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Sony MDR-CD900ST Japan Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 86 71.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 23 19.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 9 7.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 2 1.7%

  • Total voters
    120
Problem with the above is I can't confirm the exact Sony model used. They look the same from what I can see.
Yes, definitely the MDR-CD900ST.
They are the industry standard in all Japanese studios (not only music, but also animation).

By the way, "THE FIRST TAKE" is a Sony Music Labels Inc. project, so it makes sense to promote it with Sony headphones.
 
By the way, "THE FIRST TAKE" is a Sony Music Labels Inc. project, so it makes sense to promote it with Sony headphones.

I guess if you rap and bring your own equipment you get a pass! :D

 
Problem with the above is I can't confirm the exact Sony model used. They look the same from what I can see.

It's 100% the CD900ST.

Fact: The MDR-CD900ST is widely used in the production of 90's, 00's, 10's, and even present-day Japanese music, especially pop music.
Fact: The MDR-CD900ST's frequency response is far from neutral -- shockingly so!

Background Reading: https://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/10/audios-circle-of-confusion.html

My Opinion 1) We should advocate for neutral electronics/speakers to reduce the circle of confusion. It works in cinema, so it will work in music production.
My Opinion 2) Having @amirm characterizing this helps us alter the FR of neutral headphones to more closely match the FR of what is being used. You can take a neutral headphone and have it mirror other headphones more easily than trying to take a non-neutral headphone and EQ'ing itto be neutral

My Opinion 3) J-Pop music CDs seem to have hotter treble than concert Blu-rays of the same music. Since cinema/movies have less of a circle of confusion than music, I suspect that "bright" J-pop isn't a musical choice, but the effect of the circle of confusion.

Per Sean Olive's blog post:
"For example, a recording that is too bright can make a dull loudspeaker sound good, and an accurate loudspeaker sound too bright"
 
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My Option 3) J-Pop music CDs seem to have hotter treble than concert Blu-rays of the same music. Since cinema/movies have less of a circle of confusion than music, I suspect that "bright" J-pop isn't a musical choice, but the effect of the circle of confusion.

I wonder how much of the actual mix is done with headphones as opposed to those recording using them as monitors. In Japanese recording studios most of near field studio monitors I've seen during interviews next to the mixer are Genelecs.

My complaint with modern J-Pop is abuse of dynamic compression. It doesn't seem like it is used more or less than US or European pop music, but when they decide they want to make something "louder" they push it right up to Metallica's 11.
 
The manufacturer's specifications show that the frequency response range is very wide, so the explanation that the lack of bass is due to adjustment to the domestic music market is quite bright, I am not really convincing. If the specifications are true, it must have very deep and powerful bass.
 
All components, from drivers to screws, are available for repair

Good point, but parts are usually not cheap. The one time I had to replace drivers (on a beyerdynamic, not a Sony), I just ordered a new one and took it apart, and paid half of what beyer quoted me for a spare set. Is Sony's spare parts network better?
 
I have both CD900ST and M1ST.
M1ST is very clean, extremely resolving, and very boring too.
CD900ST is on the edge of being bright, a few steps back from MDR-V6/7506. It's magic is in the vocal. The microphone disappears. No matter how overpowering the music is, the singer draws your attention.
 
Per Sean Olive's blog post:
"For example, a recording that is too bright can make a dull loudspeaker sound good, and an accurate loudspeaker sound too bright"

Not exactly rocket science...
 
I'd bet the drivers inside are the same ones used in the 7506 and that they sound roughly the same.

No need for assumptions, they don't:

index.php
 
Good point, but parts are usually not cheap. The one time I had to replace drivers (on a beyerdynamic, not a Sony), I just ordered a new one and took it apart, and paid half of what beyer quoted me for a spare set. Is Sony's spare parts network better?
MDR-CD900ST JPY15800(USD101) (rate JPY156/USD1)
The most expensive component is the headband X-2113-142-3 MDR-CD900ST JPY4980(USD32)
Driver for one ear 1-542-492-31 JPY2780 (USD18)
Earpads for one ear 2-115-695-02 JPY1260(USD8)
Urethane ring for one ear 2-113-149-0102 JPY140(USD1)
The urethane ring has a great influence on the sound quality.
Depending on how often they are used, they can deteriorate over a few years, crumbling and collapsing, and should be replaced frequently as they reduce the bass.
The MDR-7506 has the same specifications.
It is hidden by the mesh of the earpads and is difficult to notice.

Parts can be obtained on the same day in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, as there are audio shops that always have parts in stock.
*Sony parts, manuals, boards, etc. are controlled by a nine-digit number. *-***-***-**

Blog where a Japanese audio shop played with assembling the same thing as the product by collecting only repair parts.
 
These are very much like the Yamaha NS-10. They measure poorly yet are widely used even to this day in Asia for music production decisions. They are still in production!

