the best by many – is marred by subpar ergonomics that won’t work for the vast majority of buyers. But make no mistake: The IER-Z1R is endgame material. On the rare occasions that the sun and moon aligned and I got a decent fit, the IER-Z1R was audio bliss, my favorite IEM I’ve heard to date.

Sound Score: 9/10 (Excellent)
Understanding my score: This is a personal, subjective assessment of an IEM’s sound quality. I don’t take into account any other factors, and it’s relative to the absolute best sound I’ve heard. Take it with a grain of salt! I’m not going to lie; I have high standards. But I’m not telling anybody how they should hear something – it’s a reflection of what of me, myself, and I hear.
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@phonomat Yeah, an exaggeration but I really wanted to get my point across that one should demo these first. So, so many horror stories I’ve seen - it seems like every other person in the circle I hang in - and experiencing it first-hand really drove it home haha. Obviously there’s some response bias when it comes to fit issues. But just in the most objective sense possible, they’re not ergonomically well-designed.
Yeah sony and their 12mm+ drivers, they used to out these big drivers sideways inside of full side on with the EX1000 and xba Z5 series, but now with the Z1R and the acoustic tube around it, it simply needs the full diameter the Perlage back has.
But hey, Sony managed to miniaturized the XBA A3 sound in the smaller footprint XBA N3. Maybe in the future sony can manage to miniaturized this gem with little drawbacks.
Thank you mama, thank you dad - no issue for me with fit!
Got them a week ago and I am shocked by the IER-Z1R. I wish I could return 95% of my 10 year collection of iems. Guess will keep only the IE80, IE800, the UM Mest, the LZ A6, the FDX1 and 2-3 more. The only one that competes with Z1R, is the Mest, and might be the U12t. But none, except the Mest and the Z1R, has the perfection, imaging and staging of a TOTL open headphone.


New Head-Fier
Pros: Best bass I've heard on any headphone/earphone.
Clean and natural highs.
Ample amounts of detail throughout the frequency range.
Larger than life soundstage.
Excellent imaging.
Built to last generations.
Best packaging on any IEM ever.
Comes with balanced cable.
Cons: Fit and comfort. These earphones will not be comfortable for some people.
So where to start.....

I'm sound and lighting tech that has too much time on his hands to spend on listeing to music. My daily drivers include Noble's Kaiser Encore and the HD600's. At least until now anyway.

So after purchasing my beloved Noble Encore's i was quickly eager to make a similar caliber purchase in the headphone realm. I mucked that one up by getting yet another pair of iems. I was looking into getting something like an Empyrean or Utopia, or even Campfire's own Cascade. But after quickly browsing the internet and talking to a few friends, i managed to get my hands on these for a banger of a deal.

So lets jump straight into it.

Build and Comfort (3.5/5)

These look and feel stunning in the hands. The way Sony presented them in the little jewelry box really solidifies what Sony wanted these to be; a halo product that is one of a kind. They're built very well and can easily last generations with the machining being super precise.
But unfortunately they don't feel as great in the ears as they do in the hands. These are, without a doubt, one of the most uncomfortable earphones I've ever worn. It really was a fight to get these to stay in your ears. So i really urge anyone to demo these before making the (very expensive) purchase decision. Your ears have to be deemed worthy of housing this beast of an earphone. I tried so many different tips from all sorts of manufacturers, even going as far as trying to make custom tips to make it less painful to use.

The cable included is fine except for the ear hooks. Now, these are very heavy earpieces and they can put a lot of strain on your ears if there's no support. The ear hooks are so loose, they they don't actually loop around the ear on hold the earphone up. For me it just hovers above my ears. I would heavily appreciate a metal wire or something that i can shape to my ear.

Fortunately, this was a fight that i came out victorious. After a solid week of breaking my ears in and using Sony's own hybrid tips, i found a way to let them sit in my ear, without much discomfort, for hours on end. For once i actually used the cable clip included.

So be warned, your mileage will vary significantly. If there is anything to take away from this, please demo these first.

Which sucks because......

Sound (5/5)
.......these sound phenomenal.

