Home Closed Back Headphone Reviews Sony MDR-Z1R Review: Open Closed Back?

Sony MDR-Z1R Review: Open Closed Back?

by Stuart Charles Black

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Greetings friend and Welcome aboard!!

Before we get into the Sony MDR Z1R Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..

You’ve come to the right place!!

What I will bring you in this review

  1. Ratings/Price
  2. Specifications
  3. Summary
  4. Pros
  5. Cons
  6. Video Review
  7. Amp/DAC requirements
  8. Who these headphones benefit?
  9. Consensus/Conclusion
  10. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!

Sony MDR Z1R



  • 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 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. TRS vs. TS.
  • 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.


The Sony MDR 1ZR is a closed back headphone that actually feels like an open back. Closed back vs. open back headphones?

The sound is so open, airy, and spacious, that you would think you’re listening to an open back. No joke. Should you purchase these or even try them out, you’re in for a real treat.

Everything sounds both incredibly natural but yet exciting and lively at the same time. 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 not a hint of sibilance which was cool because I like to crank it up. Lol What does sibilant mean?

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 more crisp than it’s ever sounded, and “Ants Marching” By Dave Matthews put a huge smile on my face. I don’t listen to Dave like that, but it’s a song that brought back a lot of high school memories.

The sound engulfs you in the best way possible. It isn’t overbearing in the slightest. Despite the 10k peak on a graph, I didn’t find them too bright or harsh.

On Fleetwood Macs’ “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 sound fast, and keep up with the music wonderfully.

Build & Comfort

Build and comfort were equally exemplary, as there wasn’t a single wasted part to the Z1R. Even being as big as they are, they feel just right in your hand: not too heavy and not too light. You can tell Sony took great care in crafting this baby.


  • Extremely comfortable.
  • Build quality is phenomenal.
  • Good sound isolation.
  • Great Soundstage for a closed back. What is Soundstage?
  • Weight is just right. They don’t feel too bulky.
  • 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 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.


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

I don’t agree with the assertion at all, and found them to be the complete opposite. I don’t think they sound harsh in the least bit, but perhaps the source (Sony’s ZH1ES Headphone Amp) had something to do with that. I honestly think the whole debate is a bit ridiculous. The HD 800 was long considered to have a weird 6k peak, but that didn’t stop people from drooling all over it. Honestly. Now, is the MDR Z1R worth the retail price? Probably not. But it’s a darn fine headphone, and I’m not backing down from that. 🙂

Video Review!

Amp/DAC requirements

An amp isn’t mandatory for the Z1R, but I listened with Sony’s ZH1ES. How to choose a headphone amp!

Who these headphones benefit?

I found them to be excellent with Rock, Pop and Jazz. Look for them to do well with most any genre.

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

  • The bass can sometimes become a bit loose sounding, but it’s the exception and not the norm.
  • 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 is what separates itself from a headphone that may be more closed off or muddy by comparison. The Audeze LCD3, as well as the Grado GS1000e are both prime examples of this a long with the MDR Z1R. 🙂


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

Final Word

I would wholeheartedly recommend this headphone to anyone, seeing as how it represents a sort of end game in high end audio equipment. Paired with the ZH1ES amp, you really don’t need anything else. This is Sony’s flagship for a reason. It’s incredible build, comfort, and sound stand with the likes of Audeze, Sennheiser, and many other top shelf companies. It’s not a headphone you’re going to forget anytime soon. A quick google search yields 5’s across the board nearly everywhere you look. It’s a 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.

What do you think about them?? Let me know!!

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Let me know in the comments below or Contact me!! I would love to hear from you..

Until then, all the best and God bless..





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