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Sony MDR-Z1R

Rating:
4.42857/5,
Tags:
  1. Phronesis
    Very disappointing
    Written by Phronesis
    Published Dec 26, 2018
    2.0/5,
    Pros - Decent build quality and case, comfort, noise isolation
    Cons - Poor sound quality, with bloated bass, lack of presence energy, and a subtly piercing treble spike
    I see that the reviews so far are positive, so I thought I should post a short review, since I personally and subjectively was very disappointed with the sound of the Z1R.

    My local dealer provided me a set for audition, and I had planned to audition it for more than a week.

    Opening up the box, I found that the case is nice and the build quality of the headphone is good - nothing fancy, but good quality. The stock cable seems a bit cheap, but I assume it does its job, and I don't expect cables to sound different.

    Putting it on my head, it was comfortable and provided a good noise-isolating seal, and it remained comfortable after hours of listening.

    My first impression during listening was that I wasn't wowed and the music wasn't grabbing me. I wondered if I'm just not in a mood to listen to music? I listened for hours more, and found myself liking the sound even less. The bass seemed too strong, and the highs seemed to simultaneously lack energy and be a bit piercing. Weird …

    So I broke my own rule of not comparing a new headphone with other headphones until I had listened to it by itself for a few days. I compared with my Sennheiser HD800S, Focal Clear, LCD-3, and Meze 99 Classics, and all four of these sounded a lot better to me than the Z1R. I then went and grabbed my relatively inexpensive M40X and M50X, and they too sounded better to me than the Z1R. What's going on here?

    Recalling that Tyll Hertsens had written a negative review of the Z1R, I went back to read his review again. To my ears/brain, his review of the Z1R and his analysis of why he doesn't like its sound describes my experience perfectly:

    - The bass extends too far into the mids, resulting in a somewhat bloated and boomy bass, and reduced overall clarity.

    - The treble response is very uneven. The presence region is weak, which sucks the energy out of horns and cymbals, and renders their sound quite unrealistic. It also gives the music a more distant sound, which probably is part of the reason why the Z1R seems to have a decent stage size. And beyond the presence region, the highs around 10 kHz are quite boosted, which gives the Z1R a subtle piercing edge and probably explains why some listeners perceive the Z1R as having good detail and air.

    I boxed up the Z1R after three days and returned it. I didn't expect that listening to it for more days would help much, nor should it be necessary.

    Overall, at least for my ears/brain, the Z1R is poorly designed, and is outperformed by plenty of closed-back headphones costing less than $500. I can't recommend it.
      abm0 and tommytakis like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. abm0
      Nice to see we still have some real people on here - every other review is filled with hi-res photos of every inch of the box and accessories, and reads like a damned product promotion leaflet. :)
      abm0, May 1, 2019
    3. mihaig
      Stock cable for Z1R is a disappointment. Really, really bad. Luckily mine came also with a Kimberly cable and the sound is much more clean and open with it. Highly recommend to give this cable a try before giving up on the headphones.
      mihaig, May 2, 2019
    4. dan3952
      It's time for me to go through the Inner Fidelity reviews again before making my next purchase lest I make an expensive mistake. WhatHiFi? had printed a glowing review of the MDR-Z1. I doubt changing the cable will do very much to change the sound in your case if the stock one doesn't a) pick up EMI, b) have microphonic tendencies, c) introduce inductance, or d) introduce capacitance. I also don't trust the current "balanced is better" craze.
      dan3952, May 4, 2019
  2. Currawong
    Sony's new flagship Z1R is both a very resolving and very entertaining pair of headphones.
    Written by Currawong
    Published Apr 7, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Light and comfortable. Good cable connection system. Amazing bass. Great balance of spaciousness & intimacy with the sound. Can be found below retail.
    Cons - Warm tuning which, especially the treble, may not be to taste.
    [​IMG]

     
    Some years ago I had a chance to listen with Sony's legendary R10 headphones, then once again at a meet in Tokyo.  In context they were impressive headphones for their driver technology and unique wood cups. With the arrival of Sennheiser's HD800s, I thought that maybe a successor had arrived. While on paper the HD800s were as capable, they didn't have quite the lovely, organic sound that the Sonys were capable of. 
     
    At my second listen, I was more impressed with Audeze's LCD-3s, so I figured that technology had marched on and hoped that Sony might get back in the black and come out with something truly amazing. So it was that I met Nao Tsunoda of Sony at the Fujiya Avic headphone festival in Tokyo, and at every subsequent festival, where I asked him the same question: When would Sony make an R10 successor?
     
    The Z7s, when released, were obviously not an adequate answer, so are the Z1Rs? The quality of the fit and finish is obviously a continuation of the Z7's excellent, and very comfortable design. While Sony might be reasonably criticised for still using a unique connector on their Walkmans, for their headphones they use easily accessible 3.5mm sockets for their removable cable.  For the first time too, a major manufacturer has offered a high-quality aftermarket cable, in this case from Kimber. 
     

     
    The stock cable is rubbery and robust. Both it and the Kimber have high-quality screw-on plugs and are available in 3.5, 6.5, dual-3.5 balanced and the new Pentaconn terminations. Using dual 3.5mm terminations for balanced is not new, but unfortunately that decision pre-dates the introduction of the new Pentaconn connector. I hope that internal politics doesn't prevent them updating the, albeit very under-powered, PHA amps with it to simplify things.
     
    The Z1Rs are a step larger than the Z7s, making the latter seem almost inadequate. Sony continues their trend with 70mm drivers, but in this case the driver has a metal centre. The drivers are so large that the front part of the earpads ends up partially blocking them. Like the Z7s, they are light and very comfortable to wear, with a soft headband and earpads. The earpads are easily replaceable, without the holding screw the Z7s have. A firm twist has them off for cleaning or replacement.
     
    Overall headphone tone is a continuation of the trend started by the Z7s, darker, rather like a pair of stereo speakers and polar opposite something like the Focal Utopias, with their neutral-to-bright presentation. The bass isn't as strong as, say, that of the Campfire Audio Vegas (which are purely thunderous and gloriously overkill). Between the Utopias and Z1Rs would sit MrSpeakers Ether Flow, with its neutral-plus-midbass sound. 
     

     
    While the tone is a bit dark for my tastes, what those drivers deliver is some of the most amazing bass I've ever experienced. I'd never expect that classic Coltrane could deliver a bass kick in the right areas, but the Sonys manage to extract things out of the low notes to a degree that my first impressions were of regular dynamic headphones attempting to imitate planar magnetic models.  This makes, say, Sofi Tukker pure fun and When I Get My Hands On You by The New Basement Tapes hits the spot with its deep bass notes. 
     
    The mid-range is not neglected, forward enough that vocals are instruments are brought forward, enough that rocking out doesn't require overly loud volumes. What that delivers, along with the angled drivers and thick pads, is a spot-on expression of the space the music occupies. Unlike the HD800s, which make everything sound wide, spacious and distant, the Z1Rs are more apt to make big sound big and small sound small as required. This had Marvin Gaye's intense singing of Trouble Man right up in my face as the band played around him.
     

     
    What is more, it isn't just the bass where the detail is. Subtle aspects of instrument notes were readily apparent through the Z1Rs, as good as other headphones in its price range. So while the presentation may be more old-school paper-cone speaker in intent, it is capable of delivering the spirit of the music from the large to the small very well. This might be helped by what feels like a very slightly aggressive presentation.
     
    Where they don't do so well is the treble, which can sound muffled to varying degrees. For example, I'm listening as I write this to The Wailin' Jennys, and I want the vocals to extend freely out into the treble regions, but it doesn't. Maybe it's because I like the more extended and delicate treble of the HE1000 V2 and electrostats that I particularly notice this.
     
    The Kimber cable only brings out more bass than the stock cable. What would be interesting to try is cables from other makers, which members have suggested bring out the treble better.
     
    While the Utopias seemed to dissolve the separation between your ears and the music, the Sonys seek to entertain by bringing it right up to you. For music that simply wasn't recorded well enough for the Utopias (which on my system allowed me to hear way too far into some recordings) the Sonys often fit the bill.. 
     

     
    Ultimately Sony's Z1R is a mixed blessing. I think I most appreciated it after listening with a pair of similarly priced Ultrasone Edition 8 ER headphones, which just didn't deliver the same amount of detail. The R10s cost $2600 in 1989, which would be over $4000 today, so a top-of-the-line Sony at around the $2000 mark could be considered a relative bargain, even more so for the occasional person who found them at way below that.  Where they are most challenged is by the Ether Flow and C Flow, the former of which is slightly more balanced in tone and is capable of delivering great bass as well. However Sony fans can rejoice that they have an excellent flagship available from them once again.
     
     
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Sonic Defender
      Thank you for the review. I opted for the Z1R over the Ether C Flow as my reading here consistently indicated that while of good quality, the bass on the C Flow was considered lower in quantity. I was also very interested in the XC, but the weight just made me back away form that headphone. I can see why for some the darker tone might not work, but personally I enjoy it and still feel that it does provide enough treble energy to not be veiled, but yes, there is some restraint. I very much want to get a HEK V2. Thanks again for the review, very well written.
      Sonic Defender, Apr 7, 2017
      Sp12er3 likes this.
    3. Hawaiibadboy
      I find it far superior to the Z7. they did a good job on this one IMO
      Hawaiibadboy, Apr 7, 2017
    4. hoanguyen
      Thanks for the review.  I may have to get one.
      hoanguyen, Apr 7, 2017
  3. gerelmx1986
    A gargantuan Headphone with a Grandious Soundstage
    Written by gerelmx1986
    Published Oct 9, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Comfortable, very clean sound quality, immersive, huge soundstage almost like speaker and live, better isolation
    Cons - Price
    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.

    The Package
    The headphones come on a pretty big box, let's call this the retail box, typical cardboard box, white background with a large picture of the product to show details. Inside that Colossal box comes another giant box, though, smaller than the retail box. This is the Storage case.
    01.JPG
    The storage case itself is made of Wood, mostly i think plywood or some other type of composite wood, nevertheless is still heavy at 2-3KG, The case is covered in leather (or pleather) including the hinges! on the top there is the Sony logo embossed into the leather. one of the sides has a magnetic latch with the words MDR-Z1R on it.
    Opening it reveals the headphones sitting on velour-like material, on the right there is a small rectangular compartment for storing the cables. On the Lid there is a small bag, perhaps for more cables, but there si the usage instructions. In my Opinioin, this is by far one of the best headphone cases i've ever witnessed.
    03.JPG 04.JPG 05.JPG
    The Accessories included
    Among the accessories there is the normal 3.5mm SE stereo cable Sony original, a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter which is gold plated. Additionally made by @Purk it included a 3.5mm TRRS excellent-DIY made cable, as well an excellent DIY 4.4mm to 4-pin XLR to connect f.e a Walkman with 4.4mm to an analogue balanced input from an amplifier.

    06.JPG 07.JPG 08.JPG

    Build, comfort and fit
    The build quality is top notch, all metal and real leather earpads and headband material. The exterior part of the cups is made from a mesh of woven stainless steel covered in chromium. After this layer then comes a paper filter to absorb resonances made from Canadian wood pulp using japanese paper methods, then the housing of the driver made of plastic.

    The driver is a mammoth 70mm Aluminum covered liquid crystal polymer (LCP) with a magnesium dome. It self the driver had a new magnet which is developed by sony.

