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The MDR-Z1000s are fairly comfortable over-ear cans, and their dual-cable design and removable cups make for easy maintenance.

Cracking open the box, you'll see that Sony has provided two separate cables that you can attach and detach at a whim. Their lengths are 3.93 feet and 9 feet respectively. In addition, should you want or need an adapter with a 1/4th inch headphone jack (like an amp or older receiver), one has been included with these cans. There are no cases or pouches included with the Sony MDR-Z1000, so unless you have one of your own, these should probably stay very close to your desk.

The MDR-Z1000s are surprisingly easy to take care of.

As far as maintenance goes, the MDR-Z1000s are surprisingly easy to take care of, which is a huge plus given their rather hard-to-swallow pricetag. You can remove the ear pads for cleaning, and should any of your cables break you can replace them easily by virtue of the fact that they're detachable anyways.

The MDR-Z1000s weren’t horrifically painful to wear or anything, but I’ve worn more comfortable cups. For those of you with big ears, you may find it a bit difficult to fit the Z1000's ear cups over your dumbo wings; like all headphones, you really should see if you can try them on before you buy them. After six hours of constant listening, the initial discomfort didn’t go away, but it didn’t get worse either.

Disappointing frequency response, problems with distortion, and just average isolation result in a red flag.

When a company goes out of their way to brand something as “studio headphones,” you should always take that claim with a grain of salt, as what you're getting and what that term means are often very different. While the MDR-Z1000s are a decent set of cans, they are by no means studio headphones—in fact, they aren’t even close.

These cans weren't made for walking.

There are also some distortion issues that should normally be nonexistent in a pair of “studio headphones.” For whatever reason, the Sony MDR-Z1000 have a 2% level of distortion in the lowest range of frequencies. Listeners accustomed to iPod earbuds will notice an improvement in sound, but those accustomed to high-end over ears may notice this distortion level.

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Isolation refers to how well a pair of headphones isolates, pads, and otherwise preserves its own sound while blocking out sounds it isn't creating. These cans weren’t made for walking; at least, not if you want to prevent hearing loss. While they’re good at blocking out a bunch of higher-pitched frequencies, they don’t block out any lower-frequency sound, which can be quite annoying in the outside world. At home they should be fine, though.

Overall they're not bad, but we’d wait on picking up the MDR-Z1000's until they come down in price.

Ignoring the price, the Sony MDR-Z1000s are a durable set of over-ears that will probably have longevity on their side, compared to other headphones—the catch is that you're certainly paying for that, and not getting the performance for the price. It might be less hard to swallow if the MDR-Z1000s were able to compete with similarly-priced headphones in terms of sound performance, but they unfortunately fall short in terms of distortion and strange frequency response.

It stands to reason that no pair of headphones will be perfect for everybody, but these have some significant drawbacks that may make any consumer wary, especially if they take the "studio quality" marketing surrounding these headphones at face value. We don’t mean to continuously put these cans down, as they are pretty nice overall; what we’d like to convey is that they’re the victims of deceptive marketing using terms that sound good, but really aren’t appropriate.

While durability, comfort, and looks are decent long- and short-term value indicators for any headphones, the bottom line is that they really only have one job (sometimes two in winter). That job is producing high-quality, accurate sound. The Sony MDR-Z1000's were decent performers—and ought to be for five-hundred dollars—but they tested with a couple of quirks that consumers should be wary of: the science page exists to tell you why.

The MDR-Z1000's tested with a bizarre frequency response, over and under emphasizing important frequencies.

The Z1000's low-end, bass frequencies are a little overemphasized, but for the middle range of frequencies the MDR-Z1000s actually remain within our ideal limits. That's not so bad.

Once the frequencies reach 3-7kHz, however, the MDR-Z1000s inexplicably dampen the sound by a margin of 15dB, and then at 9kHz they wildly boost volume. Translation? High guitar and piano notes are going to sound less than a third as loud as the rest of your music. Were anyone to try to use these cans in a studio application, they would find that their tracks were mixed with extremely loud high notes, which may lead to an unfortunate series of events. Sounds between 7kHz and 9kHz would also differentiate drastically in volume—and they shouldn't.

Decent high-frequency isolation, but a poor isolator for low-frequency sounds.

Headphone isolation is very important in preventing noise-induced hearing loss, as the worse your headphones block out noise, the louder you're tempted to crank your tunes, and the more force is applied to your sensitive bits (stereocilia in particular) in your head.

Sony brands the MDR-Z1000's as "studio headphones," and within the arena of isolation they act as such. They do a poor job blocking out sounds below 500-600Hz, which means you'll have to turn them up, possibly to risky levels of volume, to block out lower-frequency sounds like car horns or a random quartet of bass vocalists. While not exactly unexpected, they're better suited for indoors listening.

Meet the tester

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging


A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.

See all of Chris Thomas's reviews

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