These are the basshead TOTL endgame iem to get. There is a boost in the sub-bass region that I think really contributes to the "larger than life" sound. Each kick drum hit has so much body and rumble in it, you can really feel the impact. All the while being very clean and detailed, without losing any speed. In electronic tracks with elevated bass, these are just a blast to listen to. Bass synths come out so clean and detailed while having such an epic rumble. That's not to say that these are super bassy earphones, its just very well balanced. And they never bleed into the mids at all. And if you really want more bass, adding +6db to the bass for certain songs can turn these from fun, to just dummy thick bass. I do it sometimes just to have some really fun times.

Examples tracks :
Oi-1 by Biosphere
Blue Monday (Atomic Blonde Remix) by HEALTH
Old Town Road by Lil Nas X


Now this is the region where i find these to fall flat. Most people find the mids recessed, i don't find that at all. I think they're wonderfully balanced to give vocal performances some air and clarity. I think they played it safe when tuning the mids to avoid having and honky-ness or boxiness, which they've achieved. They are great mids, but that's all i can really say about them. There wasn't quite the same wow factor as the Encore's. That being said, the detail retrieval is still fantastic and guitars, especially acoustic, have a very nice texture to them. Rock tunes from Greta Van Fleet sound great, and the guitars sound detailed, but not quite as forward as some earphones out there. Male vocals with a deeper tone like Rick Astley have enough weight to carry authority, but definitely i can see how certain preferences would find it a touch too thin. Female vocals soar on these. Excellent amount of air and clarity meant from a tuning like this. But again, not super forward sounding. I think it sits just right in the pocket.

Example tracks :
Safari Road by Greta Van Fleet
I'd Rather Lose by Mandy Moore
Beautiful Life by Rick Astley


I think this region is where the Z1R's get a lot right in. There a very good sense of air and clarity, but i think the tuning is where these shine. Some BA drivers can make the treble sound off-ish. My personal experience with BA-driver setups (Encore's, JHA Roxanne) are that they just don't quite sound as natural. I know i said that in my Encore review, that they had very natural sounding highs, but after listening and comparing to the Z1R's, something just sits more right with the trebles. Cymbals and crashes don't sound as holographic is the best way to describe it. Like most of the sound signature, it just sits right. Now the detail in this region is also impeccable. The air in the treble also lends a hand to the massive sound stage that these have.

Example tracks :
Cyberpunk by Omnia

Which leads us to......

Soundstage and Imaging

I kept mentioning that these have a "larger than life" sound. And what i mean by that is the soundstage that these have with combination of the frequency range make these sound massive. Now, we're not talking they compete with open headphones like HD800, but it makes music sound grand. I think the best way to convey what i mean is, these have a very hi-fi sound rather than a "monitor" sound. Very wide and encapsulating. They're very good for earphones and even bests most of the headphones I've heard. The imaging on these as well is pin-point accurate. You can really track each instrument down to where they sit in the mix and reverbs can clearly be heard coming from there respective direction. I remember in some country tracks, i found myself more invested in the delays and hearing them bounce around their artificial environment than the actual guitar.

Example tracks :
Runescape Theme (Orchestral) by James Hannigan *great example of "larger than life" feel*
Harmony (Orchestral) by James Hannigan
Bubbles by Yosi Horikawa

Overall (4.5/5)

I don't regret making this purchase. Maybe in the first week it was rough, but now that I've found my rhythm with these earphones, its much more comfortable and manageable. It's still not something i can quickly put into my ears. Its more akin to custom iem's in the sense that i have to equip them on to my ears, and there's a process to it. One that took time to develop for my ears. Some people might not have the same success as i did with these, but i reckon after people hear them they're faced with a very difficult choice because of that sweet sweet sound.

They do sound great, and on sound alone they exceeded my expectations and then some. And i called the Encore's not worth their asking price. These 100% are, if you can wear them. If you have been blessed enough to be worthy of having these placed in your feeble ears, then go for it.

Endgame of endgames.

Bonus: These might be some of the prettiest things ever. Honestly they look like modern art pieces than earphones.

