Sony MDR-Z7

General Information

Sony's new flagship, over ears, closed back headphone

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New Head-Fier
Weird, but good weird. (Replaced my HD600 as an everyday headphone)
Pros: - Very fun side headphone to complement something more linear.
- When you find the right kind of tracks that play nice with the Z7, bass and presentation can be magical and fun in a guilty pleasure kind of way.
- Comfortable, closed back isolates more sound than an open-back. Outside sounds like conversations and cars outside the apartment are inaudible.
- Good soundstage for a closed back. More than HD600.
- When used as a movie and gaming headphone, works wonders. Helps elevate voices with Discord. As a general purpose headphone, more suited for games and movies than as an all-genre music headphone.
- Easy to drive, but plays nice with appropriate amping. Runs perfectly fine out of a BTR3K without sounding muffled.
- Genre specific fun
Cons: - if reviews are to be believed, this headphone belongs in a dumpster. But it's not. It's a wonderful headphone that I'm never selling.
- When on tracks that don't play nice with the Z7's presentation, it sounds mediocre at best, smeared/bloated at worst.
- Leather pads means some sweat and oils will get into the leather. Need to wipe down with a cloth after each use.
- Warmer than velour pads on open backs. Pads will likely also be less durable.
- Spare parts for this headphone are expensive. Can't replace headband or metal parts if broken.
- Stock cable is long and unwieldy, you will probably need to have a new one made for desktop/office use.
- Absolutely not worth MSRP. Can only be bought 2nd hand, which introduces risk of fauly units AND not being covered by warranty.
- Whatever the MDR-Z7 falls flat on, the HD600 will happily accept and present it correctly.
- EQ is often recommended, but give it a shot without it. There is resonance yes, but I found the EQ settings available online made vocals too shrill.
Pairing Gear Used:
FiiO K7
ifi Zen Air Blue > ifi Zen Air Can
VE Megatron
ifi Zen Dac v1
HD600 for comparison

Winning Tracks:
Bad Day (feat. Millyz) - Chris Webby (YT Link)
Ex-Men (feat. Tory Lanez) - Chris Webby (YT Link)
My Favorite Clothes - Rini (YT Link)

Losing Tracks:
Reason to Hate You Mahogany Session - Rhys Lewis (YT Link)
邱鋒澤QIU FENG ZE- 分開的學問 The Art Of Letting Go (YT Link)

I impulse bought this 2nd hand Sony MDR-Z7 about a month ago. It hasn't left my head since because it is one enjoyable headphone. This is also not going to be a review based on any sort of measurement or value proposition. I like this headphone, period. Even if it's tuned wrong and sounds wonky with some genres. Rather, this review gives you a bit of preamble for what to expect before you audition it or buy it 2nd hand.

If you are expecting a cheap 2nd hand way into premium hi-fi headphones, this is not it, even if the MSRP once upon a time, would have placed it in the same cost ballpark as an "entry" summit-fi headphone like today's Focal Celestee. I use the term "entry" summit-fi headphone to refer to something that is around 1K - 2K, with modern summit-fi headphones like the ADX5000 and ZMF Verite costing upwards of 3K. Ridiculous term I know, but this "new" entry level price point can be quite competitive. There is the "essential basic" stuff like the HD560S costing 300, the "entry" level stuff like the HD600, MDR MV1 and R70X costing 500 and then your entry summit and summit.

The Sony MDR Z7 used to cost a lot more, but it's true cost to performance ratio now, sits it squarely in the same tier with the HD600 and R70X gang. It's performance is somewhat in this group, losing in some areas to the headphones in this essential basic tier.

As with some Japanese audio products, the tuning is not going to be razor accurate the way some audiophiles like it. It is not "reference" in any way, which makes it very hard for me to quantify or talk too much about the sound signature relative to the frequency response graph. I've attached it at the bottom for anyone reading to have a peek at it, and make your own conclusions. Think Final Audio and Audio Technica's older headphones. Final Audio tunes stuff to be easy to listen to, or in their newer stuff, aims to have wider soundstage in an IEM like the A5000. This results in it sounding weird to someone more used to more traditional tunings. Point being, the Japanese take on audio is often not always meant to measure well, but to offer something different and focused on enjoyment.

Take that nugget and swallow it when you're giving the MDR Z7 a shot, because this is one weird headphone for 2023.

Sound Impressions:
With all that info out of the way, I am not quite experienced enough to comment on how this headphone sounds relative to a graph. But I've left some test tracks available on Youtube to try. I can't link higher quality spotify tracks so just try it out with similar genres as the linked tracks to get a better field of what I experienced when using the MDR Z7.

My feelings about the sound can be summarized as a cinema focused sound in a headphone. This is a wonderful bass focused headphone with just a touch of "slowness" to the bass. Vocals are pushed back slightly. Soundstage is great, wide for games, giving a sense of grandness to orchestra or anything recorded in a large room. Immersion is also one of its perks, isolating enough to combat the weakness of an open back, providing more bass, and having a fun, addictive presentation.

