Sony MDR-1000X Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones Measurements

Measurements Wired ANC Active
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Measurements Wireless ANC Active
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Measurements Wireless ANC Off
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Measurements Wired Passive
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Lot of graphs here, let's start with the Wireless ANC Off. Raw frequency response plots show the headphone is sealing well in all positions and plots are very consistant. Bass shows a modest and nicely shaped bass emphasis to 200Hz which is just slightly high. Subsequent response a bit rough but flat (or slightly down hill) to 1.4kHz. The bad news is that from roughly 600Hz to 1.5kHz the curve should be running slightly uphill to give the cans appropriate presence.

The peak at 4kHz is slightly high in frequency but about the right level. Subsequent treble fall from 4kHz to 10kHz is just slightly hot, but in listening didn't seem too out of proportion as it seems to balance out the recessed presence region a bit.

The overall roughness of the plot and course 300Hz square wave indicate the somewhat grainy sounding treble heard. Response drops like a rock after 10kHz in wireless modes, but is apparent in wired modes. Seems like the Bluetooth is clipping off the top octave. Fortunately, I guess, you really can't hear it as the graininess gets in the way of good resolution.

30Hz square wave is a bit swayback and THD+noise plot shows some low frequency distortion. I did hear this mode as slightly looser sounding than ANC active modes. Looking at the bass in the raw frequency response, 30Hz square wave, and THD+noise plots of the wired ANC Active mode it's readily apparent that the noise canceling circuit does a lot to improve the quality of bass response. However, THD+noise plots show significant added noise evidenced by the elevated, noiseless horizontal lines.

Wired passive plots show a headphone with a very big bass hump, too much energy at 4kHz, and a clear notch in the presence region at 1.2kHz. 30Hz square wave has a big swayback, and THD+noise shows a very big rise below 100Hz. The MDR-1000X sounds pretty bad in this mode.

One thing to point out, however, is that the curve looks smoother in this mode than the roughness seen in the noise canceling active modes that seems to give it a more grainy sound. It seems to me manufacturers may be well served by making the headphone sound good in passive mode so that the DSP doesn't have to work so hard on corrections, which possibly causes the the coarseness and unevenness in corrected response.

Impedance in wired active mode shows a dead flat 48 Ohms indicating an input terminating resistor simulating a normal headphone load. This is a good idea as it will ensure a stable load for the headphone amp to drive. In passive wired mode the headphone's impedance is an surprisingly low 16 Ohms.

ANC active modes show about 24dBr isolation, which is quite good, but not quite as good as the Bose QC 35's -28dB.

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zubkabera's picture

I have never come across any site or hifi magazine which has denied the fact that Sony has trumped Bose on Noise cancellation. Even Steve Guttenberg has acknowledged also all believe the SQ although on warm side beats Bose. So either your unit was defected or you've made a bad call ;)

Pro7omize's picture

Yeah, this review is of a defective pair. The Sony's sound better than the QC35 to my ears and everyone else I let hear when comparing the two.

Apothecary2's picture

Or maybe people have different preferences.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Well, the first half of your comment is simply invalidated by the measurements. The Bose simply has better isolation than the Sony. Regarding the second half of your comment, if they can't get it right on something that's relatively easy to measure, I don't really expect them to get the more subjective things right. It's possible folks are just tired of saying Bose is the best and want a band wagon to jump on.

The Sony is good sounding, just not as good, IMO.

steaxauce's picture

Hi Tyll, I enjoyed your review. I'm a little surprised you didn't like these as much as I did, but I agree they're a little veiled. Haven't gotten to try the QC35.

I wonder if this method for measuring isolation is sufficient for active headphones. Is it possible some of these circuits have an easier time with constant background noise than with transient sounds like voices? I remember another reviewer saying the Bose worked better on planes, but the Sony did better in other places, like at the office.

