The Solid Sony MDR-1R, MDR-1RBT, and MDR-1NC

Been doing a lot of headphone family photos, and found myself in need of another headphone stand. Michael from Klutz Design was nice enough to send me a third Can-Can headphone stand for my photos. Thanks mate!

Sony MDR-1R ($199), MDR-1RBT ($299), and MRD-1RNC ($399)
Look at the model number. This isn't just another headphone for Sony, it's their number one headphone. And Sony is one of the world's premier headphone makers. This better be good.

Sony_MDR1R_Photo_MDR1RatCESAt CES earlier this year, it was plain to see that Sony was touting these headphones as a particularly important product line in their catalog. Sony has squarely placed themselves in that segment of the market underserved by Beats: people who appreciate handsome understated elegance and quality. It's obvious to me that they've put a heck of a lot of work into this line of headphones. The question is did they manage to place them selves in the rarified air of really world-class portable headphones? I'd say yes in some ways, real close in others. Sure, Sony gets a modest, tasteful cigar from me.

Design, Ergos, and Comfort
This is an area where these headphones just nail it. Though some will complain of the all-plastic construction, I think synthetic materials can be extremely versatile and very good looking when done well, and these headphones showcase Sony's expertise in this area brilliantly.

I can't quite decide if I'm seeing the capsules of the R1 series as black or a very dark brown. The fine matte finish catches light nicely, showing off the simple and subtle curves of the earpieces. The sumptuous protein leather covered headband and earpads, smoked chrome finish of the headband ends and gimbals, and tidy red accents really bring the look of these cans together as one seamless whole. And it might be exactly that sense of a seamless whole with the smoked chrome and red included that has me seeing them as very dark brown instead of black. Either way, these are very, very good looking headphones.

Likewise, these are very comfortable headphones. Headband cushioning is ample and is nicely shaped to contact your head broadly. Head adjustment slides have finely spaced detents, and move easily but remain securely in position once adjusted. The protein leather is very suple and soft, and earpads are large enough to accomodate larger ears. One problem here though is that the ear cups are not particularly deep, and people whose ears stick out quit a bit might find that their ears touch the baffle plate, which can become uncomfortable during long listening sessions. (Replacement aftermarket pads for the NC and BT are available that help eleviate this problem here.) I'll reiterate though that for most people these are very comfortable headphones.

All headphones in the line have earcups that rotate into a flat position for more compact storage. The 1R and 1RBT come with soft carry bags, while the 1RNC comes with a sturdier soft-sided clamshell carry case. All models include iOS compatible remote capability and all models come with a spare 4-foot standard cable without controls.

Build Quality and Niggling
All models have recently seen a $100 price drop on Sony's website. At their initial prices I would be a bit more critical of the materials chosen, but at the new lower prices I think the build quality is quite good, though I would have liked to see the nicer carry case come with at least the BT model.

In reading the threads on these cans I saw that many early purchasers complained of creaking joints in the headphones. I think this must have been fixed because complaints seem to have diminished and my pairs seemed quite silent. Also this copy is now on their product pages and seems like one of those things that might have been done in response to complaints:

Silicon rings not only realize smooth but silent earcup movement for an immersive music experience devoid of annoying mechanical rattling.

Customers have also complained about the jack rattling on the 1R ans 1RNC. This jack is mounted in the left rear gimbal arm just below the earcup pivot point. This is a novel placement for a jack and a very nice touch, but the jack does seem to fit a bit loosely in the arm. The 1R I have rattles slightly more than the 1RNC I have, but neither have been bothersome to me at all. In fact, I don't think I would have noticed it had it not been for a number of posts on the issue. I would put the noise, for me, at about the level of cable-born noise as the cable rubs agains my shoulder---it's there, but at a quite low level.

A weirder problem that I did experience up here in Montana is that the stock cables get astonishingly stiff in cold weather. I'm talking below freezing here, but when the cables get that cold they become very stiff and do make significant noise. Fortunately I had the Bluetooth version for snow shoveling duties.

The standard 1R has a small vent hole on top of the earpiece that will make significant wind noise if you're out and about on a blustery day.

Controls on the Active Headphones
Sometimes headphone makers get cute with their button placement and end up making the headphones difficult to use or buttons get pushed when lying in bed at night. I found the button placement on the BT and NC cans quite convenient and all features operated as I would expect making the control ergonomics quite good in my opinion.

Physical Summary
Since I've spent a bit of time niggling I want to restate that overall I think these cans are very good looking, very comfortable, and a pleasure to use. The critic in me will always find stuff to complain about, but overall I very much like the MDR-1R line of headphones, and think there are few companies in the world that can really get this stuff right. The R1s are much more comfortable than the Sennheiser Momentum and Focal Spirit One, and much better looking than the PSB M4U 1 and Polk Ultrafocus 8000.

So, the remaining question is how they sound. We'll talk about that on the next page.

