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The Best Headphones I Have Ever Owned

Sony MDR7506 Headphones

Sony MDR7506 Headphones

I grabbed the Sony* MDR7506 headphones on the advice of a single salesman, something I do not make a habit of. But he swore to me that they were the best headphones in my price range (under 100 bucks) and well beyond. Meaning headphones with much higher prices paled in comparison. I was told the reason they are so cheap is that they are so popular with recording gearheads and djs, that for Sony it’s all about Volume, Volume, Volume!! They sell so darned many of them, they can keep them reasonably priced.

And speaking of volume…

These babies sound SO good on a portable media player. Most headphones don’t achieve the volume and quality these do on an mp3 player, not even close.  I have read this is due to ultra low impedance (24 ohms) in several reviews of these cans, but buyer beware as the impedance is different in the current specs for this pair(reported as 63 ohms as opposed to 24). Either my ears are fooled, or I got one of the 24 ohms pairs before they changed them. In any case, the quality when listening on my Zune  (as well as an old Zen I have that still works) is just mind-blowing. And when I plug them into my Tascam, CDs are even better sounding. By leaps and bounds.

I wouldn’t normally review hardware, especially headphones. But it can be so difficult to shop for headphones, when I find something outstanding I feel I must report on it. And these are beyond outstanding. Now, I’ve listened to some expensive pairs in my time, and I do not recall all of them sounding anywhere as good as these. Maybe some, and just as, but in my memory not better. Another reason I feel I must write about these is that I know I’m a review source that people can trust. You will notice no links in this review (other than a link to a site with tutorials on encoding better mp3s) . You can look it up yourself on the search engine of your choice and find the best deal on these. In my experience, they can be had as low as 49.00 (dubious..) but more realistically on a good day in the right place between 60 and 99 (I did get mine for 50 bucks, but that was a special, partially haggled deal). My best advice is to pay attention to shipping and handling rip-offs and maybe shop locally. For that price range, these cannot be beat, period. Find a place where you can try them out, like a Music store that sells pro or semi-pro audio recording gear. To make it easier, bring along your mp3 player and some great sounding (320kbps or lossless) files and plug them right into your player to give them a listen. Worth the trouble.

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Some specs –

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Headphone Type: Dynamic, closed
Magnet Type: Neodymium
Driver Size: 40.0 mm
Frequency Response: 10Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance: 63 Ohms
Sensitivity (db): 106dB/mW
Power Handling Capacity: 1000mW
Plug Type: Gold, Stereo Unimatch plug 1/4″ and 1/8″
Cord Length: 9.8 feet
Weight: 8.1 oz.

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When I first tried them, even listening to mp3 files, I was hearing aspects of the music I’d missed in the past. Even things perhaps engineers missed during mastering, or assumed no-one would ever notice. The sound of mics bumped, paper, mechanical noises from live instruments, being able to fully distinguish background vocals and various other previously missed details. (it was fun in one case picking out background vocals that were dubbed with the lead vocalist himself , then actually noticing when the guitar player was singing as well) Astounding! Did I use that word already? But then, after trying listening to a CD of a favorite album, I was in music heaven. It was like listening to it for the first time again. To be honest, it reminded me of how far back we’ve all gone quality-wise, being so used to all this compressed music. Although these headphones can bring out the best of compressed music, they can also reveal the worst of it. But that’s not the fault of the headphones, that’s the fault of people who don’t know how to properly encode or don’t care. There are some good sounding 128kbps mp3s out there, as well as some not-great sounding 320kbps mp3s.

If I had to go the route of star reviews, these would get 5 out of 5. They sound amazing, are extremely comfortable after hours of use and really are good at preventing bleed from the headphones into the mic when you’re recording live instruments/vocals. And if you don’t mind wearing larger headphones when you’re out and about, they are stunningly good with an mp3 player, especially when you compare them to similarly priced cans meant for portable media players and mp3 players. Just cannot be beat. And they truly seem very durable, very important with headphones for me as I usually ruin a pair within a few months. Pretty bad stuff when you tend to buy decent pairs. These feel solid and have lasted a while already with some pretty rough and tumble habits. My only negative in this regard is that they tend to SLAM into themselves with a loud CLACK when you set them down, trying to fold in on themselves when not attempting to fold them on purpose. Just setting them aside. I fear that this repeated self-inflicted violence will eventually be the cause of their demise. We’ll see. So far so good. I’ve had them for several months and they still work perfectly and do not even have any cosmetic flaws so far. The included case is nice as well. At first I thought I would dislike the screw-on plug adapter (from 1/8 stereo to 1/4 stereo), but I have grown to prefer it.