EDIT(06/24/2020): I changed the rating to 4.5 because i personally have gotten used it and it is generally pretty comfortable now. Although this doesn't change my recommendation to demo these first before making the jump.
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Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Consistently great across all frequencies
Extremely slow decay
Best treble an IEM has produced
Less in quantity, but amazing midrange regardless
Outstanding coherency
Cons: Fit and weight
Treble will be too much for many
Poor noise isolation
The IER Z1R has become one of those community staples and doesn't need much of an introduction or tech specs for that matter. What I will mention here however is something that I had misunderstood myself for a while - the Z1R's DD actually performs the lows and mids, while the BA covers the upper midrange and lower treble. The second DD covers the ultra highs, and the technical specification goes up to 100kHz.

You might find 100kHz extension useless but the Z1R doubles down as an excellent portable device for your pet bat if you happen to have one.

Disclaimer 1: do not eat your pet bat, we've all read the news and it's a really, really bad idea
Disclaimer 2: the Z1R is not a free unit, but I did get it at a fat discount because I have badass buddies that shan't be named

Anyhow, let's get to the IEMs and my experience with them. The packaging has been praised quite extensively already, and I can only echo that sentiment. It genuinely makes you feel special for having purchased them and it's not the first time I've mentioned that I think that this should be pretty standard when you're paying over a grand for a set of IEMs, but regardless - it's one of the best I've seen and that deserves a thumbs up. You also get a huge variety of tips, which I found to be very comfortable and have since used them on a few other IEMs as well

Build quality is excellent - they are heavy, shiny, perfect sockets that allow for some movement of the connectors, couldn't ask for any better. They feel amazing in your hand, but many have reported to have fit issues due to the sheer size and weight. The first few days were a struggle as they kinda raped my ears but no pain no gain you know how it is - once they've broken in and stretched out your ear they feel and fit great. Definitely be patient though as it's a somewhat slow and painful process.


You also get two cables included with your IER Z1R, and those deserve another special mention - not only does the cable perform extremely well in terms of sound, but they are some of the most comfortable wires I've ever used, and pretty much the only stock cable I've genuinely enjoyed keeping instead of instantly replacing with something else. I also tried some aftermarket cables, but I didn't notice much of a difference and was quite happy to stay stock. You also get the cable in a 3.5 and 4.4mm configuration so you always have a spare which is even better. Awesome work by Sony and I'd quite like to see more companies deliver IEMs with actually great and unique cables.


Before we get to the sound, it is crucial to mention that the Z1R needs quite a lot of power to be operational/listenable. Initially I only heard it on the AK SR15 and it sounded heavily mediocre, but swapping to a source like the AK SP1000M and the WM1Z gets you a midrange - underpower it and you only really have lows and lower highs.

The tuning of the IER Z1R isn't something that's especially crazy or original - I personally think it is a testament to "better do the simple stuff well than the complicated stuff poorly." It takes a relatively standard V shape FR and performs it to an extremely high standard, dare I say one of the best I've heard.

Starting with the bass, you get a fair bit of quantity (it's no Legend X, but it's certainly up there), but I'd say the defining and unique characteristic here is just how slow the decay is. I don't really have the words to describe it, but you can hear it long after the slam has taken place which makes for an extremely satisfying listen. Furthermore, the bass is very well separated from the midrange so you don't end up having any bleed. The bass could comfortably be the star of the show if it wasn't for the mind-boggling treble that the Z1R produces.

As to the treble (I will cover the midrange last as that's a bit more complicated here), it is very forward in terms of both presentation and quantity - many have found and will find it too harsh for them to tolerate, but if you're a self-proclaimed treble-head like myself, stop reading this, and go buy a Z1R - you'll thank me later. It is insanely, brutally detailed - I guess after Sony managed to implement that miraculous DD treble driver it only made sense to also pump up the quantity on it and draw some attention to it. That does create some issues, mainly in modern pop music that has a lot of treble spikes that are meant to be suppressed by lossy files and poor gear. It also has the occasional weird interaction with vocals but I will be covering that next

The Z1R's midrange has officially proven that less in quantity doesn't have to mean less in quality. The texture is better than just about any BA mids I've heard, detail is exceptional, and they are clearly audible and distinguishable regardless of their less forward tuning. It is a midrange that I can comfortably enjoy as its own thing instead of having to overlook it in order to give the bass and treble more attention.

Where I found an issue personally is in higher register vocals - I think the treble driver overdoes it there and it can make them sound somewhat thin and harsh - it's not a dealbreaker, but I've heard better. I am not sure personally if there is any way for Sony to avoid having that while maintaining the treble as it is. I am personally happy making this trade-off, but that isn't to say everyone will be.