Sony Electronics Inc.
(201) 930-1000

Impulse's picture

Surprised no one's commented yet given the level of interest in these...

About Bluetooth, clearly it's a feature some the market values even though it can potentially turn into a bottleneck for good headphones... Ever thought about reviewing some of those tiny Bluetooth receivers? They're usually small and light enough that you can clip them to a shirt sleeve or collar, specially with removable cables being such a common feature on portable headphones these days (you can grab a 1ft cable to avoid having to tuck the excess anywhere)

There's quite a few upsides IMO, with the only real downside being having something clipped to yourself (or clipped to the headphone's band even)... These things usually run like $40-50, maybe I'm just a cynic and headphone manufacturers are using superior or custom engineered BT solutions, but it seems in most cases they just charge a huge premium for wireless models when it shouldn't be all that expensive.

The receivers completely circumvent the issue of fitting a battery and electronics inside a headphone cup or whatever, and can give you extra functionality depending on the model (caller ID etc). Plus there's the obvious advantage of being able to use them with the headphones and IEM you already have and love. I imagine you'd be perfectly equipped to these things now that you have a BT transmitter. ;)

Sony itself has been making them for a while, I've got their older MW600 (price has been falling on Amazon), I believe ClieOS reviewed the newer MW1 and found out it has a Wolfson DAC FWIW. They've got a newer/cheaper one sans display too. Samsung & others have similar models. Some have apt-X support, etc. With Bluetooth tech moving as fast as it has I think it makes even more sense to decouple wireless functionality from headphones themselves.

mward's picture

I've got a batch of these I'm reviewing on another site. I really like them for working out. I haven't done any critical listening with them yet, but I'm curious to see how they perform. 

I don't have Tyll's measuring syste though—I'd love to see the effects of the Bluetooth transmission. 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

For a long time I've thought putting BT chips in portable headphone amps would be a good idea. It would take a good bit of programming that a lot of the smaller manufacturers would have a hard time affording, but with some thought you could have a portable amp with the ability to take a line or USB signal in and still be able to turn off the sound and enable you to answer your phone automatically.

In some ways the rise of the smart phone is the death of audio only portable media players---you can't hear your phone ringing if you've got something else playing in your IEMs.  Putting BT chips in PMPs or portable amps would solve the problem.

Impulse's picture

I think there's some PMP from Creative that have Bluetooth, doesn't the IPod nano have BT too? The IPod touch obviously does... I think cost is the only thing that's kept it from the cheaper players like the Clip etc. Even battery life shouldn't take a big hit these days...

Putting it directly into a portable amp would be very interesting since that's usually the weakest point of any Bluetooth implementation (amplification limits due to battery concerns etc). Wouldn't be quite as portable but it'd certainly give people the option to free themselves from the bands and interconnects between their phones/players.

Certainly makes more sense than cramming it all into headphones themselves! Now why hasn't anyone tried this...

georgelai's picture

Hi Tyll. I like your multi headphone stand (2nd pic) but oops it's a chair. Good idea though. Back to the MDR-1R, even though the price has dropped to $199 (Amazon still shows $299) I can't help but feel the MDR-ZX700 that you reviewed sometime ago is a better buy. I bought the iPhone version, DR-ZX701ip, for only $80. I did test the MDR-1R but the ear cups are really really shallow. 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I did listen to the ZX700 and compared it with the MDR-1R and thought, as I did when I reviewed them, that they were good, but a weak bass is a bit of a turn off with them. So I don't think they are quite as enjoyable to hear as the 1R. They're a lot less expensive though, so they're still a good value.

archagon's picture

Hmm, those measurements for the 1RBT in passive mode look a bit scary. It seems like something is very wrong around 300hz. (Is this why violin music sounds a little off to me? Or am I just imagining it?) Subjectively speaking, how do they compare to other wired headphones in the $200-$300 range? If you were to ignore Bluetooth (or treat it as a nice extra) would they still be worth it?

If not, are there any headphones with Bluetooth that are competitive at their price range in both passive and wireless mode?

wongwarren's picture

I'm surprised that no one on the internet has talked about this new headphone brand called Whydah Gally. I recently got hold of a pair of their headphones called "Straight Into Compton" and I have to say they sound really good, to the point where they're even better sounding than my Audio-Technica ATH-M50. Tyll, you should check them out.

HK-47's picture

I was under the impression that the current pricing at the Sony store ($100 off on the MDR-1R/BT/NC) was only due to a sale of some sort. Are those price cuts permanent?

the_schu's picture

The Sony Store says the price is good through 4/27 so it may not be a permanent reduction.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I might have to reword a few things if the price goes back up. 

Cami's picture

I sincerely think you should institute a Wall of Mediocrity for those headphones who don't qualify when it comes to sound quality and engineering, instead of doing SONY a too-big-to-fail favor of putting them on a Wall of Fame. I've had several of SONY's "flagships", but I also have AKG K/Q701/2s and Sennheiser HD-800s, as well as a HD-650 that I sold.

