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The Official Sony MDR-Z1R Flagship Headphone Thread (Live From IFA 2016)

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by thatonenoob, Sep 1, 2016.
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  1. jude Administrator
    I saw the discussion here of Tyll Hertsens' measurements and review of the Sony MDR-Z1R at InnerFidelity (link), and I was very surprised by his findings, both subjective and measured.

    I'm a big fan of the Sony MDR-Z1R, and I won't argue that one should like it or not (that's something you'll have to listen to and decide for yourselves), but I just couldn't reconcile his comments with what I was hearing. Let's start with the subjective comments:

    I can understand this assessment. It's a bass-rich headphone for sure. I dig the MDR-Z1R a lot, but I can understand how others may not. (For example, @AxelCloris likes the headphone, but it is a bit too bass-heavy for his tastes, so he doesn't listen to it often.)

    While I don't find the presence region to sound withdrawn, I can understand (again) that the bass, on balance, may be thick for some.

    Now this description does not match what I have heard, and I've heard a few Sony MDR-Z1R's. I've also measured our Sony MDR-Z1R and it also isn't consistent with that subjective impression or the measurements that Tyll posted. Here's InnerFidelity's Sony MDR-Z1R frequency response plot:


    As you can see above, Tyll's measurement of the Sony MDR-Z1R does show a large peak at 10 kHz--this is something I have not heard (and I would definitely hear that), and it is also something we haven't measured with our Sony MDR-Z1R here.

    However, our Sony MDR-Z1R is a pre-production prototype--Serial Number X009. It was probably one of the first near-production Sony MDR-Z1R units to leave Sony's possession. Because of this, I wasn't sure that any impressions or measurements of this particular unit (Serial Number X009) were fit to compare to what I assume is a production Sony MDR-Z1R (InnerFidelity's unit). That said, I have heard other Sony MDR-Z1R's in event/meet environments and never noticed such a hot treble.

    I had this discussion with another Sony MDR-Z1R owner, and he likewise did not hear that. I asked him to send me his Sony MDR-Z1R. It arrived today, and I measured it. Here is the frequency response measurement of both the production MDR-Z1R (solid line) and our prototype MDR-Z1R (dotted lines):

    FR-Sony-MDR-Z1R-Serial-0323-and-Serial-X009 LABELED.jpg

    While it could reasonably be said that these measurements (InnerFidelity's and ours) are somewhat similar up to a point, there are some very substantial differences--like the absence of that mountainous 10 kHz peak that InnerFidelity's measurement is showing. (Again, we are not hearing this either.)

    Our total harmonic distortion measurements are also different. InnerFidelity also posted this Sony MDR-Z1R THD (total harmonic distortion) measurement:


    And here is the comment about the Sony MDR-Z1R's THD in the review:

    Here is our total harmonic distortion measurement of both Sony MDR-Z1R units we have on hand:

    THD-Sony-MDR-Z1R-Serial-0323-and-Serial-X009 LABELED.jpg

    The graph above shows THD measured with the output level set at 90 dBSPL at 1kHz. Even when driven to 100 dBSPL at 1 kHz, bass region THD did not exceed 0.78%. In short, we are not showing bass distortion to be problematic at either 90 dBSPL or 100 dBSPL.

    As a relevant FYI, our G.R.A.S. 45BB-12 is completely enclosed in a lab-grade acoustic/vibration isolation enclosure by Herzan which we have found to help a great deal (in addition to the rest of the measurement system) with THD measurements (especially in the lower frequency ranges). (Though this enclosure weighs around 1200 pounds, it's actually a smaller version of the type THX uses in their lab.) Our enclosure also has an anti-vibration platform that the G.R.A.S. 45BB-12 sits on that can isolate the 45BB-12 from vibration down to 4 Hz. Also, the cable ports are completely sealed. (See photos below.)

    What's our conclusion? Right now, we'll assume that perhaps Tyll has an outlier Sony MDR-Z1R. n=3 across two different measurement setups isn't enough to come to a conclusion. If Tyll will allow us to measure the MDR-Z1R he has, that would certainly be helpful. We'll also be receiving at least one other production MDR-Z1R, and we'll measure that, too. Based on what we've heard here (and also on hearing other MDR-Z1R's)--and based on many reviews/impressions that predated the publishing of Tyll's measurements--we'll also assume for the moment that our impressions and measurements are more representative of the MDR-Z1R's that are out in the wild.

    More to come.

    NOTE: Though we haven't said a whole lot about it yet, we have spent over two years building our measurement lab at Head-Fi HQ, and we worked very closely with Audio Precision, G.R.A.S., Herzan, and a number of experts in the industry who've also been instrumental in helping us. We have an episode (or two, or three) of Head-Fi TV planned just to discuss our measurement lab, how it evolved, and how we've been quietly measuring audio gear (both electronic and electro-acoustic) for over two years now, and what we'll be doing with it. The somewhat unexpected website transition project delayed some of our plans to go over all of this, but it's coming, and there's a lot to talk about (and there'll be a lot to talk about going forward).

    Head-Fi-Measurement-Lab-cable-ports-closed_DSC00796.jpg Head-Fi-Measurement-Lab-GRAS-45BB-12-inside-Herzan-enclosure_DSC00798.jpg
    (Left to right) Closed left-side cable port on the Herzan acoustic/vibration isolation enclosure; G.R.A.S. 45BB-12 inside the Herzan enclosure.

    Our audio measurements in this post were made using:
    • G.R.A.S. 45BB-12 KEMAR with anthropometric pinnae for low-noise earphone and headphone testing (whitepaper)
      • This is a next-generation headphone testing setup, and you can read more about it by clicking here: Next Generation Headphone Testing
      • I will be posting more details about this system soon, as it is definitely worth discussing in detail.
    • Audio Precision APx555 Audio Analyzer
    • Audio Precision APx1701 Transducer Test Interface
    • Herzan custom acoustic enclosure
    • The frequency response measurements reflect diffuse field correction applied via the APx555's input EQ.