As far as technicalities are concerned, Sony have achieved pure peak performance - width, depth, detail, resolution, texture.... there's nothing I can ask for more of - they were able to meet and surpass my expectations quite comfortably. The texture is something that I am especially picky about, and that's where the Z1R really shines, in both the lows, mids and highs - they kinda go to show what's wrong with pure BA configs

I can't not recommend these... They sound far too good and in the week or two that I've owned them I haven't touched anything else in the collection. It is yet to be seen how long the love affair will last, but regardless, they're nothing short of exceptional


Disclaimer 3: 4.5/5 because of fit, weight, high register vocal harshness. They're proper godmode though, don't let that stop you.
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Pros: Soundstage
Sound Quality
Built like a tank
Cons: Price
I will make this review simple.

After owning several budget-fi /chi-fi such as GR07BE, Kanas Pro, Fiio EX01, ATH E40, Intime Sora and many others, I decided to make a huge jump into TOTL.
I auditioned several iem Andromeda, Solaris, FW10000 and Z1R. My choice end up Z1R.
Why? Let's find out.

Z1R has a really amazing bass. It is not a basshead level but definitely more of a focus here. The bass especially the sub-bass has the most organic natural feel I ever heard. It is fast and punchy.

Many said that the mid is recessed. The mid is not forward. However not so much recessed as well. For female vocal which I mainly listened, the mid is there. Well-textured and full bodied.

The high has sparkle but never fatiguing as it somewhat overshadowed by the bass. I can say that the high is smooth and detailed.

THE BEST. I never heard IEM with this huge soundstage. The soundstage felt like standing in a concert hall. It is big, very big maybe on the same level as open back headphone.

So why did I choose this over the other? I felt like z1r is an upgrade of Andromeda. Better bass, sub-bass, better Soundstage, same sparkle in high and mid.

Compared to Solaris, Z1R still hold a slight edge on every front ( bass, instrument seperation, and soundstage) although both have quite similar sound.

FW10000 lean more on cold side while z1r is more warmish. However detail is quite similar between the two. FW10000 has a slightly better mid but Z1R has a better bass and slightly better Soundstage. This two are the closest in term of technicalities in my opinion. The comfort of FW10000 however, is the worse in ear. It has more sharp edges near the connector and due to a slimmer form factor, the edges touched my ear. This fitting issue actually that decided me choosing Z1R over FW10000 although I still planning to buy FW10000 later in the future and let my ear adapt to it.
Thanks for this review and comparison. Currently deciding between the Sony and the CA Andromeda Gold / Atlas and can't decide. With the difference in sound signature between the original Andromeda and the new Gold, I was wondering whether you might have heard the Gold and can comment on differences with the sony.
IIRC Andromeda gold adding more BA drivers for low frequency.. Still imo BA bass could not be as good as DD. If bass is important I will still choose z1r. It is hard to beat z1r in its own game. Also with a better equipment z1r is even more better, especially in mid section.
I wish I had larger ears but with my super tiny ears, I don't see any way I can fit the 1ZR. They look gorgeous though


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Bass
Clarity and speed
Instrument seperation
Cons: Recessed mids
Comfort and fit
Tip dependent comfort and sound
Bought at RRP, not sponsored or indorsed.

  • Great Hybrid. Cannot beat the DD sound, which i am very fond of. Manages to have the best of both worlds.
  • I found myself turning up the volume higher and higher, and not being limited by high shrieking treble but rather actual decibels the first time i have experienced a pair of IEMs which are able to do this. increasing volume increases the 'thickness'
  • It should be noted that Tip selection, insertion depth are pivotal as if subpar they will not sound like 2k+ earphones.
  • Comfort was an issue intialy, as my ears adapted to being coloquially put raped. But after finding the right sized tips. I have begun to forget i have them on.
  • Sony have pulled of an amazing feat with these IEMs.

  • Beyerdynamic Xelento (BX)
  • Campfire Cascade
  • Empire Ears Legend X
Incredible, the zirconium shell appears very robust, you are getting a high level of build quality as one would expect paying 2k+

The best. Have never had an IEM with this much attention to the unpackaging.