    The drive is protected by a cloth mes and a beautiful fibonnaci-sequence patterned grille, it actually looks like nice flower petalals. The side of the head band has nice numbered slotted positioning to adjust the headband to your head. At the top of each cup near the edge there is bass port, so i consider there headphones semi-open (perhaps 1/4th open?).

    The comfort is very nice, no sense of pressure or cramping arrounf your head/ears, very nice cushioning, the pads feel very comfy, like pillows.

    They do fit pretty well arround my ears, and the do block some noise very well, including they muffle better the blast from the passing train's horn (at the office where i work there is a railway line) than the XBA-Z5 In ears.. I do get less sweaty than with the MDR-Z7.
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    Sound quality
    The sound they produce is akin to being there live at the concert hall or like listening to a big pair of speakers, they feature a warm sound signature not fit for every one's likings. They have powerful bass that goes deep and low. They are pretty immersive cans and pretty clean sounding. Their clarity comes due to the lack of resonances on the cups thanks to that paper filter explained above.

    Bass: The bass prominence is even more thna that of the MDR-Z7, but no with the bommy mess the Z7 (i'm talking about the MDR-Z7 MK 1) are. The bass on these does not bleed into the mids and for my tastes it is not that too much as other say.
    The bass goes damn deep that you can hear the deepest note on a church organ with such clarity even on lower volumes and it does tingles and massages your ears (you can feel the bass vibrations) a thing that never happened with the MDR-Z7 unless you cranked to ear-splitting volumes (due to resonances on the MDR-Z7 cups). Bass has texture and resolution, midbass is not bloated as it is on the Z7, despite sharing signature. Double bass string thump is very well rendered and felt, as do the cello rumble and grunge sound of it. Bass and tenor voices sound equally mesmerizing and low such typical hoarsely voice of very deep bass singers. Drum kicks and kettle drums are well represented with a nice satisfying slam and BANG sound to them. with nice dissipation and deccay times.

    Mids: The mids in the Z1R are fowaarder than those of the MDR-Z7, therefore the more detailed nature of the headphone. String sections are well rendered, voices sound sparkly and lively with some recordings such as Froberger edition of AEOLUS you can even hear the musician slide the keyboards of the Harpsichord used, the plucks of the Lute strings on the Naxos Sylvius Weiss suites for Lute sound so realistic. Sopranos sound livery and well rendered. Decay of the notes is very well rendered, you can hear a string being released and it continues to vibrate until it fully stops.

    Treble: The treble in this headphone is a bit weird as it has a dip on the 4-5KHz region but goes sharply up thru the 10Khz regions, due to this, sometimes I get a zing but it is not annoying nor harsh, is just okay, reminds me of the sparkly XBA-A3 highs. High pitched notes from piccolos, sounds sparkly, as do well female voices very smoothly and fluid. Sparkly harpsichord harmonics. The Mozart's glass harmonica pieces are just a prime example of sparkly zingy highs as this instrument features bowls of different sizes or wine glasses filled with water, where wet fingers are slid thus creating some screechy nature to them with a zing in the upper frequencies. Violin sounds very authoritative and well presented.. You can hear the most minuscule sounds. and microdetails.

    Staging and separation: Staging is pretty wide, notes come from everywhere, very enveloping and immersive. They are the most open closed headphones i've ever tried, even the stageis bigger than that of the MDR-Z7
    Separation is excellent too, you can pin point different instruments in the orchestra. The instruments have plenty of air arround them. The headphones don't lose coherence when playing very complex passages like a full chorus with brass section and violins (Claudio monteverdi Selva morale espirituale/Gabriel garrido Enselble elyma).
    The 4 organs of the Freiburg cathedral are well pinpointed and localized that you can hear all of them in concert or as separate entities and you can pin point where the sound comes from. (E. power biggs The four great toccatas and fugues.)

    Summary
    A very big thank you note to @Purk for the nice deal i got them and for the extras included such as the 3.5mm TRRS and 4.4mm to XLR adaptor

    Very clean sounding pair of headphones with a gargantuan stage giving you that live or speaker-like experience. They have very nice bass extension without intruding the mids. Very nice mids and sprakly highs that give the most minute nuances of music asw ell nice macro details. They remain coeherent even in complex passages.

    All testing was done with WM1A walkman with 4.4mm and 3.5mm TRRS.
    The test tracks:
    Claudio Monteverdi Selva morale e spirituale/Enemble elyma & Gabriel Garrido 16/44.1 FLAC
    Alessandro striggio mass for 40 & 60 Voices/Herve Niquet, le concert spirituel 24/88.2 FLAC
    Bach, Famous works for pedal harpsichord/Luc Beausejour 24/88.2 FLAC
    Bach: the four great toccatas and fugues / E. Power Biggs DSD 2.8824MHz
    Handel: Concerti Grossi Op. 6 / Academy of Anceint Music DSD 2.8824 MHz
    Telemann: Violin sonatas/ Arsenale sonoro 24/96 FLAC
    J. Haydn: six sonatas for Violin and viola/ Anton Steck & Christian Goosses 16/44.1 FLAC
    Thomas tallis Spem in Alium / La chapelle du roi 16/44.1
    Monteverdi at corsica: La venexiana Live/ La Venexiana 16/44.1
    Mozart symphonies nos. 35-41/H.V. Karajan 16/44.1
    Beethoven 9th symphony/H.V karajan 16/44.1
    Vivaldi Concerti per Archi III e concerti per viola d'amore/Accademia Bizantina 24/88.2 FLAC
    Albinoni concerti Op. 10 ( a)I solisti veneti/Claudio scimone 16/44.1 b)Harmonices Mundi, Claudio astronio DSD 2.8824 MHz)

    images

    1. 02.JPG
      Giullian, WK446, Aslshark and 2 others like this.
    1. Giullian
      Well done putting those Beauties on first page of the Forum. :)
      Giullian, May 1, 2019
  4. Whitigir
    One of If not the best closed Modern Headphone
    Written by Whitigir
    Published Jan 13, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Bass, CLosed Back, Lush, Soundstage, Details, light weight and non fatigue
    Cons - Large, Pricing
     
     

    MDR Z1R

    Having to own the Sony Z7 before, while it has some flaws, I couldn't wait for another better version of it, the Top of the line from Sony.  Why ? Because it is musical and great to enjoy movies with from either the large home system or by an iPad

    Fortunately, it only took about 2 years and some until Sony announced the MDR-Z1R.  It was told from several interviews around the net to be under development for 10 years (Magnesium Domes)

    Z1R is so easy to drive and I meant you can almost get 70% of it performances out of many things which is well surpassing your typical common headphones.
    IMG_7833.jpg  

    *Notice* The Z1R has a unique thing about it, the Hall-like Atmospheres just because it is so closed off.  It sounds like a pair of speakers being arranged in a so confined Hall-way.  Would you like that ? I am not one to judge.  It sure did took me by surprise and together with the power sub-bass present with slamming bass, it almost was too much to take in.  But once I adapted into it, the slamming bass is very enjoyable as I could feel it.  The sub-bass is the result of the enclosed design, and in movies, the Z1R actually feel like I am in a theater.  Especially this hall like atmosphere only present strongly when they were intended as I observed it from movies.

    Burn-in recommendation: I would say about 250 hours approximately

    **Notice** Z1R does best with balanced cables and powerful amp with the signature that best compliment (neutrality and balances) it, and in my case I paired it well enough with Oppo HA-1 and best out of TA-ZH1ES.  The next best that I would say is where the Z1R noticeably do better in balanced out vs single ended.  When compared from Single ended 3.5mm to XLR 4, the Z1R vastly showed better soundstage, bass controls, bass details, better musical lush and flows and stage rendering in XLR 4 balanced, and where as the SE expressed Z1R being bass strong, alright soundstage in comparison and especially thicker and slower or more sticky bass respond.  Z1R was engineered for the Signature series from Sony with Walkman and Amp which are all compatible with the 4.4mm balanced.  We can be assured that Z1R was designed for balanced connection.
    IMG_7834.jpg  

    My first impression onto the Z1R was that soundstage, it is wide and deep with plenty of air, but still remain closed and isolation is more than Z7 and th900 (this had been asked for many times by many people) as these are not totally open like open headphones would be.  Secondly was the bass, it is very strong in it presents, but it is not in anyways too slow/fast, but very well controlled, clean with speed is right-on depend on the tracks (your source) and the ways it was composed. Thirdly was the mid spectrums and especially that vocal.  I have to say that I am especially very extremely impressed with the Vocal here.  Vocal is neither too bright, too warmth, too recessed, or offensively forward.  Vocal is just detailed, smooth, and clearly presenting with the fluidity over-all package of the Z1R voicing. Forthcoming was the trebles, it is lush, smooth, yet sprinkles as opposed of sparkles.  The over-all sounding is like a very expensive stereo set-up in a room....but with strong bass and warmer with denser trebles in comparison to SA5000.

    So, before stepping in for this Z1R treatments, please do yourself a favor and find out if you would like to enjoy the music, understand the track you are listening to ? Or would you rather pick at the plays, trace the footprints of effects, observe the placements ? The answer would result in your preferences for Musicality or References
     
     
    IMG_7836.jpg
     
    A question by me, what is the Z1R ? I would honestly answer, It is superbly musical and fun headphones with all the details and soundstage you would like to seek from high-end but with the bass slam and relaxed signatures.  The fortes are Sub bass, bass, vocal, upper mid and lower trebles.

    The headphones that will leave a soft 2k hole in your pocket, and this makes the Z1R being listed in the high-end category.  My question would be that am I the kind who enjoy the music or rather analyzing the music ?  I know that I love musicality, and having experienced with Z7, I dived into Z1R.  It did not leave me disappointed, but rather very impressed.  I do not want to modify Z1R in anyways except maybe an upgraded external cables

    Putting on the Z1R, closing my eyes, and deep listening into the music with so much air, yet silent and isolated, surrounding by this large spherical field of acoustic and instruments, the plays and it energies are floating around, but on top of that, the energies applied could be felt, and together with the fluidity, it leave my jaws drop on the floor as I felt the grimy feeling from the artist when she wrote the song about a girl with a broken heart, and the song is her story.  Then the way the track was composed, it makes me feel the emotions of the tracks and the artist feelings.  I have the feeling that Z1R was tuned for the Modern J-Pop genres, and as my main are Pop, ballad, instruments, I can not resist falling in love with Z1R.  Did I say it is extremely fun ? Yeah, especially with movies from my personal system and Netflix....hell even YouTube is fun with 4K and even with lower quality, TA-ZH1ES would do DSD remastering engine on them.

    Back-ground noises : very clean, and almost none at all, but instead there is a lot of sub-bass and sub-harmonic air that can be felt.  Surprisingly, the distortions is also very minimized.  For something at 70 mm large, i am surprised.  It is much cleaner than Z7 (modified), and TH-900...even SA-5000 when it comes to distortion controls.  Perhaps it is the package in a whole that helped the Z1R to achieve something extraordinary (largest drivers, yet clean, closed with great isolation and yet huge and airy staging, great trebles and yet not offensively assaulting on the ears)

    Soundstage: very wide, tall, and super-spherical ! Excellent 3 dimensional feeling even in watching movies.

    Field of sound: immersive and surrounding

    Sound signature: fluidity in the mid, smooth and lush trebles with sprinkles, bass strong but tight, fast and responsive for LCP or plastic type, warmth.  The ability to follow an instrument in it own energies and timbres is excellent and just awesome. Very Musical, fun, engaging.
     
