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Going through a dilemma with the Sony MDR-1AM2

  1. Dr1v3r
    Hello everybody.

    I’ve been testing my new MDR-1AM2s for about 2 and a half weeks but I can’t decide if I should keep them or not. My biggest concern about these particular headphones is that it picks every single error that any track can have. For instance: some of them sound 'more loudly' on the left can, some on the right can, some on the 'back of my head' (They don’t sound balanced to me).

    I have to explain myself. Don’t get me wrong, when I listen to tracks well balanced, they sound amazingly clear and pleasant but when I come across some of them that are badly recorded, they can cause me a headache.

    So my dilemma is: Should I give them back and wait for the new Audio-Technica MSR7Bs to be released hoping to have a better sound quality or should I get used to them as they are (avoiding 'bad tracks') ?
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    If it's just getting louder on one side and then on the other I'd sooner suspect the cable or the drivers or the recordings. If it's the first then have them replaced, if it's the latter then chances are the problem will still be there.

    However it might not necessarily be that it's playing louder but you're just hearing hard-panned instruments, and chances are as long as you're using decent headphones, that would be audible.
  3. buke9
    Picking up every single error could be a good and bad thing. The thing I think of is how do you know what is right or wrong with it?
  4. Dr1v3r
    In my opinion after listening to some FLACs, I conclude that are most likely the recordings. Nevertheless, on some tracks I do hear the voices biased to one side just like I explained before (but those voices does not change their position mid way, so I assume it’s not a driver problem) . It’s hard to explain. Never experienced this with other headphones before, hence why it surprises me.

    EDIT: I wanted to say 'biased' instead of 'balanced'
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  5. Dr1v3r
    I don’t fully understand what are you trying to say there. I never said picking up errors is 'a bad thing', considering those are High-Fidelity headphones.
  6. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    I'm kind of lost here.

    Balanced but only on one side? How is that balanced? Balance in stereo application means they should be even on both sides.

    And when they "change midway," mid way through what? Through the song or through lines on the song? Because if the point where it shifts changes then it's a hardware problem. If it shifts at the exact same time every time, then it could have been programmed that way to achieve some kind of effect, like how in some cases the backing vocals only go on one side to distinguish it from the main vocals, if not have two backing vocals go on left or right. In some duets even if the main vocals is centered, when you get to parts where the two vocalists are exchanging lines like they're having a conversation, the recording cans put each on just one side for that section.

    What he means is you might prefer a headphone that doesn't fully reveal much less highlight flaws. Not necessarily get something that isn't hi-fi at all, just one that doesn't make flaws too obvious.
    PaganDL likes this.
  7. PaganDL
    Hi Dr1v3r,

    I agree with @ProtegeManiac, please try to explain clearly what issues you may have as there are too many potential possibilities to diagnose with your description.
    I also agree it may be a source quality issue you more than likely have as I have the 1AM2 which is my current home reference headphone (I have a few on rotation) & I have found no issues even remotely close to what you describe, the only source quality I can't truly control is the good side of youtube.
    As a side note, once again in line with ProtegeManiac, in future, I suggest avoiding any headphones which are reference capable unless your source quality is on the same level.

    Just my humble opinion.
  8. Dr1v3r
    Yeah, what I meant is that the sound is biased to one side. I apologize for that.

    No, for what I could tell, in every song I had that issue it always stood in the same place (there was no changing over time). They may be programmed that way and I have to get use to them I guess.
    Hello there. Now that you mentioned you have a pair of 1AM2s, I am curious, do you use an external DAC (I know shouldn’t be necessary for its impedence) to improve the sound quality or you just plug them in as they are.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  9. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    That's probably how they were recorded. What song is the effect most severe, and in what parts? I'll listen to the track if it's on Spotify (or if I have it in FLAC).
  10. Dr1v3r
    Hi. I made a quick diagram to show how I would describe some of the songs that seem to be 'strangely recorded': https://imgur.com/a/wBzywIe . That’s probably the most I can do to explain what I am experiencing but I would remark again that what I am describing there does not apply to all songs, only a few. Also, I uploaded two songs that I feel can perfectly show what I was trying to explain all this time: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1AZQYikf2g3ImmxtWDKcIPGIuFa5o8F-R
  11. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Listened to "Little Lies" on my phone to confirm what I know of that track and yes, the vocals at some parts sound like it's coming off center. If you have a very sensitive microphone just tilting your head far enough to the side can do that. Also in some of the back up vocals' lines the one on the right sounds louder so it sounds like it's coming from a bigger area closer to the center.

    That said, I was listening with my portable amp and high sensitivity IEMs, and the vocals shifting to the right is less noticeable when you crank it up (by which point it's a little painful with my set up), so if anything maybe use lower gain as the potentiometer might be making that recording issue worse.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
  12. Dr1v3r
    The thing is, I am currently not using an external AMP/DAC or any kind of soundcard in my system. I was looking into a SMSL M3 but I am not sure if it’s really worth it considering the extremely low impedance of the headphones so I am running with the DAC implemented in the motherboard of my tower.
  13. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    A portable amp with an analogue potentiometer might actually make that worse though since analogue pots have an inherent imbalance until you get to around 9:00 on the dial (8:00 on better pots like the Alps Blue).
  14. Dr1v3r
    In that case I would stick for now to the DAC built-in the motherboard since I can’t afford a very good one cause in that case I would’ve also gone with something like the HD600 or HD660S which would result in 3 or 4 times the investment. Now digressing a bit towards another thing that I’ve noticed recently, when playing with the audio settings of Windows and changing the bit depth and the sample rate from 16/48 (Preset by Windows) to something like 24/48 or even 24/96, I can notice like some kind of pression against my ears when playing the songs which is weird. All my current library is mostly FLAC 16/44.1 so I guess might be the Windows driver resampling the tracks. Also, when listening to a 24/96 track with the config set to 24/96, I can still notice some ''artifacts in the background'' like popping, so that’s the reason I thought about upgrading to a ''better'' DAC than the one in my PC.
  15. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Even a "better" DAC can put in artifacts if it messes with the signal. Old upsampling DACs can be subjectively tested and even on blind tests were easier to pick out; turned out it was because of ultrasonic artifacts that the listener can't hear and response tests didn't bother measuring but were there and were affecting how the drivers moved (in short, technically speaking, it sounds different due to driver distortion).

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