NONE of the SONY's, and certainly NOT this one either, is even remotely at the level of the above mentioned, and it surprises me that you should once again include mediocre headphones, as well as exclude fabulously well engineered headphones from your Wall of Fame, such as the AKGs mentioned.

I have to insist that if any headphone comes close to the performance of the so revered HD-800s, it's AKGs K701/2 and the Q701s (and certainly not the HD-650s, reason for which which I sold it). It is certainly not a matter brand preference or AKG fanboyism; if SONY had put out the K/Q701/2s, and AKG the MDR-1R, I would argue the same.

To pay $200 USD for the performance of the MDR-1R, when the AKG Q701s are just $45 USD more expensive wouldn't be far from sheer poor judgement, and when you see it in the price/value perspective, the Wall of Fame perspective appears to have a rather odd criteria.

Then, when it comes to a Wall of fame, how long have the K701s been around, and how long have the MDR-1Rs been around? Sony hasn't even approached the benchmark of the AKGs, and certainly not at that price, so with which criteria does one justify to have the SONYs on the Wall while at the same time excluding the AKGs?

I'm simply astonished that the AKGs could simply NOT be in the Wall of Fame; their performance has certainly been surpassed today, but when they first came out, they meant something that deserves a pretty nice spot on the Wall of Fame, while SONY has yet to be among the ones that can claim to have even approached the merits of the AKGs.

With all due respect, Tyll, I call for a rectification of this.

No hard feelings, please, just trying to make a point I find more than fair.


HK-47's picture

I can't really say anything for or against the MDR-1R and the K701 (and its other iterations), having not listened to them. But you have to remember that they're not even in the same category, and it's not really fair to compare them.

The bar tends to be lower for closed headphones, simply because it's so much harder to make them sound good.

lameasshp's picture

Rectification? LOL!

The Wall of Fame is a list of the most recomended headphones according to TYLL OWN PREFERENCES! And not yours, create your own Wall of Fame list if this one displeases you.

Can you use the Q701 to walk on the street? Can you? An open headphone?  No, you can't.

He cleary stated in his review why he put the MDR-1 on the list, and that the sound was not quite as good as the Senn Mommentum, try to read it next time.

archagon's picture

How easy are the AKGs to drive from an iPod? From what I understand, not very. The MDR-1Rs are rated as "the best all around portable, around the ear headset". (Plus, given the endless babbling on Head-Fi and elsewhere about these and many other headphones — with no clear consensus, might I add — I think that saying the Sonys aren't "remotely at the level" of the AKGs is a pretty bold claim.)

Tyll Hertsens's picture

As already mentioned, the K701 is not a sealed mobile headphone, so your comparison is somewhat irrelevant.

Headphones that could be compared to the MDR-1R (full-size, sealed, headset controls) would be the Momentum (already on WoF), Focal Spirit One (uncomfortable, not as good sounding), UE6000 (I knocked it off the WoF because of rolled off treble, not quites as good sounding IMO), PSB M4U 1 (fugly, a bit edgy sounding). Probably others that don't spring to mind.

But....I agree that I think Sony has room to improve the sound quality of the 1R, and hope they continue to work on it.

Cami's picture

I understand that we're talking two headphone categories apart, but my comparison is directed to selection criteria, or as I perhaps unclearly put it:

"Then, when it comes to a Wall of fame, how long have the K701s been around, and how long have the MDR-1Rs been around? Sony hasn't even approached the benchmark of the AKGs, and certainly not at that price, so with which criteria does one justify to have the SONYs on the Wall while at the same time excluding the AKGs?"

The point I try to make - disregard of categories - is that the Wall of Fame selection criteria can include an almost new set of headphones that hasn't made any specific major achievement, and AT THE SAME TIME, exclude another pair of headphones - from a very different category, yes, but with the very same criteria (it's only 1 Wall of Fame, right?) - which were, and I believe in the midst of the mediocre additions you just mentioned (to which I would simply add the SONYs), STILL represent an important development, which your graphs show only has been definitively surpassed by the HD-800s, that cost 6-7 times more and took 4 years to happen.

From the perspective of selection criteria, awarding the SONYs a place on the Wall appears unnecessary and like a too big a favor to SONY. At this point I would like to turn to lameasshp's subtle comment. Why would I claim it to be a favor, and why on earth would I call for something as ridiculous sounding as a "rectification"?

Well, the answer is quite simple, and also contained in lameasshp's very cavalier argument:

"The Wall of Fame is a list of the most recomended headphones according to TYLL OWN PREFERENCES! And not yours, create your own Wall of Fame list if this one displeases you."

