Sony's already well known for its variety of headphones, but its latest MDR range looks to swing its weight in the premium consumer category. Introducing the MDR-1R series...
In the basement of a London meet, Pocket-lint had the opportunity to try out all three of Sony's latest headphones: the MDR-1R over-ears; the MDR-1RBT Bluetooth-enabled 'phones; and the top-of-the-line MDR-1RNC noise-cancelling models.
The MDR-1R, the baby of the pack at £250, comes in either a black & red or brown & silver (more grey, we though) finish. It's a stylish, comfortable set of over-ears, with several design points to earmark.
There's a liquid crystal polymer film diaphragm to deliver premium sound quality, and an increased airvent size to assist bass output. Sony claims that the MDR-1R range has a faster response time than Sony's other headphones, and with a capable frequency range from 4-80,000Hz, there's a wide spectrum of sound on offer direct to your lugholes.
We popped the 'phones on and found them to be comfortable, though the ears do sit closesly to the interior cloth so, at least for those with big ears, there may be some contact.
The enfolding structure means a slightly angled design helps to envelop the ears fully - which adds to the noise isolation. To avoid further interfering sounds the MDR-1R range includes silicon rings for quieter adjustments; there are also two axes to help the earcups sit comfortably to the head without any "crushing" pressure.
Within the headphones' detachable cord - there's a standard one and an iPhone cable - the cable is serrated to help avoid tangling.
Next up is the £350 Bluetooth model, the MDR-1RBT. These wireless headphones include li-ion batteries to deliver power for up to 30 hours, and also work passively via a cable should the batteries run out. They're also the first Sony headphones to include NFC technology - simply touch a compatible device to the earcup and it will auto-sync your music. Clever stuff.
As well as the power on switch, the Bluetooth version includes a play, forward and backward switch on the headphone itself.
Sound quality doesn't differ from the standard models, though we found slightly deeper earcups to be a little more comfortable overall.
Last up is the top-of-the-range MDR-1RNC, available for £400. These noise-cancelling headphones are a real treat and were definitely our favourite of the three.
They include two noise sensors inside and two more outside of the headphones to actively cancel out sound. The hum of an air conditioner was erradicated when the on switch was clicked, and the sound warps into an all-encompassing "wrap-around" that really delivers to the ears. It makes the listening experience far more direct, more or less cancels external sound, yet doesn't remove the sense of space that the headphones have.
Each model was developed by engineers and artists to help create the best possible listening experience. Although there's no official endorsment, Sony showed us a behind-the-scenes video of Skream, Benga Artwork (collectively Magnetic Man) and Katy B testing them out with Japanese engineers.
That ought to give you an idea of the kind of music these headphones can deal with: dubstep and underground pop were all handled with delivery of deep bass, thundering mids and high end without sounding too crunchy or sharp.
But we brought our own music too to test out a mix of some truly low-end bass (listening to SpectraSoul's Sometimes We Lie), as well as listening to tracks by Bat For Lashes, The Shoes and Bloc Party to test a fuller range. No classics, granted, but we were impressed with the way the MDR-1R range - particularly the noise-cancelling model - dealt with the variety. It didn't over-egg the bass, yet there was always a deep and warm sound throughout.