Home Closed Back Headphone Reviews Sony MDR-Z1R Review – The Openest Closed Back Ever?

Sony MDR-Z1R Review – The Openest Closed Back Ever?

by Stuart Charles Black
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Stock photo: B&H

Note: Images coming soon. Audio Advice lends out headphones but the Z1R is only available for in-store demo and cannot be taken home!

Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…

Welcome to our in-depth exploration and review of the Sony MDR-Z1R headphones, where we’ll delve into various aspects that contribute to the overall headphone experience.

In this comprehensive analysis, we’ll be dissecting and discussing key elements such as build quality, comfort, sound performance, amplification requirements, preferred genres, and more.

I aim to provide you with a thorough understanding of what makes or does not make the Sony MDR-Z1R a noteworthy contender in the realm of high-end headphones.

So, join me as I take a closer look at each facet, offering insights into the features and considerations that shape the user experience with these premium headphones.

Sony MDR-Z1R

Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!

In The Box

Sony MDR-Z1R Headphones

Hard Storage Case

Balanced Cable

3.5mm Single-ended Cable

Specifications

  • Type: Closed back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 64 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 4Hz – 120kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB/mW.
  • Driver size: 70mm.
  • Material: Beta Titanium Alloy.
  • Color: Black.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes, comes with 2. A 3 meter (9.8′) cable terminated with a straight 3.5mm TRS plug with a 1/4″ adapter and a 1.2 meter (3.9′) cable. Cables are comprised of silver-coated oxygen-free copper conductors and gold-plated connectors.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 9.84 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: 385g.
  • Accessories Included: Hard Case.
  • Amp needed: No.

Build & Aesthetic

One of the first things that will jump out at you is the ear cups. They protrude outward, but other than that, the overall design is rather sleek and elegant while also remaining somewhat utilitarian.

Color-wise, they don a matte black finish and upon first glance, you’d think they were rather heavy.

It’s only when you pick them up that you’re in for somewhat of a shock as they are a lot lighter than expected.

Even with that said,

they feel just right in your hands and you can tell Sony took great care in crafting them.

In fact, I found myself gently squeezing the sheepskin pads on the cups and headband periodically – to the point where I had to look around and make sure no one was staring.

GET A ROOM!

These are soft, luscious pads that feel incredible to the touch.

Comfort

Comfort is equally as pleasing, as the headphones fit and clamp almost perfectly on your head to where you’re barely noticing them at all.

Over numerous listening sessions at Audio Advice I never once had to adjust or take them off.

Isolation is also rather excellent, and while not mimicking a true ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) experience, they block out the majority of common noise and ambiance.

As for the fit, they’re super non-intrusive all around, with plenty of space for your ears; perfect for those marathon sessions with your phone; getting lost and just enjoying the music.

Speaking of the music…

Sound

The closed-back Sony MDR-1ZR, containing 70mm dome dynamic drivers with CCAW voice coil, turns out to be a headphone so open, airy, and spacious, that you’d think you were listening to an open-back. No joke.

If you were unaware, a CCAW (copper-clad aluminum wire) voice coil is a type of coil used in speakers and headphones. It’s made of aluminum wire coated with a layer of copper, offering lightweight and efficient conductivity for improved audio performance.

Should you purchase these or even try them out, you’re in for a real treat.

Everything sounds so incredibly natural yet exciting and lively at the same time that it’s a bit hard to put into words.

Z Reviews (Zeos) from YouTube said these are headphones for hippies, and he isn’t completely wrong.

They’ve got an extremely laid-back sound signature, but somehow manage to be interactive and engaging.

It’s Mellow Yellow all the way. Even turned up very loud, there’s no hint of sibilance which is always a plus.

Bass

The Z1R opts for a ruler flat bass response and it’s one of the absolute best qualities of the headphone.

Think of an Audeze bass here – it digs incredibly deep while retaining excellent rumble and articulation.

I got a chance to test out a bunch of songs, as well as a few familiar favorites, and my findings were fantastic.

Billie Jean” sounded crisper than it’s ever sounded, and “Ants Marching” By Dave Matthews put a huge smile on my face.

I don’t listen to Dave all that much, but it’s a song that brought back a lot of high school memories.

The sound engulfs you in the best way possible and isn’t overbearing in the slightest.

Mid-Range

The mids are equally as impressive in my mind, as female vocals in particular really jump out at you in the best way possible.

On Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” Stevie never sounded so present. There was a gorgeous warmth and clarity to her voice, and I was immediately sucked into her world.

Though these are very relaxed, they still have excellent transient response and fantastic resolution.

Treble

Despite the 10k peak on a graph, I didn’t find them too harsh or fatiguing. There’s certainly sparkle up there, but I think the Z1R handles it incredibly well without delving into Sibilant territory.

I would expect nothing less for this price, so I’m very happy to report that cymbal crashes and hi-hats stay in their lane and likely won’t bother you.

One of the main culprits responsible for the Z1R’s unique open sound could be its drivers and CCAW voice coil.