The problem is that, if I would make a Wall of Fame, it would certainly be a case of different categories, as I - unlike Tyll - am not hired and payed to review audio gear, attend industry shows and offer an opinion that in that sense not only carries certain weigth and importance, but therefore carries an inherent responsibility to those market shares that Tyll likes to refer to alluding to Beats 2/3rds.

I apologize to lameaashp for believeng that since Tyll's Wall of Fame is of HIS preference - and not mine -, I could use the comment section to contest or question his criteria; I thought that was the whole point of comment sections. Guess not.
I can of course also imagine an extreme example of lameasshp's logic, which doesn't seem very appealing: "Hey, this is President Obama's America, so why don't you go and shop for a desert island and lay the foundations for your own country if you're so displeased with this one?"

Anyhow, the "e-penis" argument is my favorite, it had me laughing for at least 10 minutes, very creative indeed. I also couldn't help to indulged in some hypothetical mental exercises within this penis driven universe, and I think that basshead headphones just have to be the equivalent of penis enlargement pills, lol.

Now, putting the e-penis digression aside, I believe having Tyll's Wall of Fame as an untouchable and unquestionable institution, it would not appeal to better resources than celebrity-based headphone marketing (including AKGs Q701s). And PRECISELY because it IS Tyll's Wall of Fame, and because he is in the spot of attention and responsibility to buyers and users and which he is payed for, I believe questioning a (in my opinion) either biased or poor selection criteria - to include the MDR-1R and exclude the K/Q701/2s -, is what the comment section is meant for in the first place.

In my opinion, a Wall of Fame is meant for special merits that have over time brought fame or recognition to someone or something. In that sense, I believe the AKG K/Q701/2s really deserve a spot for A) making a well enginnered pair of headphones that significantly improved their previous models; B) that significantly innovated in technology and soundquality; C) that sustained their achievement unchallenged over a significant period of time; D) that were only - at an objective level - definitively surpassed by the headphones that are regarded as the most accurate today, the Sennheiser HD-800s: and E) because they continue to hold the merits almost intact against the widely mediocre attempts to produce good headphones within their price category (attempts that certainly prefer to follow in the footsteps Beats rather than that of the AKGs). 

My point is that opinions and recommendations that come with a hired responsibility, be they part of a subjective, biased and selective opinion and criteria, can and should be questioned, and that that is the game in the first place. My point is also, that this is by no means offensive, but again, part of the game in a blog and the very spirit of comment sections.



lameasshp's picture

"Hey, this is President Obama's America, so why don't you go and shop for a desert island and lay the foundations for your own country if you're so displeased with this one?" 

LOL, not even comparable. The list is just a list, it is not even something you can get with your hands, pure information. You can create one online for free, just go to blogspot or twiiter or youtube and create one.

Then why are not happy with Tyll choices of WoF? Will adding the Q701 to the WoF make it sound better?

No it won't. Because you just want Tyll to endorse your buyings. You just want Tyll who is well know in the headphone community to say the headphone you have is the trully most awesome ever, so all the money and time you spent on this particular headphone will be justified FOR YOU.

But what difference will make if it is on the list or not? It won't sound better after it goes to the WoF.

Ahem, and i bought mostly the ones from the WoF, KSC-75 -> Porta Pro -> CAL -> Senn HD25. (Don't know what could be my next one, i want one that is open)

I can't complain about the list, i liked every purschase i made as i don't like much treble too, was worth the price i paid.

Cami's picture

No headphones will improve in quality due to endorsements, but, as you well point out, the phenomena of people looking to validate their past and future purchases, look to a guy a like Tyll. That is precisely what I am aiming at, that as you well point out, my opinion has little significance if any, compared to Tyll, who actually creates opinion and whose verdicts have a specific weight.

That's also why I make the "president" analogy, in the sense that those with a publicly known voice and especially those with a hired public voice - that most of the time are backed by specific interests -, should be prepared to have their opinions and arguments questioned and contested.

Tyll writes a blog, with a certain authority and peer recognition, etc., and most importantly hired by someone to do so, and with the support of sponsors that manufacture the kind of products he reviews. I have therefore a hard time to see bias in some of his reviews, in which the headphones reviewed don't live up to the quality they should have to deserve a review, let alone Wall of Fame. On the other hand I like Tyll's reviews precisely because he most of the time tends to be objective and also has a quite clear and demanding criteria when it comes to chosing a pair of cans for a review.

In this case, as in a couple of other, I disagree with Tyll, and it is precisely for these kind of situations that the comment section is for, not just to praise Tyll, but sure, certainly for that too.

lameasshp's picture

Then i ask you, why are you contesting Tyll decision about the k701 not going to the WoF?

Tyll opinion is important because it is HIS OPINION right?

So if he decided to say: 'all right, all right, the k701 goes to the WoF'.. What would be the value of the list, if it doesn't have what he really thinks?

