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Sony MDR-7506 Review (Headphone)

amirm

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#1
This is a review and measurements of the Sony MDR-7506. I purchased this headphone last year due to reputation of getting some of the highest scores relative to Harman preference curve. It costs US $89 on Amazon including Prime shipping.

I like the look and feel of the MDR-7506:

Sony MDR-7506 review headphone.jpg


The headphone itself is very light and compact. Alas the coiled cord is rather heavy and has a habit of falling to the floor because of it.

While this headphone is new to me, its original -- the MDR-V6 is not. When I was visiting the major music labels back in early 2000s, the MDR-V6 was one of the top three or so respected headphones (Sennheiser and Stax being the other two). So I purchased a V6 but hardly used it and unfortunately have little memory of it. I thin I gave it to one of my sons years ago.

I was surprised how uncomfortable the MDR-7506 is. It would pinch the outer areas of my ears to a point where I could not wear then for more than a few minutes. I realized then that taking my glasses off helped but I still could not tolerate them for than 15 to 20 minutes. There is a lot of headband pressure and due to the small cups, it lands on the other part of ear. Strangely, I don't remember this about the MDR-V6? Is it possible my ears have grown in ensuing years and no longer fit inside these cups? The thought is too scary to consider! :)

Sony MDR-7506 Measurements
Let's get right into it with the MDR-7506 frequency response and comparison to our target preference:
Sony MDR-7506 frequency response measurements.png


As you can see, there is good bit of variation between the two cups. Being a small headphone, I had a lot more trouble getting consistent fit between the two channels. Still, I think the results are pretty correct as they correlate quite well with other measurements. The one area of deviation is that peak around 11 kHz. Other measurements including that of Harman's show that shooting way up. The older couplers tended to exaggerate the response in that region which my new GRAS 45C coupler avoid. Still, hard to know what the truth is there.

Back to the measurements and just looking at the green calibrated channel, we see excellent agreement with our target curve (dashed blue) from about 100 Hz to 2 kHz. Past that we overshoot the curve and stay above up to 8 kHz or so. This naturally will make the headphone sound bright and potentially with wider soundstage.

Bass department has the usual droop but much less than some others.

Overall one can see how this headphone that can higher agreement with Harman preference curve than many other. You can see this clearly in the deviation from our target:

Sony MDR-7506 measurements target curve deviation frequency response.png


Notice the broad area at or around 0 dB deviation.

So far there was good news. What wasn't good news is what followed, namely distortion measurements:

Sony MDR-7506 distortion measurements.png


Oh wow! This headphone has more distortion at 94 dB than many do at 114 dB in bass! We are also usually spoiled by headphones having very little distortion above 1 kHz or so. Not here. We have distortion where our hearing is sensitive as well. Distortion in bass was so high that it overshot the graph so I changes scales:

Sony MDR-7506 distortion measurements zoom out.png


Nearly 20% distortion at around 55 Hz at 114 dB. Here is another view of the 94 dBSPL and its breakdown:

Sony MDR-7506 distortion measurements THD.png


This will be a good test of how important distortion is relative to frequency response -- a battle we constantly have here and in context of speakers.

Group delay is rather calm as this graph goes:

Sony MDR-7506 Group Delay Measurements.png


We don't see the large spikes in high frequencies. Maybe smaller cups create less of these against the body of the measurement fixture?

Impedance is variable so take care in using any amplifier that has high impedance:


Sony MDR-7506 measurements impedance.png


Sensitivity is very good so you don't need much power to drive them.

Sony MDR-7506 Listening Tests
I remember being quite disappointed when I listened to the MDR-7506 last year when I purchased it. I neither liked the sound, nor the comfort. It quickly sat on my desk collecting dust. With much more careful testing now I can tell why. You all know that I am a fan of sub-bass performance and evaluating such at higher levels. Not so here. I initially boosted the sub-bass and it became ugly. It became boomy (harmonics travel to upper bass and cause that) with the notes not being clean and sharp at all.

Then there were the highs. Oh man these are ugly highs. Sharp and uncomfortable. Yes, the mid-range tonality was good but I just could not focus on it. Every bass note sounded ugly, and every high note was a punch in the face. Overall there was this poor quality and grittiness I could not get past.

Took out the EQ tool and made some improvements:

Sony MDR-7506 EQ player.png


As I said, I boosted the lows but immediately took that out and focused on the peaking between 2 and 8 kHz. That resulted in the two filters that you see. That provided good relief from the sharp highs but I still did not like the sound. Per above, it just didn't sound clean to me. Remembering a trick from my speaker optimizations, I actually filtered out some of the sub-bass and that made a nice improvement in clarity and fidelity. Ironically, even though I was cutting out the lows, the overall tonality is much warmer with better bass than no EQ at all because the highs were taken down.

Usually once I EQ a speaker or headphone, I get much better sound and am happy with it. Not here. Taking down the highs collapsed the little soundstage that was there, leaving me with a dull, middle of the head image. I am extremely sensitive to the harshness of the highs so this was the proper compromise for me but even I could not tolerate the boring spatial effect.

The loss of deep bass was a miss too. I could no longer enjoy any of my tracks with such content.

Mind you, on some tracks I thought the fidelity was better than many speakers but in the context of all music played and comparing to other headphones, the results was simply not competitive.