I'm glad Sony went with this signature. There is no need for another "reference" tuned headphone on the market. There needs to be more fun stuff that isn't only geared for music. I'm a movie buff, watching hundreds of movies a year, and this is absolutely my cup of tea.

Note: All listening was done on the FiiO K7, with the HD600 using balanced output, and the lower impedance MDR Z7 out of the SE output. Volume matching was done by ear, and as faithfully as humanly possible without some sort of meter to measure volume output. Higher volume was used for both headphones, as the MDR Z7 falls apart if listening is done on lower volumes.

No beating around the bush, the MDR Z7 is not going to work as a mixing, mastering or reference headphone. It may not even be good enough as an all-rounder headphone due to how selectively good it sounds. On certain tracks, it renders vocals in a recessed manner. This causes singers to sound artificial or "wrong" in the mix with some songs.

This headphone has weird sound quirks and on the wrong types of tracks, such as acoustic music, or vocal focused music, I found that the MDR Z7 will push some artists into the background. I have a feeling this headphone was tuned for more modern genres with heavier bass rumbles and deeper tones. Electronic sounds are also reproduced in a very enjoyable manner.

The plus-es are immense. Modern music example link. Let's get into some positives with the tracks I enjoyed using the MDR Z7 with:

On Noah Kahan's Someone Like You, this headphone induces foot tapping even if the presentation is vastly different from the HD600. With the MDR Z7, the instruments are pulled forward, along with the bass tones and lower pitched sounds. Add to this, the larger sense of space and soundstage the MDR Z7 has, this headphone brings to mind the word, grand and scale. The song sounds more like it is in a hall, with instruments given more space to echo and "play out" compared to the HD600 which aims to pull your focus on Noah and Joy's voices in a narrower space.

On Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' I Love You Baby, the same issue presents itself, where the closed back nature of the MDR Z7 helps to noticably add bass. Mids aren't necessarily pushed back as you can hear the singers clearly and enjoyably, but you can now hear the instruments, drums and background melody being brought up and out of the mix, compared to the HD600. HD600 as expected, loses some of this bass, which brings out the singers track more.

On Frank Sinatra's L.O.V.E, the MDR Z7 presents the most fun rendition of this track I've heard on a headphone. The way the background piano hides in the background, the way the sax is introduced at the 1:00 mark on the right? Perfect. Bass tones from an instrument I cannot identify, make this instrument heavy presentation FUN, FUN, FUN. The best part? You do not miss out on Frank Sinatra's wonderful whisky like voice. No push back here. Just a gorgeous, instrument heavy presentation with wonderfully matching vocals that do not blend, but sit steadily and slightly softer than the instruments. I have zero issues with this presentation. It is new to me even. Lovely. This track is still wonderful on the HD600, it's just different and less enjoyable with regards to the instrument focus. Vocals are presented nicely and in a more focused, enjoyable way if you want heavier focus on Frank Sinatra.

On Chris Webby's Bad Day, this song was made for the MDR Z7. The accompanying vocal grunt, the deep bass and the instrumental are the most enjoyable presentation I have heard. This genre and likely EDM will make the MDR Z7 shine the best. The temptation to raise the volume to 11 and let the bass rumble hit you is always there with this song. This is a very distracting listen, when it comes on, you drop everything, start headbanging and want to devote your full enjoyment and focus onto the MDR Z7's presentation.

On Wolftyla's All Tinted, HD600 and MDR Z7 both present the track enjoyably. The added isolation offered by the MDR Z7 means bass is presented in a heavier handed manner. There's just more of it, extending more than the HD600 and punching deeper. There is a common problem most people lament with the HD600, that there is "no bass". I don't think that is the case, but the HD600 does drop off at a certain point, and due to being open back, there is also not going to be any reverb or room for bass to hit deep enough. At 2:41 in this track however, there is suddenly a piercing synth sound that kills enjoyment on both headphones. It is worse on the MDR Z7.

Concluding thoughts on sound:
I found the MDR Z7 somewhat confusing to evaluate. The headphone is well suited to hip hop and EDM, but also occasionally plays nicely with jazz singers like Frank Sinatra. The MDR Z7 pulls out instrumentals on modern genres in a manner that is crazy enjoyable.

It also exhibits some suppressing of singers on some acoustic tracks. But plays nicely with certain instruments like the saxophone, flutes and pianos. It plays wonderfully with movies where dialogue isn't the focus, bringing a rumble to explosions, and helped further by some isolation from the leather earcups.

The MDR Z7 also sounds different when listening at very low volume. You lose almost all of the plus points from the instrumental being distinctly identifiable in the mix. Instead, all you get are vocals that are barely supported by any of the supporting sounds.

I also suspect, the MDR Z7 may have some issues with a fully cohesive bass reproduction due to it falling flat on some hip hop songs, and that something like the EMU Teak might be more suitable for a bass forward presentation. However, I also think something like that may not be able to match the MDR Z7's vocal presentation if said bassy headphone overwhelms the midrange.