If the list has some sort of value, only because it contains his personal opinion, then why are you trying to contest it, and trying to put on it your opinion, what would be the value of the list then if it didn't reflected his opinion?

archagon's picture

Dude! You keep talking about objectivity, and yet you provide no evidence to support your claims. I've been fanatically looking over headphone reviews and opinions over the past few weeks (upgrading my old Grados), and I've yet to see anyone say that the AKGs you listed "were only - at an objective level - definitively surpassed by the... Sennheiser HD-800s". Don't get me wrong, they're certainly regarded as excellent headphones. But I don't see anyone gushing about them the same way you are, nor anyone saying that they sound amazingly better than other $200-$300 headphones.

(Looking at the charts for the AKGs, it seems that the frequency response is pretty smooth, but that's not altogether unusual. And look at that THD+noise chart, especially for the bass... not ideal. But even if the AKGs did measure perfectly, measaurements don't give you the full picture — or at least that's what listeners with way more experience than I have said.)

I'd love to see some citations because if the AKGs are as good as you claim they are, then they would be a no-brainer purchase for me.

Cami's picture

It is not about declaring the AKGs some sort of sacred headphones nor to bestow them with rewards they don't deserve, but about recognizing the merits that they really do have.

Here are the few places that I remember try to do some justice to the AKGs, and I'll pick a couple of quotes.

Headroom lists the AKGs as one of THE 10 best cans according to them, and this is what they write under the section entitled: "What we think":

"AKG Acoustics in Austria has brought their considerable audio engineering skills into sharp focus on their most high-end dynamic headphone design and produced an astonishingly superb-sounding pair of cans in their flagship K701 model. Getting it absolutely right at this demanding level of reference-grade audio performance is tough and the K701 gets pretty darn near perfection -- especially impressive given the K701's nicely within-reach price versus other cans of this performance caliber. These headphones deliver a clean and punchy sound, articulate and completely clear over the full audio spectrum. Accurate musical detail lovers should appreciate the tightly focused bottom-end control of these headphones while classical, orchestral and acoustic music listeners will likewise love the fact that the dynamic control moves perfectly up the frequency range to distinctly articulate every finger pluck and rosin-on-gut string texture in the mix. About the only thing that we can possibly say negatively about these headphones is that those who like a very laid-back, mellow-sounding, or heavy deep bass presentation might want to look elsewhere since these are a very highly refined, analytical 'audiophile-oriented' headphones that deliver a deeply expansive soundstage image along with a textural detail and a liquid immediacy that demands your attention. And oh!...what a lovely musical demand it is!

We highly appreciate when a headphone manufacturer does a nice job evolving their products and in this case AKG has done more than just a nice job. These cans have a number of unique features that create a pretty dramatic improvement over previous AKG 'best-of-category' headphones. Their audio response is directly improved by a brand-new proprietary AKG Varimotion diaphragm that is designed to provide better pistonic motion and acoustic control. In addition, a revolutionary flat-wound voice coil design allows for greater concentrations of the magnetic field within the voice coil, thus driving the element diaphragm with more authority, which delivers a cleaner, ultra-articulate sound. Our HeadRoom experience with the K701 is that it requires a REALLY extensive chunk of burn-in / play-time to fully 'relax' sonically & sound its very best, so please assume a MINIMUM 300 hours of play-time before the full audio pleasure of these cans is completely realized. The new 'ergonomically-perfect' earcup ear pads are a soft velour-type material, very comfortable, and are designed to point the driver at the ear for a more correct listening angle. The high-end oxygen-free copper headphone cable is 'bi-wired', which we assume means the return channel for each driver remains separate until it reaches the common ground connection on the 1/4" plug. We think the K701's classic white color scheme is quite striking and visually effective. And if you don't particularly like the color, you'll still love how amazingly light and comfortable these headphones feel on the head with their well-designed, albeit slightly oversize ergonomics. An absolutely world-class A-1 audiophile headphone earns a hearty HeadRoom recommendation. GREAT job, AKG Austria!"

Here is the link to what hi-fi:

Here's a link to the Wes Phillips Stereophile review of the K702s when they came out (and who also refers to Tyll):

Here's a link to a comparison of the AKGs with the HD-800s by Headphone Info:

And most importantly, here are two references from Innerfidelity, one regarding headphone graphs, and the similarity between the AKGs and the Senns showed by Tyll:

"AKG K701
Science_InterpretingSquareWaves_Graph_AKGK701The 30Hz square wave of the K701 presents a fairly strongly descending and bowed waveform, which indicates a fairly strong roll-off in the bass, but it doesn't go below zero, which indicates its bass is tighter than the two headphones above. 300Hz wave shape shows a significantly smaller first overshoot, but one that is still a bit too high for me, likely resulting in the slightly piercing sound of these cans. The remainder of the 300Hz waveform top has little noise showing these cans are nicely damped and will deliver a clear, grain-free sound. Sennheiser HD 800
Science_InterpretingSquareWaves_Graph_SennheiserHD800Surprisingly similar to the AKG K701 above, but with somewhat better performance. 30Hz square wave is slightly less bowed downward indicating better bass response. 300Hz plot shows slightly quicker rise time, and slightly less noisy waveform indicating an even more articulate and clean headphone than the K701 above. Waveform is less tilted than the K701 indicating these cans will have a slightly better treble to mid proportion. First overshoot is still too high, however, so the slightly piercing character remains."

