Sony's MDR-G74SL headphones ($40) incorporate a bevy of new style, comfort, and technology features. We were surprised to learn that this new generation of headphones represents the first redesign of the Street Style lineup since its introduction almost a decade ago.
Sony claims bass fanatics will be wowed by the new MDR-G74SL headphones, and we agree; the new model really does produce deep and powerful low-frequency sound. A large turbo-bass duct generates the enhanced bass response, providing the same function as a speaker's bass-reflex port.
This silver Street Style model is foldable, so it's easy to store when you're on the go. Its 22-inch cord is an ideal length if you're plugging it into an in-line remote clipped to the front of your shirt (such as the one found on the iRiver iHP-120 and high-end Apple iPods), but it's way too short otherwise. Sony supplies a 41-inch extension cord, but we found the combined 63-inch length too long. On the upside, the G74SL's behind-the-neck Street Style design won't interfere with your hairstyle or hat.
The G74SL was efficient enough to produce satisfying volume levels, even with the comparatively feeble output of MP3 players such as our Jens of Sweden MP-110. Our iPod offered superior sound quality, so we continued our auditions with the Apple player.
The G74SL's clear sound wowed us, and its bass definition was above average. Acoustic jazz sounded natural, and our live Grateful Dead tracks had just the right amount of heady atmosphere. We were so impressed, we compared the G74SL to our favorite portable headphones, Grado Labs' SR60 ($69). The G74SL's bass was only slightly less powerful than the SR60's, but the SR60's sound was more open and less stuck inside your head. But the big and clunky SR60 is an ugly duckling next to the sleek and trendy G74SL.
Bottom line: If you dig the look of Sony's Street Style line, and your portable player has an in-line remote of ample length, the MDR-G74SL is the best buy of the 2004 models. It's available online for less than $30.