    IMG_7838.jpg
     


    Bass: Strong presence, and it would be the first thing to catch your attentions.  It is responsive, tight, Speedy with strong sub-bass that is just there with authorities.  In some tracks, especially modern pop or electric and dance, the sub bass is so powerful that it pulls a lot of attention and could even be understood as a slow bass.  However, it is not a slow bass at all, mid bass and bass over all is very responsive.  Compare to Z7 ? Z7 has slower bass, more boomy with bloated and emphasized mid bass, and even modified to control the booms, the Z7 still doesn't have the responsiveness or controlled mid bass level of Z1R.  Z7 has weaker sub-bass presence, and most likely canceled off by the resonances.  It also doesn't offer the authorities of rumbles and or realistic slams as much as Z1R.  The bass in Z1R is of typical Polymer materials (fluid, sticky, rumbling) however it is faster than Z7 still and is very well controlled.  Mid-bass is almost perfect without any slight hint of being bloated.

    Especially, the sub-bass only strongly presenting when it is called for but in an authentic ways and not droning, and in some songs I never actually noticed that it had such a strong sub bass present, but in some tracks it is totally absent.  I questioned myself what is right, and what is wrong ? The way I had been enjoying with weaker sub-bass, or had the track been always like this from the studio ?  I would not know, but I enjoy it.

    This is the first time I feel this, I feel the bass is carrying emotions, and expressions with each and every layer of it.  This expressions greatly depending on the track and the way it was composed.  The strongest evidence was that it impressed me on some sub-bass and bass presence as I never observed before in some track, and while in some tracks it just does not.
     
    So, How does the bass get so "Perfected" without distortions and while being Closed off for that Isolations and avoiding sound leakages ? Though it could be much at time but still, This is yet another Magic from Sony
     
    IMG_7842.jpg
     


    Mid:  Z1R has magical mid spectrum. The details into the lower mid, the fluidity of the spectrum as a hole, the so smooth, forward and yet non offensive vocal with every nano details in the vocals being called out, and still no harshness or sibilant.  It is just magical.  This is the most unique thing about Z1R in my opinion, giving the Z1R the musical attribute, details, and soul in the music.  Tonal body and timbres is not exactly realistic, but is accurately detailed and soulful. 

    Trebles: Excellent lower trebles, fast, with plenty of air , density and extensions and in a non offensive way.  My SA5000 would be sparkling and Z1R will only sprinkle with it.  Trebles is sweet, detailed but relaxed, non offensive.  The density of the trebles together with the darker impressions do bring satisfaction to me as I can hear into trebles better.  The extensions are well presenting, and then even the decay and the resonates, the vibrations, the energies variations of the instruments can be observed well when used with WM1Z in balanced.

    It has further advantages of being "closed-off", and so it can help isolate the outside noises and help me listen deeper and closer into the lower and upper trebles for it most subtlest details....I dare to say that these subtle details were mostly not observable by my other headphones such as TH900 due to the brightness and some spikes, or SA5000 due to the openeness and these short frequencies leaked out to the back and together with the ambience noises, it was very much ....not noticeable...until Z1R tells me that it is there (modern pops and Ballads has a lot of details and musicality in these regions)


    Pairing and scaling:  Z1R is capable of so much Bass dynamics as it is most noticeably scaling, but overall it is very capable.  Soundstage, Dynamic, linearity, detail retrievals are all scaling and exposing the different sources weakness very well.  For instant, if I plug it into iPad, the bass becomes boomy and mushy, into my WM1Z and it slams with resolution and warmer density of tonality, into my Opus 2 and it is snappier, tighter, faster, into my Ta-zh1ES and soundstage became godly with the best Bass Dynamic from Z1R....those are only some examples.


    Also, the cups housing is larger than Z7, and protruding outward quit a bit, so laying on the couch with it is a bit trickier than Z7.  I might fall as sleep with Z7, but Z1R keeps me awake because of the awareness that I may tilt my head to the side a bit and damage the housing or the hangers.....together with that scary pricing....lol.  None the less, lying around with it is possible, just a bit more tricky.  One thing to note is that these cup housing were designed to be breath-able.  The air is intake through it and exhausted to upper vent.  Therefore, avoid clogging it up with debris and stuff is totally recommended.  Sony doesn't even print the Logo on them for this reason.  The 3D wire-mesh were uniquely developed for this, and so cleaning up may be a bit tricky.  Inside is the Paper acoustic filter or the main chambers, so also avoid fluid and liquid contacts.  The box were provided to store the Z1R and keep it away from the humidity for the long run. 

    So, in the end, the Z1R is actually can be used with many other portable gears you may have.  Now, if you need and or feel that such an expensive headphones deserve to be with something of it scale, something pricy and expensive ? Sure, Sony is releasing Portable Walkman, WM1A and or WM1Z.  Now, if you are curious about how the Z1R may do with top of the line and an all out desktop system ? Well, you are lucky, Sony is releasing TA-ZH1ES as well.  So you can stream movies on iPad, connected it to the amp, and listen to the Z1R if you feel the need for it.
     


    What I like: the mid spectrum, vocal, lower trebles density and resolutions, warmer sound signature, airy, design, comfort ability, build quality, the flows and fluidity, the musicality, engaging, darker but very detailed and meaty trebles with great extensions that is not fatiguing.

    What I dis-like: Strong sub-bass sometime could be overwhelming, storage box.  The stock cables could be of better quality for the price.  It would make more senses to have Kimber Kables in the box instead of Silver Plated....it is Sony flagship after all.

    Conclusion: for the whole package of rugged build, quality of "made in Japan", and easily driven, so musical and engaging, the Z1R can totally be used for "entertaining" in general, and it does everything so well.  The Z1R is worthy of the cost as a headphones that can still bring quality music and entertainment to the consumer without needing a bulky amplifier to sound good.  The key word here is "portability and high quality audio", and I meant portability as not literally walking around with it, but I mean portability as that you can plug Z1R into anything, and enjoy high quality audio from it.  Therefore, if you are looking for : Bass strong, great soundstage, vocal, isolation and entertaining purposes, you are looking right at the very best from Sony, the Z1R. 
     
    To be specific: To enthusiasts and audiophiles, generally the more Neutral the better, and given Z1R signature, I would guess that Full retail may be a bit hard.  However, to people who love Bass of high-end quality, the godly soundstage, non-fatigue, and ocean of details in trebles with Noise Isolations ? The Z1R is worth full retail and even some more.  Again, Isolation from being closed back and this quality bass is "Magical". Either way, there had been deals reported in. However, I chose to get full support and warranty within the USA, and purchased it from The Source AV

    Again, it may be bass strong for personal preferences which greatly varied especially into higher-end and pricy gears.  If you love bass and warmth, this is the jackpot.  Even if you are not, as an enthusiast, you own it to yourself for a personal auditioning and experiences from this very top product from Sony, the Z1R.




     

    1. View previous replies...
    2. Bastianpp
       And bards of this review?
      Bastianpp, Mar 19, 2017
      buntyster likes this.
    3. jscmd2000
      Nicely done.  Do you have any experience with the Ether C Flow's?  How do they compare and which would you prefer?  I have not been able to make a decision... like for over a month!
      jscmd2000, Mar 25, 2017
    4. Robert Joe
      Great review, I can relate to everything you said after listening to them countless times at CanJam. I liked them so much I purchased a pair.
      Robert Joe, Apr 12, 2017
  5. emptymt
    Optimized for Music Enjoyment, probably the best Closed-Back.
    Written by emptymt
    Published Apr 9, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent bass performance, Lush but detailed Mids, great controled non-fatigueing Treble, wide soundstage, accurate imaging, looks premium
    Cons - sound signature not for everyone, inconsistent pricing across regions, lack 4 pin XLR cable.
    Disclaimer
    Hi everyone, Before I start the review, I would like to thank Sony for making this awesome headphone.
    Sorry for the photo quality, I'm still using iphone 4 and my photo taking skills are quite poor T_T , but that will soon to change with the Samsung Galaxy S8 hopefully.
    This review is made by myself based on my observation and listening pleasure of The Z1R on various gear that I have after about a bit over a month of ownership.
    I have no affiliation to Sony in any way and everything said here is true from the heart as it is plain fact, based on my experience of course.
    The pricing in Australia is 2499 AUD (1900 USD using google), so the review will be made using that as the value.
    I can say outright that this is an awesome headphone and worth the money, but, as this is a TOTL headphone, I'll try to be as critical as possible and nitpick evrything that can be nitpick.
     
    INTRODUCTION (If you read my other review, you can skip this lol)
    I'm an Indonesian working as a Web Developer in Melbourne, Australia.
    Other than programming/coding, listening to music is another one of my hobby.
    When I start my headphone hobby, music listening has been a very rewarding experience for me and has helped me in many aspects of life other than music enjoyment, although, with the booming price of high end headphones/IEM atm, it has become a bit of a heavy hit on my wallet >_<.
     
    Starting from almost 3 years ago I've been really hooked by metal music, and nowadays my everyday music listening always incorporate metal tracks, I guess you can call me a Metalhead, I also listen to other genres occasionally, but metal music is my focus.
     
    I don't actually listen to all kinds of music, lets say for example Classical, therefore it is important to understand that this review is based on my observation on the kinds of musics I like, and those are mainly:
    - Metal (many kinds, mainly the extreme kind, like 80% off the time)
    - Rock (mostly Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Riverside(rock/metal), Radiohead or something like it)
    - EDM (Mostly trance)
    - Jazz (Norah Jones, Diana Krall and the likes)
    - Indonesian Song (it's basically the Indonesian version of pop, guitar used is mostly acoustic guitar, sounds natural and relaxing however, mastering of the song is usually poor, this is good to test how good a headphone/Iem handle poorly recorded material)
    - etc
    Genre's excluded from my impression(I don't listen to this music on Z1R)
    - Rap
    - Classical
    - Bollywood stuff
     
    Gear Used
    Sony MDR-Z1R
    - MrSpeakers Ether Flow
    - Chord Mojo
    - Cavalli Liquid Carbon
    - Fiio X5 III
    IMG_1021.jpg
     
    PACKAGING
    The box is big and well packaged, the carton used is quite thick, and the graphic on it is well designed, inside you will find the headphone storage case wrap in cottony white bag underneath the black carrybag, very nice as Sony definitely is not trying to cut cost on packaging here, the best packaging out of all headphone that I have or have reviewed. 
     
    STORAGE CASE
    Crazy premium feel made from leather in black gives it a classy feel, like you're into something special with this product, even the flap is metal, no plastic here.
    Inside you will find a black soft cloth to protect the headphone and its accessories, very luxurious feel, especially when you open the case and you see your headphone sitting nicely in it.
    Again, this is the best case I've ever seen out of all headphone that I have or have reviewed.
    It is not very practical though, had Sony provided a carrying case that you can store in the big black treasure case as well, than this would be the perfect thing ever.
    IMG_1028.jpg IMG_1029.jpg IMG_1030.jpg
     
    ACCESSORIES
    3.5 SE terminated cable (+ adaptor to 1/4 inch)
    4.4 balanced terminated cable (new standard, I really like this a lot, but again not the most practical, not yet)
    Documentation
    A pouch to store you cables or your other accessories
    The treasure box itself
    IMG_1031.jpg
     
     
      
    The Z1R / BUILD QUALITY
    The headphone in a word is gorgeus, no BS here, genuine leather for the pads, metal grill for the earcups, adjustable metal bar with numbers, locking mechanism for the cables for clean look, matte finish for the yoke.
    The earpads are hand stitched so it is impossible to have identical pads on each side, mine is ever so slightly softer on the left side, but as far as I can tell the comfort and the sound are unaffected by this slight variation.
    Every once in a while some tiny debris coud get stuck on the grill on the earcups, but compressed air can take care of it very quickly, easy 10 seconds work on each cups.
    The cable has a locking connector to the headphone, IMO this is not mainly intended for protection, when fully screwed, the headphone looks so clean and elegant in black without any silver or other metallic obstrusive color diverging it from the design goals of which to look supreme and elegant.
    The design is excellent and it makes it possible for the headphone to look premium, feels light, durable and clean at the same time, how great is that?
    Again, this is the best looking and designed headphone I've ever seen out of all headphone that I have or have reviewed.
     
