Monday, 13 October 2014

Sony MDR-1RMK2 review - Luxury at a more affordable price, but more is still to be desired

     The Sony MDR-1RMK2 has been widely lauded for its looks, and is now about to be replaced by the new MDR-1A which comes in a version that includes a built in DAC. With the 1A coming out, the 1R has potential to be of a great value as prices drop to make way for the new 1A.
Pros: Nice looks, luxuriously padded earpads, decent sound quality

Cons: Rather expensive for sound it offers, as competitors offer better, especially for neutral-sound-seeking audiophiles

     Cnet seems to like the sound of this pair of cans, but I definitely think otherwise. However, let's touch on the other aspects of these headphones first.

     Looking at the pics of these pair of cans, the thick earpads are almost immediately noticed. When I got the opportunity to see these pair of cans for the first time and to try them on, I was impressed with their dedication to providing the best comfort to the listener. However, the baffle plate protecting the driver may irritate people whose ears stick out more by touching their ears as the earcups are rather shallow. However, for most, it should be a very comfortable experience.

     The silver portions of the headphones can be easily mistaken for metal, but in actual fact they are plastic painted a really shiny silver. The matte black back of the earcups are also plastic, much to my surprise. this took away a little from the overall premium of these headphones, but its nothing really, though a few people may be irked by the lack of truely premium touches/finishes. The sliders for the headband have a solid clicking and is useful for people with serious OCD and want both sides of the headband extended equally (Just like me).

     The accessories are pretty sparse. A soft carrying case (a hard one would have been appreciated for the price) and two cables, one with an inline mic/remote for smartphones and the other is just a plain audio cable.

     Now lets move on to the sound. I found the sound easily likeable, though not the most accurate. It did well being driven out of a mobile device, as is their primary purpose, to be a premium mobile headset. The warmth in the sound was immediately noticeable. This warmth was not overly infused with a blown up low end, so audiophiles should still find the sound tolerable, but for the average listener, the added emotion to their daily playlists will serve them well. Also, vocals had a very rich, warm, involving and textured feel to them. Subtle inflections in low to high female and male voices were all brought out with an ease not all headphones can achieve. Vibrato in the voices was also very easy to listen to. Adele, Christina Perri and William Pharrell all had their vocals pretty well reproduced.

     However, the vocals (and generally the higher mid range) was emphasised quite a bit, and the treble, which was quite articulate and detailed but not very much present (rolls off quite early), receded into the background even more. The result was an intimate sort of sound, not a bright and airy one. This can be good for mordern music, which does not require a large soundstage to sound good, but orchestral and instrumental pieces definitely suffered. Bass also was not well done, having a mid-bass hump and a rolled off sub-bass, leaving the bass sounding flabby, slow and without any real punch or weight down low. Overall, I would say the sound is decent, but lacks the overall quality to compete with top contenders at the exact same price, such as the PSB M4U1 and the Nad Viso HP50.

     The MDR-1RMK2 brings to the table great comfort, decent sound, and great looks, which should please most average listeners, but audiophiles packing serious gear like USB DACs or DAPs will want something better for their everyday commute, and will probably turn to the previously mentioned two headphones. All in all, nice job by Sony, but more could certainly be done.