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Sony MDR-Z1R Headphone Review

PenguinMusic

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Hi,

The reviewer said it : it is quite an unusual headphone.

I happen to own it. As do I own other headphones that are following :
- Dan Clark Aeon Flow Closed
- Dan Clark Aeon Flow Openback
- Philips XR-2
- Audio Quest Night Hawk
- Oppo PM-1
- Oppo PM-2
- Sony MDR-Z7

The headphone is super confortable. You can listen to it for hours. It does not even get especially warm inside.

First thing that should be mentioned, is that you do not need a monster HP amplifier to drive this. I do not know the numbers but it is quite easy to drive.

I use the headphone coupled to a Shanling M8 DAP.
The M8 DAP is used as a streamer with Neutron app installed.
On Neutron you can use Parametric EQ and there are 4 profiles for this, including the one that has been mentioned here from Oratory.
In fact, I listened to the 4 PEQ profiles and I did not like the one from Oratory.
I tookl the one from Innerfidelity.
But I will for sure give the profile given here a try...

All I can say is, once I listened to this headphone I did not came back to other headphones and use this one alone.
I now know that it does not match the Harman curve... And that it is not a pro studio headphone.
But I don't care. I love it's sound and I like to listen to music for hours with this...
It's OK and you can call me stupid...

Regards.
 

GaryH

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On Neutron you can use Parametric EQ and there are 4 profiles for this, including the one that has been mentioned here from Oratory.
Those EQ profiles Neutron Player uses are not Oratory's profiles; they are AutoEQ's profiles, some of which are based on Oratory's measurement data.

Oratory's professional measurements (using a genuine industry standard GRAS rig, unlike the review here) and EQ for this headphone can be found below (without-EQ score 52/100):

 

PenguinMusic

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Hi,
Oh... thanks a lot. Did not knew that.
I will check those profiles and give them a try :)
If that increases the pleasure they'll be fine :)
Regards.
 
OP
Cuckoo Studio

Cuckoo Studio

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The headphones have a narrow Q peak at ~3kHz that's 7-10dB up relative to the frequencies right next to it.
If you, as a mixing engineer, don't perceive that as a peak, then I fear for your clients.
I have answered the same question before. Placing 1kHz on this headphone or a similar curve may cause some visual misinterpretation. The most important information of the Harman curve is actually the high-frequency boost around 3kHz-4kHz. So, to accurately represent the data without misleading, it is necessary to consider it too. This can be determined after actually listening to the headphones, as "warmth" and "distance" are subjective perceptions for most people. A narrower 3kHz peak is not necessarily a bad thing because in different HRTF variations, some people may have a narrower peak at 3kHz. Therefore, I am glad that the Z1R has this characteristic, as it would otherwise be a less objective headphone. I have also emphasized that it is not a professional headphone, but ironically, many Sony headphones that are marketed as professional are even less objective (they are not suitable for accurate mixing, but they work fine for monitoring by singers). When you pass by a Sony store, you can personally listen to the Z1R, and then our discussion will become more meaningful.

Lastly, my clients are very satisfied with my work and have been collaborating with me for many years. This is not something you need to worry about.
 

peniku8

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I have answered the same question before. Placing 1kHz on this headphone or a similar curve may cause some visual misinterpretation. The most important information of the Harman curve is actually the high-frequency boost around 3kHz-4kHz. So, to accurately represent the data without misleading, it is necessary to consider it too. This can be determined after actually listening to the headphones, as "warmth" and "distance" are subjective perceptions for most people. A narrower 3kHz peak is not necessarily a bad thing because in different HRTF variations, some people may have a narrower peak at 3kHz. Therefore, I am glad that the Z1R has this characteristic, as it would otherwise be a less objective headphone. I have also emphasized that it is not a professional headphone, but ironically, many Sony headphones that are marketed as professional are even less objective (they are not suitable for accurate mixing, but they work fine for monitoring by singers). When you pass by a Sony store, you can personally listen to the Z1R, and then our discussion will become more meaningful.

Lastly, my clients are very satisfied with my work and have been collaborating with me for many years. This is not something you need to worry about.
Looking at the compensated graph, there is not much room for visual misinterpretation imo (which is why we should not look at raw data, because it is deceivingly misleading. A trap of the sine illusion!).
4gCko2O.jpg

Thx to @Maiky76 for the graph.

Apart from the hump at 150, we have the spike at ~3k. And it's not a "narrower ear gain region" either, since this is a compensated graph, this is *on top* of the ear gain from the Harman target.
Even your own included 10 HRTF examples show that this region seems to stay rather untouched by interpersonal variation.

