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Sony MDR-ZX700 - Sound Quality, Value and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



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The Sony MDR-ZX700 come from a family of studio headphones, and they have the sound quality to back this heritage up. They're balanced and thoroughly well-behaved. Bass is lean compared to some top closed-back headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT 770 and Sennheiser HD 25, but it feels like a deliberate scaling-back.

The bass response is deep when called upon, it just doesn't coat music in low-end bloat. Something that can't be said of the Sony MDR-XB700, for example. For any buyers simply looking for a Sony-branded set for under £100, we put these two similarly-priced headphones head-to-head and found the MDR-ZX700 came out significantly ahead.

MDR-ZX700 4

More significant competition is out there though. Next to the Sennheiser HD 518 and Cresyn C720H, these headphones have a rather narrow soundstage. The Sennheisers have the natural design advantage here, being open-backed (which promotes a more open and airy sound), but the Sonys can't use this excuse next to the Cresyn set which are also closed-backed. A slightly narrow soundstage is something you'll likely only notice in comparisons though, as your brain will soon adjust to the stereo image offered here.

More likely to linger in your earholes is the slight lack of high-end resolution and smoothness compared to Sennheiser's open-back HD models. The MDR-ZX700 hardly ever sound particularly harsh or sibilant, but they lack the sumptuousness of headphones keener to please your ears. This is an effect we've seen before in studio-style headphones, such as the industry standard Beyerdynamic DT 100.

Colluding with a not-quite-neutral mid-range, this can make vocals sound a little nasal, and lends treble an unwanted granularity. For the most part, though, they offer very pleasant, enjoyable listening that merits the £60-odd price on its lonesome.MDR-ZX700

What the Sonys may lack slightly in pure audio pleasure they make up for in flexibility. Open-backed models at this price will tend to offer a more expansive sound, but can't be used out and about, or in any sort of noisy environment. The noise isolating design of the MDR-ZX700 is successful enough to enable these headphones to be used as a drummer's monitor pair. Most headphones that have the noise isolation to do this, and decent sound to match, cost significantly more.

If all you want to do is sit at home in your lounge/bedroom/home office listening to music, or movies in blissful silence, we'd recommend opting for something like the Sennheiser HD 518 or Audio Technica ATH-D500. However, for an all-purpose workhorse headphone that can serve you just as well on planes, trains and in automobiles, the MDR-ZX700 headphones are a superb choice.


Offering great sound isolation and comfort, and a bundled cable extender, the Sony MDR-ZX700 are brilliantly versatile headphones. They're just as happy out on the road as at home. A more luscious sound be found from some rivals if you just need a lounge set for late-night listening, but if you need them to take on the commute too, few sets are better at this price.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design & Features 8
  • Sound Quality 7
  • Value 9


August 15, 2011, 12:32 am

Having bought these headphones a few months ago - fulfilled by Amazon - I never received the 1.8m extension cable.

Is there any way to get these without buying them separately?


August 15, 2011, 2:03 am

Hi James,

Absolutely. It's just a standard 3.5mm extension cable. For the cheapest price, eBay's the best best. You'll be able to get one for a few quid. Just search for "3.5mm extension". There will generally be some high quality options for a few pounds more too.

Alternatively, most high street electronics retailers (Currys/PC World/Maplin) should be able to sort you out too.


August 15, 2011, 3:54 am

Cheers, I was hoping to see if I could get it straight from Sony if I were meant to have got it bundled (maybe even free, you never know) but if it's only a cheapo one anyway it probably isn't worth it.


August 15, 2011, 1:24 pm

Ahh right. Not sure about getting it direct from Sony. It may be that they changed the pack very soon after release. Seems a bit odd though.


August 15, 2011, 3:40 pm

Ah it seems they may have been US imports (which would explain the US warranty thinking about it) where there seems to be no mention of an extension cable for their model.

Never mind.


August 16, 2011, 7:48 am

I talked to a customer service rep of U.S. Sony. He did not believe an extention cord was included. I will report back if otherwise.


August 16, 2011, 3:11 pm

Hi guys. Could anyone tell me how these compare to the Sennheiser HD202's please.

I own the above and am wondering if these are a substantial upgrade?


August 16, 2011, 5:01 pm

I'm liking the investigative work going on here guys. Two thumbs up!


November 7, 2011, 2:36 am

Could someone explain to me why these are rated 2 points higher than the Sennheiser HD 220 Originals for Value when they're apparently 1 point worse in terms of Sound Quality and almost double the price?


November 7, 2011, 4:00 am

Hi Fantastikid,

The scores can't really be compared that directly, as they're in different classes - in terms of both cost and type. The sound score only relates to the class each is part of - the HD 220s are budget on-ears and the MDR-ZX700s are mid-range over-ears. Having an absolute sound score is a nice idea, but not really practical when we review headphones from £15 to £2000.

The MDR-ZX700 sound better, and are better for home recording situations. Sennheiser's HD220 are more portable though. For an at-home set, I'd recommend the Sonys every time if you can afford the extra.


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