Sony MDR-R10
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Hirsch

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A couple of weeks ago, I got a parcel from the mailman. It had this case in it:



As the case opened, a golden glow seemed to come from it (remember Pulp Fiction?). When fully opened it showed:



Sony did this one right. Hardbound manual, cleaning supplies, all included:



The ear pieces are carved from the heartwood of 200 year old Japanese Aizu zelkova trees:



The pads are leather made from very fine Greek lambskin:



OK about the sound...

A couple of days ago a non-audiophile friend of mine from out of town came by. He was curious about my headphones, so I gave him the "headphone tour". Second to last stop was the SHA-1/HP-1 combo. He thought it was a fantastic sounding combo (It is). Final stop was the ZOTL/R10. The look on his face was priceless. He struggled for words and finally said "I thought those last headphones were great. But these are REAL. It sounds like you're really there!".

He may have said it better than I could.

The sound of the R10/ZOTL system is a work in progress, which I'll post to the ZOTL tube rolling thread once the rolling stops. The short version is that the R10 did not sound its best with the tubes I had been using. However, using the R10 to roll tubes in the ZOTL was like using a tube microscope. While other headphones I have were concealing some of the flaws in the setup, the R10 is a bright spotlight. It leaves everything exposed. Nowhere to hide. As I found new tube combinations that brought out the sound of the R10, my other headphones improved as well.

Initial sound was captivating and frustrating at the same time. Absolutely superb detail, beautiful imaging...and no real bass below 150 Hz or so. Worrisome. A Sony without bass? Couldn't be. And it wasn't. But this headphone, despite very good efficiency, needs more power than it lets on. I'll spare the tube rolling details for another thread, but simply say that with the proper source, this headphone's got bass, and everything else.

Anything in your audio chain is going to be revealed by these headphones...good and bad. There's no escape. There's no forgiveness. If your system has a weak point, the R10 will still play, but the magic stops. If it's unhappy, it will simply sound lifeless until you fix the problem. But when it's happy...

I don't know if the ordinary vocabulary we use applies to these headphones. I can talk about highs, midrange, bass, imaging, tonality, accuracy, transparency, even neutrality, and not make a word of sense. Anything I say won't really capture what's going on with these. In brief, it's got more or less everything. Best highs, best imaging, best detail, best midrange, good bass (still the weakest point IMO, but I'm working on it). I'm not getting anything across by blathering hyperbole, but this headphone tends to inspire that kind of response in the listener.

The R10 is better at separating out different instruments than anything else I've heard. Each voice and instrument has its own space. The R10 seems particularly adept at dealing with some rather bad recordings. Even when the recording has obviously been compressed, such that on my other systems the vocals barely stand out, the R10 still puts them in their own acoustic space. In that sense, it can actually salvage a recording that has undergone compression, at least in part. It's that good an imager...can dig just about anything out of the mix and put it where it belongs.

The ZOTL is the amp that seems to bring out the best in the R10, of those I have. Honorable mention goes to both the RA-1 and the X-Can v2 (Until I got the ZOTL retubed, the X-Can had the best bass of any of my amps with the R10). The SHA-1 is decent, but the R10 reveals its limitations...it simply isn't at the same level the ZOTL is right now. The HPA-1 isn't really a contender at all, despite being excellent with the HP-1.

Short review: the R10 is the best dynamic headphone I've heard. End of review.

I don't know what the R10 does, or why it sounds the way it does. Everything from this point on is conjecture and speculation, and a good bit of my own enthusiasm. If you're looking for answers about this headphone, you can safely stop reading now. There aren't any that I know about.

The R10 is perhaps the only headphone I've heard that absolutely glories in the fact that it's a headphone. Rather than disguise itself, it uses the headphone environment to create an acoustic space that maximizes the music. Despite the potential to be the most analytic headphone out there, it's not really about neutrality or even accuracy. It's about the headphone as an instrument to reproduce music.

I'm actually curious to hear this headphone with crossfeed, but my bet would be that it would suck...because I think that electrically creating a more realistic space electrically is counter to what the R10 does, which is to create that space acoustically. Crossfeed would be a useless appendage...the headphone is already doing the work of creating the listening environment.

Maybe my non-audiophile friend had it right. It's real. All the music is there. Rather than acting as a veil between the listener and the music, the R10 actively brings the listener right into the music. It doesn't matter what kind of music. The R10 isn't a specialist. Vocals, acoustic guitar, orchestral, electric music, highly distorted rock...the R10 takes the music and puts the listener right in the middle of it.

Since I lack the words, I'll let the Sony manual say it for me: "Beyond mere headphones, the R10 has been elected to be a musical instrument that reproduces the soul of music".

It succeeds.
 
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jlo mein

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Quote:

The ear pieces are carved from the heartwood of 200 year old Japanese Aizu zelkova trees


Is this true? It makes it sound like an old japanese myth...lol...
 
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BoardC3

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about the old japanese myth it does sound like this could be the "green destiny" of headphones
 
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andrzejpw

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lol, it sounds like you're saying:

"Three different animal species had to become extinct to bring me these headphones. Screw them.
"

CONGRATS!

I WANT THEM!
 
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jlo mein

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Quote:

Three different animal species had to become extinct to bring me these headphones.


LOL!!!
 
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pigmode

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Quote:

Originally posted by Hirsch


The pads are leather made from very fine Greek lambskin:





OMG! That sounds illegal in most states, errr, or at least throughout the bible belt...
 
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kwkarth

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Hirsch,
Congratulations man! I'm looking forward to following your path of discovery.
Cheers!
 
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dohminator

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/drools

I want those so bad. Damn, I'm broke.
 
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daycart1

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Nice description and pictures! The wood is almost as nice as a fine Go board. Can't wait to hear about generalizable discoveries about the Zotl....
 
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bootman

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Nice.


Maybe the bass issue can be solved with a good SS amp?
You have enough posts to try out the MOH loaner.
 
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88Sound

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Congratulations Hirsch! Great Pictures!

Even though I had a lengthy audition of the R10 a few months back, I suspect I never really had an audition at all. They were not happy with the auditioning setup, a Sony SACD player ( I forget the model) and a buzzing EMP. The result was a very polite R10, too polite, no magic. Even at that the phones are so beautiful and comfortable I still look in the for sale column....longing.

Your post has me really wondering what these would sound like with the Grace 901! [size=xx-small]No I'm not crazy, not that crazy at least, there is no way I'm going to get an R10 to test with the 901! You can't make me, you can't make me![/size]
 
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Duncan

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Hmm...

Now if only Jatinder wanted to sell his R10s....


...Go on Sony Bashers, try your best!!
 
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Vertigo-1

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With a *whew* blown, I'm glad that Hirsch is happy with the R10s.
I see that some of his findings are similar to mine, in that they are hard to describe in everyday terms. His friend's reaction and what he said subsequently is also quite interesting.


I find myself in a slight state of regret nowdays, now that I have sold them. But I am very happy with what I sacrificed them for, so it's a regret I can live with...for now.
 
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andrzejpw

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just wondering vertigo: I don't remember why you sold them. Was it the big T?
 
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jatinder

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Why would I want to sell my R10s?

I can imagine myself selling the Orpheus in a few years.

But the R10? Nope.

An R10 is for life, not just for Christmas!

--Jatinder
 
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