So I just got the Sony MDR 1000x
Sep 12, 2016 at 2:31 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 19

BenKatz

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Hello fellow head-fiers
 
So today I got very lucky. A local tech journalist, working for a tech TV show in the country I currently reside in - Romania - just sold me a brand new pair of MDR 1000x that she got for free from Sony at IFA. Why she would sell it instead of keeping them or at least review them for her publication, I dunno, but I bought them at a very bargain 340 Euros.
 
Anyway, first impressions are incredibly solid. I'm using them with my Xperia Z5 phone, so there's an LDAC (990kb/s tranfer rate) connection, which basically means that most of my music, which is 320kbs Google Play Music mp3s, is compression-free.
 
I only have my trusty old MDR 1A at hand for comparison, and that's great, considering they both share the same driver. But here's a breakdown of my first 10 hours of use:
 
Built quality is really really good. They feel much more solid than the 1As. The plastic is of a better quality, the aluminium band is very rugged, and the cups feel very premium with their faux leather texture. They are in no way as comfortable as the 1As due to smaller and more shallow earpads, but they seem comfortable enough, and didn't strain my big head after well over 2 hours of listening. The pressure on the ears is moderate and secure, making them feel much more stable on the head than the 1As. 
 
As for sound, well, firstly I must say that the NC is pretty phenomenal. First thing I did was put them on my head, power them, pair them through NFC with my Z5, and initiated the NC optimization process by long-pressing the NC button. It takes about 10 seconds (a bunch of noises are played) and then you get a female voice prompt telling you the process is done. With them optimized, you can hardly hear anything. Everything in the lower half of the spectrum - low-end noises, humming, etc, are virtually (almost) completely gone, and the second half of the spectrum (voices and so on) are hardly noticable even with the volume at 10-25%. Curiosly, the most noticeable noise was me typing on my keyboard for some reason. They also feature an "Ambient Sound" NC mode, which is quite neat. Basically, turn it on, and you can hear all the voices around you quite clearly, even with the music turned all the way up, without any other types of sound coming through. 
 
Through an LDAC bt connection with NC on, I can tell you that compared to the 1As (wired, connected to the same phone), they sound louder, livelier, the bass has more body, however the soundstage suffers quite a bit, I'd say it's 25% narrower than the 1As. That's not half bad, considering that the 1As have really good soundstage.
 
I spent a lot of time turning the NC on and off, and I was surprised I could barely tell the difference in sound quality, which is very noticeable at other rival headphones I've tried. Basically, the mids and highs seem to stay pretty much intact, however when the NC is on, the bass has a bit more body to it, and when it's off, the soundstage seems to be marginally improved. Listening to them in wired mode, but turned on, and connected to my Xperia Z5, the sound was similar to its wireless counterpart, but lost a bit in volume, probably due to the more powerful S-Master HX amp found in the headphones, compared to the one the Z5 has. Listening to them wired while turned off (passive) however was suprisingly similar to the 1As. They sound just as loud, but just a tad more veiled and with a slightly more narrow soundstage. And that is impressive, because I'd reckon you can safely use them with a dedicated amp/dac and have a hi fidelity experience, considering the 1As are a complete blast to listen to on a good amp/dac combo. 
 
 
Ease of use is quite good as well. Besides the On/Off/Pairing, NC/NC Optimization and Ambient Sound, there are no physical buttons on the device. You control it through touch controls on the right cup. Swipe up/down for volume, left/right for track skipping, and double tap for either play/pausing or answering your phone. Which leads to call quality which is above satisfying, as the voices are more than clear enough, and people heard me just as good as if I were talking through my phone (they are HD Voice compatible). They also have this really neat feature, where if you put your palm on the right cup, the sound goes down to about 10%, and the external mics basically send you all the audio from outside your headphones, making it very easy to have a conversation with people around you. 
 
All in all I'm extremely satisfied with these. I tried out the Sony MDR 100ABNs, QC 35s and the Sennheiser Momentum 2 Wireless about a month ago. As far as sound quality, from the aforementioned headphones, the Sennheiser seemed to have a slight edge over the Sony, with the Bose last. Unfortunately can't comment on the NC abilities, since I tested them in a High End audio store and it was quite quiet. 
 
I'm planning on performing an A/B test for comparison the following week versus the 100ABNs, QC35, Senn Momentum 2 Wireless and whatever other wireless NC headphones I'll find at my local High End audio store, and I'll update you on the results. However, first impressions are really solid, and I wouldn't be surprised if these end up being one of, if not the best wireless NC headphones on the market right now.
 
Sep 12, 2016 at 4:51 PM Post #2 of 19

BenKatz

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Oct 31, 2016 at 2:26 PM Post #7 of 19

BenKatz

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Well, it took me a while, but I managed to do the comparison.
 