And finally a reference to when a couple of weeks ago I asked Tyll why the AKGs weren't on the Wall of Fame, and when Tyll promised to take some time to listen to the AKGs aside of the HD-800s:

Cami's picture

Late, late, late...

Submitted by Cami on March 1, 2013 - 11:27am.

Hi Tyll,

I totally missed the opportunity before yesterday; bit of a short notice, though.
I have always wanted to ask you about the K/Q701/702s and their performance (personal preferences aside), which at least on paper is quite close to that of the HD 800s. I own both a pair of HD 800s and a pair of K702s (and a pair of Q701s), and I believe they are quite similar on many levels, and in many cases I tend to favor my AKGs, rather than my Senns (I use a Violectric V100 with a Centrance Dacport LX).

Many have suggested that the AKGs are the headphones that come closest to the performance of the HD 800s in most respects, and for a fraction of the price. (I also had a pair of HD 650s, but I feel the K702s are so much more open, accurate and transparent - and less expensive -, I ended up selling them.)

Here is an example of this comparison (not my favorite, but offering objective info):

I have always felt that you are a bit unfair on the AKGs mentioned and the performance they deliver. I would like to know your thoughts on the comparison of the performance of these two cans, that you portray as worlds apart, although they measure very close and share many important qualities.

I also want to express my great appreciation for your work with IF, and for the really noble yet tough tasks you constantly challenge yourself with, as well as for your impeccable attitude... and shirts.


Tyll Hertsens's picture


Submitted by Tyll Hertsens on March 1, 2013 - 1:33pm.

I tell you what, I'll listen to them side by side sometime soon. I'm just treble averse and the 701 seem a bit hard for me to listen to...'course the HD 800 is as well.  Seems to me the 800 images a lot better, but I'd have to go back and re-listen.

Thanks for the kind words, I'll keep working at it.


Sorry for the ridiculously long post, but you asked for it. Hope it answers your question.



archagon's picture

Thanks for the info! :)

Matt321's picture

Quite right. Their graphs don't look very good, they might be good for someone (since there is always a jerk piling in with this obvious cosmic caveat, thinking it might win him a pot of flowers), but they don't look very balanced or special, as I would expect from any phone "above most other phones".

lameasshp's picture

Tyll should create the E-PENIS Wall of Fame list.

The list detectes what headphone the user accessing it currently has. So his headphone will be always on the list.

This way he will be always happy like: 'Hey my headphone is on the recommended list by Tyll, heh i made a good purchase, IT EVEN SOUNDS BETTER NOW HUR DURR'

Leonarfd's picture

Ive owned the mdr-1r since start december, I have really enjoyed them. For once I do not look like a retard in the office and when I walk in town. Only problem for me was that my ear tip is touching the protection casing infromt of the driver. Had to use some fabric with holes in it to make it perfect.

As for the sound it fun and relaxing, without making you fatigue to bad records and sibilant songs, makes it perfect at work to have on for many hours.

There are very few headphones that looks good, got the comfort and sounds great The mdr-1r is there for me.

Nice review as always Tyll.

Gelocks's picture

that these made it into Tyll's Wall of Fame! Personally I found the upper-mids TOO FATIGUING!! I'm not into listening to my stuff at ear-bleeding levels, but I do bump the volume a bit depending on the song. I could not do that with the MDR-1Rs! And the thing is that I LOOOVE the style (I had the Brown and Silver combination, very nice!) but style + fatiguing sound == meh!

Also, I'm surprised that Tyll provided a head-fi link for the Yamaha Pro 500 vs Sony MDR-1R thread but I haven't seen a review of the Pro 500s which to my ears it is simply QUITE BETTER than the MDR-1R with the exception of comfort and looks, but the sound it's actually really good for those "Beats-look-a-like"...

Anyway, just my .02 cents ;)


Good day.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

The Yamaha Pro500 was a close call. I heard them as roughly equivalent, but not quite as good as the R1, but comfort and weight kinda ruled them out when viewed as a whole for a review...I just wouldn't have been able to be positive enough about them. 

I must admit, I was a bit torn on the R1 series as well, but a long period of use convinced me they were worthy given their strong benefits in looks, ergos, and comfort combined with pretty good sound.  I agree, they don't like loud listening levels though.

lameasshp's picture

So, is the SONY MDRMA900 next on the list?

Jazz Casual's picture

I like Sony gear a lot.

Amphinator's picture

Great review as always Tyll!

