Sony MDR-Z7

Score

Pros

  • Powerful sound
  • Wide soundstage
  • Very comfortable

Cons

  • Slightly soft mid-range
  • Unusually unchallenging at the price

Key Features

  • Review Price: £532.00
  • 70mm driver
  • Removable balanced cable

What are the Sony MDR-Z7?

The Sony MDR-Z7 are big,

super-comfortable headphones: what you should be looking for if you want

something for late-night movie-watching and game-playing. They’ll let

you listen away in style without keeping anyone else in the house awake.

They have a big, bold sound that doesn’t demand a perfectly

silent room to get the most out of. At a push you can even wear them

outside. Add in top-notch comfort and we’re onto a winner.

If

you’re out for the most revealing, searching sound possible, the soft,

caramel-coated mid-range of the Sony MDR-Z7 may not be quite what you’re

after, though.

SEE ALSO: Best Headphones

MDR-Z7
Sony MDR-Z7: Design and Comfort

The

Sony MDR-Z7 have the style to pass off as the sort of headphones you

might wear out on the street at a glance. Sony sure knows how to make a

good-looking headphone. However, this set is really much too large to

seem made for the purpose.

They’re even larger than the Beats

Studio. This is not a criticism, we just want you to know: the Sony

MDR-Z7 are really intended as indoors headphones. That said, they didn’t

fare terribly during the supermarket trip we treated them to in order

to test their isolation.

The real question is whether you can wear headphones the size outdoors without feeling like a twit.

MDR-Z7 17

Think

you can? Bear in mind the Sony MDR-Z7 are also not designed for top

sound isolation. While closed-backed they have big open vents at the

bottom of each cup, designed to improve the bass response and help get

you a bigger, airier sound than you normally get with closed headphones.

These don’t make the Sony MDR-Z7 leak so much you can’t use

them in the office, but mean they won’t do so well on the London

Underground. The isolation isn’t up to that.

MDR-Z7 11

Comfort

is quite terrific, though. Part of the benefit of not needing to be too

small and slim is that the Sony MDR-Z7 can use giant, thick-padded

cups, and generous headband padding. They are luxuriously comfortable,

helping to make the not-insubstantial 335g weight a non-issue.

As

you might guess, though, they’re not perfect for exercise. Have an

indoor gym you’ll want to use them in? Thanks to the depth of the pads

they handle the up-down motion of jogging pretty well. But any

side-to-side motion will soon see them give up their grip.

MDR-Z7 15

The

Sony MDR-Z7 are also very well-made, more so than they may at first

appear. Despite having the roughened texture often used for plastic, the

rear of the cups is metal,  as is almost every part of the headphone

not covered by leather. The few plastic bits are found right at the

bottom of the headband’s leathery covering.

They use synthetic leather rather than animal hide stuff, but it’s very soft and tough-feeling regardless.

Sony MDR-Z7: Features

If

you’re expecting loads of fancy features for your £500, you’re looking

in the wrong place here. The Sony MDR-Z7 don’t have wireless or active

noise cancellation. While they’re being launched with plenty of Hi-Res

audio fanfare, they’re actually just good old fashioned headphones you

plug in and that’s it, they work.

The one feature you do get is a

removable cable. They use standard or balanced cables, screwing into

each ear cup nice and securely. You get 2m and 3m cables, as well as a

light, fabric carry case.

MDR-Z7 13

Sony MDR-Z7: Sound Quality

Where

the Sony MDR-Z7 do start doing things is bit different is with their

drivers. They use gigantic 70mm drivers, where most headphones stop at

around 50mm, even the big ones. Sony claims these drivers offer

incredible frequency response of 3Hz – 100KHz. That’s not just beyond

human hearing, but dog hearing too.

In short, let’s not pay too much attention to that spec.

What

the Sony MDR-Z7 do get you is big, expansive and powerful sound. As

hoped, they have the sort of soundstage width you get with a fully open

headphone, without leaking sound all over the room.
MDR-Z7 9

Bass

and sub-bass is also very rich and fat, which you don’t get too often

with fully open headphones. These are headphones with muscle.

As

you’d hope of a pair costing £500, they are also detailed and don’t let

the chunky bass trample over the rest of the sound. Still, we do find

that the signature will not be for everyone, at least not at this price.

There’s a rich thickness to the area where the bass collides

with the mid-range, and it leaves the Sony MDR-Z7 sounding a little soft

in parts compared with some of the best out there. Putting the Z7s next

to the Oppo PM-3 and the classic AKG Q701,

while the Sonys sound quite epic in scale and have a smooth,

ear-pleasing tone, they can’t deliver vocals with the same kind of clear

contours as the best. They are that bit too warm and smooth.

Do you want your music to sound big and exciting or pristine? The Sony MDR-Z7 are better at the former.

MDR-Z7 3

It’s

only really music that is negatively affected, though. If you want

something for movies and games, as well as music, there really are few

better sets out there. The force with which they can deliver explosions

and the like is impressive.

We normally focus on music when

reviewing headphones, but the Sony MDR-Z7 do deserve a bit of special

attention in this area. They are just so ‘at home’ sitting on top of an

AV receiver for those times when using a 5.1 system just isn’t going to

work, and we’ve spent a good few evenings using them at that 10:30pm cut

off when it’s usually “turn it down or turn it off” time.

They

are also very sensitive, meaning you don’t need to use them with a

separate headphone amp to get a good level of volume out. Despite having

70mm drivers, the Sony MDR-Z7 can be driven pretty well off a mere

mobile phone.

MDR-Z7 5

Should I buy the Sony MDR-Z7?

Despite

costing half a grand, the Sony MDR-Z7 are headphones made for real

people. They’re not just about sound, they also consider the context in

which they’ll be used.

After all, not everyone with £500 to spend on headphones has a detached house in the country in which to listen to the things.

Thanks

to a combo of near-perfect comfort, powerful sound and hard-wearing

design, they’re a great addition to a home cinema setup. They are

particularly good if you’re going to skip between games, movies and

music.

If music appreciation is all you’re about, though, you

might also want to consider something like the AKG Q701. They’re not as

beefy sounding, but the more delicate, open sound comes across as more

accurate and a bit less ear-candy-sweet. And these days they’re significantly cheaper, too.

SEE ALSO: Best USB Headphone Amps

Verdict

Incredibly comfortable headphones that are the perfect late-night accompaniment to a home cinema system.

Overall Score

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