  • Iphone x via dongle / ifi micro BL
  • Tidal Hifi / master

  • Toto -Africa (have listened to this song about 20 times in the last 2 days, it sound incredible through the Z1R's)
  • Ed Sheeran -South of the Boarder
  • Avicii -Heaven
  • Bon Jovi -Livin' on a prayer

- Bass:
> Realistic, has a sub bass focus. Not muddy. Well controlled and fast.
> Compared to BX: BX has more bass quantity, however is more muddy and upper bass bleeds into the low ids, Compared to the cascades. Lol. Cascades are nuts - Overpowered bass with little control
- Mids:
> Recessed. Especially Mid and high mids. However with EQ can be corrected. This is particularly noticeable in male predominent songs (i.e. Bon Jovi)
> Compared to BX: BX has more forward mids, greater low mid impact and quantity. However again, doesn't nail
the control or speed. Cacades also have recessed mids, to a greater degree than both.
- Highs:
> Tip selection is vital here. As is insertion depth. I have very sensitive ears and with the wrong seal and or wrong insertion depth it was harsh and silibant however, after experimenting for a day i found the perfect tips and Wow. Crystal clear and shimmering. Much more extension and quantity that the BX and easily outclasses the cascades.

  • Xeleto: More upper highs and more sub bass rumble on the Z1R, i think their was more bass impact with the xelento. Z1R has a much larger stage and greater clarity.
  • Legend X: Hmm... LX has boom boom boom bass, Z1R has BANG bass... if that makes any sense at all. The stage is better on the Z1R. The LX is less silibant and has better control of the treble. Mids are recessed in both. I found the LX to have a comparitively more 'congested' sound signature.
  • The Z1R is a true TOTL IEM, even though i eventually decided to let mine go due to the treble, i still think they are absolutely one of the best IEM's i have ever heard.
EDIT: After hearing the IER M9, sony could've handled the treble and mids better on the Z1R like they did on the M9, -1 stars.
Last edited:


Founder of The Watercooler Thread
Watercooler Travel Team
I have had to revisit a few things and have taken down my review for the time being. I will resubmit it after I have made some constructive changes. The rest of this is just me trying to make up the necessary 250 characters. I wish Head-Fi let you temporarily take reviews down.
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Thanks, great review!


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Natural organic sound quality, Lots of resolution, huge soundstage probably matching that of open cans. sound similar to Speaker setup. Build quality, Isolation, comfort, accessories included
Cons: Price, prone to tip rolling, thus the sound being affected by the tip used and the insertion (shallow or deep)
A little about me

I'm an audiophile but not the Graphs and number ones, more of a music lover type of audiophile who seeks the best true sound quality. My Genre of choice is Classical music from renaissance to Classism and abit of nationalism like Grieg, Dvorak.

Unboxing & Accessories
In a few words: Simply the best ever Unboxing experience i ever had on an IEM product.

The IER-Z1R Package comes in a white cardboard box with the augmentated image of the product. Slide this box to reveal a Black box with the top engraved the sony logo, the top and front faces of the black box flap open with a magnet. Inside, the package is arranged in a drawer fashion.

On the top most part of the drawer-packaging is a small black-box, resembling a jewelery box, this tiny box is the carrying case, the top of it is made of brushed aluminum with the sony logo embossed, the rest is wrapped in what appears to be leather, perhaps Pleather, it is held shut by a rather weak magnet,

Opening the carrying case reveals the Earpieces, below the earpieces there is a cable-holder, a shirt clip and a cleaning cloth which i found a bit rough and hard, prefer to use the one i use to clean my eyeglasses. The interior of the case is covered in some sort of veñvet.

Moving on to the drawers these contain on each drawer one accessory, in total three drawers. One contains a 3.5mm SE cable, the other a 4.4mm Balanced Cable and the third one a vast assortment of tips in two flavours: Silicone tips and "Triple comfort" Tips (a mix of silicone with Foam).

Both cables feel supple and very flexible, they have a very nice silvery color and it seems like if they have scales like in fish, They have a silk threading for isolation, according to sony they are OFC silver-plated.

The Silicone tips come in sizes: SS, S, MS, M, ML, L and LL. The Triple comfort tips come in SS, S, MS, M, ML and L.

