One less cord, one more touch sensor
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Sony's latest model in its MDR line of premium headphones, the MDR-1ABTs, debuted this year at 2015 International CES. With a range of new features like enhanced wireless Bluetooth audio and touch sensor controls, the 1ABTs are one pair of headphones to keep an ear on.
Strictly speaking, the 1ABTs don’t look much different from the previous MDR model—the 1As. But there’s no point in fixing what isn’t broke. It’s a beautiful, functional design that looks great without getting too complicated.
These headphones are remarkably comfortable. The earcups and the headband are both covered in plush leather that rests comfortably on your head and around your ears. I probably listened to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” for more time than I should've at this busy show, just to keep the 1ABTs on a little longer.
Where Sony spent a lot of their time with the 1ABTs is in the added features and functionality. One-touch NFC pairing, touch sensor controls, and wireless Bluetooth technology are all welcome additions.
The right ear cup has a touch sensor with NFC built in. You’ll be able to swipe up and down the plate to control volume, left and right to skip and rewind music tracks, tap to play, and double tap to stop your music.
Because they only had a prototype at CES, not a final product, only the left and right touch functions were operational. While I had my doubts going in, the touch panel was very responsive, only a little slower than a physical inline controller. If the volume control and play/pause work equally well, Sony knocked this feature out of the park.
By going wireless, Sony’s running the risk of sound quality loss due to limitations of Bluetooth. The company claims to have partially resolved this problem with a new technology called LDAC, which can transmit three times the data for an enhanced listening experience.
While the headphones sounded great at Sony’s booth, the CES show floor is not an ideal environment to judge any audio product. There’s just too much ambient sound that will hamper even the best headphones.
That said, the 1ABTs were set up about 30 feet from the main presentation stage and while I was listening to “Get Lucky” for the fifth or sixth time, a presentation began behind me. I wasn’t oblivious to this loud event, but I certainly couldn’t make out any of the presenter’s speech.
It seems like Sony took a very good product, the MDR-1As, and simply added some convenience features, leaving us little to complain about. We always reserve our final judgement until we taking the product to our labs, but things look good.
No word yet on price, but you can expect to pick up the MDR-1ABTs sometime this Spring.