I bought a pair of 1Rs when they were reduced recently and I have to say I love them, so personally I'm very happy to see they're going up!

They make a great alternative to my Amperiors, contrasting in style and having a less aggressive, more spacious sound for when it suits me.

For my part, I'd just like to say that The Wall of Fame is a fantastic resource that I have recommended to many of my friends when they are looking to make their first real investment in a pair of headphones, allowing them to match their budget to their taste in sound, style and functionality.

Allied to the video reviews and articles, people can now make an informed decision on where to place their cash. Keep up the great work Tyll!

PS: As a relative newbie to the world of audiophilia, could I suggest creating a kind of audiophile encyclopedia? Terms such as pink noise and sibilance with sound bytes to demonstrate what they are, quick explanations of impedence and it's effects etc etc. I know you can google/wiki this stuff but a one-stop-shop would be great!

Guitarist9273's picture

"Sony MDR-1R ($199), MDR-1RBT ($299), and MRD-1RNC ($399)"

"All models have recently seen a $100 price drop on Sony's website. At their initial prices I would be a bit more critical of the materials chosen, but at the new lower prices I think the build quality is quite good, though I would have liked to see the nicer carry case come with at least the BT model."

Sony MDR-1R: "...I think most people will be quite satisfied with the sound, though audiophiles will find them a bit off the pace of the best cans in this category...but just a bit." "Better sound is available with the Sennheiser Momentum, but fit problems with larger than average ears and head size make it difficult to recommend broadly. And people looking for solid, punchy bass would be better off with the V-Moda M-100. Both, however, are more than $100 more expensive than the Sony MDR-1R."

Sony MDR-1RBT: "...The thing is, at the current price of $299 I don't think I've heard anything better. The $100 more expensive Parrot Zik sounds a bit more even in response, but also sounds more artificial. Also $100 more expensive, the UE 9000 in BT mode is even more overemphatic in the lows and has a somewhat disturbing sharp and artificial high treble." "Bottom line: While I find flaws in the Bluetooth audio, I also think it's among the best I've heard, and it's very nicely priced relative to the competition in this category." "...The price at $299 though is the big win, with most high-end BT headsets being hundreds of dollars more the Sony MDR-1RBT is a terrific buy, and will go up on the Wall of Fame as the best all-around Bluetooth headset."


Since your review, Sony has raised the online-sales prices on all MDR-1R model headphones by $100.00, so they're all back to their original price. (Bummer.) Most reputable retailers never lowered their prices much, anyway. Back to their original prices, the MDR-1R is $299, and the MDR-1RBT is $399. The $100 increase in price since you reviewed them fundamentally changes the context of their value, I think. (Extraordinary ergonomics can certainly merit a high price relative to their sound quality, though. Other things that we wear on our heads are often reasonably judged & valued on their ergonomics, comfort & overall appearance.)


So... Does this substantially change your conclusions & your Wall of Fame recommendations of the Sony MDR-1R and Sony MDR-1RBT? 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

It makes the recommendation less strong, but I don't think it changes the placement on the WoF. Maybe the article will continue to put some price pressure on Sony. Dunno. 

Speakerphile's picture

The price move on these WAS temporary.  

Mike Birman's picture

Having seen, worn and heard both Sony headphones Tyll's conclusions are solid. In terms of looks, ergos and sound, they are (probably) the best current portable offerings. The Yamahas have a lucious richness (in a fun sort of way) but their clamping force is fierce and their pads kind of small for many noggins, resulting in some discomfort after an hour or so. The Sony's are comfortable with few issues. The bluetooth version sounds surprisingly good considering the sonic limitations of the technology. That said, both headphones are not made for loud listening: though they open up quite nicely when amped. They are nice in all respects, even at the higher price. So it seems that Sony can still make good 'phones.

Matt321's picture

Thought these were supposed to be equal or better than the AKG K550, however the frequency curve is a model of mediocre lack of balance, and the 300 Hz wave is actually very bad.

shmokes's picture

This review was great, and convinced me to pick up the BT version. But then I stumbled upon Sony's warranty for these cans. 90 days! That is insane for a near $400 set of headphones (yes, the price went back up--something that you should probably reflect in your review).

For comparison, Sennheiser offers a standard 2-year warranty on all their headphones. And as far as directly comparible BT headphones go, the Logitech UE 9000 has a 2-year warranty and the Parrot Zik, Nokia Purity Pro (Monster), and Harmon Kardon BT come with 1-year warranties.

I really think this is worthy of mention in your review. Imagine picking one of these up only to have it die 4 or 5 or even 8 or 9 months later. That warranty is a game changer, and presumably speaks to Sony's confidence in the reliability of its product.

comptonj's picture

By chance, did you do a comparison between the two sets without the bluetooth involved? 

Looking on the Sony website, the specs for the two are identical, making me think they used the same base hardware and just added the BT components. Leading me to think, hopefully, they will sound the almost identical in passive mode.

