FOR Com­fort­able; spa­cious pre­sen­ta­tion; deep, ag­ile bass AGAINST Re­cessed vo­cals; lack a bit of get-up-and-go


Sony is con­tin­u­ing to fly the flag for high-res­o­lu­tion au­dio, and this lat­est push ze­ros in on higher-qual­ity Blue­tooth stream­ing. The com­pany claims its new pro­pri­etary Blue­tooth codec, LDAC, trans­mits data three times more ef­fi­ciently than stan­dard Blue­tooth en­cod­ing – sup­pos­edly main­tain­ing a max­i­mum bit depth and fre­quency of up to 24-bit/96khz – so in the­ory, most hi-res mu­sic shouldn’t suf­fer as much com­pres­sion in the trans­mis­sion.

Tap and swipe con­trols

Both the source and head­phone/speaker must be equipped with the codec. Right now, th­ese MDR-1ABTS – wire­less ver­sions of the MDR-1AS (£120) – are one of the first Ldac-com­pat­i­ble prod­ucts, along­side Sony’s high-end NW-ZX2 Walk­man and a hand­ful of wire­less speak­ers, AV amps and sound­bars.

That doesn’t make the MDR-1ABTS re­dun­dant with your smart­phone or tablet – they’ll sim­ply stream us­ing stan­dard Blue­tooth. NFC func­tion­al­ity en­ables one-touch pair­ing – the badge on the left earcup marks the spot.

On the right earcup you’ll find touch con­trols neatly em­bed­ded: tap­ping the earcup plays and pauses songs, and picks up calls. Swip­ing it al­lows you to skip tracks or change vol­ume.

Com­fort is first rate

The plas­tic earcups and chrome-like de­tails may not seem par­tic­u­larly up-mar­ket, but the soft-yet-sup­port­ive leather earpads make up for it. Mount­ing them on your head is like snug­gling into the sweet spot on your sofa. There’s gen­er­ous sup­port be­neath the head­band too, though the Sonys feel fairly light­weight to wear any­way. The cups swivel to fold flat into the ma­te­rial stor­age pouch, though it would be nice if they folded in­wards too.

Sony is no new­bie to the wire­less game and its ex­pe­ri­ence shows. The MDR-1ABT’S sound is clean, open and sweet-sound­ing with not the slight­est hint of the snap, crackle and pop of­ten as­so­ci­ated with wire­less play­back.


Smooth, re­fined and laid-back, the Sonys paint the or­ches­tra­tion in Wy­cliffe Gor­don’s vividly on an open, airy can­vas: trum­pets left, clar­inets right, with trom­bones and drums pre­cisely drawn in­be­tween. Said trom­bones dig down deep and true with­out ever hit­ting rock, prov­ing a good char­ac­ter ref­er­ence for the Sonys’ ag­ile low-end too. There’s plenty of de­tail re­vealed by their open­ness, and no sign of tonal bias here. In fact, the Sonys’ ren­di­tion is one you could nod off to in your favourite arm­chair.

(You Will) Set The World On Fire,

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