Anyway, gun to my head, as a HD600 enjoyer, will the MDR Z7 be able to dethrone the HD600 as my most used headphone on my desk. The answer will probably be yes... Strange as it is, and strange as the MDR Z7's presentation can occasionally be.

The isolation offered by the MDR Z7 means bass extends deeper, has more rumble and flat out plays nicer with any R&B, hip hop, game instrumental, explosion or modern mix. Just listen to this track by Jacquees - You: link here.

The HD600 brings out the wrong thing for the genre, which is the vocalist, and gives it some air to breathe due to the open back nature of the headphone. The MDR Z7 however, isolates, giving a bassier presentation and pushing the vocalist slightly back, while isolating the instrumental, bass tones and beat. Now that is how R&B is meant to be heard.

The harmonizing and slight whisper are conveyed enjoyably against a pitch black background, a perfect home run for the MDR Z7.

As someone who watches a ton of movies, plays video games with tons of explosions, and with music preferences that lean more towards rap and R&B with some acoustic stuff thrown in, the MDR Z7 wins at more of these things for me compared to the HD600.

The HD600 is and will always be a god-tier headphone. It is light, comfortable, easily repairable, with most pieces being available online to fix, or balanced cables being easy to find for cheap. It plays beautifully with any music that has a singer on it, and presents any sound in a clean, easy to listen package without being too exhausting. It also does nothing too wrong, like falling apart on some genres or presenting a song flat out artificially. There is no shout, no piercing treble, nada. It however, has that glaring weakness of being an open backed and having bass drop off.

The MDR Z7 is... an entertaining listen with a unique ability to bring out instrumentals, adds actual bass presentation and does not suffer from having smear between bass and vocals. It is not a perfect headphone, and it cannot work magic with vocals the way something sharper like the ADX5000 can. It is not the most detailed or incisive presentation either. BUT when you put something in it's wheelhouse? You will rush to put down the HD600 just to see if the MDR Z7 will work it's magic and bring you into total immersion.

The more stuff I find that works with the MDR Z7's immersion, the more likely I am to eventually bench the HD600 completely. As it is, the MDR Z7 has most of my head time.

Wholehearted recommendation not to fully commit to a buy, but to at least give this unique gem a try.


Non-sound Tangibles:
This is a comfortable headphone. It is lightweight at around around 350g without the cable. For context, the HD600 is 260g without the cable. It is light enough for prolonged use of 2hrs or more, making it very usable to finish albums in a full sitting, or a movie.
The earpads are leather, and will trap some heat. However, it is nowhere near as bad as some saunas like the V-Moda's I have tried from yesteryear, or the NAD Viso HP50 and Creative Aurvana Live 2! which were all horribly uncomfortable and heating headphones.
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Using the Kimber cable and TA desktop has been enlightening as a way to generate enough balance and detail to make the signature work out, for me personally? With-in what is thought of as correct the MDR-Z7 is correct yet some feel the MDR-Z1R is better, and while it is better in technicalities, it doesn’t fit like the Z7 nor have the exact Z7 sound, also it’s way more money.
@nephilim32 the crossfeed thing sounds interesting. Did you use Peace equalizer for it?
@Recarmoose thanks for the suggestion, does the Z7 respond better to higher power from an amp? Or is it just the TA playing nice with the Z7? I use the Zen Can to push more power out but didn't really notice any difference between the Zen Can's added power and the FiiO K7.


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: build
Cons: price
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.

At retail I'll give them 2.5/5
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Thanks for the review, I also like the MSR7 a lot, specially for the mids and highs. I was eyeing this headphone, but it seems it's not a good idea, specially since I was thinking in paying almost 500 USD brand new. Do you have a recommendation on the $500 range of full sized headphone? I want an endgame headphone, currently my favorite is the HD600 and second is the MSR7.
^yeah Z7 isn't for you if you like those two, but maybe check around Elegia.
I bought a DT1990 instead, which is nice, but still like better the HD600. I also have a pair of HD58X on my way :)


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: warm n´smooth Sound quality, soundstage, Build quality, confortable, balanced capable
Cons: Poor isolation
A little about me
I'm an audiophile but not the Graphs and number ones, more of a music lover type of audiophile who seeks the best true sound quality. My Genre of choice is Classical music from renaissance to Classism and abit of nationalism like Grieg, Dvorak.

Unboxing & Accessories​
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
Sound Quality​
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)
These are not perfect but I agree and am also finding Z7 enjoyable for classical- definitely relaxed sound but instruments seem accurate in timbre and spatial cues are very good and not congested even with Mahler while also forgiving for older lo-fi recordings which can be handy w/ classical.
Yeap, and actually I also own the A3 and Z7, and you're spot on on describing their differences.
I do think people that like A3/Z5 shouldn't not like the Z7, but tho it also depends on what they're looking in a Fullsize headphone.
Nice review!


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