I bought these headphones from the head-fi classifieds for £260 in good as new condition.
Simply beautiful. Everything a high end headphone should be. Every part you touch is metal, leather or high quality pleather. The headband extends with satisfying clicks, the cups rotate smoothly. A truly impeccable build worthy of a flagship headphone.
Looks are understated and attractive. Black and silver, with small red accents to indicate right are the only colours visible when worn. Large black cups have the timeless Sony logo etched into them, silver in colour. When not being worn, within the cup you can see the huge 70mm driver, greenish gold in colour. Very impressive.
Exactly as comfortable as you would expect having seen the huge pads. Soft with a large opening then envelops your ear, the headphones are very comfortable for extended listening periods. Being closed, however, I do find that they can get a little warm at times. The headband has ample padding, evenly distributing the (little) weight over your head. I don't get any hot spots from this headband.
Bass: Big and boomy. Bass is accentuated a lot, likely satisfying most bass heads. Bass lacks some articulation and tightness, also lacking the very lowest rumble, but makes a great effort for a dynamic driver. The bass also has a strange feel to it, in that it sounds detached from the rest of the music at times, like you are using a subwoofer in your room. Perhaps this is due to the very large driver, I like it a lot.
Mids: The worst part of the headphone, the mids are distant and lacking a certain realism at times. Some vocals can sound fine, albeit recessed, but other just sound messed up, particularly female vocals. Disappointing for such an expensive headphone. Bass can also bleed into the mids a little, making them sound muffled.
Treble: Detailed, but a little hard. Treble presentation is on the darker side but manages to retain most detail. I also don't hear any nasty peaks or sibilance. The overall treble presentation is a little hard, however. A downgrade from the liquid smooth treble of the MSR7s.
Soundstage / imaging: Soundstage is quite large, not huge but good for a closed headphone. It does not ever sound congested and instruments have quite a bit of air around them. Imaging is precise, not as pinpoint accurate as the MSR7s, but still impressive. These would make quite good gaming headphones.
I want to love these headphones, but there are simply too many flaws in the sound. It seems some strange choices were made in making these headphones. The physical presentation is that of an audiophile flagship, but the sound is more consumer oriented, as if Sony is trying to appeal the a more average listener. I feel like in trying to appeal to the larger audience, Sony has made an even more niche product, an expensive, consumer oriented headphone with most of the technical competencies of an audiophile headphone, with the price of an audiophile headphone to boot.
In the end, do I recommend these at their £550 asking price? Absolutely not. If you can get them second hand around the price I did (£260), they are a reasonably good deal.
I'm an audiophile but not the Graphs and number ones, more of a music lover type of audiophile who seeks the best true sound quality. My Genre of choice is Classical music from renaissance to Classism and abit of nationalism like Grieg, Dvorak.
Unboxing & Accessories
The Z7 come in the now-usual sony double "layered" box, a Huge white cardboard showing the product amplified photo, some specs in the back (marketing
). removing the cardboard revelas a Lux black box with the SONY logo in the middle, open that box and the Z7s greet you. kind like a jewel box, covered in black soft silky cloth to give that BLING BLING factor. They come with two pairs of cables, a Starbdard Single-end and a Balanced dual-3.5mm cable and a 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter nothing more
Build Quality, Fit/Ergonomics
The Build of these is superb, they are metal encased, they feel cold to the touch and in my ears for a while, they seem to be very robust made, anyways i won't be dropping them just because they are metal. The fit very confortable covering my entire ear, The créate a tiny bit of pressure but that is more than okay. I find the cables are way too long, even for home use. Te cables are the best i have seen. The pads are thick plush made of the real thing and not pleather, just in summer you can get sweaty with these (yeah is Winter at the time of review but have already seen 34°C) The headband is made of metal all is metal made and they feel very robust
They feature removable cables, the mechanism has a screwing lock mechanism which looks great and is gold plated, plus the extender to fit your head has nice markings from 1 to 10 and it is slotted, it clicks nice
