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Sony MDR-1A Reviews – A Good Hi-Res Audio Headset

Sony MDR-1A Reviews

Sony agreed in 2014 to upgrade its popular MDR-1R successor without altering the specification much, but has the sound changed? I checked the Sony MDR 1AS headphones (the ‘Silver’ / silver paint version of the MDR 1A) because I know how much its owners enjoy it; let’s see how it matches up against its predecessor and descendants.

SONY MDR-1A: High resolution audio headphones

Technical specifications

  • Helmet type: Closed helmet
  • Putting on the helmet: Circum aural, around the ear
  • Membrane size:  40mm
  • Foldable: Yes (swivel headphones)
  • Remote control / microphone: Yes, compatible with smartphones
  • Impedance: 24 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB / mW
  • Frequency response: 3 – 100 kHz
  • Cable length: 120cm
  • Weight: 226g
  • Sound Reproduction up to 100 kHz, 40 mm driver units with ALCP for articulate audio reproduction, 4-conductor cable for better signal separation and resulting sound quality, Ergonomic ear pads for powerful response and long-term comfort.Connectivity Technology: Wired
  • Compatible with 3 optional cables engineered with Kimber Kable, Silver coated OFC cable minimizes signal transmission loss, Beat Response Control for improved bass and transient response, Enfolding structure for wrap-around feel and improved acoustic seal
  • Inward axis structure delivers optimum fit, Silent joints won't disturb your audio experience, In-line remote and microphone for hands-free phone calling, Carrying pouch and cord length is 3.94 feet
  • Sensitivities (dB/mW): 105 dB/mW

Sony MDR-1A Overview


The MDR-1A are similar to their counterparts, the MDR-1Rs, in that they are sleek and unpretentious. This latest edition has a broader frequency spectrum, a “Hi-Res Audio” branding, a new aluminum-covered 40 mm diaphragm, and redesigned ear cushions.

The silver model has a lovely brown, while the black version has a lovely red line running along it. If you like headphones, there’s no excuse not to like this Sony version, which is eternal in nature.


These Sony headphones are surprisingly comfortable and lighter than our eyes imagine. The smooth, elongated pads curl around your ear. This closed helmet holds the sound inside, but we’ll see that it has a “semi-open” helmet philosophy in terms of sound.

The pads apply a level of pressure that is reassuring in terms of protection but not too close. These Sony headphones are a gift for long hours of listening because they are made of supple, pressure-resistant synthetic leather.

The headset is swivel, meaning you can wear it with the pads facing the collarbones, as opposed to the MDR-1R, which exposed them outward. It is not, though, collapsible.

Controls and cables

The remote control and microphone are combined into a single press, designed more for iPhone than Android, but both will work… Finally, “will work” is easily mentioned that this button has the worst user interface and is the least intuitive button in the world. It would be even less difficult to uninstall the phone and change the settings on the screen.

Otherwise, you can get the Sony Smart Key app from the Google Play Store, which should allow you to customize the remote control for Android devices.

There’s even a headphone cord that doesn’t have a control or microphone, and it’s this one that guarantees Hi-Res approval. Unlike traditional headphones and earphones, which share a common ground wire, this 4.40mm balanced link cable totally divides the right and left channels. As a result, signal propagation delays and sound leakage are minimized, and distortion and interference are reduced. This cable is the only one I use because the tone is firmer and more strong, and I dislike the other.


Sony also surprised us by using a patented attachment on the headphone, which seems to be a 3.5 jack but is really a little larger. The right cables for this headset with micro-remote control can be found on Amazon.

Sony MDR-1A Overview

Audio performance

Listening to this headphone is very harmonious; it has very little excess. I also disagree with someone who feels it has so much bass; the separation of the headphones enhances the sense of bass, but it is never dominant. Headphones that pound in the bass are popular in this group, and they don’t even encourage you to listen to guitar or piano.

Sony’s headphones will quickly transition from the swift and strong pace of AC / DC’s Back in Black to the smoother, more calculated rhythm of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. Agnès Obel pulled me into a deep listening session with this helmet. The echo is crystal clear and uncomplicated. With the MDR-1A, we start learning about serious music listening!