    NOTE: Added some further information about (and photos of) the pinnae and microphones in our measurement system (LINK)
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
    Roybenz, pitch_black, canali and 22 others like this.
  2. jscmd2000
    Thank you for that... There are too many variables, starting with the headphones themselves. Now we have to question not only the reviewer's HP but also our own. Then the measurements... and the measuring equipment, etc.
  3. MacedonianHero Contributor
    ^ Great information here Jude! I have to concur with your comments as well with regards to the bass/mid/treble presence of the Z1Rs and this might explain why I've had such a hard time understanding what was posted on innerfidelity as it just didn't jive with what I heard as well. Looking forward to more information as it comes out too. I'm also very interested on your measurement system too...I'll read up on it per your links.Thanks again!
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  4. jude Administrator
    This is actually a good point. A substantial reason we choose the G.R.A.S. 45BB-12 was for consistency and repeatability of measurements, whether measuring circumaural (around-the-ear), supra-aural (on-the-ear), or in-ear headphones. To help understand some of the key differences between this particular KEMAR (and the next-generation G.R.A.S. 43BB ear simulators within it) and other measurement rigs--and why it helps with more consistent, more repeatable, more accurate headphone measurements--click on the following link: Next Generation Headphone Testing

    So, @jscmd2000, I find our measurements in this case encouraging. We have two units. One is a pre-production MDR-Z1R (Serial Number X009), sent directly to us from Sony's Tokyo office. X009 is probably one of the earliest near-production units to leave Sony's possession. We have a production unit (Serial Number X323) sent to us by another Head-Fi'er. Both have measurements (frequency response and THD) that are quite similar. Again, this isn't enough to come to firm conclusions, but these things are encouraging.
    up late and MacedonianHero like this.
  5. canali
    i tried to find these guys on twitter (i don't have a FB acct) and goodluck trying to locate them in sony's HUGE directory.
    i wanted to share Ty's review in the summary, page 2 where he digs deeper in the mechanics of the Sonys
    (the original one where he feels not much attention was given to the development of the sound)

    I just thought it would be interesting to hear back from the engineers/designers on why they created
    the sound profile that they did and HOW they did that....and I agree: it seems they're a set of cans
    to enjoy sound rather than reference.

    Also Ty is allowed to enjoy or not whatever cans he reviews...sure he's about generating revenue...
    but equally is Jude here on headfi with his reviews that can be too shill-like....but I do like how he's more recently offering more objective measurements and analysis too.
    Thanks for these Sony z1r results Jude.. appreciate your efforts.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  6. greggf
    Like MacedonianHero and Jude, the reason I'm on this thread is because I have not heard what Tyll says he is hearing (and measuring). I look forward to reading more about this.
    Sp12er3 and MacedonianHero like this.
  7. up late
    more data points are always welcome - thanks @jude for your contribution.

    i am aware of another set of measurements that show the spike at 10 khz and relatively poor thd results.

    edit: i have replaced the information that was removed from my post with a reference deleted. i trust that is acceptable to the admins/mods - thanks.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  8. Beagle
    Wilder has ears. He authored many of the original Sony SACD's and has mastered many studio recordings including some classic jazz. Atkinson is a reviewer but also a recording engineer who hears real sounds almost on a daily basis. Many headphone reviewers have heard lots of headphones and judge them against each other.
    Mshenay and MacedonianHero like this.
  9. GU1DO
    That is a lot of findings backed with serious measurements , but i think you are missing the point of the whole review done by Tyll
    the Z1R is not a reference headphone specially with its price tag , as a musical fun headphone it is perfect example , which could appeal to some and disliked by others
    and Tyll recommendations and reviews are concentrated toward more balanced (natural) headphones , for me his findings make sense although i don't agree with some points
    specially the distortion part ,, but regarding the lack in the presence area i cant agree more with him , which make the Z1R not suitable for all music genres specially live recordings
    which i think any 2300$ reference headphone should be good at.
    Mshenay, canali, volly and 2 others like this.
  10. jude Administrator
    Actually, I haven't missed the point at all. As I said earlier:
    GU1DO likes this.
  11. Hansotek
    Given a pattern of measurement oddities in recent reviews, I have to question whether Tyll's equipment is fully functioning properly. No knock on him, and I'm sure there is some production variation playing a role, but it just seems a little weird to me. I think we all have a vested interest in that equipment working properly.
  12. jscmd2000
    I seriously believe there needs to be some type of standardized protocol where a headphone being reviewed is tested to be within certain standard deviation to the "average" or "typical" unit in production. This needs to be tested and stated at the beginning of the review to be a legitimate one. Now that I think of it, isn't this sort of common sense?

    Come on! Just after the LCD4 vs Utopia debacle, another one?? We are better than this. How am I to ever trust any review, I wonder... (no offense and nothing personal)
  13. ToroFiestaSol
    Tyll's pair is not the only one with different measurements, there're another measurements on another headphone forum which show the Z1R ringing like a bell at 3khz and 10khz and awful CSD plots.

    Maybe Sony sent you cherry picked pairs for you to listen and measure, like Focal did with the first Utopia for Tyll...

    It's a shame because Z1R is such a beautiful headphone...
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
    Mshenay and rnros like this.
  14. jscmd2000
    Well, then whose hp is broken?

    Reviewing a broken hp and publishing.... and people reading... and debating...

  15. Maelob
    Thanks Jude- all I have to say is WOW!
    canali likes this.
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