The Sony MDR-ZX700 headphones are the little brothers of the MDR-Z1000, Sony's top studio monitor headphones. They look virtually identical and both have 50mm drivers, but when one set costs almost £400 and the other just over £60, can they really compare? Let's see if Sony has just come up with the headphone bargain of the year.
Studio headphones are judged on slightly different criteria than a standard set of at-home or MP3 player cans. They're there so that whoever's listening to a mix can hear an accurate representation of its entire frequency spectrum. An overly bassy or over-bright sound will naturally ruin this, so studio headphones are rarely designed to thrill the ears. They also need to be able to survive a life of bumps and knocks in a recording studio. Surrounded by racks of studio equipment worth hundreds or thousands of pounds a pop, headphones aren't always given the most courteous treatment.
Although dubbed "studio" headphones, the Sony MDR-ZX700 aren't designed to spend a life in a professional recording studio. They use a 3.5mm (rather than 6.3mm) headphone jack, don't offer a removable cable and are a bit too cheap for the likes of Mark Ronson to take seriously. They do benefit from a design based around the studio-bound MDR-Z1000 model though.
These are as closed-backed as headphones get. The outer part of each cup is covered with very thick, very tough plastic. Working in conjunction with the generously-padded fake leather ear pads, this design supplies the MDR-ZX700 with excellent noise isolation. Factor-in that they're not ridiculously huge like some over-the-ears sets and you have a great set of commuter headphones.
They don't block out the rumbles of engines as well as active noise cancelling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 3, but are better at getting rid of the noise of other people's conversations ─ probably more annoying anyway. Just as important, they also stop your music from filtering out into the world. Comfort is also top-notch thanks to the well-padded headband and ear cups.
The cable filters down from just one ear cup, the left one. It's 1.2m long, and while it's not removable there's a 1.8m extension cable included in the box. This boosts the flexibility of the MDR-ZX700 substantially, letting them switch from on-the-go headphones to an at-home set just by clicking in a cable. There's no 3.5mm-to-6.3mm jack converter though, which is a shame.
Build quality of these headphones is great throughout, but the materials used are something that separates the £65 MDR-ZX700 from the £400 MDR-Z1000. Where the more expensive set is made from magnesium, these headphones are plastic. There's nothing wrong with plastic-bodied headphones though - plenty of sets costing hundreds of pounds use the stuff.