The sound is overall simple and uncluttered; we might simply blame it on a lack of equality in the harmonics; the crystalline sounds are not always equal in the treble, with some being inaudible, while others get louder as the volume is increased.

Sony MDR 1A frequency response

Sony MDR 1A frequency response

The MDR1A needs equalizer correction; a modest boost of 5dB about 14-15kHz, according to the curve, will be welcome. In general, the bass is well balanced. The suggested correction could help to prevent any disappointments with high-pitched sounds that would otherwise induce distortion around 8kHz.

The headphones have a THD of 1.6 percent at 90dB at low frequencies and 0.3 percent for the majority of the audio spectrum. This is very good for a helmet in this price category.

The headphones’ high sensitivity of 105db / mW makes for listening without the need for amplification, particularly because the impedance of 24 ohms is universal.

Aluminum coated polymer liquid crystal diaphragms in the Sony MDR 1A have more coherent and accurate sound across the entire frequency spectrum than a typical liquid crystal polymer diaphragm. This is because it achieves the ability to recover incredibly high and extremely low frequencies, well above what the human ear can detect. The Sony headphones therefore attain the estimates of 3Hz and 100kHz with very large dimensions, which are not exactly the tip but which we will never be able to hear anyway.

Is an amplifier necessary with these headphones?

No way! Because of its performance characteristics, especially its 105 dB (decibels) per milliwatts sensitivity and mild resistance (impedance) of 24 ohms. This headphone is designed to operate without an adapter on a walkman or smartphone.

I put it to the test with an Oehlbach nomad headphone/DAC amplifier, and the result is much too noisy to listen to even at low volumes.

This can be seen as a benefit because the need for amplification is more of a problem in an audio equipment chain than anything else.

Sony MDR 1A, evolution of the famous MDR 1R

True evolution and regression?

The 1R, the MDR 1A’s precursor, already had a decent reputation, and with good reason: it had a satisfying frequency response curve.

Sony MDR 1A, evolution of the famous MDR 1R

We can see that the latter was somewhat more balanced in terms of the full range used in the 6dB slice (barely), but keep in mind that the MDR 1A has all frequencies from 20Hz to 12kHz, which are the most relevant, under a 5dB threshold, and all low and medium-low sounds at 3dB… which is more compelling in the vast majority of instances.

As a result, the MDR 1A is an extension of the MDR 1R rather than a regression, as is often the case in business (selling the same product with cheaper components). However, the MDR 1A is not inherently equivalent to the MDR 1R; rather, it is unique and has a clearer cut to cater to the majority of citizens. Hold your MDR 1R if it still fits.

Sony MDR 1AM2: Worthy successor?

Unfortunately, Sony spent more time on the balance sheet than in the production offices in the race for change. This is how the Sony MDR 1AM2 box is evaluated, which does not change its architecture much but changes, not only in terms of tone.

The measurement of Numerics is final:

The measurement of Numerics is final

Between the highest and lowest frequencies, there is a disparity of 24dB in amplitude!

Since we have here a very bassy headphones up to 150Hz, we are very behind on instruments with peaks (wind instrument, string, brass…), an unforgivably shrill height around 8kHz, and some harmonics around 16kHz would be missed, the majority of the spectrum is not even spared.

Our tone is essentially V-shaped, which may be beneficial since our ears are more receptive to sounds between 500Hz and 4kHz, but with such amplitude, certain musical registers are difficult to achieve. This headphone can only be used for popular pop or electro music. Unfortunately, Sony has a lovely workhorse at a fair price, and nothing more new would be able to directly replace it… except for the brand’s fantastic wireless headphones.

Conclusion: Sony MDR 1A, a serial success

The MDR 1A headset has been continued in many models due to its popularity:

  • The Sony MDR 1A Limited Edition : Full black version of the headphones
  • The Sony MDR 1ABT : Bluetooth version of the headset with SBC, AAC and LDAC compatibility. NFC compatible.
  • The Sony MDR 1ADAC : Headset version equipped with a PCM 24/192 and DSD 128 compatible DAC with S-Master HX digital amplification.

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