A lot of high quality headphones and earphones find there way onto my desk. Over the past few years I've tested the best from Shure, Ultimate Ears and Etymotic Research, to name but a few. I was therefore curious when Sony announced a new set of headphones sporting a truly radical design. Although I was keen to hear what these new Personal Field Speaker headphones had to offer, I wasn't expecting too much when it came to sound quality. And that's the problem with preconceptions, they are all too often proved well and truly wrong, which is very much the case in this instance. Put simply, the sound produced by the Sony PFR-V1s is staggeringly good, so good in fact that I'll be first in line to buy a set, with my intrepid news hound Hugo right behind me in the queue!
So, what makes these headphones so special? Let's start with the design - the PFR-V1s are unlike any set of cans I've placed on my head before. These headphones were designed by an engineer looking for ultimate sound quality, regardless of how unusual, or even downright bizarre they look. There's a wide band that supports the headphones on the top of your head, then each side can be adjusted into or out of this band to suit even the largest head. More delicate adjustments can be made by moving the actual speakers up and down, while two supports sit on your temple to help support the whole setup.
The headphones themselves aren't really headphones at all, they are, as Sony describes them, personal speakers. What you have is a pair of 21mm spherical drivers that sit a few centimetres from your ears while the low frequencies are pumped straight into your ear canal via looped tubing. But because the headphones are supported so convincingly by the headband and the temple supports there is no pressure whatsoever on your ears. The bass tubes just sit inside your ears so lightly that you honestly forget they're even there after a while. Without a doubt these are the most comfortable headphones I have ever had the pleasure of wearing.
Anyone who's into their music will tell you that there's no substitute for a good set of open back headphones when it comes to pure sound fidelity. Take our resident audiophile Jon for instance, he swears by his pair of Grado Labs Prestige Series SR325i open back cans, which is unsurprising considering Grado's legendary reputation in high end audio circles. But the problem with open back designs is that there is always considerable sound leakage, which means anyone in your immediate vicinity will also be able to enjoy (or not) your music. The same issue afflicts the Sony PFR-V1s, but just like Jon's Grados, these headphones are not designed for use on a train or a bus. No, the Sony Personal Field Speaker headphones are for serious enjoyment over extended periods. In fact I've had these headphones attached to my head for the past few days for hours on end while working at my desk, and they haven't caused the slightest hint of discomfort.