    Fit, Comfort and ease of use
    The fit is excellent, it is light and the earpads are soft and big, it is roomy but it's not very deep, some people with ears that sticks out a lot might not like it, the ears could touch the cloth grill inside.
    for normal size ears though, there is no problem at all, the headphone is very enjoyable to use for long periods due to its lightness and excellent clamping force with soft earpads with leather that feels nice to the skin.
    There are numbers for easy adjustment, making sure left and right is the same and even weight distribution on the head.
    If you have a headphone case, this is the perfect headphone to take to work. It is closed back yet airy and has the sound quality to boot, very practical in almost all situation.
    Noise Isolation is good(It does leak on very high volume, like super loud volume) but the passive noise cancellation is not the best, however with the music on and playing, all background noise are suppressed very well, leaving you alone with your music without disturbing other people.
     
    SOUND ANALYSIS

    The Signature
    The sound signature is definitely not what you call typical neutral, it definitely has boosted bass and some warm feel to it, with treble/upper treble being laid back but still apparent to complete the music piece.
    It is smooth and relaxing yet detailed at the same time, for a closed back it is quite airy too and the soundstage is immense.
    I would say that the tuning is to mimic a speaker setup in a well damped rrom instead of open and airy like a live performance.
     
    The Bass
    The bass sounds big and full, extension is superb and despite it being boosted, it almost never intrudes the mids at all, maybe a couple of times it did, but it could be my imagination.
    Honestly the bass on this is probably the defining features.
    It sounds studio room like in its presentation, like you're playing your music on a speaker in a closed room.
    Details are paramount, there are many details in the bass that I didn't hear in my other cans, possibly due to its excellent technicality but also the tonality.
     
    The Mids
    The mids is smooth and a bit lush with a little bit of warm on the tone.
    Vocals sound full bodied but vibration is still heard very clearly carrying the singers emotion in it.
    Guitars sounds awesome on this, the bite is present but never too harsh for me, it is almost like the Z1R is shining the spotlight on this specific instrument.
    Many old metal recordings were not mastered very well, on this occasions the guitar can be harsh and shrilling, but with the Z1R it is smooth, extended and present in the mix
    Overall Guitars both electric or acoustic, sounds excellent on this.
    The mids on this can may not be as detailed as other TOTL open headphone, but it is close, and due to the closed nature, you gat that private feel in it, you hear the sound in the mids right from it starts till it ends, for all those details it extracts, it presents them to you effortlessly without you paying attention to it.
    To sum it up, the way this can present its mids is very optimized to its technical ability.
     
    The Treble
    Treble is smooth but detailed at the same time, this is one of the unusual thing about the Z1R, I definitely notice the treble despite it being laid back and possibly smoothened, could be because of the excellent imaging and separation of this can but I'm liking it even though it sounds a little restrained due to its laidbackness.
    It has the same effect as the mids though, for every bit you hear, you hear from beginning till the end but it is not as effortless as the mids.
    Extension is great but I think the presentation is tailored for specific purpose, long-term listening pleasure. It is not the most exposing treble and not tuned for in your face details bombardment kinda thing, It extends well but it is in the background.
    The treble by no means is good but you can't deny that the mids and bass are the focus of this cans.
    I find that the treble plays down on your taste the most, I listen to metal music, so bright treble is often not good for me as my metal recordings are bright and added brightness could be fatiguing, so I like The Z1R.
    For classical music listeners though, it could be a different story.
     
    Pairings
    I tested the Z1R using my desktop set up which is:
    Laptop -> Chord Mojo -> Cavalli Liquid Carbon -> Z1R
    And also Fiio X5 III that I'm currently reviewing atm.
    I find that differnce from pairings on this can is not super apparent, this headphone stays true to it's sound sig no matter what drives it, but I'll try to be as critical as possible.
     
    Chord Mojo -> Cavalli Liquid Carbon -> Z1R (SE)
    With this setup, I think the warmness of The LC and mojo makes the Z1R even warmer, but still the bass never intrudes the mids, bass hits hard and treble is still detailed but laid back.
    Mids are lush, emotional and smooth, love the mids on this combo.
    Extension is excellent and the sound sounds full and big.
    This definitely more of the flavour that the Z1R already offered, but I don't think it makes the Z1R sounds too warm at all.
    Good pairing, but this is desktop(not quite but intended to function like one) amp we're talking about here, only excellent results will suffice as this is supposed to be your best equipment to drive your headphone. 
    To nitpick, The Z1R needs a little bit more qunatity in the mids(couple more db) and slight more forward treble to make it even better (positioning not quantity) for my taste. You can definitely do better on other destop amps that are more expensive, neutral amps is best for Z1R IMO, I'm actually thinking of auditioning The Violectric V281 to pair with the Z1R as it is apparently more neutral and dynamic presentation could be an upgrade. 
    IMG_1024.jpg
     
     
    FIIO x5 III (SE mode only)
    I only had the Fiio for three days so I'm still warming up to it's sound.
    Bass is good but not as punchy and dynamic as desktop setup or the mojo alone. mids very slightly more intimate but not as lush. Treble still there and detailed. smaller soundstage compared to the LC.
    Excellent pairing considering I'm comparing DAP with desktop set up, but for some reason it does not seem as powerfull as my other setup, the sound is not as impactfull and full in my mind.
    I could happily use this Dap to drive the Z1R no problem if I don't have the other gear.
    IMG_1023.jpg
     
     
    Chord Mojo
    Bass is tighter compared to other 2 setups, dynamic is there too and better than the Fiio, soundstage similar to the Fiio, not as big as with the LC. Treble is not as laid back as the other 2 and details seems more apparent especially compared to the Fiio X5.
    Mids is not as lush as The LC and Fiio X5, but maintains excellent body without sounding thin.
    It seems to me The Mojo sounds the thinnest(not bad just compared to the others) out of all my combination and provides and excellent change to the theme here, oh and it sounds great too.
    IMG_1022.jpg
     
     
    Comparisons
    Mr Speakers Ether Flow & Ether C (not C Flow), I will also say which one I like more for each aspects, remember this is only my taste not for everyone.
     
    Comfort
    About the same, The sony a bit lighter though.
     
    Durability
    About the same, Ether flow / Ether C a feels bit more flexible and seems easier to replace parts if it breaks.
    Looks
    Sony all the way, like not even close, for me anyway. It looks so clean and has that everything is in one piece feel. It makes The Ethers look like a joined piece from many parts if you know what I mean.
     
    Bass
    Compared to Ether C 1.1 and Ether Flow, the Z1R is way darker in it's presentation with plenty of bass yet somehow almost never intrudes the mids. I can say that the bass presention is of a different type from the Ether C, the Ether C was tight and lean with excellent speed and low in quantity and good sub-bass, The Ether Flow has that mid bass hump, speed and is very natural sounding, while The Z1R also has that naturalness on the body, still tight but it has a good amount of emphasis compared to the other two, the speed is not as fast as the Ether C/EF from what I remember, but it is still plenty fast to keep up with the music and it's not a problem at all for most music.
    Extension wise, I have to say that The Z1R extends way better than the Ether C and EF, the extension and decay is much more noticeable due to both better technicalities and also extra emphasis, there details in my music that I never notice in the other 2 cans that I do with the Z1R.
    winner: MDR-Z1R, I really don't like how thin the Ether C sound and it looks like some work needs to be done to fix that part(EF has the fix, but still Z1R has that extra detail and extension)
     
    Mids
    All headphone is a bit laidback generally(I'll explaina bit later) on this, the positioning of the vocal is not as forward compared to the bass on Z1R and also the treble on the Ck, while the Ether Flow can sound scooped out at times.
    Mids on the C and EF I feel has more details, but The Ether C is thin and unenjoyable for me, The EF has good body but on some recording I notice that it upper mids extension is scooped out, while MDR Z1R is more lush and has a slight warm touch on it.
    Extension is quite similar, only that Upper mids part on the EF I'm not so sure of.
    When you hear vocal decay on The Z1R, you literally can hear everything from start to end, while I'm not too sure about this with the C and EF.
    Both can expose sibilant in the music but moreso on The EF and even more on The Ether C due to its thin bright nature, The Z1R is so smooth in the vocals, sibilance is still there if its there in the recording but the tuning and smoothness definitely helps and it doesn't bother me at all (think the vocals in the CA andromeda, can be sibilant but somehow it's not bothersome at all) but at the expense of minute details I think. The C and EF are going for details so it will expose all those bad qualities straight up to you.
     
    winner: I don't know on this one honestly, The C I feel is too thin so I don't like it, but The EF is very good and overall is a bit better than the Z1R despite it sounding scooped out at times.
     
    Trebles
    just like the bass, the treble on this can is the exact opposite, the Z1R's is toned down a bit, while the Ether C is very upfront on the treble and The EF not as bright as the C still a bit bright.
    Details I feel is about the same, The Z1R is weird in that it is dark, but somehow you can still hear all those details in the treble. The treble is definitely less than the mids and especially the bass.
    just like everything else, The treble on The C is thin and the decay is very quick, while the Z1R is slower in general but just like the mids, you can hear the decay from start to finish more than the C.
     
    winner: depends on your preference, I like the Z1R more, I listen to Metal so brightness is not my thing. For other Music, EF wins, Ether C is again thin and not enjoyable.
     
    Soundstage
    Between The Ether C and Z1R, I'm not sure on this one since it's been a while and this is the part where the difference is minor, I'd say it's about the same, but The Z1R sounds really wide for a closed headphone. but it's not a stark enough difference to say one is better than the other.
    The EF being open is easy winner on this.
     
    winner: EF > EC = Z1R
     
    Imaging
    I've mentioned that the Vocals is a bit laid back on the Z1R, strangely enough, this headphone really portrays the positioning of the percussion and vocals extremely well, some drums sounds so far in the back and the laid back vocals can sound up-front and personal sometimes, it really depends on the mastering, I've never experience such a big change in positioning that can be this extreme in any headphone including the Ether C and the Ether Flow.
     
    winner: Z1R for me, as it portrays recording environment more accurateley and precisely than the other two.
     
    Summary
    This is a great headphone and best in class for it's type, practicality is way better than other TOTL due to it being a closed back.
    Despite being closed, soundstage is great, quite airy and crazy precise imaging.
    Bass performance is superb but coloured, never intrudes the mids and excellent extension.
    Mids are excellent with plenty of details to satisfy, smooth but not overly so and can still expose both details and recording imperfection.
    Treble is laid back but details still apparent, if you're a treblehead, this is not for you though.
    Value is great here in Australia IMO, but not so in other region.

    Z1R gets a 5 star, it is obviously not a perfect headphone, but what is?
    Since the day I got it, it stays on my head way more than any other headphone I've owned, there are a few reasons for this, it looks awesome, sounds bloody great, extremely nice storing case and the sheer practicality due to detachable connectors, easy to drive from a DAP and provides isolation to be used in many situations.
     
