Sony MDR Z1R Follow Up Measurements

A quick recap:

Jude and I agreed to exchange pairs and measure each other's headphones. I sent mine off to him, and received them back a few days ago along with his pair. Here are my measurements:

My Original Measurements

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

2nd Measurements of my pair upon return

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Measurements of Jude's pair

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

As you can see Jude's pair does have less energy at 10kHz, which was one of his comments. I'll note this is a prototype, not production, headphone. I still find it's measurements similar enough to mine that I continue to feel the MDR-Z1R is a significantly flawed headphone.

I have not heard back yet from Jude or seen a post of measurements of my pair, but I expect his measurements will be closely aligned with his other measurements of this model. It's difficult to compare his measurements with mine directly as he adds compensations and his head is significantly different. I suspect the differences may be due to the anatomically correct ear canal of his head that may produce lower Q ear canal resonances. I do not currently have an opinion if one system is more right than the other—but they are quite different. Thoughts and speculation are welcome in the comments below.

I will post a link if/when Jude posts measurements.

Argyris's picture

I don't find this surprising at all. Sample variation is certainly a thing from headphone to headphone, but it would have had to have been a pretty huge variation to significantly alter the conclusion on the Z1R. Different rigs, slightly different samples, and different people reviewing. Only one of these things is subjective, and that's probably where the biggest discrepancy occurred.

If nothing else, this is a good reminder for everybody: squiggly lines are only directly comparable to the other squiggly lines measured on the same rig.

jhanken's picture

I am saddened that so much perceived controversy has cast a shadow over what should be a fun, informative and [this is important to note], subjective exercise, that being sharing thoughts and opinions on headphones. One senses that until the various controversies are somehow all resolved, we must for some reason pause on the fundamental mission, exploring the world of headphones.

I continue to believe that Tyll is among the most interesting and entertaining writers on stereo equipment, period. I am hoping we can all declare bygones on all of this ASAP. I am a HUGE supporter of this website, and will continue to be.

BubbaJay's picture

I had a chance to listen to the Z1R for a few hours and I think it sounds really good. I think a lot of the hate for this headphone come from people that have never heard it and just go by the measurement and jump on the bandwagon to call it crap. Is it perfect, no, but it's a lot better sounding than most people give it credit for.

The way I look at it measurements can only give you a "small" piece to the puzzle of how a headphone sounds. Personally, I don't think it's as important as many do because it all comes down to how they sound, whether they measure good or not. I don't think I've ever taken into account how a headphone measured in my decision on whether or not to buy a headphone. I might look at it to get an idea of how much bass it has or how bright the highs might be but that never plays a part in my decision making. If I can't listen to the headphone then I find every review and impression of it as I can to help aid me in my decision. Maybe I'm weird but for me how a headphone measure isn't very important when getting a new one.

24bitbob's picture

I would like to agree with you, and I do to a large extent, but I think it's a truth that most people like to have their opinions reinforced by reviews such as Tyll's; or indeed people take the reviews offered by, e.g. Tyll, as a starting point from which they can make decisions. I know I do.

I ask myself candidly how would feel if I parted with $2,000 to find that Tyll had declared my purchase as significantly flawed. I'd have to put a very brave face on things. Alternatively, and from a different perspective of time, I'd also have to feel very flush with cash if I was to fork out $2,000 on a piece of equipment which was previously deemed to be flawed in a review, no matter how much I enjoyed the experience. Reviews and opinions do matter, or I venture that they do matter to most people.

I've never heard these headphones, but I've made other purchases and subsequently found them to be out of favour in reviews. However, and this is a point of concurrence with you I think, I've gone on to enjoy those items, in spite of, not because of a review or a measurement.

People drive flawed cars because they have 'character'. What's wrong with a headphone with character if they give you pleasure?

AlexFer's picture

> What's wrong with a headphone with character if they give you pleasure?

Absolutely nothing - as long as you know what the flaw is and you're fine with it. My spouse is flawed - don't mean I don't want to be with her.

TMRaven's picture

Would you look at that, Jude makes another erroneous assertion again. Who didn't see that coming.

brkitup's picture

I'd like to see these measured with your updated response curve. I think it would show an even bigger peak at 10k. I guess a lot of people find that kind of response "exciting", but I think I'd tire of it quickly.

naviicam's picture

He sounds like an informercial on every one I endured. While Tyll sounds like a passionate hobbyist. I know who I believe.

thefitz's picture

Both pairs have 300Hz square wave measurements that rank within the 3 worst I've ever seen (Ultrasone Edition 10 being #1 forever). The impulse response is similarly dreadful.

I'd argue that the 300Hz square wave is the most important "first glance" measurement there is - the slope of the square indicates how much bass there is, and sine waves appearing along the top of the square indicates ear-splitting treble. This is how you can easily tell the HD700 will make your ears bleed, and I can't imagine what the Z1R's treble would do to me...

Maybe's picture

If you look closely you can see that the 300Hz square wave on the 700 excites ringing at around 6kHz. Z1R on the other hand is predominantly 2kHz which I'd say is quite a bit more bearable, especially since the actual amplitude at that frequency is in line with the rest.

The Z1R is not that harsh, especially when you have some bass in your music. The masking effect induced by the low frequency boost makes the somewhat peaky treble less noticeable.