In one word how i would describe these MARVELOUS, I love the big sound the output for a "closed" can. They are vented or semi-open that means you can hear most sounds from outside, even me typing this review but muffled, my Neighbor's dogs barking. I like the trade-off of open design and the BIG soundstage they give. My gear used for them: Sony Walkman WM1A and sony Xperia XA and Sont VAIO fit 14A and a Dell Latitude, this time tested with 16/44.1K Fand 24/44.1 ~ 96K FLAC files BASS: the bass on these has a presence but i am not saying Boomy or always present, it's the kind of warmth I like, well textured and controlled bass, kicks hard and very deep, I don't see any signs of mid-bass bloat, in fact i feel the bass of Z7 well controlled and smooth. Cellos sound very natural the charcteristic of the grunt and runble of the deep bass is represnet as if you lsitened to the real thing for real, Yo-yo Ma's rendition of Bach 6 cello suites (1983, colubia records CD remaster) is very wonderful expression of the instrument, goes very deep. With Organ works is just equally phantastic, as it rumbles very nice deep that sometimes i get this tickling sensation on my ears needing a scratch . Same for Harpsichord, pianos, string or wind quintest/quartets/trios etc gives the authority to the bass instruments and tonal body of the works. What impress me is that Z7, despite having this big bass, it renders the Kettle drums with a crsipy BANG, not the usualy BOOOM BOOOM you get with other IEM or headphones, bach Brandenburgs, in these the kettles a nice crispy bang and does not smear on quick drum rolling, stays authoritative. Chamber organs display a deepest bass i have ever Heard wow, Locatelli trio sonatas MIDS. The mids on these are well presented perhaps slightly recessed but not that much, they give the sense of airiness, there is no signs of Mids-dstorting, there is no sharpness nor shouty. Violins, violas, female vocals are well represented, very organic and natural No signs of bass leaking, very coherent, yet detailed headphone but not to the extreme of super revealing. This contributes to the musical nature of these. HIGHS: The highs in these are very sweet, non-fatiguing, recessed yes but at the same time they don't let details escape. Harpsichord and organs are troublesome with such a high extension in some headphones like *cough* MDR-1R *COUGH* way too Sharp that i had ringing ears, with Z7 i can listen for hours and i don't get faitigued at all SOUNDSTAGE & SEPARATION: WOW jus WOW a LIVE-LIKE EXPERENCE yes!! LIVE EXPERIENCE, a sound I never heard from any HP, not even the Ultrasone HFI 780, soundstage is BIG and airy (depends on setting not the same stage from a concert hall and a small studio room). Separatio is also very precise, i can distinguish many instruments and pinpoint them, can distinguish a cello from a Viola, a cor-anglis from an oboe and the inaudible instrumnets (Harpsichors, Bassoon) come to life in the satge. Symphonic works, large choral wokrs (think thomas tallis Spem in alium) rendered with greatness and nothing gest blurred smeary all sections of an orchestra well rendered, strings and flutes & brass even when being played at pianissimo levels The staging is so damn 3D that i get this enveloping effect in both ears very well, te most 3D-sounding HP i have ever heard that it has removed my itch of getting a custom multi-driver speaker-setup For the price range i got them THEY ARE A BARGAIN they compete easy with $1K or more HPs, in summary, very controlled bass that adds musicality, airy mids and highs that contribute to the HUGE Soundstage and 3Dness, overall they are great for classical, fairy smooth and nothing stands out Their signature is like an oversized XBA-Z5 but wiht less bass forcé, both are equally good SONY audio products
A Comparisons with other IEMs & devices i have owned
XBA-Z5 VS MDR-Z7: They have the same signature, same driver technology except that z5 is an hybrid of BA and DD and Z7 are 70mm DD only, both have THAT SOUNDSTAGE, perhaps Z5, has a slightly bigger soundstage than Z7. MDR-Z7 VS XBA-A3: Z7s are more smooth sounding with zero treble zing, no verdone treble on Z7 compared to the boosted trebles of the XBA-A3, bass on Z7 is more controlled down and not as prominent as the A3, the A3 are more V-shaped for me than the Z7s MDR-Z7 vs MDR-1R: The Z7 win hands-down, more smoother signature, more natural presentation, bigger soundstage than the 1R. Simply the 1R had a very Sharp signature too mid-centered and hot tebles to get that resolution for high-res audio, IMHO way too overdone, Harpsichords sounded way too strinent as well as strings, Z7 have a nice recessed trebles yet very detailed making Harpsichord bearable to listen to. Driven By XA: OK sounding but as we know smartphones can't do what a dedicated audio rig can, ok mids, ok highs, slightly boomy bass, reduced soundstage Driven by sony VAIO flip PC (2014 14'' inch): Not as great as the XA, a boomier sounding signature, veiled. DELL LATITUDE 36400: The oworst ofender of the last two, worse than the VAIO, terribly boombastic and so veiled that i think i am lsitening to some beats by Dr dre Driven by WM1A: very airy, clean presentation, damn 3D soundatging, lean signature not at all boomy. WM1A drives them well on SE and high gain benefit for difficult tracks (low volume masters)
Pros: The comfort is out of this world, phenomenal sound stage for a closed headphone, sound once modded
Cons: Sound before modding is mediocre, cups feel less premium than the rest of the build
Hi, this is my first review of any headphones, and I'm aware that these are probably quite odd headphones to start on, but I got them at Christmas, and I think I've listened to these both with and without the mods a sufficient amount to be able to give a review. First things first, my use case is listening to a mixture of Noise Rock/Post-Hardcore, EDM and Alternative Rock, and also using these for YouTube and gaming. I'm generally a fan of a bass-boosted sound signature for all of these things, as it just makes them sound more fun to me.
