Sony MDR-1AM2


100+ Head-Fier
A good headphone, but not competitive at MSRP price
Pros: Very lightweight, very good sound quality, standard cable, very easy to drive
Cons: Leather pads and headband are a magnet for any trace of skin oil, bass is boomy
Will start my review by stating I'm not sure if this headphone has been discontinued or not.
I bought the MDR-1AM2 in 2022 at sale for a price of 100 euros (the MSRP is more than 200), main reason being I wanted to have a pair of very light headphones.
The fact it comes with a balanced cable is a bonus.


Comfort is superb on these, you almost don't feel it on your head.
The lightweight, very soft pads and the fact that cups are oval shaped makes this pair one of the most comfortable I have ever used.
However, there is a downside to this: the leather is like a magnet when it comes to the slightest trace of skin oil, requiring cleaning after pretty much every use.
Something I really don't like ! It's pretty much the worst leather I have seen on decent headphones in this regard.
I intend to replace the pads with ones made from alcantara (found ones that fit) to solve this problem and maybe tame the very boomy bass at the same time.
Ears also tend to get hot after listening to it for prolonged periods of time. For the MSRP they ask on it, I really expected a lot more have to be honest.
I personally can't complain for the 100euros I paid, but I don't know if I would pay more than that.
Overall build quality is very good apart from the leather parts which I really don't like.
I wish at least the headband was made from velour or alcantara so it lasts longer and doesn't require regular cleaning.


Sound is of very good quality and pretty neutral apart from the bass region which has a big boost (+6dB from reference).
Compared to the previous version the bass has been tamed significantly, but it's still way above what it should be.
There are people describing the previous version as "not bassy", so the bassheads might feel these don't have enough bass
despite it has a lot more than reference headphones.
It can be driven to pretty loud volumes without distorsion, but it will distort at very loud volumes.
While typically not a problem, there are headphones out there (in the same price bracket) which offer better distorsion figures, that's for sure.
For how much bass it has, I'm actually surprised how low distorsion actually is, so it's a winner in this regard.
The mids are treble are just the right amount with good clarity. Note these headphones aren't bright at all, only problematic area being the bass.
What I think SONY tried to do is make a sound signature that's somewhere in between what consumers like and what audiophiles like and
think they've done a very good job in this regard.
I use this pair mostly with cassette walkmans, application where the elevated bass is a plus, as many walkmans and cassettes don't have a flat
frequency response in the bass area, so these compensate for that.


At 16Ω and 98dB/mW, these are super easy to drive, literally any device can drive them very loud, even ones that output only 5mW.
So the SONY DAPs which are power limited will be able to drive those nicely without the need to crank it at the maximum setting.
In the box you will get 2 cables: a standard 4-pole 3.5mm jack which also includes a microphone and a button and a 4.4mm balanced cable.
Both are of very good quality and will last a long time.
Given how easy the MDR1-AM2 is to drive, you definetely don't need the balanced especially since you will hear more background noise
due to its higher sensitivity and the fact balanced outputs of amps are noisier.
While the balanced cable is nice to have, I see it more of a bonus than anything else as you won't really need it.
The opposite end of the cable has a 4-pole 3.5mm jack with, but you will need one with thin connector in order to fit.
I have tried another made sold as for this headphone (which is lighter and has 3-pole 3.5mm jack) and it works nicely.


In my opinion, these headphones have to be cheaper in order to make sense, as at the MSRP consumers can get wireless pairs of similar sound quality
and audiophiles can get much better ones like Senheiser 5xx or Beyerdynamic 700 Pro X.
For 100-150euros, they make a lot more sense and they can be very good headphones to fit all usage scenarios, as the microphone included on the single-eneded cable
is of very good quality, much better than what you will get on wireless headphones.
While I don't see myself using over-ear headphones for anything else than listenting to music, other people like to be able to use such a headphone for calls as well.
In which regard the MDR1-AM2 performs excellent.
Fortunately you can find these at lower prices than the MSRP and even lower if you buy them used (but be prepared to replace the pads and headband in such case).
Last edited:


500+ Head-Fier
Sony strikes twice.
Pros: Good wearing comfort
Extremely lightweight
Very easy to drive
Did I mention how comfortable they are?
Cons: Maybe a bit too ez to drive
Prone to background hiss. behaves much like an iem in this regard
Back in the day, Sony produced the 1R series in the hope of introducing an audiophile model to the mainstream consumer market. The result was a headphone that sounds decent for the price and has superior wearing comfort. They later produced a Mk2 version, then the 1R evolved into the 1A. And then we have the 1AM2. This headphone has been on my buy list for a long time. It's very lightweight, it looks stylish, and I've tried the 1000XM series enough times to know how comfortable they are. I finally took the plunge last August. Now that I've had these for a half a year, I want to give them a fair and hopefully unbiased review (as unbiased as i can be harhar).

