Sony MDR-7506 Review: Still Relevant In The Modern Age?
6/4/20. Added Introduction, Table of Contents, and replaced V6 with 7506 as Budget King #2 because the V6 is now discontinued and is no longer “under $100”. This may change in the future if Sony decides to bring it back, but I’m pretty doubtful of that at this point. R.I.P. Sony MDR-V6 (1985-2020)
12/23/2020. Added Video Discussion.
1/26/21. Article/link cleanup.
2,432 word post, approx. 4 min. read
Hi friend and Welcome!!
Before we get into the Sony MDR 7506 review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
This is part of my “Budget Kings” Series, which takes a look at some of the best options for under $100. Check out:
The 7506, like the V6, is really the first closed-back option but comes in second because I do think overall the 9500 is a slightly better buy. It’s about the closest photo finish you can have though. That said, if you’re looking for a closed-back neutral headphone, this is what you’ll want to consider first. The reasons are fairly obvious, but if you’re new to the hobby, the V6 has been around since the ’80s, with the 7506 coming along in 1991. Both are studio staples and should have a place in every engineer’s cabinet.
Build and comfort are both extremely solid, but one reason it can’t take top honors is because of those flaky pads. They will start to crack and peel after a year or two, and it’s really, really annoying. Lol. More on that later!
Luckily, they are replaceable so that’s a plus. The other thing that holds these back is the propensity for the coiled cord to tangle. Both the M40x and CB-1 improved on this by making the actual coiled portion of the cable a bit shorter and more compact. That said, I think the overall sound signature of these is a bit better than those, and thus it’s placed higher. Note: The 40x is no longer a part of the Budget Kings.
Before we get into the review, let’s take a look back at how it all started!
Ah, the Sony MDR 7506; one of the most reviewed and popular headphones of the last 25+ years, dating all the way back to 1991 when it first came out. This headphone happens to be the younger brother of the original V6 that came out in 1985, which was the very first headphone in a line of 7:
In fact, my very first set of “good” cans was indeed the MDR-7506 way back in 2010. At the time, I was heavily into mixing beats and generally preferred listening through headphones. I’ve always felt that I could hear subtle nuances of a track better through them, while others might have preferred studio monitors. Nowadays I actually like both, but tend to gravitate towards headphones because I just love them so much. <3
I began making beats in 2007, and sampling in 2009. In 2010 I knew that I needed to upgrade my setup in some way, as I was looking to improve the quality of my mixes. I was pretty much rocking an old Lenovo laptop and nothing else. Before that, I had a desktop computer that you see pictured below, tower and all! I don’t even remember what I was mixing on back then before I received the 7506 as a gift that year. It could have been a Sony MDR-V150, but I can’t even be sure about that! If I had to guess, it was these Logitechs that you see on either side of my computer monitor:
When I finally got the 7506 in my hands and plugged them in, I was completely floored. I will never forget the feeling I got when I fired up a track and pressed play. It’s almost indescribable. Growing up in the ’90s, I was used to those cheap drug store headphones and never heard anything better. In fact, I just assumed that those products were as good as it got! In retrospect, that sounds incredibly naive, but as a youngster in the pre-Napster days, this was all I had and all I knew.
The 7506 completely shattered my expectations and undoubtedly changed the way I looked at music. That is no exaggeration. Once you’ve put a good headphone on and hear what music is supposed to sound like, there’s no going back. This is the experience that the 7506 provides. Let’s get into what makes it special!
We’ll start with the build.
Build & Design
Even being rather loosey-goosey, 7506 is built incredibly well. There’s a bit of metal for the headband adjustments, but it’s mostly plastic stature feels pretty solid for such a cheap price point.
The headphone folds up nicely into a rather compact and portable package for on the go listening as well. You can pretty much move and rotate the cups any way you want, which is nice for DJs and live shows, in addition to mixing/mastering in the studio.
The cable has always been a point of contention for me, as it’s super annoying and tends to lose it’s coil over time (getting tangled and generally making you want to pull your hair out). This is also true of the venerable V6, and unfortunately, neither is detachable. It is possible to mod the headphone to make it so, but that’s an article for another time. I do plan on trying it at some point!
Padding will also become an issue after about a year or 2. While the M50’s pads harden and crack over time, the V6/7506’s flake and peel, leaving little bits and pieces behind EVERYWHERE. You’ll start to notice them on the floor, on your desk, in your f’ing EARS, etc. It’s one of the worst design choices Sony could have ever made and hasn’t changed since both headphones’ inception.
While we’re on the subject of ears and pads, let’s delve into comfort a bit.
All things considered, these headphones are fairly comfortable but will dig into your ears after a while. They are light and fit very snugly, but the ear cups are rather small. I’ve always considered this to be a hybrid Circumaural (Around-Ear) and Supra-Aural (On-Ear) fit.
