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Three Brand New Earphones: Sony IER-Z1R, IER-M9 and IER-M7

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  1. monini13

    Hey everyone! Joseph over here and to be succinct, I've been working with @thatonenoob to provide tech/audio reviews and updates for the last year and a half. I'm an audio enthusiast myself, and about a month back, I received an invitation by the Sony Singapore Team to join a Sony Experience event alongside the Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show. I'll be posting more updates on this thread as the event moves along, so feel free to ask me any questions.

    Those who would like to know more about Sony's other releases during this event can take a look at the following threads that I have created:
    - Sony DMP-Z1 portable high end digital music player
    - Sony MDR-Z7M2

    For those of you who would like to watch a video overview of what to expect from the new earphones as well as some of the underlying technology, please check out the video below.

    We have as well recorded technical interview with the engineers that you guys can watch over here:

    I'm also on the SEAudio discord channel and will regularly be posting updates there as well. If you'd like to hear from me, you can join our server using this link.

    Otherwise, lets dive in to what we're able to find out so far.





    1. Design / Philosophy
    2. Engineer Technical Video Interview
    3. General Impressions


    1. Design / Philosophy

    So as far as the design goes, we can see that the IER-Z1R takes on the approach of a hybrid design with two dynamic drivers and a balanced armature. Contrastingly, the M9 and the M7 adopts the multi-BA designs. The philosophy of these earphones can be split in to the category of lineup they belong; the IER-Z1R belongs to the Signature Series and their aim is to attempt to render a true acoustic set up where space and imaging are paramount. Contrastingly, the M9 and M7 are meant for stage monitoring, thus the priority is for a stage artist to be able to accurately discern the instruments surrounding her, and also to monitor his/her own voice while performing.

    So the Z1R is meant to look fashionable(ish maybe), using Zirconium Alloy that is used for high-end watches on the faceplate.


    We can see from the picture above that the driver placements are crucial to creating the sound that the Z1R is supposed to produce. The overall layout is the first 5mm dynamic driver, followed by the balanced armature and then lastly, the big 12mm dynamic drive at the back. The 5mm dynamic driver is made of liquid crystal polymer that the engineers claimed have less vibrations and thus can provide clean un-colored highs range frequencies. The balanced armature can help provide good details in the upper mid frequencies and is meant to supplement the main 12mm dynamic driver. The engineers mentioned that there is no real crossover point, because all the drivers produce a wide range of frequencies, with the 5mm more towards the super high frequencies. All these drivers are placed in a Magnesium Alloy housing. This is because a large part of the focus for this earphone is to achieve high internal loss, reducing resonance that allows for a blacker background and clearer separation. Again, to re-emphasis, the purpose of the signature series is to try to replicate an acoustic room speaker set up and the engineers said the tuning for this earphone is tested with reference to the speakers in a studio in New York.

    Moving on the the M series earphones:


    The M9 carries a carbon fibre faceplate with 5BA's inside.

    As with many multi-BA type earphones, the crossover distribution is important and here Sony provided us with a graph of the crossover points for the M9.


    The M7 is the most inconspicuous looking earphone here and honestly its something I like.

    Below is also the crossover range for the M7:
    The primary difference between the M9 and M7 is that the M9 has an extra balanced armature driver. Judging from the crossover points and talking with the engineers, this extra BA is used as a super tweeter that works in conjunction with the tweeter, to provide more detail and extension. The engineers say that the tuning for both follow the same direction and that they have very similar sound signature that is meant for stage artists to monitor their own voices/instruments, as well as the other instruments around them. I asked that since these earphones are mean for monitoring, does this mean they should have a flat sound signature. The reply i received was that the engineers believe there are different ideas of what is flat; ie if you are an artist listening to your own voice and bandmates around you, the idea of a flat sound versus that of an audience listening to the artists from a distance will be different. Tuning for this headphone is done in conjunction with live artists so that they can be used effectively for stage monitoring purposes.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
    slankoe, chinhp, GrassFed and 10 others like this.
  2. monini13
  3. monini13
    3. General Impressions

    I'm glad to say I've managed to try on all of these newly releases for the past two days and listened to hotel california the way i listen to all stars: 50 times back to back. I dont know if the showrooms prevented the DAP's from reading sd cards cause it refused to read mine, hence i was stuck with hotel california cause i didnt know the other songs in the provided DAP :p ANYWAYS, here are my impressions of these earphones but do read it with a grain of salt because these are all in showroom conditions where there is quite a bit of external noise.