Coming from behemoths like HE6 and Abyss, anything can be comfortable. But the 1AM2 still stands out as one of the most comfortable headphones I've owned. These weigh almost nothing and the weight distribution is excellent. The headband distributes weight very evenly on your head, and the pads provide just the right amount of clamp. Not too loose, not too tight. These feel very secure. Speaking about pads, did I mention just how comfortable they are? These are hands down the softest earpads I've touched. Sony went out of their way to create an earpad that softens up upon direct contact with your skin. Yes you heard me right, when you put them on your head, your body heat will soften the earpads and instantly transform them into the softest material imaginable. They conform to the shape of your ear and make sure you get a perfect seal. Overall I'd give it 10 out of 10 in the comfort department. One of if not the most comfortable headphone on the market. Sony really knocks it out of the park in this one.

Build is pretty utilitarian. The housing is made of plastic, the headband and earcups are made of synthetic leather. Despite the simple choice of materials, they look very well put together. There are a few details that stand out: The hinge that connects the headphone to the headband doesn't squeak when you rotate it. Sony mentioned this in the product literature cuz a lot of users complained about this detail in the 1A. The headband extension mechanism also feels smooth and quiet when you extend/contract it. Very nice attention to detail. Overall, plain but by no means flimsy.

If I'm being honest, when I got the 1AM2 I have no expectation for sound quality. Not that I expect it to sound bad but for a headphone at this price I just don't expect too much. I was pleasantly surprised. Detail retrieval is actually pretty decent (for the price), and the amount of sound it blocks out is also impressive. Sony even included a 4.4mm pentaconn cable in the package in case you want to step up the amplification. Well I did try it on a hiby player but I don't think it really needs balanced amplification. Here's why.

First, this headphone is crazy sensitive. I have had many portable headphones and none are this sensitive. It almost behaves like an IEM in this regard --- on an iPhone I actually volume match it with my DD IEM and find the volume to be sufficient. On most desktop amps it will hiss. Again something that's much more common with IEMs than full-sized headphones.

Second, the frequency response. Oh my oh my the FR. Do I not like it. This headphone would actually sound good if it can retain its technicalities and go with a different tuning. The tuning on these is, well, how do I put it. Sony-esque. They are targeted at mainstream consumers so you already know it's going to sound bassy. But the mids and treble sound a bit too withdrawn. For pop music they are alright, but for any serious listening I think you're going to want something different, starting with more clarity, more mid and treble focus and less muddy bass.

Even within the realm of super boosty bass headphones, the 1AM2 is not a good example. They sound colored and artificial. Listen to any acoustic music and you'll see what I mean. It's such a shame because the technicality is not bad. They can retrieve a decent amount of detail, but the FR is too far gone to make it a solid headphone. I personally use it for watching YouTube videos and taking online classes, or just any multimedia purposes in general. That's where they really shine. Superior comfort plus low weight means I can wear them all day. As long as no serious music listening is involved, they're gucci.

Is a headphone still worth buying if it doesn't sound good? A year ago I would've said no, but for the 1AM2 I am going to make an exception. These headphones are so comfortable that I find myself using them every day despite their unagreeable FR. Multimedia applications are where they really shine. Put them in a bag, take them on a trip, bring them to a party. You'll find yourself much happier if you just use it as a regular headphone instead of an audiophile worship object. If you don't take the sound too seriously, you'll enjoy them a lot more. That concludes my review.
  • Like
Reactions: Liono
Thank you doesn't sound like worth an upgrade from my MDR-1R's.


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: + (Consumer + Audiophile)-friendly tuning
+ Works well with most genres
+ Splendid detail retrieval
Cons: - Soundstage is much wider than it is deep
- Sub-par isolation
- Soft carrying pouch does little to protect them for bag storage
Video Review

*This review has been updated as of 5th December 2020*

Price and specifications
Price: USD$299.99 (tested at USD$176)
Sony MDR-1AM2 official webpage

Weight – 187g
Type – Closed dynamic
Impedance (ohm) – 16Ω
Frequency response – 3-100,000kHz
Sensitivity – 98dB/mW
Cable – 3.5mm detachable silver-coated OFC
Cable length – 47-1/4”
Plug – Gold-plated L-shaped (3.5mm SE and 4.4mm Balanced)


4.4mm male to 3.5mm male balanced cable
3.5mm male to 3.5mm male single-ended cable with mic
Soft carrying pouch

Comments on accessories
I love how Sony includes both sets of cables, allowing for flexibility between sources. The pouch contains a separate compartment to store the 2 different cables which is good thinking on Sony’s part.

However, this is also why they must be stored carefully. It is easy to create dents which take some time to subside. I would very much prefer to have seen a hard-shell case at the listed retail price point, as the soft pouch does little to protect these in the confines of a backpack full of junk; especially since the ear pads must be oh-so-dearly babied.

Build, comfort and isolation
The frame is light but the build quality remains sturdy without feeling cheap. It should be noted that the pressure-relieving earpads, while comfortable, may trap heat when wearing the headphones for about an hour or so. The earpads tend to flatten over a listening session; my ears gradually begin to touch the grills in front of the drivers when wearing these for more than 2 hours. I have to take these off for about 20min to let the earpads return to its original shape.