    In this regard, it is unbeatable by other TOTL, you can't really use an open headphone in your workplace, it might disturb someone else unless on really low volume, but then it's not as enjoyable isn't it?
     
    It's a complete packaged really and more well rounded across all areas(everything, not only sound) compared to the other competitions.
    Despite some shortcomings, this is my favourite headphone to date and this is why I gave it 5 stars.
      Lucky87, Sp12er3, kp297 and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. jscmd2000
      Very nice review, thanks for comparing with the Ethers.  I've been looking for this comparison.
      jscmd2000, Apr 9, 2017
    3. jirams
      Never use compressed air duster on any headphone transducer. The pressure air jet could cause the diaphragm to collapse or could force debris into speech coil gap. Use a manual puffer brush with the brush removed and even this should be used gently..
      jirams, Apr 9, 2017
    4. emptymt
      ooo ok, thx for the tips, I only clean it twice, so I guess it's ok.
      I tried to put as much distance as possible when doing it though as I don't want the pressure to affect the phone.
      emptymt, Apr 9, 2017
  6. Redcarmoose
    The Battle Of Three Sony Flagships
    Written by Redcarmoose
    Published Apr 30, 2019
    5.0/5,

    The Battle of Three Sony Flagships


    DSC_0009.jpg

    OK, well the title is slightly misleading. This is really a collection of thoughts concerning the Z7, the IER-Z1R and the full-size Z1R. It’s also somewhat myopic as no other IEMs or headphones are introduced for reference. Probably this ends up most useful for someone already owning one of the three but curious about how the other two could fair in their collection.


    I choose an IEM and two full-size headphones as these three actually represent Sony’s recently introduced top of the line models. Being the level they are at they were/are completely hand made in-house at Sony’s headphone factory in Tokyo Japan. This in itself remains in strict contrast to everything else Sony has released recently except the Z5 IEM and DMP-Z1 desktop unit; which are also in-house builds.




    Mini Review:
    This is a summation which encapsulates the total review in a short fast read. The basic concepts have been reduced for folks skimming along short of time or interest.


    Sony Z7:

    This full-size flagship was introduced in 2014, two years before the Z1R. Sound-wise the Z7 offers a more focused, more robust and less refined signature than the full-size Z1R. We are gifted with a smaller soundstage though still amazingly expansive. Bass is all in one area as well as a lovely upper treble soundstage presentation. Build quality is through the roof as well as form factor being smaller of the two full-size flagships here. This headphone exudes excitement and fun in an almost wonderful expensive yet trashy but cool way.................. it’s the very definition of a guilty necessity.


    The Sony IER-Z1R:

    Taking the Sony house sound to a more mature and maybe advanced level; because everything is clearer; it’s that detailed 3D no stopping clarity! A more physical and carved-out bass than with the full-size Z1R yet focused like the Z7. The IEM here actually becomes of more finesse yet touchable as well as comprehensible! Here we are met with a more in-your-head soundstage, being a more concentrated and mind-bending elixir.


    The Sony full-size Z1R:
    Still the king, though given that freedom of judgment and criticism kings enjoy. While the IER-Z1R may beat it in technicality the Z1R remains it’s own unique experience by capturing nuances only a big headphone can do. Slightly less intense and upfront, it’s ends with more relaxed charm.


    1. Z7 super fun in a cutting school kind of way!
    2. IER-Z1R intense fun that does not turn off!
    3. Full-size Z1R refined slightly more laid-back fun...stately!


    End of Mini-Review:




    The Reviews and Comparisons:
    Let’s just say we have had an increase of perfection along the way. While each transducer offers it’s own take on the Sony house sound, the history being what it is has shown a nice progression. Though I have purposely left out the Z7MK2 and what could be maybe thought of as an earlier IEM flagship the XBR-Z5 for the sake of simplicity!


    Test Equipment:

    Sony Walkman 1Z high gain

    Sony Walkman 1A high gain

    Sony Sony TA-ZH1ES amplifier low gain (Sony Dock, AudioQuest Carbon USB, Sony 1Z DAP)

    Sony Z1R 4.4mm Kimber cable (Sony MUC-B20SB1)

    Sony Z7 4.4mm Kimber cable (Sony MUC-B20SB1)

    Sony IER-Z1R stock 4.4mm cable





    It’s important to note the playing field has been leveled with all headphones being used with the same equipment and music. Only with this methodology could the differences be accurate and comparable. It also should be said, all this equipment was designed to be part of one ecosystem, all sounding optimized yet slightly different. Your choice as best would really be a matter of taste in the end.


    Controversy:
    The Sony house sound is revolutionary. It contains a set of tones which could come off as garish. It’s different for sure.........almost brutish and unrefined yet holding a level of intimate-detail at the same time. If anything it’s weird and different upon a first listen. It also could be considered an acquired taste like blue-cheese, seemingly wrong but then right after acclimation. Personally I love the sound but also realize that it is the result of whole systems and audiophile synergy which smooths out the imbalances and clarifies the strong points. And even with all the ideas of getting correction....tone is everything. For some the Sony house sound will never be acceptable. For many they fall-out of romance due to other headphones offering a more acceptable rendition of reality. There is no right or wrong here, no one sound signature is either containing good or bad taste!


    At the same time I’m not sure about this particular U shape tone being an existing thing in headphone history. The 1989-1990s Sony house sound was more middle of the road. We may even have Dr. Dre to blame introducing the ridiculous bass-heavy “Beats” changing popular sound signature history, channeling the night-club spirit into everyday sound perception. If you choose to believe the new Sony sound is the old-school “Hi/Fi” sound or the sound of high school car stereos; it’s your call, not mine.


    What I can promise:
    If you like the sound of one of these headphones there is a good chance you will like any or all of them. It doesn’t get much simpler here at Head-Fi. And while the Z7 is out of production there are still new-in-box offerings out there; I only paid $360 on close-out. Both the full-size Z1R and IEM namesake the IER-Z1R are still in production with over 3200 IER-Z1R units complete at the time of this writing.


    The Sony Z7:
    Giant 70mm drivers stuffed into cast magnesium shells has this beauty stand out. Just the unique foam pad design is a first helping create the immersion this headphone is capable of. As we are going to learn choosing this over either of the other ear-monitor or headphone purely depends on mood. As far as I’m concerned all three are success stories. Though as far as longevity issues the full-size Z1R has the Z7 beat with expensive real leather lamb-skin pads. Also the Z7 was introduced before 4.4mm standardization, meaning you may need an extra cable before joining the other two in balanced use? Talking cables, I can’t recommend the Sony/Kimber 4.4mm (Sony MUC-B20SB1) as an aftermarket blessing enough! Controversy aside, the cable has moved the Z7 into the true flagship realm in my humble viewpoint.


    z 7 uy.jpg z7 u.jpg Z 7 i.jpg


    Uses:

    Where the full-size Z1R lends itself to Classical and Jazz, I can’t help but feel the Z7 yearns for electronic and general popular music. The Z7 offers more electricity and bounce, more brash and attitude! Yes........it’s all attitude here! The kind of attitude that ignores convention, careless yet exciting almost sleazy! Did I just call the prior Sony flagship sleazy.......yep, I did. The Z7 is a fun walk on the wild side................. a departure from anything as remotely stuffy and correct as the R-10. You can call me a nut too as I would choose the “wrongness” of the Z7 over the “correctness” of the R-10 any day. Go ahead and test me, I’m not trading.


    The sound:
    Where the full-size Z1R offers a more balanced and expensive take, here the Z7 meets us with a car stereo replay. Still due to it’s technical abilities all can be well and good whatever genre you move to. Funny too as all three of these headphones have you wonder what was removed as being just as important as what was included. It’s the frequency response character which actually makes room for the illusion of both more detail and a higher-wider-bigger-broader-thicker and more physical soundstage. So the illusion is real here, beautiful and exhilarating due to authorities and speediness. If you read about the naysayers explain fogginess in the lower mid-range it’s simply not here with the right cable and amp. The treble on the other hand is there. A boost which can get smoother with cable and amp synergy, but there is no denying this is a realistic U, like it or not. It’s when we get what’s going on and find the natural charm and uniquely special character personality, that love may be found here.


    What’s missing:

    .......well in a way it’s what is missing that allows for focus. The full-size Z1R has details and expanded midrange and treble textures, where the Z7 takes stuff like hi-hats and cymbal crashes and unashamedly directs them into place. If the Z1R is Francis Ford Coppola, the Z7 is Quentin Tarantino! So the Z7 has less information but it’s the critical place, the information is placed where this magic happens. It would be this lust for less smoothness, this want for directness, which has us reach for them. At times doing what is right is not the most fun.

    z1r sony 4.jpg

    The IER-Z1R:
    All these headphones come in nice boxes; though the IER-Z1R comes with a cardboard jewelry box, with drawers. Also for the record, the IER-Z1R comes included with the greatest of cables, both 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced. Of all the headphones talked about here, it’s the IEM which is dependent on fit. Meaning they may not fit your ears, and if they don’t fit your ears the party is over. This single concept makes full-size headphones much easier to use in the end. Though for this extra effort we are gifted with a inner head-stage. As the tip sits inside your cranium the sound is both inside and outside your head. This concept in and of itself gets us a different perspective in sound display. Also I can’t help but reinforce the medical insertion of detail into your brain. The IEMs go the extra mile to put the music closer to your soul and under your skin. Also the display is like reading a normal size book where full-size headphones can almost take more effort to take in?


    Now here’s the kicker!
    After spending a couple weeks with the IER-Z1R you can discover one really important aspect while momentarily switching back to the full-size Z1R! Maybe this is a given going to IEMs? But ........the bass response of the full-size Z1R becomes noticeably less physical. This one aspect is actually fairly startling. It’s not that the full-size Z1R does not go as low, it’s that the IEM has a profound physicality, the physicality of a brick wall in the bass department. It’s strange to look at the full-size Z1R low-end as airy, as most view it as thick and substantial. Much of this must be due to whole build differences and functionality differences between IEMs and full-size headphones? Again the IER is injecting our music in a more robust and intensive way. If this ends up a subject of preference it’s because maybe there is no right or wrong at this stuff. So in contrast think sound farther away or sound inside of you.....almost.


    Besides the above bass realizations, it really comes down to sound stage preference. The farther back presentation may be better for work when concentrating could be split? The IER-Z1R could almost be hard to think over, and it’s that immersion factor people pay for here.

    Strangely this forwardness is also shared by the Z7. It’s the openness of the full-size Z1R which makes it the odd-man-out.


    With these three different soundstage signatures it’s as if we are offered three styles of the Sony house sound. Also I can’t help but put them in order of creation. The Z7 is slightly old fashion and classic, the full-size Z1R progressive and forward thinking and the IER-Z1R from long far off in the future. These three choices also reflect off each-other substantiating each special personality and quality. Beyond a persons mood, it truly could end up being musical genre preference which has someone make a choice? It could even be thought of as having different rooms in a house, where each area offers an emotion and a reality all within the household walls.