As a point of comparison, my previous headphones are the original Sennheiser Momentum Over-ears, another warm set, though much smaller and lighter. Both have been driven from my Phone, and from my PC (onboard only, though I intend to get a Schiit Stack at some point in the next month or so, and it should be noted, my PCs onboard Audio is fairly good). I've also had most of the low price IEMs that get recommended on the sub, KZ ATEs, Xiaomi Piston 1/2/3 etc, but they occupy a very different product category, and have demoed other fashion/casual use headphones like the B&O H8 and the MDR 1000Xs
Build Quality, Design and Comfort
The MDR Z7 has absolutely fantastic build quality, being constructed mostly from aluminium and leather, with only some internal parts of the headband being plastic. The leather on the top of the headband is relatively thick and solid, with a heavy, visible grain, while the underside is a much softer smoother leather over a plush foam, however the edges of the leather part of the headband cover a hard part of the structure of the headband. These hard parts don't touch my head, though depending on the size and shape of your head, they might. The adjustment sliders of the headphones are aluminium, with a nice clicky action when resizing the headphones, with 10 notches on each side providing a good range for expansion. The slider housings are a high polish aluminium, while the sliders themselves are a sandblasted finish. The headband is attached to the earcups by an aluminium gimbal which encompasses half of the cup, and allow maybe 20 degrees of pivot inward and 5 degrees of pivot outward. the tilt and swivel of the cup gives them a good range of motion to help with fit. Overall, the headband is fantastically solid and well built. The earcups are definitely the part of the build I like least, as while the magnesium is probably high quality, and the mottled texture on the outside of the cups is both attractive and feels good in the hand, they feel very thin and hollow, and feel very plastic. Otherwise, the cups are nicely shaped and attractive, and feature venting at both the top and bottom of the cans to make them slightly open. (Spoiler for the Modding section) the actual construction of the headphones internally is very solid, and reassuring, but the cups are thin and undamped.
Moving on from the cups, we come to the earpads; made from a thicker version of the leather on the underside of the headband, and filled with a soft foam, these pads are frankly glorious. They're angled, along with the driver baffles, to give good internal clearance for my ears. They're insanely soft, thick and cover a large area of the head, meaning a low pressure on the sides of the head. They're also replaceable, though you need a precision screwdriver to get them off, and the size of the cup means that getting replacements may be difficult, though I'm not 100% on that, and short of changing them out for velours to try to boost treble and soundstage, I don't see any point in swapping pads. Living in Britain, I have yet to see what these cans are like in high temperatures, but I'm expecting a fair bit of sweating.
So what does all of the above mean for comfort? They're fantastic. The pads combined with the soft headband, and the good pivoting of the cups mean they shape perfectly to the head, and the clamping pressure for me is perfect; tight enough to get a good seal and for them to stay on, but not painful at all. Compared to the Momentums (which I've found very comfortable, and are over ears for me, I know some people have issues with the smallish pads), the MDR Z7 is in a whole new league. The moderate 335g weight (without cable) is well distributed. Talking of the cable, these come with two: a 3m 3.5mm terminated cable and a (I think) 2m dual 3.5mm balanced cable for use with Sony DAC/Amps. Ive only used the Single ended cable, so I can only really give feedback on that. I really like the cable, it's a good length, with nice rubberized sleeving with a slight texture. It hasn't held its shape from packaging and is very flexible, and the jacks at either end are solid, with locking connectors at the headphone end. According to some on Head-Fi, it ruins the audio quality of the headphone and must be replaced with the highest grade Silver and Snake Oil cables money can buy, but I'm gonna doubt that one for now. Moving on...
The sound of these things straight out of the box can be described as very warm, with midbass that even I, a big fan of Bass, thought was over the top, overshadowing the rest of the range badly, whilst also being somewhat boomy due to the reverberation in the cups. That's not to say they sounded horrible, it's just that for any music other than a few EDM songs, I found the bass too overpowering and that songs ended up having large parts obscured. EQ'ing the midbass down by ~2-4dB really helped, and brought these into a much much more reasonable sound signature, whilst maintaining a nice warm sound. They also benefit from having better amping than a cell phone, with the bass being significantly more punchy and tight on my PC.
