2018 Sony MDR-1AM2 wired headset The MDR-1AM2 is an entry level, dynamic, closed-back, ''audiophile'' headset. It''s a significant leap forward from the Sony MDR-1A (which I briefly demo-ed in a showroom and was left unimpressed)....
2018 Sony MDR-1AM2 wired headset
The MDR-1AM2 is an entry level, dynamic, closed-back, ''audiophile'' headset.
It''s a significant leap forward from the Sony MDR-1A (which I briefly demo-ed in a showroom and was left unimpressed).
Ultra-lightweight (6.6oz), yet not obviously cheaply fragile, despite so many plastic shell components. Not highly travel-rugged, either (all plastic bridge and cup hinges are worrisome things that merit a two-year warranty, rather than Sony''s standard one-year).
Each 40mm, aluminum coated, liquid crystal polymer diaphram driver can reproduce the 3Hz-100kHz frequency range, with balanced overall clarity. (Normal human hearing is 20Hz-20kHz, with most people''s real hearing not as wide as that.)
Five co-centric Fibonacci-spirals form the pattern for the grills that protect these exotic, low mass drivers, supposedly without any sonic absorption/resonance issues that might dampen or color driver output. I''ll take Sony''s word on that.
Synthetic leather covered memory foam cup pads are super soft over the ears. The skinned ends of these pads fully extend around the *exterior* of each cup (almost all the way back to the hinges), rather than tightly slipping into the outer side edges of the cups, closer to the ears. I predict greater than average abrasion wear-and-tear, in this wrap-around region, as a result of that peculiar design choice. During handling, you will almost always be touching this area with your fingers and the thin wrap-around skin parts will also make contact with the inside of the headset bag that Sony provides. I''ve replaced enough Sony ear pads, over the decades, to be able to make this prediction.
''Balanced'' 4.4mm (audiophile) and generic, common-negative 3.5mm silver-coated, oxygen-free plugable cables come out-of-the-box. Each cable is 47-1/4in. The 3.5mm cable has an in-line microphone for hands-free smartphone use. (I made all of my tests using the 3.5mm cable.)
Other specs: 16 ohm impedance, 98dB/mW sensitivity.
The sonic resolution of the 1AM2 far overmatches most smartphones. It''s perfectly suited for listening to lossless, extreme HiRes 192kHz/24-bit FLAC, DSD-DFF, WAV audio sources.
Why the extreme frequency response for headphones, far beyond the range of acute human hearing?
Think advanced DSP processing of soundfields, where *constructive/destructive interference* of frequencies, beyond the range of normal human hearing, have *humanly audible net effects* (20Hz-20kHz) directly outside your ears. Think super-resonances and positional psychoacoustics.
Or, think audiophile headphones for dogs. Extreme high frequencies for the woof-woofers.
I A/B compared the MDR-1AM2 with my workhorse Sony MDR-V7, a personal favorite from my former studio/performance recording/mixing days.
The V7 is famous for having a very flat frequency response, with only a mild low-bass emphasis, that adds no coloring/artifacts when setting up for performance and/or recording and monitoring.
The closed ear cups on the 1AM2 and V7 are single piece enclosures, with no float between the smaller, hinged cap piece and the larger ear/driver mount piece. I always welcome fewer moving parts in an headset. Fewer things to rattle/break over time. There is slightly more exterior sound bleed emanating from the closed backs of the 1AM2 than the V7.
The closed cup V7 has 50mm evaporated sapphire drivers (which cannot be seen when looking through the mesh covering), a radially symmetric grill geometry, neodymium magnets, oxygen-free copper wire, 24 ohms impedance, 107dB sensitivity, reasonably flat 10Hz-20kHz frequency response, with a slight bass emphasis. It weighs ~11oz or so.
In the workflow of capturing and dialing in a final master mix, in studio (or in the wild outdoors), the V7 firmly supports accurate and detailed capture/mixing/balance of specific instruments during dense, complex musical passages. The V7 really helps with optimizing mic placements. I''d then spend hours switching between open air studio listening on Meyer Labs monitors and the V7, to EQ for a CD master and a vinyl master (greater tonal warmth and wider frequency response). I''ve replaced the V7 ear pads 4 or 5 times over decades of use, along with careful storage.
I prefer the steel headband, metal hinges and fold-in cups of the V7 over the all-plastic headband/hinges and fold-flat cups of the 1AM2. (Fold-flat cup drivers are best protected against accidental puncture/damage by an hardcase, not a soft bag.) The V7''s heavy duty coiled cord is hardwired 1/8in with a screw-on 1/4in TRS adapter. These are all important considerations for daily production and/or field use of headsets.
Once upon a time, I had very acute hearing, 15Hz-20kHz. I''ve done as much as humanly possible to take good care of my ears. At this point, my hearing is nominally ~15Hz(<-3dB)-15.3kHz, which is still considered ''excellent.'' My frequency sensitivity is fairly flat, up to a roll off ~13.5kHz-15.3kHz, with a slight bump between ~5.5kHz-9kHz, and bass roll off from ~30Hz. I mention this because I judged the 1AM2 against the V7 by ear only, not according to a dB meter. You may hear something very different with your ears. (When judging headsets, all that finally matters is what YOU hear.)