    The Full-size Z1R:
    More endgame maybe than the Z7 as price would have you guess. The packaging is more top of the line. Also many view the full-size Z1R as a correction for the Z7. And the perception of improvement and refinement is a nice gesture even if some fully accept and appreciate the Z7 for what it truly is. The full-size Z1R ends up the sophisticated gentlemen, the Z7 the more playful kid. It’s both these characters which will attract praise. Both share the same physical feel in the hand (with the Z1R bigger) and both become easy to drive not wanting excessive power to sound good and come alive. Still it’s interesting how both have been criticized in much of the same parallel ways. It’s almost hard not to realize it’s partially the over-all Sony sound people are having issues with. The V or U curve makes room in the response by back emphasizing the midrange. The treble gets a lift from flat and both headphones include an increase in bass energy with the IER-Z1R getting more increase in sub-bass. Again most of my improvements gaining listen-ability came from correct amplification and cables. Where the improvements took place was primarily in the areas of public complaints. Some felt that all three products failed to display the needed midrange and were missing tones, or had an “off” tone. While at first thinking the IER-Z1R has advanced getting a more “mainstream” sound, I’m not so sure the midrange has really been increased all that much. What we have is an IEM with simply more perception of upfront detail. The midrange is what it is with the Sony house sound. Though after possible physical and mental burn-in there can be a normalization which occurs making everything seem correct.


    DSC_0154.jpg segagsDGagearg.jpg DSC_0159.jpg


    Of course this correctness is still a matter of subjectivity and controversy. Though with all three..........added power seems to control the lower midrange “fog” and just like real “fog”; when it’s gone it’s gone! At times I listen for it but never notice it. Again though most of these produce a “fog-fest” when under-powered and there is no other way to describe it. And increase in damping factor will also increase perception of lower bass. Most of the time the bass may be increased by a dB, but come off as more due to bass clarity and speed. None of these headphones are responsible for a slow bass when driven right. Though in the end the shops are stocked with more models showing a more emphasized and revealed mid-range. Though after drinking the cool-aid and joining the Sony cult, we are not interested in more midrange, with more mids adding a feeling of thinness and lack of authority! Amazingly for Sony cult members Sony can do no wrong. Everything sounds balanced and in place. Beyond that stuff sounds musical, exciting and real-life. In short nothing is missing!


    Combinations:
    The audiophile is always looking for gold. Even if he has gold in his hands he is never totally happy........................always needing more gold. None of these attitudes diminish the importance simply of music and the appreciation of it. It’s just that there is an underlying curiosity which causes new combinations to be sought after! First and foremost all this equipment was meant to go together. Not only does it go together but it’s designed to complement the headphones. With that said different combinations bring out and fine tune variations in playback personality. As a group..........even with our talked about equipment; we are looking for improvements. It’s safe to say most of these changes are subtle enhancements or corrections. Some may choose one equipment grouping, some another. These examples here, if anything help describe equipment character, still any one equipment comination would normally be enough. It’s maybe important to point out the full-size headphones do really really well with the 1A/1Z DAPs here. They may need to be on high gain setting and placed at high volume but neither gets any performance degradation at high volumes.




    DSC_1276.jpg
    z 7 sony 2.jpg



    The TA amplifier:
    Being a home unit it not only offers more power than the 1A and 1Z DAPs it was created and designed by a different engineering wing at Sony; responsible for the long running TA group. The TA offers a slightly laid-back sound as it has less treble boost than the 1Z and is more low end emphasized than the 1A. Still with all the headphones and IEMs here it offers the best imaging and separation. It’s a difference in soundstage offered which holds this rock-solid imaging and separates everything enough to analyze it. Over the DAPs..... the TA sound comes off slightly bigger. Also this clarity somehow makes stuff seem faster, which would maybe occur with better damping factors? More power means the diaphragms are started and stopped faster adding to better transients and transparency. It’s easy to wonder why folks try to use a DAP with home headphones and expect total perfection. Though in defense these DAPs do a great job getting closer to desktop performance than what could be found even five years ago.



    sonyy 99.jpg


    Sony 1A:
    Much of the time it’s the 1A’s playful relatively flat response with added warmth...... that finally ends so charming. It’s the IER-Z1R in this combination which ends slightly magic. Somehow the IER-Z1R adds dynamics to the 1A playback taking it to a both speedy and authoritative big town! Both the Z7 and full-size Z1R are fine with the 1A, but most of the time the 1Z starts to show why it’s top dog.

    z1r 1z.jpg


    The Sony 1Z:

    People always wonder if the 1Z step is the step to make. They like their 1A but wonder if the grass is greener next door; simple human nature really. The improvement is hard to quantify and you may read reports of folks thinking the differences are huge or maybe small. Really it just depends where you focus your attention. Besides a 1Z bass add and 1Z treble boost.........in contrast, the 1A has a more one dimensional soundstage. All these headphones get their soundstage thicker front to back with the 1Z as well as an added U response. Though most of the time I find myself having newly discovered preference for the IER-Z1R and 1A; as there is some real intrigue there.

    Disclaimer:
    If anything reviews like these offer ideas for research. Nothing here can compete with a hands on listening test. Though if you think you like the Sony house sound, these are some of the best examples of where to find it. Cheers!


    DSC_0001.jpg

      Lucky87, JayF, Sp12er3 and 12 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Giullian
      Well done again on putting this together. Those Beauties deserves front page here.
      Giullian, May 1, 2019
      kefs and Redcarmoose like this.
    3. Giullian
      Well done again on putting this together. Those Beauties deserves front page here.
      Giullian, May 1, 2019
      Redcarmoose likes this.
    4. dhruvmeena96
      We need old sony back

      the CD900ST headphone era
      dhruvmeena96, May 2, 2019
      Redcarmoose likes this.
  7. thatonenoob
    [PMR Reviews] Sony MDR-Z1R
    Written by thatonenoob
    Published Nov 15, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Good Sound, Build Quality, Isolation/ Leakage
    Cons - Male Vocals, Unique Tonality, Expensive
    Sony MDR-Z1R

    A Closed Back Flagship Standard



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     ​
    INTRODUCTION​

    Find Your Way Back
    April 1981 saw the release of Modern Times by Jefferson Starship.  Now a largely forgotten album, Modern Times did in fact represent a critical juncture for the band.  Singer Grace Slick’s return would not only secure the band’s financial viability, but also lend a certain je ne sais quoi that would help to keep it in good standing with both critics and audiences.  Moreover, it provided much needed direction to Mickey Thomas’ efforts, laying the foundations for an evolution that ultimately produced hits like “Sara” and “We Built This City”. And some terribly awkward music videos as well.   Unfortunately, not all were impressed. In fact, this highly productive period ultimately resulted in founding member Paul Kantner’s departure over disagreements on artistic direction. Regardless, it was clear that a fundamental change had occurred.
     
    In many ways, the MDR-Z1R is a watershed moment in Sony audio development.  In keeping with today’s trends, Sony has revisited high-end in what is shaping out to be nothing short of an audio tour de force.  The first indication that something rather significant was in the works came earlier this year when news of invites (and leaks) started rolling in from multiple sources.  Cryptic shots of a dimly lit lineup sparked conversation and cautious curiosity.  However, in spite of the growing momentum, no one really knew what to expect.  A brief retrospective look is informative.  Late 2014 saw the release of the MDR-Z7 –the first noteworthy Sony flagship to have been released since the company’s departure from the high-end scene in 2011.  Critical response was somewhat mixed, with most citing the sound signature as being the primary point of contention. Further complicating matters was the predictable expectation for nothing short of extraordinary –a precedent set by the MDR-R10 and, to a lesser degree, the Qualia 010.  
     
    And yet there was a sense of hopeful optimism. Jumping forward to minutes before the audio release at IFA 2016.  Everyone’s flipping through the product notes like it’s a new Dan Brown thriller.  I for one was scrambling to memorize the product names –MDR-Z1R, NW-WM1A, NW-WM1Z, and TA-ZH1ES. The last one was a good challenge.  Going in, there had been an intimidating number of questions from the audio community.  Everyone was trying to size up the Z1R.  The turning point for me lay in the inclusion of the magnesium dome.  It was more or less an acknowledgement of the Z7’s shortcomings (tuning wise), and a very positive first step for the headphone. 
     
    The Z1R is a headphone for modern times.  Sony has acknowledged the demand for high performance personal audio equipment, and the Z1R is their answer. Make no mistake – this headphone isn’t meant to be the R10, or 010, or anything in between.  It is, very simply, the Z1R.  Embodying the best of Sony’s current audio philosophy and technology, the Z1R is a valid contender in the flagship market.  Just how valid –we’ll examine this in greater depth through the course of the review.
     
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Disclaimer
    You can also find the review here on my blog!  The MDR-Z1R was provided by Sony for the purposes of this review.  I have now had it on loan for close to 3 weeks.  I am neither a paid affiliate nor an employee of Sony.  As I conclude this review, I would like to thank the Sony team for extending this unique opportunity to cover their new flagship.  It’s been quite the journey since I first found out about the Signature Series a couple of months back, and since then I’ve come to have a much better understanding of the considerations, challenges, and beliefs that went into shaping the various components of the Signature series.  I do reserve the rights to the media in this review, so if you would like to use the photography/ videos please do drop me a line (at the very least please provide attribution).  I dislike watermarks on photos and would rather not use them.  I hope that this was informative, or perhaps even entertaining!
     
    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

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     ​
    The MDR-Z1R is without a doubt a statement piece.  The product packaging is large, and not exactly subtle, especially when considering the two large pictures of the MDR-Z1R plastered on its front.  Opening this main cardboard box reveals a black mesh fiber bag.  Sliding the bag out of the cardboard box uncovers a heavy headphone case niftily stored inside the bag. How heavy?  Well, close to 4 kg for the case alone.  When I reached this step in the unboxing, my entire room was flooded with a heavy “new car” scent.  That’s because the MDR-Z1R headphone case is made completely out of leather.  A solid metal clasp holds the case together, and has “MDR-Z1R” etched onto its surface.  The following entire package will contain the following accessories:
     
    1. Leather Carrying Case
    2. One Single-Ended Cable (3m)
    3. One 4.4 Standard Balanced Cable (1.2m)
    4. 3.5 to 1/4th Adaptor
    5. One Large Mesh Bag (Case)
    6. One Small Mesh Bag (Cables)
     
    So there's nothing missing in the Z1R's package.  However, wow factor aside, I am not exactly thrilled by the usability of the leather case.  It's huge, even bigger than the T1 aluminum case, and can't store the headphones with the cables connected and headband extended.  In that sense, it's not really practical at all.  Also, there's nothing available to assist in the transportation of this headphone -not even a leather pouch.  I ended up using the nifty Audioquest Nighthawk carrying case for this very purpose.  Slightly disappointing for such an expensive product.  
     
    BUILD AND DESIGN

    The Sony Z1R's build quality is simply exquisite, with an amazing attention to detail.  The headband is made of an extremely supple leather, soft to the touch and very comfortable.  The titanium headband is both flexible and can easily be shaped to the individual needs of the user.  There's a very tactile click for each adjustment on the headband, and it certainly stays in place.  The yoke and enclosure sides are made of metal, and feel solid to the touch, offering good range of motion.  The earpad is also leather, and very plush.  However, the area available for the ear is somewhat close-fitting, and it does heat-up after extended use.  This is something to consider for those living in warmer climates.  The one gripe that I do have are with the integrated cable connecters.  In resting position, the screw-on part of the cable termination rests one on top of the other, and can be easily scuffed if pressure is applied to the top termination. Not exactly a brilliant tradeoff for better aesthetics.  
     