This review also makes me pretty confident that both the N90Qs I've received have been faulty. They both had significantly higher background noise than the 1000X and weren't nearly as good as noise cancelling. I'm sure a working one would be great, but I'm about ready to give up on that headphone.

brause's picture

Got the QC-15 on frequent flyer points. Will outlast all the above models as its AAA battery is replaceable. Good enough!

Spankey00's picture

I waited for this review for some time and I'm happy to find that Tyll's findings were the same as mine. The headphones were not defective at all. These are very good headphones but I found the mods to be veiled. Vocals had a bit less bite. I A/B'ed the Sony's with the Bose for an entire weekend listening to as many different styles of music possible. The QC35's were always the more natural sounding headphone. The Sony's were a bit more "processed". This review was right on. My ears are in good company.

dreamer2976's picture

I desperately wanted to like Sony MDR-1000x for its rich feature set. But alas, after A/B-ing over a few occasions over a period of 2 months, I decided to go for Bose Qc35 due to: 1. Superb comfort (no other closed headphones can match QC35's comfort, 2. Simplicity and Reliability (it just works! Bluetooth connection is stable and strong, buttons are easily to operate and they just do what i wanted - play, pause, fast forward, rewind, take a call, end a call, operate Siri, check battery %, volume up, volume down. No gimmick, they just work, phew!), 3. Sound quality (while many online reviewers have preferred 1000x, I find them too "processed" and uneven, almost unpredictable). They sound good for some songs, but would be too bass heavy or too bright for others. The QC35's are neutral and natural sounding, with good details and reasonable bass. They obviously can't compare with my Focal Utopia or Senn HD800, but the QC35's are darn good at they should do -- being a pair of excellent sounding and comfortable wireless noice-cancelling headphones.

Dadracer's picture

I found the Bose QC25 and 35 to still have the best NC. In comparison to the Sonys in terms of sound quality I could not pick a winner as the Sony had better bass and the Bose better midrange and neither one had a great treble. So I tried the Sennheiser PXC550 and preferred these despite the dire warnings of a spiky treble. The Sennheiser still don't have quite as good NC as the Bose but the sound quality is a deal better and they image better too. Just my experience.......

david smith89's picture

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larryblock's picture

I feel as though Sony's ANC products in the last couple years have kinda gone off their rockers into some questionable choices. This concerns two products: the overhead 1000X, and Sony's most modern in-ear ANC product, the MDR-EX750NA.

Compared to last-gen Sony ANC products, it's like they chose a specific kind of ANC "white noise" to appeal to some people's hearing, so that the effect appears stronger than it really is. So when the EX750NA came out, a lot of less-experienced accounts started to go on and on about how it's stronger than the QC20 - except it's not. Even with a dual-mic (both feed-back and feed-forward) setup, it is not stronger than the AFAIK single-mic QC20.

I've auditioned the 1000X extensively against the QC35, and while the contest is much closer, I also take issue with the kind of ANC silence Sony's chosen. To me subjectively it's a poor choice, compared to Bose's more conventional thing, it's just not very pleasant and gets penetrated very easily.

There's a whole chorus of people out there who are very defiant about the 1000X being better than the QC35. Me, I think they need to remember not every ear hears the same.

I wonder if Sony's perhaps lost their previous ANC engineers because there's such a break in their attitude to the design decisions in here. And the new crew are so inexperienced they've made all kinds of amateur mistakes, down to the basics like interface, weight balance and pad choice.

These Sony products are built to look good on PowerPoint and wow on first contact, full to the brim with gimmicks and acronyms. However if measured, or even just thrown against enough noise, the bubble bursts right away. One may even say given Sony's history (claiming first to the consumer ANC market ahead of Bose, cough cough), they ought to be more creative than simply copy Bose's "product mix," but that requires a post of its own.

Thanks for letting me vent and I hope I've managed to be helpful to the discourse in some way.

wertzius's picture

I am not sure if you can measure the NC capabilities of the Sony in a simple way. The Sony uses 3 different NC modes: Plane, Office and Bus/Train. In each mode it blocks other frequencies. That is one reason why you should start the NC calibration when your enviroment has changed.

