Sony MDR-V6 headphones review: A classic headphone endures for a reason

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The Good The Sony MDR-V6 closed-back, full-size headphones sound great and are comfortable to wear for hours at a time. Their sound is also very well-balanced and crisp -- they sound great for the money.

The Bad With its coiled, pro-style cable and lack of an inline remote/microphone, some will find the V6s less mobile-friendly than more modern headphones.

The Bottom Line They may be close to 30 years old, but the comfortable fitting Sony MDR-V6s are arguably the best-sounding headphones for under $100.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Sound 9
  • Value 10

The Sony MDR-V6 definitely qualifies as a classic headphone. It was introduced way back in 1985, and while Sony has since released a string of "improved" and more expensive V6 inspired models -- the MDR-V600, MDR-7506, and MDR-7509HD -- the $109.99-list MDR-V6 is still available. (Sony's Web site lists it as discontinued, but it still appears to be widely available, and for well under its list price at that.) It's been a favorite of audio mixers; radio, film, TV engineers; and consumers for years and has managed to endure for nearly three decades without being endorsed by a hip-hop star or a pop singer.

Why are we reviewing it now? Well, we were finally getting around to reviewing its popular sibling, the MDR-7506, so I figured I'd have a listen to the "original" and compare the two of them, as well as some of today's top midrange headphones.

Since the MDR-V6 had amassed more than 900 five-star reviews on Amazon over the years, I assumed it would be competent. But after taking it for a spin I was a little bit surprised by how good it sounds -- and how comfortable it feels -- for its modest price point. It was not hard to see why the headphone was still in production after all these years: it just sounds and feels right.

Design and features
Most new headphones are packed in impressively heavy cardboard boxes, with thick flaps and snazzy product photography emblazoned on every surface; the MDR-V6 comes in a lightweight gold-toned box, with the headphone visible through a window, cradled in a bed of bright red satin fabric. If it looks like a throwback to the 1980s, it's because that's what it is.

The headphones are relatively lightweight for an over-the-ear model -- and very comfortable. Sarah Tew/CNET

The MDR-V6 weighs 8 ounces, which is slightly lighter than average for a full-size headphone. It's a mostly plastic design, but still feels fairly rugged. The outer ear cups are metal, it has 40mm drivers, a 63-ohm rated impedance, and the headphone features user-replaceable ear pads (new ones sell for $9.99 a pair).

Ostensibly a 'monitor' headphone, the V6 has an extralong coiled cable. Sarah Tew/CNET

The headband and racetrack shaped pads aren't as thickly padded as those on many new headphones we've tested, but comfort is well above average. Stretched out to the max the coiled cable is about 10 feet long, and it's permanently attached to the left ear cup. The extralong cable lacks any type of mic or phone controls, so the MDR-V6 may not be ideal for use with phones or portable music players. The cable is terminated with a nicely-finished 3.5mm plug; a screw-on 6.3mm adapter plug is included for use with home or pro gear.

The MDR-V6 collapses into a small bundle, and the hinges seem fairly durable. I like that the "L" and "R" markings are color-coded and easy to see in dim light. A no-frills black vinyl carrying bag is included.

The MDR-V6 comes with a 90-day warranty.

The included protective carrying pouch. Sarah Tew/CNET

Balance. That's my best one-word description of what makes the MDR-V6 so special. It does everything well: the bass-midrange-treble balance is nice and smooth, the sound is spacious, and it's easy to listen to for hours at a time. Isolation from environmental noise is quite decent, and no one near you will hear much sound coming from these headphones.

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