Despite providing the comfort I yearn for on long-haul flights, I swapped out to my CIEMs on a plane as the MDR-1AM2 passive noise isolation does little to block out the aircraft hum.

On a separate note, I have been taking very good care of the earpads by wiping them down with alcohol after a few uses so the synthetic leather earpads and headband have yet to start peeling. I'm doing my best to prolong its lifespan because changing earpads seems to be quite a pain with these since the earpads are permanently attached to the cans.


The MDR-1AM2 was tuned with Sony’s new house sound, a well-tuned V-shaped pair of cans with an airy, energetic timbre. It walks the fine line between being musical and analytical. It satisfies the average consumer, as well as the discerning audiophile, within the mid-tier price bracket.

The bass is elevated and extension is deep, with equal focus on both sub-bass and mid-bass. This attention to both aspects of the bass is realistic – the sub-bass rumble is well-controlled and the mid-bass does not mask its tone.【1】 The MDR-1AM2's bass presentation renders details of bass guitars that play alongside vocals exceptionally well. It has a clean playback while delivering that "kick" most people crave for in a rock mix.【2】

Possibly bolstered by the back vents at the top of each earcup, the DD has a nice physicality, with impactful sub-bass rumble and mid-bass thump that can be felt. Although the mid-bass lends some warmth to midrange, it is clearly balanced out by the upper midrange with a pinna gain that climbs from 2kHz to approximately 4.5kHz. The peak at 4.5kHz here definitely gives the vocals a boost in clarity; the magnitude of the upper-mid boost is well-controlled to avoid an uncomfortably hard, aggressive upper midrange. Taking the rise from 2kHz into account, the lower-mids are relatively recessed hence one can expect that higher pitched vocals will have more of an edge over deeper ones. 【3】

The mid to upper-treble boost works well with the gain in the upper-mids to give air and reveal fine details of recordings. I say that this is a well-tuned V-shape because it not only does bass well, but I also love that its treble also exhibits a distinct shimmery "crash" to cymbals and hi-hats.【4】Additionally, the MDR-1AM2 manages to keep sibilance well under-control despite the treble emphasis.

Technical Summary
Technical Summary.png

While it is all too common to see some manufacturers boost the treble for the psychoacoustic illusion of more details, the MDR-1AM2 is a specialist in bringing forth such detail of recordings while maintaining a pleasing tonality. However, the MDR-1AM2 does not keep up in the resolution department. As detailed as it sounds, these perceived details in different components of the mix are not as well-articulated and well-separated as I'd like them to be.

At the end of the day, the resolution is very reasonable and it's something that some listeners might not even have a problem with. But I have to bring this up because of what these headphones could have been for me. Its stellar tuning and detail retrieval can fit the bill for many and having the extra bit of resolution at this price point would have made these an even stronger contender in the mid-fi arena.

Possibly due to the fact that the lower treble is slightly recessed, the presence of instruments and vocals are set a distance away from the listener. Combined with its airy treble, this helps give the perception of a spacious sound although the soundstage is neither particularly wide nor deep. This is why I enjoy using the MDR-1AM2 for live performances as well.

Concluding thoughts
I also have to discuss the relevance of the MDR-1AM2 today in 2020. With the recent release of the Sony WH-1000XM4 in Aug 2020, it would be interesting to listen to how the wired MDR-1AM2 fares against its wireless counterpart. While I do not have a pair of WH-1000XM4 to make a definitive comparison at the moment, I intend to audition them one day to come to that conclusion.

Costing USD$50 more than the official listed price of the MDR-1AM2 (USD$349.99), it may be hard to justify an MDR-1AM2 if the sound quality isn't far off (considering ANC and wireless features in the WH-1000XM4). You might get more bang for your buck purchasing the MDR-1AM2 2nd hand as a secondary pair of headphones if you've already got a great setup at home for wired listening.

Thanks for reading! You may find more reviews on my Head-fi thread.

These are some of the notable tracks used to come to my conclusions for those who're interested (not exhaustive).
Sample tracks for reference: Artiste 1Song 1, Song 2. Artiste 2Song 1…
1. Falling In Reverse - Popular Monster. PVRIS - Nightmare, Hallucinations. Milet - Ashes
2. Imminence - Paralysed, Infectious. Architects - Animals. Bring Me The Horizon - Teardrops.
3. Of Monsters And Men - Stuck In Gravity, Wild Roses. Andrew Lloyd Weber - Memory, Amigos Para Siempre.
4. MY FIRST STORY - Missing You, With You, Home. ONE OK ROCK - Yes I Am, Taking Off.
Last edited:
Any chance the above playlist is on some streaming service?
@jb2unique Thanks for the read! Unfortunately not, but everything except (14) is available on Spotify :)
With the M5 of the 1000X series out. Maybe it's my ears/hearing but the tuning of the M5 is very similar to the 1AM2.