1694431122099.png



[...] I am glad that the Z1R has this characteristic, as it would otherwise be a less objective headphone. [...]

I'm not sure why you're trying to 'defend' these headphones. They're badly flawed and there is no way around that.
 

markanini

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I'm not sure why you're trying to 'defend' these headphones. They're badly flawed and there is no way around that.
I'm not sure why you seek affirmation of graph features, from someone sharing his hands-on impressions. It's a schoolbook example of inductive reasoning.
 
OP
Cuckoo Studio

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Looking at the compensated graph, there is not much room for visual misinterpretation imo (which is why we should not look at raw data, because it is deceivingly misleading. A trap of the sine illusion!).
4gCko2O.jpg

Thx to @Maiky76 for the graph.

Apart from the hump at 150, we have the spike at ~3k. And it's not a "narrower ear gain region" either, since this is a compensated graph, this is *on top* of the ear gain from the Harman target.
Even your own included 10 HRTF examples show that this region seems to stay rather untouched by interpersonal variation.

View attachment 311287




I'm not sure why you're trying to 'defend' these headphones. They're badly flawed and there is no way around that.
Actually, I haven't done any maintenance on it. I mentioned its advantages and disadvantages, and I shared its sound objectively. Based on HRTF data, I presented a more tolerant perspective on headphones. I respect that you prefer headphones that closely adhere to the Harman curve. In fact, I would also use such headphones for professional work. However, it doesn't mean that headphones that don't fully adhere to the curve are worthless. The Harman curve is an average and cannot represent the characteristics of everyone's ears. But it serves as a good "middle ground," and the curve extracted from it can provide a visual representation of a headphone's characteristics.
If you carefully examine the HRTF graph I provided, you will notice that there are indeed narrow high-frequency peaks, and this is only a small part of it. HRTF data consists of thousands of variations, and you will discover more differences. Interestingly, although the biggest differences are above 8kHz, there can also be approximately 5-6dB variations among different individuals around the 20-3000Hz range. So, if a headphone has fluctuations within 3-6dB in certain frequency ranges, it is reasonable sometimes. However, compared to the Harman curve, which represents the average, they might be perceived as "slightly distant," "slightly bright," or have some other characteristics.
I am open to engaging in long and in-depth discussions with you. I believe that most people also recognize that there is a lot of room for discussion when it comes to headphones, considering that the differences in simulated human pinnae are much greater than those of free-field microphones. But please, let's start conversations with others in a friendly manner, rather than attacking their work with a single sentence. Thank you.
 

peniku8

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I am open to engaging in long and in-depth discussions with you.
Sure, I'll drop you a DM so we don't pollute a review thread too much with underlying science nobody else cares about :D

Your points on the HRTF variance are all valid and this topic is more complex than a single curve as you correctly point out, altho my basic point still stands: if it looks like this compared to the harman target, it'll sound like this compared to the average listener.
 

peniku8

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I'm not sure why you seek affirmation of graph features, from someone sharing his hands-on impressions. It's a schoolbook example of inductive reasoning.
I seek affirmation in science, that's why I'm active on this website called audiosciencereview.com. If you don't care about the science, you can head over to stereophile.com :)
 

GXAlan

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If you carefully examine the HRTF graph I provided, you will notice that there are indeed narrow high-frequency peaks, and this is only a small part of it. HRTF data consists of thousands of variations, and you will discover more differences. Interestingly, although the biggest differences are above 8kHz, there can also be approximately 5-6dB variations among different individuals around the 20-3000Hz range. So, if a headphone has fluctuations within 3-6dB in certain frequency ranges, it is reasonable sometimes. However, compared to the Harman curve, which represents the average, they might be perceived as "slightly distant," "slightly bright," or have some other characteristics.

I agree. It is also helpful to see the Dolby HRTF for a perfect signal coming from higher than your ear height. You see the same “as high as 5-6 dB” variation to represent different people and as much as an 8 dB swing.

In this case, however, applying this specific frequency response results in the subjective impression that flat audio is coming from higher than ear level.

