Sony MDR-1R review: Rich sound with bass prominence

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MSRP: $299.99

The Good The Sony MDR-1R Premium Headphones' full-size, over-the-ear design and supple leather earpads lend a luxurious feel to an extraordinarily comfortable pair of headphones you can wear for hours at a time.

The Bad They don't fold flat for compact storage.

The Bottom Line It's true that Sony's MDR-1R headphones come with a lofty price tag, but if you're searching for highly accurate-sounding headphones with style and substance, they deserve your attention.

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8.1 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8

At a price of $300, Sony's MDR-1R Premium Headphones are meant for the luxury headphone market. The elegant, distinctive design features large, plush earpads that apply just the right amount of pressure to your ears, and design details like the aluminum earcups and supple leather are a step up from what you find on glossy plastic headphones such as the Beats by Dr. Dre Studio. The Sony MDR-1R headphones' seriously potent bass is commendably free of boom or bloat, and the exceptional dynamic punch and clarity will satisfy even the most demanding audiophile tastes.

Design and features
The MDR-1R headphones are full-size and over-the-ear, with racetrack-shaped ear cushions designed to completely enclose your ears (that's not always the case with full-size headphones). The user-replaceable ear cushions are unusually soft and pliant, so the MDR-1Rs are quite comfortable and provide a better-than-average seal to block external noise.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While I found the MDR-1R headphones supremely comfortable, CNET editor Justin Yu felt that the inside part of the earcups pressed against his ears, a discomfort that detracted from the listening experience. These varying reactions demonstrate how difficult it is to predict how universally comfortable any given pair of headphones will be. The MDR-1Rs weigh 8.47 ounces (240 grams), which is about average for headphones of this type.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The fit and feel of the MDR-1R headphones are excellent and the leather cushions exude quality. The metal earcups pivot horizontally and vertically, and the pivoting range is greater than usual. Even the gunmetal-gray earcup yokes, which are plastic, feel sturdy.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Rather than firing the 40-millimeter, dome-type Liquid Crystal Polymer Diaphragms directly into your ears, the headphones' drivers are offset at an angle to approximate the sound coming from in front of you. I never noticed that design detail before, but some Sony headphones have used angled drivers since the late 1980s.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony claims the Liquid Crystal Polymer Diaphragms are capable of delivering unusually high frequencies, up to 80kHz -- that's more than three times higher than most high–end headphones. Though very few people can hear frequencies over 20kHz, Sony's engineers are nevertheless interested in making a design that can reproduce the frequencies we can hear with exceptional accuracy.

The MDR-1R design doesn't have a hinged headband so it can't collapse into a small bundle, but the earcups do fold flat.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The MDR-1R headphones come with two 47-inch-long cables: one with an Apple-compatible remote and microphone and another "plain" cable. The cables terminate in 3.5mm plugs at each end, and they connect to the headphones' left earcup.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Accessories include a soft carrying case and a 6.3mm gold-plated adapter jack, and headphones come with a one-year parts warranty (90 days for labor). Proof of purchase is required to make a warranty claim.

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