    I would say this pair of earphones does possess a lot of the qualities that enables it to reproduce sound similar to as if you were listening to a set of speakers. The soundstage is very wide and I would say all the focus on high internal loss did achieve a black background(though i have to try again in a quiet environment to re-ascertain this) for clear separation of sound, along with nice imaging. These are all qualities that aid the Sony team in achieving similar sound to a speaker room.

    At the start of these press events, Nageno san, the Senior Acoustic Architect used a nice analogy that left a lasting impression in my mind. He said in the process of making this new earphone that strives to achieve the sound of speakers in a room, it is like looking at a large picture on a wall from far away versus looking at the picture on your phone screen. To your eyes, they may be similar size but the depth of perception is not the same. Thus not only do the engineers, but the consumers have to be aware of the limitation if they were to go forward with this idea; because an earphone can try and reproduce the imaging of speakers, but it cannot provide the same sensation. However, as many of us can agree, a wide soundstage and good imaging are qualities that can be very much enjoyed while listening to music.

    As for the sound signature, the bass is also pronounced and emphasised; there is good impact and texture on the instruments, along with rumble. Vocals are clear though i would really like to try more with my own music to have a better impression on how the vocals compare!!! The highs have a nice brilliance that i do like (i have a penchant for bright sounding earpieces). But overall theres good dynamics from bass all the way to treble.

    Coming to this after listening to the IER-Z1R was a bit of a shocker wew, because in comparison, this had a much smaller soundstage. Bass is also pronounced, well all the earphones released at this event have slight bass emphasis. Perhaps it seems even more bassy to me since i do listen to the ER4SR as my daily driver. However, i do like the bass response, it has good texture and satisfying rumble and impact. I'm guessing the smaller soundstage is for the artist to better monitor their own voices or instruments. I would describe the overall sound here as well-bodied. From what i've heard, the well-bodied sound coupled with the small soundstage affected the instrument separation and it was not quite as good as the IER-Z1R. There is good detail in the sound produced however, and a fairly linear progression up from the mids to the treble. There is sufficient treble though this is not an airy iem.

    As mentioned by the engineers, the M7 and M9 should have fairly similar signatures and I do think they sound similar. The immediate difference is the drop in detail; the nuances in the instruments were not as obvious. The sound signature was very much similar to the M9 though this is not an earphone i spent a lot of time listening to so apologies everyone. But to recap, pronounced bass, well-bodied sound with nicely balanced mids and highs. Soundstage is also small.

    I hope everyone can get an idea of what i heard at the events and for those of you who have also heard it, do share your impressions so we can compare!
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
    Aink, GrassFed, Thawk78 and 2 others like this.
  4. thatonenoob
  5. photomadnz
    Wow! Any price indications?
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
    davidmolliere likes this.
  6. Kildras
    Not sure how valid is the source but the z1r is said to retail at 1805usd
  7. NickL33
    No Crossover point? all wide band??
  8. NaiveSound
  9. imparanoic
    These are the prices officially published by Sony Hong Kong
    davidmolliere likes this.
  10. davidmolliere
    Don't think it will happen right away, given the release cycle of their TOTL DAPs
  11. imparanoic
  12. Focux
    wow is this supposed to blow the EX1000 out of the water =P
  13. davidmolliere
    The interesting thing will be the tuning for the Z1R...
    I owned the Z5 but it didn't blow the EX1000 out of the water and its signature was somewhat of a mixed bag.
    It's time Sony provides a TOTL IEM again!
    It sure looks interesting concept we'll see how it's tuned.
    Wow, just as I was about to write Sony off they come back from the grave and grab me by the balls.

    Perhaps I should wait on those KSE 1500 I was about to purchase.
  15. imparanoic
    Yes it's correct, hkd 13,990 is equivalent to USD 1805 for ier-z1r
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