I like the idea of the portability but when opting to go passive I would hate to be surpirsed to an inferior sound quality as you stated about the Parrot Zik's.

ina's picture

Tyll, you said early purchasers complained of creaking joints in the headphones. The early manufactured run of these with the joint problems is still being sold in Britain today.

aficionado's picture

1. Sony MDR1RBT look splendid. They are also very light.
2. Bluetooth connectivity works like a charm. Once switched on the headphones will try and retry to connect until successful (most Bluetooth gear will only try once).
3. Sound quality is superior if you compare it to other Bluetooth models (for example: Philips SHB9100). Bass is good (although not tight enough in my opinion).
4. Battery life is currently the best in the Bluetooth segment, and this is a very important consideration, if you are planning to spend time away from your home. You can literally use these for months without having to re-charge.
5. The position of the different control buttons is logical and operation is easy.
6. You can use these with your smartphone or bluetooth-enabled computer.

1. They look good, but actually everything is made of lightweight plastic, which means that you could easily scratch or break them--and for this kind of money Sony should have done better. Moreover, they get smeared easily, and you will soon find out that Sony has designed these only for customers with perfect hair and skin. This 'fragility' of construction and the materials used ultimately affects the real life usability of the product.
2. To make things worse — none of the 'leather' elements is replaceable. A simple cut to the headband or ear pads will ruin them forever. The rechargeable battery is not user-replaceable and will not be replaced by Sony, when it starts running low two or three years from now.
3. NFC works, but can be a little tricky if your phone is inside a case. You may have to slide your mobile back and forth against the side of the right can until they finally pair.
4. These headphones have the option to be used with the supplied wire, but the wire is extremely flimsy and noisy--the noisiest I have heard on an on-ear headphone and one of the noisiest in any category. Each time it rubs in your ear, your shoulder, your hand, your clothes you will hear an echo in the headphones. It is annoying.
5. Each time you touch the outside of the cans you will hear a hollow echo--a very prominent sound. Also: if you wear them outside and there is some wind, you will hear the sound of the wind rubbing on the cans with a loudness that is probably 30% of the sound of the music. This is because of the openings or vents on the top of each cup.
6. Bass is definitely there, but it is not tight. With certain tracks (e.g. Chicane) it will drown the rest of the music to the point where there is a constant background 'booom', which is actually the opposite of what you want. The culprit is the built-in DSSE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine). Like all other electronic solutions of this kind Sony's DSSE is a hit and miss kind of deal, and its inclusion in such an expensive product, marketed as audiophile quality, is strange to say the least. This makes Sony MDR 1BT a rather unpredictable pair of headphones sound-wise.
7. Highs are a little dull. Sometimes you will have the feeling that you are listening to music through a veil. If you play around with the EQ of your phone or stereo, then you can get better results, but different sound models will be needed for different songs, so in the end you will get tired of trying.
8. There is a creaking sound coming off the plastic hinges, when you walk or turn your head. This is very annoying.
9. Phone function is OK, but not great. People have complained that they cannot hear me well, or hear weird sounds, when I have used the headphones to make calls.
10. When no music is played, there is an electronic sound in the right can: 3-4 seconds of it, then 3-4 seconds of silence. This has to do with the Bluetooth connecting or keeping the connection. This is completely unacceptable. If you are watching a movie you can sometimes hear the sound over the dialogue, etc. I tried a second pair at the store, and it had the same sound, only louder, so this is not a problem with my pair.
11. Comfort is a very subjective category, but you will most probably feel a little pain after using the phones for 20-30 minutes, and your ears will get hot. In summer your ears will get hot much, much sooner. Generally, these headphones are not suitable for warm/hot weather.
12. With all Bluetooth headphones there is a noticeable delay in sound reproduction, so Bluetooth headphones are not a good choice for movies, as you will be watching people speak, but you will be hearing them with a delay.
13. Considering how fragile and unfaithful sound-wise these cans are, they are simply too expensive.

1. Although they do have their share of problems, Sony MDR1RBT Wireless Bluetooth Prestige Headphones are arguably the best Bluetooth headphones currently available on the market. AKG K845 sound great, but lack good control buttons and long battery life. Philips Fidelio M1BTBL have a shorter battery life and seem to be uncomfortable to many of their buyers.
2. However, if sound quality is paramount for you (more important than wireless properties and portability), then Sony MDR1RBT should not be your first choice. Further, because of their fragile construction and materials used, they cannot be used as your everyday headphone.
3. The price tag is unfortunately too high all things considered.

gibtg's picture

The sentence about wind noise really makes me want to know what are some of the best headphones that are resistant to wind noise? What is the science here? From personal experience I've always thought that profile could make a difference, but then again some in-ears have given me a lot of wind noise. I'm sure any ports would also buffet severely, any other thoughts on the subject?