Sony MDR-Z1R

Sony MDR-Z1R

HWM (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - By Kenny Yeo

In the late Eight­ies, Sony made a head­phone called the MDR-R10. The MDR-R10 has a closed-back de­sign with ear cups made from 200-year old Zelkova wood sourced from the Aizu re­gion in Ja­pan. It also used 50mm-wide bio­cel­lu­lose driv­ers that were rev­o­lu­tion­ary for its time. Also im­pres­sive was its price, back then a pair of MDR-R10 head­phones was an eye-wa­ter­ing US$2,500. The MDR-R10 is still, even to­day, con­sid­ered one of the best head­phones ever made, and Sony has never re­ally made a suc­ces­sor - un­til now.

An­nounced at IFA 2016, the Sony MDR-Z1R is eas­ily one of the best­made head­phones I have ever come across. The head­band is made out of beta titanium for light­ness and strength. It is also lined with leather and gen­er­ous amounts of pad­ding for wear­ing com­fort. The head­band slides to ac­com­mo­date heads of var­i­ous sizes, and the slider mech­a­nism is num­bered so it is easy for users to ad­just the head­phones to get their fa­vorite t. The slider and the hang­ers that hold the ear cups in place are both made out of alu­minum. Fi­nally, the ear pads, which are an­gled and cov­ered with sheep­skin leather, are su­per plush and large. In­so­far as com­fort is con­cerned, few head­phones I have tried can ri­val the MDR-Z1R.

Thanks to its dis­tinc­tive ear cups, the MDR-Z1R looks good too. The shape of its ear cups isn’t just to make the head­phones look fancy; it is ac­tu­ally dic­tated by func­tion as it helps re­duce un­wanted

res­o­nance. In­side, there’s an ad­di­tional piece of acous­tic lter made out of Cana­dian soft­wood bers that fur­ther ab­sorbs and re­duces res­o­nance.

The MDR-Z1R comes with de­tach­able ca­bles. The rear of the hang­ers ter­mi­nates in a 3.5mm jack, so it is easy to nd af­ter­mar­ket ca­bles for the MDR-Z1R. In any case, Sony pro­vides two ca­bles: one 3.5 me­ter cable that ter­mi­nates with a 3.5mm plug with a 6.3mm adapter, and an­other 1.2 me­ter that ter­mi­nates in Sony’s new Pen­ta­con 4.4mm bal­anced con­nec­tor. Un­for­tu­nately, not many am­pliers o er Sony’s bal­anced con­nec­tor. If you wish to use the bal­anced con­nec­tor, you will have to get one of Sony’s new high-end am­pliers like the TA-ZH1ES or their por­ta­ble dig­i­tal au­dio play­ers like the NW-WM1Z and NW-WM1A.

The MDR-Z1R also comes with a large pre­sen­ta­tion box with sep­a­rate com­part­ments for the head­phones and ca­bles. The box is ex­tremely lux­u­ri­ous with a leather outer case and soft satin lin­ing on the in­side. Un­for­tu­nately, the box is also very bulky and not very por­ta­ble. Con­sid­er­ing the pre­mium pric­ing of the MDR-Z1R, I had ex­pected Sony to pro­vide a sep­a­rate car­ry­ing case.

How­ever, the big­gest fea­ture of the MDR-Z1R is its driv­ers. In place of bio-cel­lu­lose driv­ers, the MDR-Z1R uses a 70mm large mag­ne­sium dome that is sur­rounded by an alu­minum-coated liq­uid crys­tal poly­mer edge. This is eas­ily one of the largest driv­ers ever put into a head­phone. Sony claims the driv­ers can re­pro­duce sounds from 4 Hz all the way up to a stag­ger­ing 120,000 Hz. That sounds im­pres­sive, but re­mem­ber, hu­mans can only hear up to around 20,000 Hz at best, so that’s mostly just tech­ni­cal brag­ging rights.

For­tu­nately, the MDR-Z1R sounds pretty fan­tas­tic. One of the best qual­i­ties of its sound is its bass. I won’t call the MDR-Z1R a bassy pair of head­phones, but there is cer­tainly a strong em­pha­sis on bass. It is hard-hit­ting, clean, and grat­i­fy­ing. Also im­pres­sive is its res­o­lu­tion, vo­cals and in­stru­ments sounded in­cred­i­bly tex­tured and de­tailed. Its sound stage is also im­pres­sively wide and would eas­ily put a lot of open head­phones to shame.

How­ever, the MDR-Z1R does have some is­sues. Tre­ble sounds un­even and this can make fe­male vo­cals and cer­tain in­stru­ments sound a lit­tle un­nat­u­ral. The over­all tonal­ity also sounds a bit o to me with vo­cals sound­ing far too mued and dis­tant, which gives the MDR-Z1R a very V-shape kind of sound.

Over­all, if its neu­tral­ity and ac­cu­racy that you seek, you would be bet­ter o with other head­phones. The MDR-Z1R cer­tainly isn’t what would be called a “ref­er­ence” pair of head­phones, but what it does o er is a fun sound that is easy on the ears and suits con­tem­po­rary mu­sic very well. If you pre­fer dance, trance, rock, and pop mu­sic more than oldies, acous­tic, or clas­si­cal mu­sic, then the new Sony MDR-Z1R would be right up your al­ley.

The MDR-Z1R of­fers supreme style, com­fort, and a fun sound that is easy on the ears.

The head­phones are stylish and ex­cep­tion­ally well-made with pre­mium ma­te­ri­als like alu­minum, beta titanium, and gen­uine leather.

The ear pads are made of mem­ory foam and cov­ered with sheep­skin leather.

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