    _D702628.jpg
     
    While the Z1R does look very nice, it is also a headphone that embodies a lot of integrated technologies.  For those who have read the technical piece, this will be more or less a repeat (so you may skip it if you wish).  To start, let’s examine the driver unit.  The new magnesium dome piece comes in at a mere 30 micrometers, and cannot be manufactured via a conventional press. The process is confidential, but I will say that it is impressive.  The benefits are also noticeable –the magnesium dome driver allows the Z1R to achieve better high frequency performance, and the LCP complement allows for more flexibility at the leading edges.
     ​
    _D702680.jpg _D702681.jpg
     ​
    The new magnet system is comprised of two pieces.  Here's a brief overview of typical production methods.  To produce a magnet, and in the Z1R’s case, a neodymium magnet, several fairly standard processes need to take place.  First a mixture of elements (including the central Nd2Fe14B) need to be melted in a furnace to produce an alloy.  This alloy is then milled down into fine particles, which are pressed at higher temperatures to form a solid.  There’s two standard ways of going about this pressing – both involve an external magnetic field.  The first is a transverse press.  This is how Sony has been producing magnets in the past.  Essentially, the magnet is compressed while running a magnetic field perpendicular to the direction of the press.  This tends to result in better magnetic properties for Neodymium magnets.  Unfortunately, it also means that the preferred direction of magnetization is on the horizontal axis.  The other method is the axial press, where the magnetic field is applied parallel to the press, resulting in a direction of magnetization along the vertical axis.  To work around this, the Z1R driver has been cut into two pieces, and instead of pressing onto a flat, horizontal ring-mold, the mold has been flipped on its side.  A transverse press still results in a preferred direction of magnetization on the horizontal axis.  However, since the ring was on its side, when placed flat this direction is now on the vertical axis of the magnet!  This anisotropic magnet is sintered to shrink pores within the mixture, machined, and magnetized via a huge electromagnet.  Two of these half circles then come together to form a single, stronger, magnet.
     ​
    Termination.jpg
     
    A large amount of effort has also been put into the housing of the MDR-Z1R. The new acoustic filter enclosure allows for the same net venting as the MDR-Z7, albeit with more uniformity and across a larger surface area. I couldn’t help but to bring up the Fibonacci filter in the process – it certainly looks nice but what exactly does it do? It was explained that the frequently seen ring baffles tended to create reflections at certain frequencies, and the resulting peaks and troughs were sonically detrimental. The idea with the Fibonacci grill was then to disperse these reflections in a semi-random manner across the baffle. Thinner arms and harder, higher quality plastic for the baffle also contributed significantly. I find it a curious approach – instead of tackling the reflections directly, it’s a tradeoff that results in slightly more reflections in different places, but overall lowering the more jarring immediate effects of larger, more isolated reflections.
     ​
    While the score is still out on whether the Z1R is a better headphone than its legendary predecessors - the R10 and 010, it certainly has a lot more technology (modern) built into it.  I like that there was a significant effort made to make this headphone technologically innovative, and that it isn't just another rehash or slight retuning of an older product.  For this, I do give Sony credit. Hence, design wise, the MDR-Z1R takes full points in my book. 
     ​
    MEASUREMENT​


    This has been one of my backburner projects for the past month or two.  I’ve worked on it in a rather haphazard fashion, until quite recently when I decided to approach it quite a bit more seriously.  In short, welcome Box #2, my small headphone measurement rig. There are no major secrets behind this rig.  The measurement microphone is the omni-directional UMIK-1 from miniDSP.  It can be purchased for about a 100 dollars USD.  Internally, the box is filled with acoustic foam (easily obtainable from your local specialty source).  The coupler was perhaps the most difficult part to figure out.  There are many documented approaches, and definitely very interesting reading to be done.  In creating the coupler, I opted for a conventional flat plate made from soft polyester covered rubber cut from a mouse pad.  I quickly noticed that this coupling alone made for some very poor measurements, especially in the higher frequencies where it was clear that artifacts were developing in a regular pattern.  Following conventional fixes, I experimented with various diameters of felt, leading to varying degrees of attenuation in the midrange and high frequencies.  I have temporarily settled on a variation of the felt fix, with a smaller piece of circular padding hidden beneath the felt.  Mic is set close to flush with the coupling surface.     
     ​
    Rig.jpg
     
    From a build standpoint, I made an oversight in designing Box #2 when I chose to start with a rather small box.  The coupling area is tight and to get multiple positions does take some orienting.  The felt-pad piece surrounding the mic should also probably be glued but I wanted to have the flexibility to play around with the design.   I won’t sugarcoat it –the rig looks like it took a fall from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.  Software used is Room EQ Wizard.  The results are raw, uncompensated curves to use as general guidelines.  Thus far, there has been one measurement of FR by a large French review site (lesnumeriques – here). I find the 5 kHz to 10 kHz 20dB difference to be quite excessive.  These curves should be used as general tonal guides, not pound-for-pound representations of what you hear (once again, uncompensated).
     ​
    Untitled.jpg
    Here we have the averaged frequency response.  Nothing particularly surprising here.  
     
    FRTH900vsz1r.jpg
    Same graph, except that I’ve manually offset my Fostex TH-900 measurement below for quick reference. 
    -TH-900 offset was -18 dB to lineup nicely with the 90 mark.  This is not because the levels were particularly diff.
    during the measurement process for the two headphones. 
     ​
    Untitled.jpg
    Here we have the CSD for the MDR-Z1R.  Please read the commentary.
    -The first thing I did was to confirm the existence of the peak via a couple of crude listening tests and SPL
    measurements.  I find that indeed the peak does exist in the 3.1 to 3.4 kHz range.  I was concerned that 
    this ringing represented a flaw in my rig - however, artifact did not return in the other headphones I measured.
    Both drivers exhibit this behavior.  In day to day use, I really can't say it bothered me much.  Perhaps I am less
    sensitive (?) and the tonal balance isn't making this any more obvious.
     
    SOUND​

    At A Glance
    The Sony MDR-Z1R’s sound is best characterized by a prominent bass section, sweet vocals, and crisp highs.  It is best appreciated for achieving a good mix of musicality and technical performance.  Without a doubt, it is a very pleasant and enjoyable headphone to listen to.  Potential criticism will lie in its tonal balance, timbre, and male vocals.  As a general guideline (and by no means conclusive), the Z1R is best complemented by a neutral headphone amplifier.  Current mode amplification did not produce a good pairing –the Questyle CMA600i I tested was less than satisfactory.  Other pairings that I’ve tried include the Teac UD-501/ UD-503, Chord Hugo TT, iFi Micro iCAN, etc.  I particularly enjoyed the UD-501, which, while smooth, yielded a highly holographic sound that was nothing short of captivating.  I did not have the Sony amp around, due to Sony needing it for internal purposes.  This is regrettable and I will update accordingly if I should somehow get to hear the amp in the near future.
     ​

     ​
    In Depth
    Both the MDR-Z7 and MDR-Z1R are tuned based on the same philosophy.  Tuning was inspired by an emphasis on extreme dynamics and extended frequency response for both headphones, though the implementation on the Z1R is far truer. In achieving this sound, Sony has once again utilized a large 70mm driver, a development that originated from the MDR-XB1000 (2010) and first implemented seriously at a flagship level in the MDR-Z7 (2014). Higher frequency performance has since been improved on the Z1R via the inclusion of a magnesium dome driver.  Stronger magnets and a better enclosure are among a few of the other factors that have helped elevate the Z1R’s performance over that of the Z7.  Interestingly enough, Sony did also mention that the Z1R was tuned for “modern” music.
     ​
    The bass section is an excellent place to begin sonically on the Z1R.  There is considerable emphasis on the lower frequencies, and this does have a substantial effect on the overall tonal balance of the headphone. Understanding the concern that this statement may cause, I will clarify that while the tonal balance is shifted with an emphasis on the lower end, but overall tonality is good (much improved over the Z7).  Quantity-wise, the Z1R has a lot going on in both subbass and midbass.  The subbass extends very deep, and the detail retrieval is excellent.  On tracks like Debussy’s Prelude No.10: La Cathédrale Engloutie, the Z1R’s ability to draw a realistic texture from the subbass was impressive and surprising.  However, it is the midbass that is most immediately apparent when discussing the Z1R’s bass section.  In characteristic Sony fashion, the midbass is a crucial factor in rounding out the lower frequencies and providing the “big” house sound.  However, decay does have the tendency to be slower, leading to an occasional sense of diffuseness (in particular with poor pairings).  Impact is real, and can be partially attributed to the sheer amount of air moved by the large 70mm driver. While not always consistent, the bass can make the Z1R sound truly immense when it works.  
     ​
    The mids on the Z1R are sweet and are smooth.  I find the lower mids to err on the weaker side for two primary reasons.  On isolated tracks, the lower mids sound ever so slightly withdrawn, and don’t have enough body and texture.  This is further affected when the midbass sporadically oversteps its boundaries.  Not often, but it does occur.  Upper mids are certainly sweet and enjoyable.  While they do not have the easy power and clarity of some competitors, the Z1R’s upper mids are nonetheless pleasant to listen to and among my favorite for general listening (especially pop).  Traces of sibilance do reveal themselves nearing the upper end of this range though.  
     ​
    The treble on the Z1R is crisp and articulate, with good extension and airiness. There is a hint of sparkle, and honestly I don’t have any problems with it. I explain my thoughts on the 3 kHz situation in the measurements section.  It is much improved over the Z7 and frankly is one of the reason why the Z1R’s tonality really works as well as it does. Soundstage on the Z1R is fairly good, especially considering the closed aspect.  Perceived source width is surprisingly wide.  Depth and height are okay too, but not quite as standout as the former.  Imaging is positive, and I find that some bossa nova tracks were in fact very competently rendered by the Z1R.  Separation is proficient, but intermittently affected by the bass section.  Hotel California is one such situation where the sound started closing in.  
     ​
    The Z1R finds itself in its element when assessed in terms of overall tonality and musicality.  As far as listening for pure musical enjoyment goes, there are very few cans that match the Z1R’s mix of fun and competency. The bass section is dramatic and immersive, even though it may not be the most technical.  A pleasant and likeable upper mid section holds up the midrange, and the upper end is solid.  It is also without a doubt, one of the best available closed cans on the market.  Tonality is certainly much more agreeable than the Z7.  In an effort to help contextualize the Z1R’s performance, I’ve tried my best to collect meaningful comparisons below.  While I have sat down with all these headphones multiple times (and for hours on each occasion), I still cannot claim full familiarity with all, and in fact there are some that I do dislike.  Hence, take it with a pinch of salt –inserts trite disclaimer about your own tastes being the most important.
     ​
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     ​
    Audeze
    LCD-2 – $995 USD
    LCD-XC – $1,799 USD
    LCD-X – $1,699 ISD

     
    Okay let’s hit the ground running.  Bass-wise, the Audeze cans lean toward powerful impact with good speed with variations on this general theme. LCD-2 bass sounds fuller and richer, but isn’t as well controlled as the X/XC.  Extension on all three cans is good.  However, is clear that Z1R is is able to retrieve much more detail from the lowest frequencies, articulating them with better body as well. Unfortunately, the Z1R is correspondingly slower in comparison.  The LCD-X/XC comparison stands out in particular.  My personal preference for a general listening can would rest somewhere in between these two types of bass.
     
    My opinion on the mids of the Audeze line has slowly changed through the course of my testing.  I do feel that LCD-2 mids have better body than the LCD X/XC, and its slightly smoother and richer tone is enticing.  To this extent, there is an odd thinness (and grain) that is present on certain tracks for the X/XC.  In addition, the XC seems to have a minor glare in the upper mids.  These aspects aside, there is sheer power and clarity to the X/XC mids, and all three cans perform better than the Z1R. Male vocals, specifically.  
     