Since the Harman target reflects the “flat” perspective, it is possible for these HRTF’s to add impressions of sound coming from higher or lower. These irregularities, besides translating into something different to individual ears, may also be responsible for spatial effects that have been associated strictly with large diaphragms.
1694442472540.png
 

markanini

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I seek affirmation in science, that's why I'm active on this website called audiosciencereview.com. If you don't care about the science, you can head over to stereophile.com :)
I've probably participated in more double blind audio tests than you have. Being a graph-Karen serves zero purpose in favor of objectivity in audio. No one should ever be shamed for sharing personal impressions of a headphone, regardless if it lines up with a curve captured by an artificial ear coupler, or not. You're acting cocky like you know something. If you value knowledge you will learn much by paying attention to Amir breaking down the quirks of headphone measurement technology:
 

peniku8

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I've probably participated in more double blind audio tests than you have. Being a graph-Karen serves zero purpose in favor of objectivity in audio. No one should ever be shamed for sharing personal impressions of a headphone, regardless if it lines up with a curve captured by an artificial ear coupler, or not. You're acting cocky like you know something. If you value knowledge you will learn much by paying attention to Amir breaking down the quirks of headphone measurement technology:
I was already expecting such an out of place, misinterpreted response. Yours be the honor of being the first person I block on ASR.
 

Robbo99999

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View attachment 310930
Welcome to Cuckoo Studio review. I'm Anzol. The following content is presented from the perspective of a mixing engineer.

Measurement Conditions Explanation And Chart Interpretation Of Cuckoo Studio Review​


We have received the Sony MDR-Z1R headphones sent by WSGM. appreciate his support for the channel. Let's take a look at the performance of these flagship headphones.

View attachment 310929

The Z1R comes in two versions: the in-ear version called IER-Z1R and the over-ear version called MDR-Z1R. Both of them are quite expensive, with the over-ear version consistently priced around $1500. The design direction of the MDR-Z1R is minimalist. It features an all-black body with no flashy elements. However, the large, non-centrally symmetrical raised fine mesh grille on the back gives it a strong sense of identity while remaining understated.

View attachment 310933

The L&R markings are on the inner side, and the adjustment of the headband tension is very smooth. The angled driver design often seen in flagship headphones is also present. The cable is detachable, and a threaded design is implemented to securely fasten the cable. Despite weighing approximately 390g, which may seem heavy on paper, the dual-axis rotating design, along with the large and soft ear cups that can accommodate the entire ear, as well as the appropriate clamping force and cushioning on the headband, make it comfortable to wear the Z1R for extended periods without feeling fatigued.

View attachment 310934View attachment 310935View attachment 310936View attachment 310937View attachment 310938View attachment 310939View attachment 310940View attachment 310941View attachment 310942View attachment 310943

Let's take a look at its sound performance.

View attachment 310954
Raw data for ASR:
View attachment 310949
to harman 2013 without bassboost:
View attachment 310950
Frequency Response:
Using the Harman 2013 target curve as a reference, we can see that the sound of the MDR-Z1R exhibits a slight V-shaped curve. However, the transition from the low frequencies to the mid frequencies is relatively smooth. The overall attenuation in the mid frequencies can be controlled within a reasonable 6dB range. There are some variable high-frequency peaks that change with the fit of the headphones, mainly distributed in the airy frequency range. Additionally, there is an interesting peak around 3-4kHz that seems to closely resemble the human auditory peak, but with a relatively large Q value, This makes the "V-shaped" sound of the MDR-Z1R sound interesting and unique. It is a pair of headphones that keeps the instruments slightly distant from the listener but still within a natural range. In fact, this sound direction is quite clever. It easily pleases the ears of many curious first-time listeners, while also having a reasonably preferred range for serious audiophiles. It can be distinguished well from other flagship headphones with different tuning styles, such as the HD800 and T1, as they have their own distinct characteristics.
View attachment 310945View attachment 310946

The MDR-Z1R exhibits excellent low distortion performance. Overall distortion above 100Hz can be controlled within -60dB below 0.1%. Below 100Hz, there is some typical distortion that is common in dynamic driver headphones, but the amount is not significant. Even when pushed to the limits during testing, it shows a relatively low level of distortion. The left and right channels maintain a high level of consistency in terms of distortion. The individual unit quality control is excellent.

View attachment 310953
View attachment 310948
3D Mixing Space
The 6dB attenuation in the mid frequencies reduces the volume and creates a slightly distant feeling for the main instruments and vocals. The high frequencies, such as airiness and high-frequency percussion, have increased volume, but the amplitude is well-controlled. In terms of left and right consistency, the MDR-Z1R performs well among over-ear headphones, providing a solid center imaging. Apart from testing the internal assembly stability, the quality control and durability of the large ear cups are also put to the test. Thanks to its low distortion and neutral sound, the Z1R delivers a clean and transparent sound without introducing any additional coloration or smearing.

