Sony unveils next-generation 'premium' headphones

The new MDR-10 Series starts at $199.99 and includes the standard MDR-10R, the noise-canceling MDR-10RNC, and the wireless Bluetooth MDR-10RBT.

The Sony MDR-10R will retail for $199.99 and ships in October. It also comes in white. Sarah Tew/CNET

When we reviewed Sony's $299.99 MDR-R1 headphones last year, we gave them high marks despite their high price tag, saying they were "highly accurate-sounding headphones with style and substance."

That model can now be had for closer to $200, which is where the new MDR-10 Series will start. The new models aren't quite as swanky as the MDR-R1. Nor do they sound quite as good. But they are a little lighter, arguably more comfortable, more mobile friendly, and, in theory, more affordable (I expect that their street prices will come down after launch).

All three models have an over-the-ear design and I thought the two wired models I tried out briefly at a Sony preview event seemed very comfortable. The MDR-10R has a 40mm driver and is described as being balanced and highly accurate (I had a quick listen and it sounded decent, but the MDR-R1 has a richer, fuller sound).

The MDR-10R also comes in white (click image to enlarge). Sarah Tew/CNET

The company says Sony engineers and music artists "identified the critical 30-40Hz sub-bass region that is the signature of today's music styles and developed an enhanced Beat Response Control design for the new MDR-10 headphones, featuring a closed back for maximum isolation and exceptional bass response." (For $200, you'd expect nothing less, right?).

The headphone has a detachable cable and Sony also throws in a cable with an inline remote and microphone that allows you to make cell phone calls.

Next up in the line is the $269.99 MDR-10RNC, an active noise-canceling version of the MDR-10. Sony claims it "effectively reduces up to 99.4 percent of ambient noise" and it incorporates Sony's Automatic Intelligence Noise Canceling technology (push a button on the side of the headphone and the headphone analyzes the ambient noise through a built-in microphone and activates one of three optimal noise-canceling modes).

It offers 20 hours of battery life (AAA battery) and still works when the battery cuts out, which is something many noise-canceling headphones, including the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 and Beats Studio, can't do. Sony also throws in a cable with an inline remote and microphone that allows you to make cell phone calls.

Rounding out the lineup is a wireless Bluetooth model, the $249.99 MDR-10RBT. Sony didn't have that model on hand at its preview event but it includes AptX support, NFC (tap-to-pair) for phones that support it, and it can be used as a corded headphone if the battery dies (battery life is rated at 18 hours).

The MDR-10R and MDR-10RNC are due to ship in October; the MDR-10RBT is set to arrive in November. We'll review them as soon as we get our hands on the final shipping products.

The $269.99 MDR-10RNC is an active-noise-canceling headphone. Sarah Tew/CNET

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