I tend to believe that the ringing at 2kHz is intentional to give vocals some shimmer, could be wrong though.

sszorin's picture

Yes ! Drivers over I'd say 55mm have problems generating sufficient treble frequencies [and those below 45mm size have problems generating bass frequencies]. You can see on the FR graph that there is a big hole where treble should be, that the sound pressure/volume from 3 kHz to 9 kHz is 2 times less from the base of mid frequencies, at least a 100% dip from what it should be. There is not enough treble going by the graph. Maybe Sony engineers did not tweak and adjust driver/diaphragm unit to get rid of usually unwanted extra energy exhibited as resonance at 2 kHz, as you say, to provide a bit of a false treble.,
When I asked Sony management about 2 years ago why they do not resurrect MDR-R10 they told me that Sony is not interested going back to its historic model but that they are working on TOTL headphones which will be comparable to the legendary MDR-R10. Can you believe it ? I am going to talk to Sony again on a matter unrelated to headphones but I will still tell them that they failed with Z1R.

maelob's picture

I owned the Z1R and I really enjoyed the sound signature of the headphone. By the way I only paid 1200 for a used pair. I think while measurements are important, there is also the subjective part and this headphone is a perfect example on how good a flawed measured headphone can sound LOL. How many people can't stand the piercing Hd-800 while a lot of people like them. So I think it is possible to make an expensive headphone that satisfied a specific kind of signature.

Martin.'s picture

I think you need to do more than just "satisfy a specific kind of signature" at 500+ USD, even more so above 1000, used or not. To say that it is possible to make an expensive headphone that satisfies a specific kind of signature is redundant. Of course it is possible; the question is whether or not you should be able to get away with it. I think a bit of research would give you a nice pair of headphones that could satisfy an itch without having to pay more than 500 USD. I understand that people with tons of money to spend would just grab the most expensive or fashionable headphone without thinking twice. If you're going for that, it doesn't matter what price you slap on it. For the average consumer, though, it's inexcusable to make such a product and expect such a high price for it.

maelob's picture

I understand your point, but I don't think this headphones are for the average consumer that will base their decision on measurements. I made mine based on what I was hearing. I might not know what is the best sound, but for me it sounded really darn good way better than the Aeon. But again that just my taste, and my hearing. Even when I go to classical concerts, the same piece can sound different depending on the orchestra, venue, recording etc etc. So again I just enjoyed the sound of those headphones.

Bern L.'s picture

Thanks Tyll for your follow thru on the Z1R measurements. Appreciate your work and effort. (Bob's too).


dumbasstyll's picture

Yes that's what he is.

tinyaudio's picture

you're embarrassing yourself.

SoapBox Sound's picture

The Mona Lisa is "flawed" because there are too many dark colors.

TallsFalls's picture

That would be an interesting simile if he were talking about a music composition. But he's talking about a pair of headphones, which work is to reproduce the music. Supporting a colored headphone is like supporting looking at paintings with colored glasses. Do what you like best, but you can't deny these glasses are flawed.

SoapBox Sound's picture

Your reply would be an interesting simile, if i stated somewhere in my reply that I "support a colored headphone". That being said, WE ALL "support" colored headphones, DACs, speakers, turntables, cables, etc., as every audio component is flawed and colored, at least to some degree. (and no, I DON'T support this particular headphone)

SoapBox Sound's picture

And as for your "colored glasses" analogy, ALL glasses are flawed, because they distort what the image(s) actually look like. In my case, my glasses would distort the Mona Lisa to look "normal", while someone else wearing my glasses, would think the painting looked too "sharp", while another person would think it looked too "soft".

Martin.'s picture

Glasses are not flawed, they do the job they are intended to do. Glasses are only flawed when they don't serve the purpose for which they are made. The reason one wears glasses is to correct vision. Someone's vision might be flawed and glasses will be used to fix that.

sszorin's picture

I graciously and with a feeling of charity towards a fellow man bring you the colossally important news about the fact that the sense of vision is distinct from the sense of hearing.

MartinT's picture

The ringing on the 300Hz square waves strongly suggest an unwanted and underdamped resonance as indicated by peaks in the frequency response. That ringing alone would put me off these headphones. I bought a pair of krk kns6400s based upon Tyll's measurements (no review though :( ) and even those £80 headphones have a (considerably imho) better square wave response than these Sonys exhibit..

samhuang's picture

I'm a Z1R owner.
I must say that Z1R is everything but bright/fatiguing.
And if you drive this kind of low impedance/high sensitivity dynamic headphone with normal headphone amp, it's gonna be a disaster.
Low impedance/high sensitivity dynamic headphone is very different from the high impedance one.
And I don't think Tyll have a proper amp to drive Low impedance/high sensitivity dynamic headphone.(Btw, if you drive Z1R with very "powerful" amp, they do sound harsh and the bass is gonna be out of control)

Luigi's picture

at the launch of the headphone i was in Fukuoka Sony store cause i wanted to hear the Z1r. The hp was connected to their hi end amp. what i heard was a beats studio 2.0, chubby and suffocating by intentions.

UKEssayPapers's picture

I loved the post, keep posting interesting posts. I will be a regular reader