It isn’t quite one or the other.
They rest on your ears, and around them at the same time (sort of) if that makes sense. It’s hard to explain, but will also depend on the size of your auricles. If you have big a** dumbo sized ones, you’re SOL BUDDY!
Cheers big ears!
Comfort is about average I would say. The other issue you may run into is the ear-cup padding simply becoming detached from the plastic. There’s a tiny slit that runs around the circumference where the thin piece of the pad inserts. Over time and with extended use and abuse, it may come loose and just fall out completely, causing you to have to re-insert it. This can and will become a pain in the a** after a while.
The sound is a bit tricky to review. They are marketed as reference headphones and do a very good job in that regard. The sound however is a bit hit and miss. They will sound wonderful with certain recordings, and not so great with others. This is what makes them great for mixing as they are some of the rawest and honest headphones you’ll ever come across.
Mixing on them is a bit of a chore because of the harshness and sibilance in the high-frequency ranges, but that same “issue” actually becomes an asset when you’re trying to really dissect the mix and find flaws. This is true for most any headphone with a brighter treble around the 8-10kHz area.
Even so, the treble on the 7506 can become fatiguing to the point of exhaustion at times. I found myself having to take them off and give my ears a rest because of this. What does Sibilant mean?
Keep in mind though that I would have them on my head for hours at a time when I was mixing a beat back then. They still work for casual listening, and I love them for that because of how neutral and revealing they are (outside of the hot treble). Many people, like my boy Brennan Parker (Scroll down to see his kind words to me) will find them incredibly enjoyable for simply listening to music casually and nothing else.
I love the bass response. It’s tight, controlled, and never overpowering. Overall they lack a bit of warmth but do provide incredible detail and clarity. This was the first headphone where I was actually able to discern very subtle sounds in my mixes, as well as my favorite music in general. They really do impress me in that regard and made me look at music in an entirely different light. Suddenly, songs that I thought I knew front to back revealed themselves to me fully. It was an epiphany in every sense of the word.
The bass does roll-off, but it thumps without booming – unlike other headphones with a poorly rendered response. While those headphones come across as muddy and bloated, the 7506 is anything but.
This is most certainly the 7506’s bread and butter, as the mids sound pretty much perfect to my ears. It’s in large part what makes this headphone so incredible for mixing, as this area is the most crucial in getting the song right and having it translate well to pretty much anything you might play the track on (speakers, other headphones, sound system, car stereo, etc.)
There’s really nothing to complain about. You’ll notice vocals and instruments sound incredibly lively without really getting out of line, and becoming too shouty or in your face. Not only that, but the sound is revealing; you’re going to start hearing subtle details in the music that you weren’t aware of before with cheaper products. This is what makes the 7506 an incredible value and pretty much a jaw-dropping experience for the beginner enthusiast like I was back then. There are few headphones beyond this price point that reveal anything more, and this is in large part due to The Law of Diminishing Returns!
Good for mixing at this price point. They aren’t perfect, but get the job done. They are pretty analytical which lends itself well to studio applications.
Exceptional clarity and detail. These headphones helped me discern small subtleties in my mixes as well as my favorite tunes.
Solid Build. Aside from the ear cup issue, I could see these lasting a long time. They have been around since 1991, Sony’s gotta be doing something right, no?
Tight, punchy low end.
They are very flexible and fold in a myriad of different ways for added durability.
They come with a nice carrying case and a 1/4″ adapter.
The coiled cable can be a pain and get tangled frequently.
Ear cups may start to peel after about a year or so, sometimes even falling out completely.
Hot, sometimes essy treble.
Let’s take a look at a video!
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At 63 Ohms, you don’t need an amp. If you do decide on one, the E10K is what I would suggest as it’s cheap, sounds great, and is very versatile. How to choose a headphone amp!
Who these headphones benefit?
People on a budget looking for a good mixing option.
People who like to hear subtle details in their music.
People who want a great value, and an upgrade from their current earbuds or cheap headphones.
People who want longevity out of their purchase. There is a reason these came out in 1991 (The dinosaur age) but are still around even now! Lol.
A durable, long-lasting set of headphones that won’t break the bank. At a great value, these also have an exemplary sound overall, with a fantastic mid-range and a revelatory character that is perfect for the studio. They are however pretty harsh in the high end and can become very fatiguing. Ear cups are prone to falling off and the faux leather has a tendency to peel off after some time.
The 7506 was the first “good” headphone I ever purchased back in 2010.
I absolutely fell in love with it and for good reason. It’s one of those “aha” moments when you go “This is what music is supposed to sound like.”
It’s not a perfect headphone or sound signature but comes really close. This, along with the MDR V6 are both perfect recommendations for those just starting out, but also work well for seasoned veterans. I firmly believe every engineer, beatmaker, or producer should have one of these in their cabinet.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.