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Build Quality, Fit/Ergonomics, Isolation
The Build quality is exceptional, sony claims to be made of a Zirconium alloy and CNC-Machined.
They do feel pretty sturdy and each shell is pretty heavy but thanks to the new fit (Finally sony got rid of this EX and XBA fitting and adopted a more standard fitting) and cable ear-hooks the weight is distributed evenly and they don't shift. They look beautiful silver shells in mirror finish (think of ipod classic back), on each piece they have engraved in black printing the model "IER-Z1R" and JAPAN on the stem they have the SONY logo. On the base of the stem they have R and L markings, next to these markings there appears to be a vent. The MMCX is a bit recessed. The back face of the shells is extremely beautiful, looks like circular brush pattern resembling that of the scales on a fish. The nozzles are not long, on the bore there is an acoustic absorber and filter to avoid wax/debris getting inside the IEM.

The MMCX connector feels pretty sturdy, very firm, no wobble (the problem of the XBA-Z5 MMCX), feels as solid as the MMCX of the XBA-H3 which i owned in the past.

Each shell inside has three drivers, all of them developed by sony in-house. a 12 mm Dynamic similar to that of the MDR-Z1R with an magnesium dome and LCP diaphragm, a BA with new silver wires and gold connectors. And a 5 mm LCP Dynamic driver. The housing also has a magnesium-frame and a acoustic tube system for handling the sound stage.

The fit for me was a bit tricky and painful the first weeks, then after my ears got used to it and after I figured out how to properly insert them, they are the most comfortable IEMs. What i do to insert them is to first push them into my ears without inserting them fully, then, after i continue to insert them i rotate them clock-wise and at the same time i push them deeper into my canals, thus achieving the fit i desire.

Isolation is damn, damn good, despite being vented, i've tried them in the house with the TV being loud, i can not hear a word. On the S- and U-Bahn (German Underground and suburban rail) there is a nice amount of isolation, but they like to pick up lower-frequency sounds like the noise from the train on the tracks and occasionally the announcements. On the Bus same as the "Bahn" (rail) nice isolation to shut up the crowd :D

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Sound Quality
They are the best IEMs I have ever heard to date, in summary, they sound like the bigger MDR-Z1R. They have no trouble spitting details and resolution, they have the most natural sound for an Hybrid IEM.

SOURCE: Sony NW-WM1A Fw 3.01, 4.4 output w/ Lossless files ranging from 16 & 24 bit flac to DSD (some ripped with a Pioneer BDP-160)

Bass: The bass region has emphasis in the Subbass, therefore, it reaches deep and very low notes can be heard, rumbles nice and has a very well defined texture, the mid bass is very well balanced, there is no bloat and no bleed into the Mids. The lowest of notes can be heard with these as well with the MDR-Z1R (Froberger edition Volume 6. AEOLUS /Bob van Asperen DSD 2.8MHz, Bach: The four great Toccatas and Fugues, SONY Classical / E. Power biggs DSD 2.8 MHz & Dittersdorf & Vanhal: Double bass Concertos. Hyperion records UK, Swedish Chamber orchestra, 16/44.1 FLAC).

Mids: perhaps a bit recessed, this can be attributed to the lack of power of sources. But they soubd pretty fine for me natural, voices have a very nice presentation Mozart Le Nozze di figaro Phillips Mozart edition (2006 REISSUE) FLAC 16/44.1, violin and pianos, in general instrumental music have a nice presentation, very accurate and natural Beethoven piano sonatas DECCA V. Ashkenazi FLAC 16/44.1, Charpentier Music for the Chappel of versailles, ALIA VOX/J. Savall (DSD 2.8MHz). Flutes don't sound shouty or aggressive at all, the same for female voices in operistic passages, (Mitridate Re di ponto Mozart Phillips edition, FLAC 16/44.1).

Highs: The highs are pretty well extended without being sibilant, no, they aren't recessed at all, very airy presentation with tons of details and resolution in both Macro and micro-details. Mozart Symphonies 35-41, HV. Karajan, DG, FLAC 16/44.1. J.L Krebs Complete works for Organ (11 volume, 16/44.1 FLAC, Felix Friedrich label Querstand). Mozart Flute Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, DG, Orpheus Chamber orchestra 16/44.1. The XBA-Z5 had pretty recessed treble, thus contributing to it's dark signature.