    The treble on the LCD 2 isn’t articulate and extended, and loses out solidly to the Z1R.  The X/XC fare better, but also lack in refinement, coming off as sometimes “hot”. Soundstage is really not too impressive for the LCD-2, and point largely amended on the X/XC.  The separation and air present on the X/XC is better than the Z1R, but imaging does come behind.  At any rate, the primary deal breaker for me is not the sound on either of the cans.  In fact I was rather pleased with the LCD-X despite some of its issues.  The thing is –these cans are really heavy, and are uncomfortable for longer listening sessions. The XC really suffered ergonomically when compared to the Z1R.  As I mentioned to a fellow enthusiast, if the Sony engineers had set out to build a headphone this large/ heavy, the sonics would probably have seen a large leap in performance. I understand that there is a new headband system available though, and I sincerely hope that it’ll come stock with future models.  This could close the perceived gap in usability between the headphones.
     
    Beyerdynamic
    T1 - $500 USD - $1000 USD (Varying Prices)
    MDR-Z1R – $2,299 USD (US pricing)
     
    The T1.1 was my first flagship headphone, and is still one of my favorites.  While not as a flashy or as expensive as some of its more “modern” competitors, it is reliable and sounds great. As some may know, I tend to talk a lot about this headphone.  Perhaps I am one of the few remaining believers stuck in the crumbling Teutonic castle mentioned on the Schiit homepage.   For the record, I am using a late serial T1.1 (right before baffle-revision).  I do not enjoy the T1.2, and will not be opting for this upgrade path.  The added bass can be seen as being akin to putting lipstick on a hippo.  It isn’t the Beyer sound, and can easily be achieved via proper pairing without sacrificing the 1.1’s flexibility.
     
    At any rate, I was recently reminded of the sheer potential in the T1 sound when I received the Lindemann musicbook:10 DSD for review earlier this month (review is coming up soon).  Too often the T1 is remembered as being a treble-happy, somewhat peaky headphone.  However, this is certainly an oversight.  The bass section on the T1, when amped appropriately, is actually competitive.  Quantity wise –it strikes a good balance, and the decay is right on point.  The Z1R’s subbass extends much deeper though and is generally more involved and visceral. I wish there would be a midpoint between these two headphones.  The vocals on the T1 are clear, authoritative, and present.  While lacking in coloration, sweetness, etc., it has a clarity and accuracy that makes it simply enjoyable. The greatest aspect of the T1 (at least my T1) are the liquid highs, but I was rather impressed by the fact that the Z1R was no slouch in this regard either.  Overall, I enjoy both headphones a lot.
     
    Focal
    Elear – $999 USD
    Utopia – $3,999 USD 
    MDR-Z1R – $2,299 USD (US pricing)

     
    My local headphone store Zeppelin & Co. happens to have demo units for both the Focal Elear and Utopia, and I have since spent quite a good amount of time with both of these new cans.  I do enjoy them thoroughly, and the Utopia has more or less become my benchmark for dynamic driver headphones.  The Elear is actually quite competitive with the Z1R, and both cans do have an emphasis on bass (note open vs. closed).   In discussing subbass, extension on the Z1R is superior, being able to draw more detail and texture than the Elear.  Do Jeito Que Sei by João Donato features a wonderful bass guitar backing that exemplifies the Z1R’s capabilities in this regard.  However, the midbass on the Z1R isn’t as fast as the Elear’s, putting the bass section behind in overall speed.  The Elear is also tighter, and doesn’t have the same diffuseness that occasionally crops up on the Z1R.  Having said this, the Z1R does have a very physical, immersive aspect to its bass that the Elear cannot match.  
     
    Lower mids on the Elear are better, aided primarily by a cleaner transition from the bass to the midrange.  As stated before, lower mids are not the strength of the Z1R.  However, I do find the upper mids to be more pleasant on the Z1R, and the sweetness certainly helps (yes, I do have an infrequent bias towards this).  Staging characteristics are similar for both headphones. Separation and airiness are better on the Elear, but imaging wise, weaker.  I’ve found in the past that the Elear does have odd placement on certain tracks.  This is all the more evident when propped something as proficient as the Z1R.
     
    The Utopia and Z1R comparison isn’t exactly the fairest of setups, and it plays out fairly predictably.  The one thing that the Z1R does have to its advantage is its tonality.  In my conversations with other enthusiasts, it is clear that not everyone is onboard with the Utopia sound, some citing a lack of bass and a perceived metallic sheen to the highs.  In this sense, the Z1R is a viable alternative.  Jumping into the comparison – bass extension on the Utopia is akin to that of the Z1R, though subbass quantity is less.  General focus is different –Utopia has a tight punch whereas the Z1R has the unique “big” bass.  What it lacks in visceral impact the Utopia makes up for in far superior control and speed.
     
    Mids are a clear win for the Utopia, with easy clarity and authority that the Z1R lacks.  The rendering on the Utopia is much improved, making the Z1R seem slightly laidback and relaxed in comparison.  The Z1R doesn’t hold up particularly well when put directly against the accurate and natural Utopia.  The tonal quality of the Utopia is simply of another level.  Also, the Utopia doesn’t have the upper mid sibilance that can be heard on the Z1R.  Highs on the Utopia are airy and pristine, with better extension and eloquence.  When it comes to technicals like the soundstage, imaging, and detail retrieval, the discriminating Utopia does it better in almost all situations.  Once again, we are looking at two different classes and types of headphones. 
     
    Th900.jpg
     
    Fostex
    TH-900 -$1,299 USD (MK1), $1,500 USD (MK 2)
    MDR-Z1R – $2,299 USD (US pricing)
     
    When I first heard the Z1R, I had a hunch that this would be one of the key comparisons for the review.  Very few “audiophile” headphones approach the levels of bass that can be found on these two cans, so naturally, it was only a matter of time before a comparison would be made.  I do own the TH-900, and am a big fan of its sound.  I admire its design aesthetic, and have spent hours trying to capture the way the lacquer cups light up with a soft gradient.  I’m kidding…but not really.  
     
    The fantastic Debussy piece from Book No.1 of the Preludes, La Cathédrale Engloutie, comes in handy when gauging bass performance.  In discussing subbass, both cans have very similar levels of extension, with the TH-900 edging out ever so slightly as far as detail retrieval is concerned. Midbass is more rounded out on the Z1R quantity wise, and on certain tracks provides much more slam than the TH-900 does.  Control on the TH-900 however is better, and I feel that it is still the speedier of the two bass sections.  Ultimately, the focus is quite different.  Whereas the TH-900 seeks to emphasize its extension, the Z1R is more concerned with providing a fuller sounding, more dramatic, segment.  One quick note though- I feel that the TH-900 is still slightly more accurate.  With certain orchestral and classical tracks, I did feel that the Z1R gave a bit too much emphasis to the bass section. While it certainly made for a good, theatrical experience, it wasn’t entirely true sounding. As a cello player who’s played in orchestras, I can’t say I’ve ever heard a bass section in such force.
     
    Mids on the TH-900 simply don’t compare against the Z1R.  The latter features a more even, smoother sound, with greater clarity and better timbre.  Z1R mids aren’t as peaky as TH-900 mids, and are just much more pleasant in general.  Highs on the Z1R are clear and articulate, but without the fatiguing aspect that occasionally sets in with the TH-900.  Soundstage and separation are better on the TH-900, and the sense of air is immediately apparent when switching between the two.  On a practical note, the Z1R has much better isolation and leakage control, but tends to get warm after prolonged use.  My conclusion is that the Z1R is a far better balanced headphone than the TH-900, and if you are choosing either as your primary driver I would go with the Z1R.  However, there are still aspects of the TH-900 sound that I find to be more agreeable, and if you're picking one up as a secondary use can, it'll be up to your personal preference.
     
    _D702701-V3.jpg
    A teaser for the near future!
    Hifiman
    HE-1000 - $2,999 USD
    Edition X - $1,299 USD
    MDR-Z1R – $2,299 USD (US pricing)
     
    *It would seem that I forgot to include my Hifiman impressions in my initial publication, and I do apologize to all readers for the inconvenience caused.  
     
    The Hifiman headphones in fact err towards a softer sound as well.  I will admit, I’m not a huge fan of Hifiman’s present higher-end offerings.  I found the old HE-1000 to be rather soft, and hence I do think that this comparison may be slightly biased.  The Edition X V2 is the first headphone that I shall compare.  Granted, it is a headphone of a very different price range, and so the following statements should be put into perspective.  I feel that the sub bass isn’t altogether dissimilar from the Z1R, but the detailing on the HEX lacks detail .  While the sub bass does have decent presence and extension, it doesn’t have the same level of retrieval as the Z1R.  Midbass is tight and fast on the HEX, but does not replicate impact found on the Audeze can.  Overall, the bass section is unobtrusive, but also uninspiring.  
     
    The lower mids on the Edition X are sort of on par with the Z1R, being kind of smooth and not exactly detailed.  It’s a close call on this one. I feel that the upper mids of the HEX are slightly less energetic, and seem to have a mild tint on them.  As far as upper end extension is concerned, the HEX falls short, with a perceived roll-off and lacking a “bite” required to be realistic in terms of tonal quality.  The HEX’s rendition of the Schubert Quintet In C Major is one such example.  The timbre of the violins isn’t quite right, being too smooth at times.  This is especially apparent for the 1st Movement (Allegro Ma Non Troppo), where aggressive playing is the key to achieving success in the piece (I know this, because I've played it).   Perceived soundstage is decent, and separation better than the Z1R.  However, general detail retrieval level is still less than its closed counterpart. 
     
    The HE-1000 more or less returns in much greater force.  Bass is much improved, and more capable than the HEX technically.  I find that it can indeed compete with the Z1R as far as extension is concerned.  Quantity is less, but this is not to be seen as a negative. Mids are a clear sweep for the HE-1000.  The lower mids have  a more realistic textural quality, and the upper mids are still less colored.  I really hesitate on the treble, because it doesn’t seem to me that the HE-1000 does all that much better than the Z1R in this regard.  Once again, I return to certain classical tracks, such as Schubert’s  Quartet No. 14 (Death Of A Maiden), I’m not taken aback by its rendering of the HE-1000's rendering of string instruments.    However, when it comes to soundstage, separation, and air, the HE-1000 is clearly the better of the two.  The HE-1000’s open back characteristic proves its ability in this sense.  
     
    FINAL THOUGHTS​

    It would be a lie to say that returning this headphone didn't make me just a little bit sad.  The Z1R is really one of the finest closed back headphones available on the market today.  To start, it simply gets a lot of things right - the build quality is spectacular, and the design is well thought out and almost impossible to fault.  Ergonomics and general usability rank among the highest in my experience.  Packaging, while not being the most practical, is certainly very unique. Sonically, it may not be the most technical of headphones, but the Z1R is immersive and involving.  Overall, the attention to detail and the completeness of the headphone is nothing short of stunning. This is a standard for how products should look on release, and is definitely a benchmark for future closed headphones.  Congratulations, Sony.
     
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    1. View previous replies...
    2. ephrank
      Comparison with HD800/S also missing by accident?
      ephrank, Mar 27, 2017
      Vitaly2017 likes this.
    3. Lohb
      Sony FTW.
      They have nailed this balance of technicalities and MUSICALITY..who would have THUNK a company would dial-and-dial to make their gear the pinnacle of MUSICALITY vs just being lost in the technical side.
      Great review.
      Lohb, May 2, 2019
    4. Lohb
      Simply no comparison between BGVP DM6 and IER-Z1R due the massive price gap ?
      Lohb, May 2, 2019