So if you’re looking for decent, comfortable headphones that sound amazing and are under 100 bucks, these could be your perfect choice.

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*I have had these since right about when news came out that Sony was preventing alternative Operating System installs on it’s PS3 and suing it’s fans and enthusiasts. I will no longer be purchasing any Sony products, in spite of any superior quality or features until this policy is reversed. And when my ps3 decides to start reading disks again/is replaced (not gonna happen). I publish this article merely because it is a. the truth and b. is the product of nearly an hour of my time. Yeah. *sigh* Perhaps a good suggestion would be to purchase these cans from ebay only. I hear they are very tough headphones to ruin, so used perhaps isn’t a bad option in this case.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jproteus/431544304/

Image and this document: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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  1. criznittle
    April 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    i’ve been looking for some new headphones, these look astounding. do they sound any different when using them with various devices? (ipod/pc/tv/etc)
    i’ve had the same noise deflecting technology headphones for three years, i feel like i’m missing out… often times i won’t use a song because my headphones can’t seem to handle it, so i figure others’ headphones won’t as well.

  2. April 10, 2011 at 2:59 am

    They really are good. I use them with my Zune, just this week with a portable DVD player given to me that plays audio and mp3 CDs, a Tascam 24 track digital workstation and with my desktop and netbook computers. The difference is most notable on the Tascam, but the difference between a really nice pair of over-the-ear 100 dollar headphones (that I got at a 50% discount because they sat on shelves and were never sold.. mostly I think because they were PINK) and these is like the difference between the earbuds that come with an iPod and a pair of over the ear Bose headphones(which are nice, but not as good as these). Just a really striking difference. Night and day. I’m hearing details in the music (most strikingly with non-mp3 audio CDs) that I missed before. Even in what many would call lo-fi recordings. The bass is clear and strong, never distorted (unless the actual track was distorted to begin with), the mids are clear and never painful and the highs are bright but never tinny and overly sharp. I know we probably both get a lot of mp3s that are either encoded at sad bitrates (128kbps) or are somehow otherwise fudged up for whatever reason, and this is really the only bad thing with these…. in a sense. It makes those mp3s stand out like sore thumbs. Which is good, I think.. really. But it just makes me sad to hear a great song ruined by management or well intentioned friends that don’t know anything about encoding, or how easy it is to just make a high bitrate file. 😦 I get great songs from really nice people that just sound like they’re being played on a distant FM station, and the only reason is that thy were encoded at a low, crap bitrate. Why? I think sometimes managers and yes… even small labels are thinking “save the really high quality stuff for the CD sales and the iTunes downloads”, when really all they are doing is putting out crap as people’s first exposure to their artist’s music. That not promotion or representation, that’s SABOTAGE!

    Even though I hate some of the stuff Sony is doing these days, I still must recommend these cans. They are just amazing and the best deal out there.

    I’ve had a really, really hard time finding good reviews on headphones, too. It’s just so hard to trust the reviews out there and I’ve been burned SO many times. And have returned many pairs after just 5 minutes of listening because the specs on the side of the packaging just don’t come anywhere near the crap coming out of the headphones themselves. And they will NOT let you listen to them in the store in most places. There are so many headphones out there that claim quality but have muddy, distorted bass at medium-high volume and highs that just won’t cut through until you crank it up so loud that the bass starts to distort. And eq-ing the things won’t fix it either. (and is usually not possible in any real way on a portable player anyway)

    As you can tell, I’ve had problems with headphones for a long time and am pretty opinionated about them. But I think these cans really transcend opinion. They are just really, really good period. I cannot wait to get my iPod and try them on it.

    The distortion thing is something I run into a lot too, and it’s mostly because of the whole mastering wars thing, with everyone trying to be the loudest track out there. And if you listen to some of those tracks with cheaper headphones, it’s going to sound like junk. So it’s probably a good idea to have a pair that closely resembles what most people have around to preview things first and then use these to enjoy the tracks later.Or not. Either way… they gonna sound goooood.

    lol

    Sorry, I think that was more than my 2.5 cents. I’m just passionate about this stuff.

  3. Benjamin Wietheger
    December 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Wow really nice review, good job! 🙂 one question is the wire really over 2 meters long?

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