At any given gain setting, the MDR-1AM2 is significantly hotter than the MDR-V7. ''Loud enough'' for all day listening on the MDR-V7 is ''too loud'' on the MDR-1AM2, by nearly 3dB for me.
Test Sources (on YouTube)
ULTIMATE HEADPHONE TEST !!! (Wear Headphones)
Both headsets pass all distortion/phase/panning tests with flying colors.
MDR-V7: 22Hz-15.3kHz heard during frequency sweep; fairly flat frequency response, slight rise from ~140Hz, bass roll off starting ~30Hz.
binaural test: emphasis on clear voices, rear vectors not very pronounced during the pan, trebles are clear; soundscape is like a medium-reflective recording studio, you can hear it all.
music: mix favors vocals, bass is crisp & very tight (but not clipped), trebles are clear, you can hear it all.
MDR-1AM2: 15Hz-15.3kHz heard during frequency sweep; pronounced rise starting ~ 190Hz, slightly increasing through ~ 150Hz, then holding, until bass roll off starting ~ 30Hz.
binaural test: bass is significantly richer/louder, without submerging vocals/trebles, trebles sparkle a bit (not a bad thing), vocal clarity & timber is the same, rear vectors are more pronounced during the pan, overall soundscape is more open/airy (similar, but not equal, to open can headsets), you can hear it all
music: bass much more pronounced, but the overall mix/soundscape is still well defined and more spacious, you can easily hear it all
The 3D Audio Experience Will Blow Your Mind (Wear Headphones)
from Unbox Therapy
MDR-V7: overhead vectors are clear, side-to-side positional Doppler effects are very clear, rear vectors not as clear, radio playing in car interior sounds exactly right
MDR-1AM2: overhead vectors are very clear, side-to-side positional Doppler effects are very clear and, generally, more open and spacious, rear vectors clearly sound like they are coming from behind, radio playing in car interior sounds like it''s inside a hollow tree trunk (boomy)
Sound Test Dolby ATMOS 7.1 -9.1 4K (UHD)
from xxx micha
MDR-7V: overhead vectors are clear, side-to-side and center/side-forward positional Doppler effects are very clear, rear vectors not always clearly sounding as if from the rear; a balanced, if subdued, ATMOS soundscape
MDR-1AM2: generally very good positional Doppler effects all around, bass and trebles are hotter without burying mids/vocals, rear vectors are more decidedly from the rear; ATMOS soundscape is heavier and yet more spacious/lively
Known Music Sources (my collection)
Even with original recordings of acoustic instruments, made in acoustically deadened studio environments, the 1AM2 elevates natural note decay harmonics almost to the level of an extremely tasteful reverb. This is not distortion of any kind. It''s like vacuuming up the sound from the last moving molecules of instrument and air, for reproduction, in the way that a high-end PZM mic caputures them in the first place.
Even when you can''t hear fingers sliding on strings, using the V7, you can sometimes faintly hear this human artifact of making music, again, in a very tasteful, organic way on the 1AM2.
In these ways, the 1AM2 allows me to rediscover what I long ago captured, from the sonic perspective of the musician(s) who played those notes. This is surprising and pleasurable. Already great recordings sound clearer and more alive on the 1AM2.
Commercially Released Music
The vast majority of commercially released music that I auditioned sounds just fine, if not excellent, on the 1AM2.
For some highly EQ-ed commercial releases, the 1AM2 can over accentuate what someone else has already over-done, probably for less than ideal listening environments and/or lower-end equipment.
In that case, mids and trebles can become glassy and oversharp. If bass ''bottoms out'' in an ugly way, it''s because that distortion was in the mix, not a failure of the 1AM2. Not music I prefer to listen to, but some music I randomly sampled, that sounded more or less ''OK'' (but not necessarily great) on the V7. The 1AM2 will magnify imperfections in source materials.
I like both the MDR-1AM2 and the MDR-V7, but very differently.
For system setup/calibration/tuning and recording/mixing duties, I strongly prefer the uncolored accuracy of the V7. I would never use the 1AM2 for these jobs, because, although you can still hear everything, there are definite colorations and accents that would only complicate production/capture/recording matters.
For general everyday listening, I favor the 1AM2. That''s because you *can* hear everything, when listening to an already delivered/produced soundscape.
The art and science of *just listening* comes together with the 1AM2.
The low frequency emphasis of the 1AM2 colors jazz music closer to what the bass player actually hears within an ensemble (which I don''t mind). The spacious soundscape of the 1AM2 presents mids and trebles with clarity and presence, in the face of that beefed up bass, without resorting to a simplistic ''smiley face'' EQ. (I''m still going to EQ down 190Hz-150Hz a bit when using the 1AM2.)
The extreme wide frequency response of the 1AM2 much more distinctly conveys the rear sound vectors of Dolby ATMOS mixes. A whole lot of constructive and destructive harmonics, happening beyond the range of human hearing, producing vectored sonic cues that accompany whatever we really ''hear'' in the real world, seems to positionally leap out.
As a result, even though they are somewhat pricey (most headsets these days are, for what you actually get), I do recommend the MDR-1AM2 for uncomplicated consumer use. You can hear it all, with extreme presence.