【インタビュー】SONY”MDR-CD900STを創った男”投野耕治氏インタビュー!

e☆イヤホンのはまちゃんです!2017年も、もう少しですね!今年のクリスマスの予定は決まっていますか?僕のクリスマスの予定は、バンドでレコーディングです!最高です! 本日は!
e--earphone-blog.translate.goog
e--earphone-blog.translate.goog

“The consumer MDR-CD900 was released in 1985 and production ended in 1990. MDR-CD900 has a folding mechanism and is a curl cord. Overseas, it is sold under the model number "MDR-V6" with slightly different specifications.

At the time, the monitor headphones used at the CBS/Sony studio in Shinanomachi had a fairly round sound, and although voices could be heard well, I felt it was lacking. After all, I learned that the voice has a very high priority in the studio, and that the timbre is what matters, so I started creating the sound of monitor headphones for the studio based on the MDR-CD900. During development, digital recording was also just beginning, and we wanted to find new sounds.

Three years after the MDR-CD900, we developed a new headphone called the MDR-CD900CBS (1988) for use only within CBS/Sony's Shinanomachi and Roppongi studios. The sound is different from the original MDR-CD900, but I think it's more advanced than the studio headphones of the time.

While we were creating the sound in the studio, we talked about how we were concerned about the sharpness of the low range, and while we were talking about it, we even poked holes in the headphones with a pencil to make fine adjustments.

After completion, the sound of the CBS/Sony Studio headphones gradually became popular with musicians, and the headphones were not only used at the CBS/Sony studios, but were also sold to other studios. At that time, you decided to name it MDR-CD900ST.
All of these links are based on interviews with nageno-san and there is some overlap, but there is also another document that describes how the CD900ST was designed and targeted.
Written in Japanese.
1.PDF http://www.smci.jp/files/2/headphones/pdf/DiGiRECO_2012AUG_VOL.135.pdf
2.web https://digireco.com/interview_2020sony1/
 
I clearly remember a decade or more ago a studio worker--an industry professional, mind you--telling me these were how the sound was meant to be played and were reference class, and my ears were off for thinking otherwise even though I told him they sounded wonky and very off.

Add this to the litany of charts and graphs disproving that "professional."
 
Thanks to @kadoke for this part:

編集部:具体的に、どのような違いがあるのでしょうか。
投野:一番の違いは「原音」の考え方ですね。鑑賞用のヘッドフォンですと、例えば演奏をホールで聴いたときに、客席で聴いているような、ホールの響きを含めた臨場感のあるサウンドを目指す訳です。しかし、エンジニアやアーティストが求めていたのは、いつも自分が聴いている音。つまり演奏者が歌ったり演奏したりする際に直接聴いている音だったんです。

ミュージシャンの方ならおわかり頂けると思いますが、人間は自分の音を聴きながら、音程や音量、調子を調整しています。ボーカルで例えると、自分のいつも聴いている自分の声を基準に、聴いている音に対して変化を与えていきます。もしモニター・ヘッドフォンで帰ってくる自分の声がキンキンした音で聞こえたとしたら、無意識にソフトに歌ってしまう…という具合です。だから、できるだけ自分がいつも聴いている音でモニターすることがとても大切です。

これはミュージシャンやエンジニアに限った話ではありません。ヘッドフォンやイヤホンをしている人に話しかけたら、いつもより何倍も大きな声で話しかけられた。というのは、多くの方が経験あるのではないでしょうか? 自分がどんな音を出しているのかが正確にわからないと、人間は適切な調整ができないんです。

I'll save you my bad translation and let Google do it. With the adoption of more LLM it's actually now better than my mid level Japanese. Plus it's less work! It does manage to screw up by the second sentence, however, assuming 投野 is read as "Nageno" and not "Tono" as Google suggests. Welcome to kanji and machine Japanese translation!

Editorial Department: What are the specific differences?

Tono: The biggest difference is the concept of "original sound". With headphones for listening, for example, when listening to a performance in a hall, the goal is to create a realistic sound that includes the reverberation of the hall, as if you were listening in the audience seats. However, what engineers and artists were looking for was the sound that they always listen to. In other words, the sound that performers hear directly when singing or playing.

As musicians will understand, humans adjust the pitch, volume, and tone of their own sounds while listening to their own sounds. For example, with vocals, we make changes to the sound we hear based on the voice we always hear. If the sound of our own voice coming back to us through monitor headphones sounds shrill, we unconsciously sing softer... that's how it is. That's why it's very important to monitor with the sound that we always hear.

This isn't just a story for musicians and engineers. When you talk to someone wearing headphones or earphones, they talk to you several times louder than usual. I'm sure many of you have experienced this. If humans don't know exactly what kind of sound they are making, they can't make the appropriate adjustments.
 