The bluetooth capabilities of the Sony are a little bit underwhelming. You can only use one device for a role (media/phoning) at a time but ibgot used to it.

Overall i love the Sony ;-)

Spankey00's picture

I actually prefer my Beats Studio 3 to both the Sony and Bose by overcoming the weak points of both.

While I do prefer the Bose over the Sony, I still don't love them. They will mostly be used for the beach as they are very lightweight and still can't be beat for comfort.

meringo's picture

If I were to buy a mustang for 25k and a Jaguar F-type for 200k, then compare them, my guess is that the F-type would come out on top. But if I were to compare them again, restricting the Mustang to 20mph, I bet my feelings may be compleatly different. Why the heck would you review the 1000x without testing/evaluating LDAC -- That huge selling point that makes a drastic difference. Please add something in, as this whole review is kind of shot without it. Also -- The NC measurements are not as solid as suggested... Your testing environment is a testing environment. I don't know about you, but I use my headphones in the streets, on trains, on airplanes.... I didn't know you could replicate those conditions so well in a lab! I usually love and respect the reviews/comparisons here, but this one is really messed up.

tinyaudio's picture

the LDAC is only available with certain Sony products. Most people however will be using the MDR-1000X with an iPhone or an Android device.

Testing noise isolation the way Tyll does is perfectly fine for steady-state isolation.
Whether the source is an airplane engine or a bus engine or a loud train or - as in this case - pink noise from a loudspeaker, or a sine-sweep, is irrelevant for steady-state isolation.

tinyaudio's picture

"Unfortunately, the tap to the middle of the panel for pause/play and phone answering seemed quite unreliable."

That's because you have to tap TWICE :)

Sil's picture

I'm still very happy with the MDR1000X, which, in my experience, is by far the best NC wireless headphone available today.

Its biggest drawback, like all the Bose and most competitors, is that it's too expensive for very little electronics and an already well understood process (noise cancelling).

Its second drawback, which I find unacceptable, is that the battery is not replaceable. Like so many Apple products, this headphone is condemned to programmed obsolescence. In this price range, that's outrageous.

I find the build quality of the Sony vastly superior to most headphones, and I do bet that I'll get years of use out of it.

Comfort is pretty great for my big head, and the headphone does not make noise when I move my head.

Bluetooth pairing is a hit or miss. On my Windows 10 computers and tablets, the pairing is instant.
With my Yamaha audio receiver, I must regularly scan for it again.

Contrary to the reviewers, I like the ergonomy of the headphone.
I thought the touch interface a gadget, but it works in fact quite well.

Soarer's picture

After a few weeks of gentle and normal use the headband hinges at the earcup broke down. I live in Japan for many years and MDR-1000X costs here 38000 JPY. Worse, Sony brand service refused to repair it under valid warranty and wanted to charge an unbelievable 18000 yen for replacing the two tiny pieces of plastic holder of the earcup that look like small 3 cm Lego elements and cannot cost more than a few cents with assembly time, say 3 minutes.

I did something I should have done before purchasing this stuff. Since I suspected it was a build problem I searched the net and youtube with keywords:
"Sony MDR-1000X hadband cracked"
"Sony MDR-1000X hadband broken"
"Sony MDR-1000X earcup makes noise"
"Sony MDR-1000X has a build material issue" etc.

Wow, same problem for too many people. Obviously a defective workout and material. Sony arrogantly and stubbornly insists; no replacement, no refund, no free repair, no recall. My guess is they will eventually try to get rid of it with a big discount and will halt the production.

Soarer's picture

Sorry for some misspelling. Correctly:

Sony MDR-1000X is a big cheat
"Sony MDR-1000X headband cracked"
"Sony MDR-1000X headband broken"

Brad331's picture

Tyll, please review the newer WH-1000xM2! It has an onboard EQ option similar to Audeze's. It improves upon the MDR-1000x and is a good contender against the QC35 II.

Brad331's picture

Tyll, you might want to try using white noise and impulse signals to measure isolation, since those characterize real-world noises a little better than sine waves.