Major HiFi has the lowdown:

One of the Z1R’s main staples is its huge 70mm dome dynamic driver with a CCAW voice coil. This promises an output with a wide dynamic range and a more sizable signal flow. It’s improved by the Z1R’s resonance-free housing which uses special filters to control air resistance and eliminates destructive noise caused by driver movement.<span class="su-quote-cite"><a href="https://majorhifi.com/sony-mdr-z1r-review/" target="_blank">Major HiFi</a></span>

This may sound like Sony market-speak until you listen to the headphones for yourself and it starts to make sense.

There’s nothing forced or overbearing about this sound signature, and it never feels like the Z1R is throwing sound at you as cheaper headphones tend to do.

Instead,

we’re getting a ridiculously clean rendering of music that’s hard to believe as you’re listening, to the point where all you can do is smile.

Soundstage

Speaking of open, one thing that will undoubtedly jump out at you is the Z1R’s Soundstage.

There are very few closed headphones out there I’ve tried that can accomplish this (namely the CB-1 and K550/553), but Sony’s flagship is certainly the frontrunner in this regard.

Songs feel and sound much larger and on a grander scale than they have any business sounding, and there’s incredible depth and width to the overall image without it coming across as unnatural or forced.

If I loved the K702 for its Soundstage capabilities, the Z1R is that much more realistic about it, and almost feels as if you’re experiencing the music in person rather than within the confines of a studio space.

This is what I alluded to above with regard to that Dave Matthews song.

The energy and realism felt like a live experience rather than a song heard through Headphone Drivers.

Pros

  • Extremely comfortable.
  • Build quality is phenomenal.
  • Good sound isolation.
  • Great Soundstage for a closed back. What is Soundstage?
  • The weight is just right. They don’t feel too bulky even despite the Dumbo elephant earcups.
  • Instrument separation is exemplary. Look for stuff going on in all directions, with an excellent sense of clarity, detail, and imaging. You’re going to hear things you never thought in a million years would be there. Just be aware they’re pretty subtle but very noticeable.
  • Bass has an impact but doesn’t feel out of place or unnatural. Mid-range is given room to shine. Expect a sense of refinement that just can’t be achieved with other offerings.

Cons

  • Depending on who you ask, the peak at 9-10k is a bit too much.

I don’t agree with the assertion that they sound harsh, but perhaps the source (Sony’s ZH1ES Headphone Amp) had something to do with that.

Video Review!

Amp/DAC requirements

Given its 64 Ohms Impedance and 100dB Sensitivity, the Z1R will resist power a little bit but is highly efficient.

In other words,

an amp isn’t mandatory but you may want to invest in one anyway.

I listened to it with Sony’s ZH1ES.

Who do these headphones benefit?

I found them to be excellent with Rock, Pop, and Jazz. Look for them to do well with almost any genre given their smooth, neutral-ish sound and unobtrusive overall character.

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

Bass

The bass can sometimes become a bit loose sounding, but it’s the exception and not the norm.

Musical Virgins

One of the standout qualities of a headphone like this, and a running theme with a lot of these high-end models is the sound.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s like you’re hearing the music for the first time.

You know how the track sounds, but it somehow presents itself differently and in more detail.

The detail and clarity are what separates it from a headphone that may be more closed off or muddy by comparison.

The Audeze LCD-3, as well as the Grado GS1000e, are both prime examples of this along with the MDR-Z1R.

Consensus/Conclusion

A stellar-sounding headphone with an impeccable build and luxurious comfort.

The 9-10k peak is problematic to some, and the bass can get a tad muddy at times.

MSRP is questionable as well. This puppy is worth around $1,200 – $1,600 in my mind.

Closing Thoughts

The Z1R has long been a staple in my Best Audiophile Headphones Write Up and I still think it’s one of the best today.

Apart from that, there’s only one other end-game closed-back that I recommend to people: the Dan Clark Audio Aeon Flow.

Sony’s flagship is a bit better in my opinion but it is close.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the Z1R to anyone looking for their forever closed-back, seeing as how it represents a sort of end game in high-end audio equipment and is likely just about the equivalent to the open-back Utopia (though I think the Utopia is overall a better headphone).

In any event,

the Z1R’s incredible build, comfort, and sound stand with the likes of Audeze, Sennheiser, Focal, and many other top-shelf companies.

A quick Google search yields 5s across the board nearly everywhere you look and I think those ratings are absolutely warranted as it’s not a headphone you’re going to forget anytime soon.

In other words,

it’s a more than worthy entry, and I’m grateful to have gotten a chance to listen.

Interested in reading some reviews?

 


Well that’s about it for today folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sony MDR-Z1R headphone review and came away with some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

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Do you agree with my assessment? Why or why not? Any experience with the Z1R? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

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2 comments

Em May 20, 2023 - 4:11 am

I have a sneaky feeling we’re gonna see an upgrade soon after they released the walkman

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 24, 2023 - 11:05 am

Walkman? Have I been transported back to 1979? LOL.

Reply

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