Conclusions
Boy, talking about getting myself in a pickle giving such low scores subjectively to a headphone that has done so well in research. There are two possibilities:

1. Something is wrong with me and my hearing and I would not feel this way in controlled testing.

2. I am far more bothered by the listeners in research by a) too much energy in treble region and b) distortion. A related factor to this is content used for testing. Without the right content a lot of the issues I found would not be audible or as bothersome.

Then there is the issue of comfort. I see there are a lot of aftermarket pads for these so maybe that can be solved. But then the cost goes up.

Overall I can't see a good reason to recommend the Sony MDR-7506. It gets some important things right (mid-range tonality) but so many things wrong that I just can't tell anyone to go and get one. If you have it, please give the above EQ a test and report what you think.

So there, we have another massively popular headphone covered so that we have a reference for other headphone reviews to come.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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majingotan

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#2
It was my first foray to headphones and this hobby more than a decade ago and still is one of the best starter headphones out there IMO
 

RickSanchez

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#3
Bought these a while back for background music listening while in the office. Never really liked them, and looks like it would be a challenge to EQ them. I think I'll stick with my HE400i's and not even bother trying to find the box I threw these Sony's into.
 
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#4
The first 'real' headphone for me as well. It is now my yard work headphone and is fine for working outside, sometimes with power equipment, sometimes without. I replaced the cord with a mini-xlr connector, I use an old phone with FLACs with either a USB Dongle (DTC 100 or HIDIZS) or a portable amp (BTR3 or BTR5), whatever I happen to grab each time. The sound is find for that type of listening, I used them today while shoveling the driveway.

Since then I have a Sennheiser Linear 250, 2 Sennheiser HD 540 Reference, a AKG K240 Sextett MP and today my xmas present to myself, Aeon 2 Closed, shipped.
 

sweetchaos

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PeteL

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#6
Match my experience, can’t listen to these, like at all. the line that want’s to replace them (not sure if it’s discontinued by now?) are more pleasant by a good margin. especially the 7520 but expensive, the 7510 is alright.
 

YSC

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so if I get it right this one is quite the opposite of most contenders where objectively it met the curve better (at least in bass and mid regions) but somehow in subjective listening it falls short?

the bass seems like the distortion is to blame, but the highs related sense of soundstage is interesting, so it seems exaggerated highs at that region helped to fake a wider soundstage (something about HRTF?) so maybe for closed headphones you would want it to be shooting up, while maybe less so for open back phones or even some like the HD800 having a large cup?
 
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#8
I've had a pair since the late '90s and they date back farther than that. Ubiquitous in recording studios for a long time -- like the V6. And I remember the head of Dunlavy Audio Labs, the speaker company, being a great proponent. Yours is a very interesting test -- thanks as always.
 

LightninBoy

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#10
Conclusions
Boy, talking about getting myself in a pickle giving such low scores subjectively to a headphone that has done so well in research. There are two possibilities:
For me the 3 critical headphone qualities are 1) comfort, 2) Basically follows the harman (or similar) curve, 3) Low distortion providing headroom to EQ to your preferred curve

These seem to fail #1 and #3, so your rating makes total sense to me.
 

mi-fu

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#12
people say the similar look Sony MDR-V6 has a bit more bass and less harsh highs. it would be interesting to see a comparison of the two.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #13
people say the similar look Sony MDR-V6 has a bit more bass and less harsh highs. it would be interesting to see a comparison of the two.
I will ask my kids to see if they still have it and if so, will measure. Wonder what 20 years has done to it though!
 

Blumlein 88

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#14
Match my experience, can’t listen to these, like at all. the line that want’s to replace them (not sure if it’s discontinued by now?) are more pleasant by a good margin. especially the 7520 but expensive, the 7510 is alright.
Yeah, couldn't stomach the 7506. I have and find nice a set of the 7510. Intended to replace the 7506 as you say. Apparently never took off and they along with the 7520 are now discontinued.
 

JohnYang1997

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#15
Yep. That's supposedly highest rated harman target headphones from Harman's research. It's way too bright and harsh from anyone I know. It just doesn't work.
And this is why Amir's reviews are great!
 

JohnYang1997

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#16
For me the 3 critical headphone qualities are 1) comfort, 2) Basically follows the harman (or similar) curve, 3) Low distortion providing headroom to EQ to your preferred curve

These seem to fail #1 and #3, so your rating makes total sense to me.
It takes a human with experience to interpret measurements instead of machine. To me it certainly failed all three.
 

nhatlam96

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#19
I prefer harman target and I like to use autoEQ for that. Out of curiosity I tried both the AKG K361 and 371 and they were very poor in resolution. Even my Tin T2 in ears sounded better.
 

MZKM

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#20
That's supposedly highest rated harman target headphones from Harman's research.
I could be wrong, but I believe this is the graph Harman got for it:
7D2CFDF5-084F-46E3-BAE2-350BF8C2C70E.jpeg


Scaling is different, but to my eye it looks better than Amir’s (bass doesn’t roll off as much and the peaks in the treble aren’t as high), though of course I believe they do 3 averages.

Here is Oratory:
925165DF-A709-455E-892B-9859DD3B5FEF.jpeg



Here is what RTINGS got:
8AF0A399-571D-4B96-AFE6-A7E996B3E602.jpeg


Looks like a good deal more bass.
 
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