Subjectively speaking, as mentioned earlier, the MDR-Z1R provides a very interesting V-shaped sound signature. The slightly distant main instruments, combined with the subtle high frequencies and relatively emphasized low frequencies, make its sound very pleasing to the listeners. It has a strong sense of immersion and most genres of music sound enjoyable to me personally. For me, it is a typical example of a headphone that doesn't perfectly match the Harman curve but still delivers a great listening experience.

View attachment 310944

Like other flagship headphones we have reviewed, the MDR-Z1R is not intended for everyone. However, among similarly positioned expensive headphones, its understated appearance and restrained yet interesting sound personality make it even more impressive.
That's not the Harman 2013 Over Ear Target that you've got pictured in your review, following is the 2013 Harman Curve, it's the black line in following graph (from a Sean Olive presentation).
Harman Targets.png

You do mention though "without bass", so I guess you mean Harman 2013 Curve without bass hump, but then later in your review you keep referring to it as the 2013 Harman Curve, which it's not, probably best to leave the whole Harman 2013 description out of it and just call it your own curve, and then maybe an asterisk footnote that it's a modified version of the 2013 Harman Curve.

One other point, I'd probably move your target curve down by about 5dB so that it tracks the measurement in the 400-1000Hz area, which would better show the tonal characteristics of the measurement, ie it would show better the increased bass along with harsh treble spikes at 3kHz and above 7kHz - yeah so I'd move your black target line down by around 5dB:
index.php



My thoughts on this headphone: pretty horrible!
 

Fifoumed

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Hi,

The reviewer said it : it is quite an unusual headphone.

I happen to own it. As do I own other headphones that are following :
- Dan Clark Aeon Flow Closed
- Dan Clark Aeon Flow Openback
- Philips XR-2
- Audio Quest Night Hawk
- Oppo PM-1
- Oppo PM-2
- Sony MDR-Z7

The headphone is super confortable. You can listen to it for hours. It does not even get especially warm inside.

First thing that should be mentioned, is that you do not need a monster HP amplifier to drive this. I do not know the numbers but it is quite easy to drive.

I use the headphone coupled to a Shanling M8 DAP.
The M8 DAP is used as a streamer with Neutron app installed.
On Neutron you can use Parametric EQ and there are 4 profiles for this, including the one that has been mentioned here from Oratory.
In fact, I listened to the 4 PEQ profiles and I did not like the one from Oratory.
I tookl the one from Innerfidelity.
But I will for sure give the profile given here a try...

All I can say is, once I listened to this headphone I did not came back to other headphones and use this one alone.
I now know that it does not match the Harman curve... And that it is not a pro studio headphone.
But I don't care. I love it's sound and I like to listen to music for hours with this...
It's OK and you can call me stupid...

Regards.
Owning some référence headphones,
* how would you rate the openess of this closed one compare to the other opened and closed ones ?
* how would you rate or describe the detail listening, precision, layering, quantity of data, I mean the "technicality" of this headphone ?
Thx
 

stevenswall

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One of the top 3 worst headphones heard at CanJam 2017 for me.
 

lewdish

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It’s odd. If you look at the Sony MDR-CD900ST and the newer MDR-MV1 which are designed for mixing, the measurements are much more in line with the Harman curve. The Sony Taiyo factory which makes the CD900ST makes the Z1R too.

Having played a lot with the Dolby Atmos HRTF and my Dirac enabled HTP-1, I can say that the squiggles at 7 and 12 kHz did translate into height to a greater degree than I would have expected. It is possible that some of what Sony is doing is that same thing.

The marketing press always emphasized phrases like
“As a headphone that expresses the atmosphere of live performance”
And
“The aim of making the sound of this machine is not only to faithfully reproduce the sound envisioned by the artist, but also to express the "feeling of air" in the space where you are listening to music”

Which is different from the description of something like the MDR-MV1
“By reproducing sound sources neutrally with High-Resolution Audio capability, each sound element can be monitored accurately. It assists the mixing and mastering stages by facilitating capture of the feel of the venue and space, as well as changes in sound details.”

Versus a complete absence of the word neutral on the Z1R and focus on
“elevates the high-resolution sound experience from one you listen to, to one you can feel.”


The voicing was intended to replicate Mark Wilder’s studio

He used Duntech Princess speakers which I presume are roughly similar to these
I'm not the only one who's noticed that, apparently Dolby thinks so as well in the Dolby Atmos or Dolby Elevation curve which says it should boost 7khz and drop 12khz to create an HRTF effect that improves height imaging. Allegedly the greater the difference between these 2 peaks and drips the more elevated the sense of height becomes. However its rather hard to actually do it by tuning which is why its typically added in by EQ.
 
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