In short, the 1000x is a clear winner here. I tested it on my Xperia Z5, using Tidal HiFi, through the LDAC BT connection. The headphone sounds better than the 100ABNs, but not by much, it simply sounds more precise and with a better soundstage. The Momentums are really close, but sound a tad congested and too muffled at the low end, i don't know if it has something to do with just the drivers, or the fac that the 1000x takes advantage of the LDAC, but the difference is noticeable enough. As far as the QC35s go, I was actually expecting them to be close in terms of sound quality, but at least to my ears, the QCs sound the worst from the bunch. They sound more congested, with much less bass and distant voices than the rest, and especially quieter, which is probably due to the less powerful internal AMP. 
 
As far as noise cancelling goes, I couldn't tell much of a difference compared to the QCs. I tested them in a really noisy store. However the Momentums are clearly inferior in this regard. They hiss, and more sound, especially at the high frequency range, passes through. The 100ABNs seem to do a better job than the Momentums, but are clearly inferior to the 1000X and QC35s. 
 
Comfort wise, the QCs seem the most comfortable, followed closely by the 1000Xs, and then the 100ABN, who feel too rough. In last place i'd mark the Momentums. They have a good amount of cushioning, however they're simply too small. They lay on the ears, I wouldn't even consider them over the ear headphones. 
 
I also did an AB comparison with the 1As, wired, turned off, through a Fiio E17K portable DAC/AMP. Fist off, don't try the 1000x powered on when wired through a high power amp, they just sound distorted and horrible. However, I was surprised to see how good the 1000Xs sound compared to the 1A. The 1A has a noticeable better sub bass extension, however the 1000x arn't very far behind in that regard. In short, the 1As sound brighter, with tighter bass, really good (similar) spearation, and a bit narrower soundstage compared to the 1As. The 1000x have a more in your face type of sound, with crisp, clear, and forward vocals. The 1As have a better soundstage, are able to reproduce a fuller sub bass, but the bass seems less controlled, and are more laid back, especially at the vocal department (the voices seem a bit further away, but in no way bad). 
 
What I can tell you is that the 1000x are firstly probably the best wireless headphones around. Didn't compare them with the P7 wireless, but as far as specs go, the P7s don't have NC, and are not capable of receiving upowards of 990kbs of music (near 16 bit flacs/cd quality) through BT. But, of course, the P7 have different drivers, a different internal DAC and AMP. So who knows. 
 
And surprisingly, they are a really REALLY good pair of cans when used powered off, wired. They're really versatile, and for the average user who doesn't want 1000 pairs of headphones, and wants something that sounds fenomenal on the go, wirelessly, but also want to use the same pair wired when the occasion arises, these headphones are worth every single cent of the 400 USD MSRP.
 
Nov 2, 2016 at 7:54 AM Post #8 of 19

carlosasen

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Nice review @BenKatz !  You have increased my hype for them +1! hehehe
 
Have you tried the Sennheiser's PXC550? Im in between those two... 
smily_headphones1.gif

 
Nov 2, 2016 at 1:07 PM Post #9 of 19

BenKatz

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No, I haven't. But according to CNET's review, they sound worse than the Momentums, which in definitely sound worse than the 1000x, and they compared them to the QC35s in terms of NC, and they're not as good. Which basically means the 1000x is over them in any aspect. And subjectively, I think the 1000X look way better. The Sennheisers look kinda cheap. 
 
Jan 23, 2017 at 1:35 PM Post #11 of 19

Phillay

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I have had the QC 35's and now have the MDR1000's and I can say i prefer the sound quality of the Sony's more (although subjective of course). I listen to all music from pop to r n b, hip hop, jazz, etc. and found the the bass in the qc35's are more reserved but very clean whereas the mdr1000's are a little more aggressive (but in a good way). The bass is more pronounce and seem to add more oomph while the qc35's almost seemed to taper off too quickly.
 
I also like the fact that the Sony's have a lot more features as I'm a techie kind of a guy so I enjoy having the touch pad and the quick attention mode. I found that the mids are nice, clean and discernible and the highs are crisp and clear when amped with my e17k. I never tried amping the qc35's when I had them but I returned them and exchanged them for the 1000x's as I didn't "love" the sound quality from the qc35's. I was MUCH happier with the Sony's. One thing to mention though is that the bose is EXTREMELY comfortable.
 
If you also are using the headphones for phone calls, I found that the Bose is much better in comparison. On calls, no one even noticed that I was using my headphones during the conversation with the Bose. The Sony's however, people kept thinking I was talking to them when I was in a hallway or in the bathroom. I've tried returning and exchanging the Sony's for a few different pairs but every one of them sounded the same in terms of call quality, just not that great.
 
My main use for the headphones is to listen to music while I work but I also have a lot of conference calls throughout the day so the call quality was important for me, but the trade-off in terms of sound quality won me over for the Sony's. If I manage to find the qc 35's for half the price of what they retail at ($449 CAD) then I would definitely pick them up again to use as my work headphones.
 