These are very much like the Yamaha NS-10. They measure poorly yet are widely used even to this day in Asia for music production decisions. They are still in production!

【インタビュー】SONY”MDR-CD900STを創った男”投野耕治氏インタビュー!

e☆イヤホンのはまちゃんです!2017年も、もう少しですね!今年のクリスマスの予定は決まっていますか?僕のクリスマスの予定は、バンドでレコーディングです!最高です! 本日は!
e--earphone-blog.translate.goog
e--earphone-blog.translate.goog

“The consumer MDR-CD900 was released in 1985 and production ended in 1990. MDR-CD900 has a folding mechanism and is a curl cord. Overseas, it is sold under the model number "MDR-V6" with slightly different specifications.

At the time, the monitor headphones used at the CBS/Sony studio in Shinanomachi had a fairly round sound, and although voices could be heard well, I felt it was lacking. After all, I learned that the voice has a very high priority in the studio, and that the timbre is what matters, so I started creating the sound of monitor headphones for the studio based on the MDR-CD900. During development, digital recording was also just beginning, and we wanted to find new sounds.

Three years after the MDR-CD900, we developed a new headphone called the MDR-CD900CBS (1988) for use only within CBS/Sony's Shinanomachi and Roppongi studios. The sound is different from the original MDR-CD900, but I think it's more advanced than the studio headphones of the time.

While we were creating the sound in the studio, we talked about how we were concerned about the sharpness of the low range, and while we were talking about it, we even poked holes in the headphones with a pencil to make fine adjustments.

After completion, the sound of the CBS/Sony Studio headphones gradually became popular with musicians, and the headphones were not only used at the CBS/Sony studios, but were also sold to other studios. At that time, you decided to name it MDR-CD900ST.

That may explain why that many Japanese albums sound terrible.

I just practically refuse to listen to more Japanese music. I'm tired of dynamic ranges of 4dB and deafening trebles. It is a shame, because there are really good bands from there, but their production made the albums unlistenable.
 
Here, you see one of the singers using the CD900ST while recording.

Tracking and mixing are completely different situations and therefore have different requirements. I think we can safely assume that they have not made any meaningful mixing decisions using these headphones as a reference.

Most of the studios I've been to in France all had a few DT-770s lying around so that musicians can hear the mix over their own performance (whether playing or singing) without getting spill/bleed from the mics. For this they are good enough. But no one ever plugs them in the control room, fortunately :D
 
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Tracking and mixing are completely different situations and therefore have different requirements. I think we can safely assume that they have not made any meaningful mixing decisions using these headphones as a reference.

Most of the studios I've been to in France have a few DT-770s lying around so that musicians can hear the mix over their own performance (whether playing or singing) without getting spill/bleed from the mics. For this they are good enough. But no one ever plugs them in the control room, fortunately :D
As always, it is a fallacy to assume that headphones that get used during the music production process (not even during mixing) are also suitable for music consumption. It's all that "as the artist intended" stuff and completely ignoring the fact that there are usage scenarios very different from recreational listening, with very different constraints and priorities.
 
Listening to these again post measurements (I have two pair), I am struck by the knowledge that I know the bass and treble are rolled off, but I genuinely like the sound. If you think about pianos, a Steinway sounds different than a Yamaha (
)

Maybe it’s something about my ears and the HRTF for me being different than the HATS? It doesn’t sound like my Truthear Crinacle Zero in FR response, but I cannot say that I dislike the CD900ST — just that’s its different and in many cases, more enjoyable.

I wonder if the group delay is playing a role? The CD900ST does well here given the driver and stock ear pads.

Or it’s all sighted bias!

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Macross always gets top talent for the music for all of its various spin-offs. I'm generally a fan of lots of the music, but not so much the series itself. Sadly, the same with the Gundam series as well.

They do seem to be the "go to headphones" for lots of anime as well as non-anime studio work.



Problem with the above is I can't confirm the exact Sony model used. They look the same from what I can see.

CD900ST is the go-to Head Phone for The First Take (Run by Sony Music), Sony allows its artists to use other products in the production, but nearly all of them choose to use CD900ST, almost none of them even bother to use the latest version M1ST because it just sounds objectively worse. Artists in Japan love the can and it can be found in nearly every major studio in Japan.
 
As a monitor , for people with small pinnae almost flat to the head, I can fully understand this headphone to be the choice over the MDR7506.
It isolates the mids nicely which is handy for singers and instrumentalists. Yes, even bass players.

I am quite certain no mixing is done on these headphones though and if someone did that I am sure they know how to translate the sound they hear to a good end product.
It could well lead to recordings with lots of deep bass in it and some brilliance and clarity.

Voices would sound very good and at somewhat louder levels not 'harsh' when using it as a monitor and the ST stands for STudio. It is a purpose made tool. A hifi headphone it is not.

CD900ST-1024x464.jpg
 
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