Review: Sony MDR-7550
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kimvictor

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About myself: http://www.head-fi.org/t/674373/story-of-a-new-reviewer-kimvictor
 
Intro:
Sony's current flagship IEM is XBA-4. However, it's bass heavy tuning and lacking transparency made me disappointed in Sony. Last year, I also noticed that Sony had a line of dynamic IEMs, tuned for audiophile/studio use; EX600(audiophile), EX800ST(Same as MDR-7550, for studio), and EX1000(audiophile). This summer, I had a brief chance to demo the EX1000 and MDR-7550. EX1000's treble was too hot for my taste, and MDR-7550 was perfect. However, I was broke back than, so I didn't get the chance to buy them until last week. Last week, I purchased a used MDR-7550 for $125 from a local hi-fi enthusiast in Korea.

About MDR-7550:
Sony's line of dynamic driver isn't new. In fact, I think they are discontinued. Currently, Sony's only high end dynamic driver iem is the MDR-7550, or international version of the EX800st.
 
I'll start my review now.
 
 
Build Quality:
Overall very well built. It's kind of sad that it's made of plastic, but it's very light and durable. 
 

They have a memory form wire, which is very sturdy. 
 

Unlike EX1000, they have a wax guard in the nozzle. This is very useful.
 
 
Isolation:
Shallow insertion is recommended for MDR 7550. Since they have a vent, they lack isolation. They isolate as much as typical ear buds do. This is a great thing for me, as I use them on the road.
 

This is the vent that causes lack of isolation. So what happens if I block them? Read more to find out!
 
Comfort: 
The cable is 1.5m and is very sturdy. It has a memory wire, which makes them stay on well. MDR7550 are very very comfortable. Even more comfortable than my CIEM. The fit is very light, and it stays in your ears well.
 

I braided the tip of my cable as it was a tad too long for me.
 
 
Sound!
 
Sub-bass: Wonderful! It's a dynamic driver and its bass doesn't disappoint me a single bit. Very warm and has long decay. Also, the bass isn't affected much by outside noise.(meaning that you will be able to hear the bass even if you are in a train or something)
 
Mid-bass: Not overly done, but not light. Very punchy and has good decay.
 
Lower-mids: Bit grainy, but slightly forward. Overall good.
 
Upper-mids: Smooth! Rich! Slightly forward! It's one of the best aspect of this iem.
 
Lower-treble: Touch hot, but overall great. It's slightly sibilant, but it's not something you should worry about.
 
Upper-treble: Lacks extension and feels veiled. Kind of like SE535.
 
Soundstage: Due to it's huge vent, soundstage is wide, very wide for an iem.
 
Imaging: Decent. On par with most $250 iems.
 
Detail: Fair. On par with most $250 iems.
 
They are good with most kind of music I've tried. Especially rock and pop, but it also shines with female vocal.
 

Another $250 iem, H-200!
 
 
Amp/Source Matching:
Like many dynamic drivers do, MDR-7550 likes a bit of power. If you have a audiophile DAP, you should be fine. If not, an amp is recommended.

AK100 matches the MDR-7550 very well.

But with Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII, its bass becomes more impactful and controlled.
 
About the vent:
Rin Choi of rinchoi.blogspot.com posted on his website that blocking the vent increase the sub-bass and treble extension. I find this claim to be true. However, do this at you own risk as this could damage your drivers. Isolation also increases a tiny bit.

 
 
IEM vs IEM:
 
MDR-7550 vs T-PEOS H-200
Technically speaking, H-200 is a better IEM. In terms of clarity and detail, H-200 outshines 7550. However, due to it's huge dynamic driver, I feel like 7550 has better subbass impact and decay. Soundstage is also better on 7550. The part that H-200 disappointed me the most was the mids. Lower mids were recessed and upper mids were peaky. On 7550, lower mids are not recessed and upper mids are smoother. Both have some sibilance though.
 
MDR-7550 vs SE535
I wanted to compare the 7550 with SE425, but I don't have the access to SE425, so I guess I'll have to be satisfied with SE535. Again, technically speaking, SE535 is better. Better clarity, detail, and imaging. However, 7550 has much better bass than SE535. It's subbass is truly exceptional. 7550's lower mid's not as smooth as SE535's, but it's upper mids are as good as SE535's. Treble extension between the two iems are about the same.
 
MDR-7550 vs Triple Fi 10: This is based on a short demo.
Both are very wide sounding iems, but they shine on different aspects. 7550 has great mids and bass while TF10 has great bass and treble, as well as detail and clarity. To my ears, 7550 are more natural sounding. If you looking for a overall balanced sound, 7550 would be better. 
 
 
As always, my reviews will be updated constantly, and please do read about me(I posted a link at the beginning of this review) as it will help you understand this review better.
 
Feel free to ask any questions or mention any errors in this review.
 
--------------------------------------
Currently willing to lend my MDR-7550 to those that might be interested! 12/3/13
http://www.head-fi.org/t/693456/lending-out-gears
 
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Thank you this time for in-depth review.
 
I think this part got my attention
Quote:
About MDR-7550:
Sony's line of dynamic driver isn't new. In fact, I think they are discontinued. Currently, Sony's only high end dynamic driver iem is the MDR-7550, or international version of the EX800st.
 
Am I reading it right.... that Sony discontinued all their commercial dynamic driver IEM except for Proffesional MDR 7550 and Sony Music exclusive  EX800st?
 
 
 
 
Quote:
Sound!
 
Sub-bass: Wonderful! It's a dynamic driver and its bass doesn't disappoint me a single bit. Very warm and has long decay. Also, the bass isn't affected much by outside noise.(meaning that you will be able to hear the bass even if you are in a train or something)
 
Mid-bass: Not overly done, but not light. Very punchy and has good decay.
 
