Late 2014 through mid-2015 was the Age of Sony.  Seemingly, those big wigs over at Sony HQ seem to have tossed great sounding headphones through our windows all too often, startling our dogs and cats into a panic…well, not so much the cats.   I’ve struggled to snag a set of their flagship Z7 headphones, had to fist fight an old lady for my set but I am happy I gave her the ol’ one-two for these interesting headphones.

The MDR-Z7

Sony has done a very good job in creating a very musical and fun headphone here, I’ve found myself enjoying this set for extended periods of time and through pretty much every application I can think of.  Gaming to Jazz, films to Metal: the Z7 is a genre master, no doubt about it.  Those who love musicality and fun should feel right as rain here and need to demo this headphone as soon as possible, but critical listeners should avoid it at all costs.  This headphone is very good and it isn’t without faults…but ignoring those faults is easy for someone who just wants to chill out and experience a very enjoyable musical headphone.

Musicality is a hard thing to come by these days and much to my dismay, it seems more neutral and critical headphones are being produced than ever before.  Luckily, Sony knows better and hasn’t forgotten that the core of this hobby is supposed to be about enjoyment and not being able to sit in your chair and say “yep, that sounds super accurate…so now what do I do?”  as you cringe at the harshness and hiss happening in your “reference” headphone setup. No question, the Z7 is a very well rounded headphone, but there are some details you will want to know before you purchase.  Hopefully, I can shine a light as a guide for anyone interested in purchasing.

Headband

Durability and Headband

The headphone itself is well built, sporting solid aluminum framework that feels both hefty and well crafted.  One can easily tell Sony wasn’t pulling their punches when they chose their build materials, they’ve done this before and I am sure they will do it again in the future models they release in the years to come. The earpads are made of real, soft leatherette and sport a design similar to MrSpeakers with a design that is raised thickness in the rear, thinner in the front.  This is done to help out with sound staging properties and I feel it does a fantastic job here, a nice contrast to the flat pads of the 1RNC as well as the 1R/A model.  The Z7 headband is a more rigid, thick cut of authentic leather.  As most of you are aware, I positively hate atrocious headband design and I must say that I dislike the Z7’s entire headband.  From top to bottom, it really makes no sense to me and coming of the nicer Oppo’s and even Sony’s former 1R series, it is hard to accept this piece of very firm leather they’ve opted to use.

Why?  Well, it is really tough and the furthest thing from soft and smooth that is possible.  I vastly prefer the 1R’s elegant and simple design in the headband area and I even feel the much cheaper 950BT portable from Sony to house a superior angle of approach.  Sony didn’t have to make this piece of leather so thick, but this is a common trend with flagship headphones.  Someone, somewhere at some type of meeting room table is talking about headband design right now, I assure you that person is pitching the design idea of making the headband thicker in the middle for some reason that escapes me.  The headband should be equal in proportions throughout, without a bulge in the center that is thicker than the far right or left side.  I really dislike it visually, but I find it plenty comfortable despite that.  Let’s discontinue these types of headbands, shall we?

Durability and Headband

The Cables

This headphone comes with a nice box, typical ¼ adapter and two cables: a stock cable that is very long and a dual 3.5mm balanced cable that is intended for usage with one of Sony’s balanced amplifiers.  They also offer an insanely overpriced, nonsense $300 portable length cable, although now it seems there are some shops that sell this upgrade cable for around $225.  This really upsets me quite a lot, this headphone is clearly tuned for portable usage and is efficient enough to be used with portable rigs, yet it does not come with any portable length cable.  The idea that Sony makes me choose either to hire a custom cable maker to craft me a portable balanced cable I can actually use or to purchase their expensive cable is just insane to me. This really makes no sense at all and I really haven’t the slightest idea as to why Sony thought it was a grand idea to simply not include a standard portable length cable.

The Cable

Worse yet, why they thought the balanced version should be a dual 3.5mm instead of an RSA/ALO or balanced 2.5mm instead.  Dual 3.5mm balanced adapters are huge, bulky and cumbersome and I can’t see anyone willingly choosing this type of adapter option over one of the smaller, balanced options out there.  The Z7 has dual screw on ports for cable entry, although you can use any smaller 3.5mm housing, such as a Rean brand, that will be well suited for your own custom cable alternative.  Sony’s stock cables come with screw on 3.5mm housings for audio left and right, I find them needless.  These are not going to be marathon runner’s headphones, so I can’t see the need for the extra protective measures taken to insure the cables never pop out randomly.  Unless you are some type of wizard who happens to fight dragons inside your engineering booth in the studio, this type of design is really needless.  Just give us a simple cable.  We don’t need anything fancy, but we do need something to use when we want to sit outside and enjoy the weather, travel or walk around the city looking for a girlfriend who is also interested in Hifi audio.

Page 2: Sound Impressions

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About The Author

Senior Reviewer

Self Proclaimed Musicality Guru, Photographer, Audiophile and part time Ninja. I started my audio journey back in 96' and haven't looked back. My ultimate goal in this life is to experience as many Hifi rigs as possible...because I am an audio addict.

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  • Jheys0n

    Hey Michael thank you for that review.

    At a price point of $400 would you recommend this headphone for it’s overall musicality and non-fatiguing fun factor?

    Cheers.

    • 24bit

      Absolutely, it would be a toss between this and the alpha dog from mrspeakers. Depending on your tonal preferences, of course, one or the other would suit you more than the other.

  • Buddha

    Just picked up one of these via Amazon Market for $300 refurb. I love my HD800, T1 and ESP-950 along with many IEMs. However, when I plugged these in I fell in love. Michael is right that the Z7doesn’t have the best in treble, bass or midrange. It also rolls off. BUT, they are so enjoyable to listen to they are amazing. Currently listening to Oscar Peterson plays the Richard Rodgers Play Book and it is simply wonderful. BTW, they are incredibly light. You forget they are on your head.

    • 24bit

      Thanks! Ya, headphones can still be fun and desirable even if they lack clarity. I’m a sucker for the Z7, no doubt.

  • Arnout

    I agree with this review. The reviewer’s Fostex TH600s would in my case be the Denon D5000s I compare my Z7s with and yes the Z7’s sound thick and slow in comparsion. The things you mention about Z7’s treble compared to the TH600s (in my case the D5000s) is spot on. But the Sony’s are so damn musical! While listening I forget the more ‘objective’ technicalities and just go with the tonality as it is, in that moment I reset my neutral reference and make the Z7s the new reference.

    • 24bit

      Appreciated! If only Sony stayed active and had interest in producing great headphones in the near future. They’ve fallen off the cliff, odds are good they won’t be back with anything awesome for years to come, at least not until the entire current board of execs gets fired. Sony has been falling down the hill in every media outlet they produce products in: movies, tv, audio, video, music, their marketing and PR team. All of it is failing horrendously so I don’t expect anything to match the human tuned Z7 for a very long time. They will be producing generic drivers without any actual human touch or love/passion into the products, mark my words and that is my prediction for the next half decade coming from Sony. They’ve proven this is every other avenue of their business model, so it will happen with audio products as well. What a shame, sure the Z7 wasn’t very clear, but neither was the HD650, yet thousands of audiophiles loved it. Same same with the Z7: a headphone objectively lacking in quality, but subjectively hits the spot.

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