The sub-bass extension is decent but not incredible, at least as stock, but with some slight EQ it can be brought up to a much better position in the mix. The bass impact is pretty fantastic, (most impact at stock without EQ, but the boominess is not a worthwhile trade off to me) and I imagine that this is due to the relatively massive 70mm drivers. Bass Texture and speed is ok at stock, but the reverb from the cups is kind of killer in this regard, obscuring a fair amount of detail by making decay slower.
As stock, the midrange is somewhat lacking, obscured by the bass, and with a dip around 1.6khz that messes with vocals and leaves a slight hollow sound to some songs. outside of this dip, the midrange is fairly enjoyable, though the bass bloom means it can be hard to tell. EQ'd the midrange sounds pretty nice, with a warm tone but good detail, at least compared to the other audio equipment I've heard, and a good tone for the music I listen to, fitting my sonic preferences quite well.
The Treble of the Z7 is somewhat unusual, with a big dip and a peak, at 4 and 8 KHz respectively, which mean it can sound bright at times, and sound like the treble is totally lacking at others. Again, this is an area i found hard to evaluate at stock because it feels so overshadowed. Once the Bass was EQ'd down slightly, it seemed like the treble outside of the dip was enjoyable, and the peak brought some nice detail into the sound.
These are essentially closed headphones, yet the sound stage and imaging, even out of the box was very surprising, offering good width and separation, though sometimes the sound seems to only come from either side of the head, with very little in the middle of the soundscape, with some sounds which moved from one side to the other skipping across the part immediately in front of me. This was most noticeable in gaming, where it made finding enemies off of sound slightly awkward, as an enemy who was five degrees right, and one which was 30 degrees right would sound identical, with sound only coming from the front if the source was directly ahead. Away from centre stage there is a good range of separation and positioning
The biggest recommendation I can make for anyone considering a pair of these is that they buy some medical porous tape and Precision Screwdrivers. The biggest downside of these headphones, a bloated reverb-y midbass is largely due to the lack of damping in the cups, and the improvements from remedying this are surprising in the extreme. I opened up the cups, following a guide found on head fi, and applied a couple of layers of damping to the inside of the cups, and to part of the back of the drivers. I may also add some dynamat to the drivers in future as it apparently further improves the sound. The midbass is tamed and reverb reduced, meaning the rest of the range is brought up, and everything gains a great deal of clarity. The bass speed is much better, as is the texture making them better for EDM, provided you don't mid the decrease in impact. The other mod I recommend is adding some foam behind the pads to prevent them covering the drivers as much, as it boosts the treble slightly, making them slightly V shaped, and making the sound signature have more air to it, and as such, widening the sound stage slightly. The experience of modding these was interesting, as it was the only time I disliked the fantastic build quality, as all of the screws were difficult to remove, meaning i needed to apply a fair amount of pressure to turn them, and a couple of little slips have left my headband with a couple of nasty scratches. Thankfully, aside from this, the cans are easy to disassemble, with no glue or awkward clips, so reassembly was swift.
Post mod sound
So, the sound after modding can probably be guessed from a few qualifiers in the pre mod section, and from the modding section, but to give more accurate feedback, I'll say that the bass has been tamed to give a more enjoyable sound, which fits a wider range of genres, and an improved treble response which brings out the best in these headphones, adding detail and soundstage. The midrange still has the dip, so I still use some EQ to fix that and boost the sub bass slightly, but the mod really does do wonders. For a total cost of £3.50 and a couple of hours, I feel like this is essential. It was also kind of fun to dismantle something and tweak it, so this may not be my last venture into modding.
The isolation of these headphones is odd. with sound playing, they isolate from the outside quite well for a vented can, probably due to the large pads and drivers blocking out most of the outside air, but with no sound, they isolate very poorly, letting in huge amounts of sound. Outside the headphones, leakage is fairly bad, with others being able to hear what I'm listening to from nearby if the room is quiet, or just hearing a small noise in a louder environment.
As I said, these can be driven to a high volume from a smartphone but they do appreciate a bit more power to tighten up the sound. They need more amping than my Momentums, but as a non-portable large headphone, with a massive driver, they manage to be very efficient.
If you need some warm headphones with a closed back, and you can get these for less than MSRP, they're probably worth considering, if you don't mind modding them. The comfort is fantastic, and the sound, while not necessarily to everyone's taste for music can be improved easily and works well for movies and gaming. All in all, well worth the ~£200 these were bought for.