Lower-mids: Bit grainy, but slightly forward. Overall good.
 
Upper-mids: Smooth! Rich! Slightly forward! It's one of the best aspect of this iem.
 
Lower-treble: Touch hot, but overall great. It's slightly sibilant, but it's not something you should worry about.
 
Upper-treble: Lacks extension and feels veiled. Kind of like SE535.
 
Soundstage: Due to it's huge vent, soundstage is wide, very wide for an iem.
 
Imaging: Decent. On par with most $250 iems.
 
Detail: Fair. On par with most $250 iems.
 
They are good with most kind of music I've tried. Especially rock and pop, but it also shines with female vocal.
 
Besides the sub-bass, does 7550 sound "fast" (short decay?) with no "slack" (loose) in other frequencies? 
 
Disclosure:  My only  experience with high end universal IEM  the multiple BA-driver Triple-fi 10.  I'm not sure how the universal IEM market has changed  since 2009, but back in 2009 I think BA-driver was the top choice if you wanted fast/tight and detailed sound from a high end universal IEM.  Is the new crop of dynamic-driver universal IEM really that competitive now?   I had the impression that dynamic-driver was only for cheap ipod earbuds and that dynamic-driver was the rare "pushrod" of the IEM "engine" (pushrod is considered old fashion in the engine world)
 
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TheBoss

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did you also get to try EX800st in your local headphone shop?
 
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did you also get to try EX800st in your local headphone shop?
Nope. I think theu are the same though. If you look closely at 7550's cable, it asys ex800st on it. They also look identical, has same technical specs, and same frequency response. I'm 98% sure they are the same. Why don't you shoot sony japan(they are the only ones with 800st) an email regarding this?
 
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I recently met w/Nao Tsunoda (lead engineer for Sony's Headphone/IEM team) and he confirmed that the EX800 and 7550 are the same.  I also prefer the tonal balance of the EX800 over the EX1000.  And both are still readily available in Japan.  I think they just discontinued them in certain markets- the U.S. for instance.
 
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Quote:
I recently met w/Nao Tsunoda (lead engineer for Sony's Headphone/IEM team) and he confirmed that the EX800 and 7550 are the same.  I also prefer the tonal balance of the EX800 over the EX1000.  And both are still readily available in Japan.  I think they just discontinued them in certain markets- the U.S. for instance.
Thanks for confirming.
 
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Quote:
Thank you this time for in-depth review.
 
I think this part got my attention
 
Am I reading it right.... that Sony discontinued all their commercial dynamic driver IEM except for Proffesional MDR 7550 and Sony Music exclusive  EX800st?
 
 
Besides the sub-bass, does 7550 sound "fast" (short decay?) with no "slack" (loose) in other frequencies? 
 
Disclosure:  My only  experience with high end universal IEM  the multiple BA-driver Triple-fi 10.  I'm not sure how the universal IEM market has changed  since 2009, but back in 2009 I think BA-driver was the top choice if you wanted fast/tight and detailed sound from a high end universal IEM.  Is the new crop of dynamic-driver universal IEM really that competitive now?   I had the impression that dynamic-driver was only for cheap ipod earbuds and that dynamic-driver was the rare "pushrod" of the IEM "engine" (pushrod is considered old fashion in the engine world)
Sony discontinued their dynamic iems(high end) in US and Korea. Mkubota1 said they are still available in Japan though.
 
Mid bass of 7550 has some speed, but not really fast like reference headphones. For most cases, you will find it fast enough. It's a good thing to have a long decay though. BA is still a top choice if you want fast and detailed sound. But dynamic drivers nowadays are becoming faster and detailed. Dynamic drivers are capable of sounding very good. The trend nowadays seems to be hybrid(Dynamic+BA). But honestly, purely in terms of good bass, dynamic is much better than BA.
 
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Does anyone know a link that sells replacement parts, like the 7550 cables?
 
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I just got mine two days ago and I can't stop listening to them.  Man, these are stunningly good.  Well worth owning.  I think I'm enjoying them more than the EX1000 which is hard for me to say. 
 

 
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Quote:
Does anyone know a link that sells replacement parts, like the 7550 cables?
 
Looks like the cable is not listed online.  You may have to call them and ask for the
RK-EX800 cable.
 
https://www.servicesplus.sel.sony.com/PartsPlusResults.aspx?stype=parts
 
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Quote:
I recently met w/Nao Tsunoda (lead engineer for Sony's Headphone/IEM team) and he confirmed that the EX800 and 7550 are the same.  I also prefer the tonal balance of the EX800 over the EX1000.  And both are still readily available in Japan.  I think they just discontinued them in certain markets- the U.S. for instance.
 
Nao is a great guy.  I had lunch with him a couple of weeks ago when he was at CAS 2013.
 
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kimvictor

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I just got mine two days ago and I can't stop listening to them.  Man, these are stunningly good.  Well worth owning.  I think I'm enjoying them more than the EX1000 which is hard for me to say. 
Such great iems, right? I love them too.
 
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I just got mine two days ago and I can't stop listening to them.  Man, these are stunningly good.  Well worth owning.  I think I'm enjoying them more than the EX1000 which is hard for me to say. 
can 7550 sound vastly improved with your Lehmann Audio Black Cube Linear?
 
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Updated my review again. Now filled in iem vs iem part. If you want any comparison with other iems(that I've demoed(click on my ID)), feel free to ask for it.
 
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Quote:
can 7550 sound vastly improved with your Lehmann Audio Black Cube Linear?
I have to try that since the BCL is my favorite amp.  Right now I'm running this setup with wonderful results.
 

 
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