One last thing to mention is that once you optimize the noise cancellation on the Sony's (pushing and holding the N/C button), I found that the noise cancellation to be just a bit better than the qc35's. The caveat is that you may need to optimize when you change your surroundings, wear a hat, glasses, etc. I found that when I was on the plane, although I had optimized it while I was sitting in the terminal, I needed to re-optimize once I was on the plane and the engine was running to get the best n/c. The Bose just works...all the time...the way its supposed to which is great. I give the convenience factor to the Bose for this one.
 
All in all though, I think the 1000x's beat Bose in terms of sound quality, noise cancellation and looks (subjective), but Bose wins in terms of comfort and convenience and call quality.
 
One final thing to also note - I REALLY didn't like the fact that the Bose was a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable whereas the 1000x's were 3.5 to 3.5. This is just because 2.5 - 3.5 is a lot more rare than 3.5 - 3.5. The cable quality that comes with the Sony's are MUCH MUCH better than the cheap flimsy cable that comes with the qc 35's.
 
Feb 16, 2017 at 4:34 AM Post #12 of 19

Kodhifi

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I got mine today and am mostly comparing them to the Plantronics Backbeat pro. Surprisingly in sound quality department they are different but equal. If anything it's made me realize how good the backbeat is especially considering it's less than half the cost of the Sony's. However the NC goes to sony hands down. It doesn't just filter out noise, it actually blocks sounds that most NC doesn't like bass. I can put on Sir Mix alot on my over powered audiophile stereo speakers with sub, and the bass drops almost to nothing while the vocals come through crisp and clear. It's amazing to feel your chair shaking, but not hear it.
 
My initial impressions of the Sony's sound is more balanced than the backbeats with a less forward bass presentation, brighter mids, and a certain crispness to the upper range without being bright. In fact my torture test tracks that would send my HD800 into fits, play smooth as butter on the Sony's. And that's what raised my suspicions. There are 3 modes the headphone does. Bluetooth mode. Cable mode. And cable mode with the power off. Plugging the cable in does not bypass the dac and amp built into the Sony's and the level is boosted by about 10db and it sounds nice. But truly power it off so it's running in pure analog mode without any trickery, and the sparkle fades, the vocals jump to the background, the bass muddies up, and they go from an 8 to a 5 audio quality wise.
 
In a nutshell Sony is obviously using a calibrated EQ profile in all power on modes that make up for the drivers short comings and try to make it more musical. It does this very well, and playing around with EQ curves shows me the driver is very responsive to EQ with very little inherant coloration. Basically they are chameleons, easily able to replicate the sound of other headphones.
 
Compared to the Backbeats, the Sony's are obviously EQ'd. The Backbeat also operates in bluetooth, cable on, and cable off modes but the sound changes little to not at all and is consistent regardless of how you are getting sound out of them.
 
In fact when I dug into the Sony's hidden features a little more I found it actually does an audible calibration with test tones if you hold in the NC switch a few seconds. Basically it's doing on board Audyssey calibration.
 
I would have liked to see a better sound by design, with any digital trickery only there to push an 8 to a 10. Who knows though the sound could change as the drivers loosen up with play.
 
Letting them work their DSP magic though, the presentation is flatter than the backbeats, but stil with a V contour. The bass is less boomy and the mids really shine even with the V curve. Detail is incredible and the highs are crisp as hell. Some headphones barely respond when boosting 16khz in EQ but the sony's are incredibly sensitive even at that high a frequency even in pure passive mode so the drive is capable of great detail, it just needs a better enclosure to better balance the sound.
 
 
Update
I found some frequency measurements of this with comparison of power on and power off and the measurements easily reflect the change in character. In power off and passive mode there is an almost 20db dip at 2khz which is what is killing the mid range. It's a low Q dip too affecting the other bands around it. Powering the unit on drasticly changes the mid range frequency response to compensate for that dip, boosts sub bass frequencies below 40db by about 5db, and generally flattens the curve out, which looks like the himalayas even with the eqing.
 
The sound from these is pretty colored, however it's living proof that frequency response isn't everything because in spite of these obvious  enclosure and standing wave problems, the poly aluminum driver packs a lot of detail especially in the higher frequencies.
 
I think once the mod scene begins finding ways to break up the standing waves in the mid range, it will be a better headphone, however you then have the new problem, that with the problems fixed, the EQ would then over compensate and lead to harsh midrange. Such is the problem with active headphones.
 
Jul 3, 2017 at 3:13 PM Post #13 of 19

California_Audiophool

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In power off and passive mode there is an almost 20db dip at 2khz which is what is killing the mid range. It's a low Q dip too affecting the other bands around it. Powering the unit on drasticly changes the mid range frequency response to compensate for that dip, boosts sub bass frequencies below 40db by about 5db, and generally flattens the curve out, which looks like the himalayas even with the eqing.

Are you sure about the measurement technique and the wired source? A 20dB dip at 2kHz would be drastically noticeable; on my headphones the 2kHz region is not noticeably affected when going between wireless and wired (LG V20 source). (Playing with EQ and adjusting by just a couple of dB at 2kHz I easily hear the difference - it's not a problem of my ears).
 

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