Soundstage & Instrument separation: Probably the biggest soundstage in an IEM I've ever heard, surpassing that of the XBA-Z5 and equating that of the MDR-Z1R/HD800S, pretty inmersive experience, same for instrument separation, each instrument is present as a single entity with it's own air arround it. Notes come from every where, basically you're gunned down with notes from every where wow, as like listening to a pair of professional floor standing speakers. (Krebs- Organ works. Weinberger brothers, label Motette 16/44.1. Striggio mass for 40 and 60 voices, Hervé Noquet, Glossa, DSD 2.8MHz. Bach the six partiten, Martin Gester, Ligia, FLAC 24/88.2).

One note: This baffled me as i never found a difference between tips with other IEMs, well, the IER-Z1R is my first IEM, that changes sound depending on fit (shallow vs deep) and tips (Triple comfort, vs Silicone vs Comply foamies).

Deeper insertion provides the best bass, while shallower insertion provides the biggest staging. Triple comfort tips provide a more emphasis on the lower end, the silicones being the most neutral, perhaps removing some bass, but i found that silicone tips provide a very nice isolation, better than TC tips. Comply foams are not a match with these IEMs, they mute the treble and affect the signature, making them less revealing and more darker sounding.

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Compared to my Previous sony IEM, the XBA-Z5: the IER-Z1R have better bass control and texture, better bass extension. Better mids, despite the recession, bigger soundstage, Very airy treble and well extended (this was the achiles heel of the Z5 a very rolled-off treble, every time i wanted to play a hi-res track, the Z5 wanted to give that extra detail but this tuning didn't allow them to, simply hearing this brick-wall annoyed me). The isolation and fit is clearly better as for the build too, luckily the IER-Z1R don't have any paint job to discolor after years of use.

Compared to the MDR-Z1R, this seems absurd at first, to compare an IEM to a can, but woah, they share the same sound tuning and characteristics, big stage outside your head close to open-back Headphones. Very organic sound close to a speaker setup. Sincerely after of abbandoning my MDR-Z1R for burning the IER-Z1R in, I was expecting a difference in sound, perhaps being disappointed by the MDR-Z1R? No, I noted NO DIFFERENCE in signature AT ALL.

Very detailed IEMs a worthy TOTL from Sony, performing close to speaker setups and open cans. No trouble switching between MDR- und IER-Z1R.

+Great bass extension and texture & control
+Natural timbre
+ Gargantuan soundstage
+Very resolving while staying true to the recording.
+Airy highs without being sibilant
+ZERO Hiss
+Vast array of accessories included
+Stupendous Isolation levels
+Sturdy build.

-Shells on the big n' heavy side
-Tricky to get used to fit
-Require power to really shine
- You may get weird looks at public transport/The street
-Very revealing of bad recordings, bad music files (e.g. MP3 at lower than 320 kbps)
-Very dependant on tip fit
"prone to tip rolling"??? Is that were you come back to find a pair of Spring Tips on instead of the ones you had fitted? Maybe the IEMs have a preference for smooth or ribbed ones on their nozzle.:astonished:


Headphoneus Supremus
bright top z1r.jpg

Hi Kids!

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 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.

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’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’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.

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.




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.

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” 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.

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.


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?


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.’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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Update 09/12/2019

Sony has just implemented firmware update 3.02 as a change from the included sound signature possible with 3.01. In my uses 3.02 may have taken the Walkman 1Z DAP and moved it into 1st place as the ultimate way to listen to the IER-Z1R. This review is not really complete without at least some mention of the firmware and improvements to sound. Obviously this would be subjective though it’s hard not to notice that the 1Z, IER-Z1R and firmware 3.02 seem to be tailor made taking the IER-Z1R to a previously unknown level of quality in sound reproduction. IMO

This ends the review:

Below is technical information explaining how Sony did it.




3 Hz–100,000 Hz


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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When you say the SP1000 didn't have the same soundstage, were you using the single-ended output? The 2.5 balanced output of the SP1000 is much better than the 3.5mm single ended in my experience....
What I've just read :thinking:
I joined the 1 signature team really late, 30 Jan 2022 :L3000: But still It's worth every single cent to me, what an exceptional experience. Thank to all your sharing!