At a price of $300, Sony's MDR-1R Premium Headphones are meant for the luxury headphone market. The elegant, distinctive design features large, plush earpads that apply just the right amount of pressure to your ears, and design details like the aluminum earcups and supple leather are a step up from what you find on glossy plastic headphones such as the Beats by Dr. Dre Studio. The Sony MDR-1R headphones' seriously potent bass is commendably free of boom or bloat, and the exceptional dynamic punch and clarity will satisfy even the most demanding audiophile tastes.
Design and features
The MDR-1R headphones are full-size and over-the-ear, with racetrack-shaped ear cushions designed to completely enclose your ears (that's not always the case with full-size headphones). The user-replaceable ear cushions are unusually soft and pliant, so the MDR-1Rs are quite comfortable and provide a better-than-average seal to block external noise.
While I found the MDR-1R headphones supremely comfortable, CNET editor Justin Yu felt that the inside part of the earcups pressed against his ears, a discomfort that detracted from the listening experience. These varying reactions demonstrate how difficult it is to predict how universally comfortable any given pair of headphones will be. The MDR-1Rs weigh 8.47 ounces (240 grams), which is about average for headphones of this type.
The fit and feel of the MDR-1R headphones are excellent and the leather cushions exude quality. The metal earcups pivot horizontally and vertically, and the pivoting range is greater than usual. Even the gunmetal-gray earcup yokes, which are plastic, feel sturdy.
Rather than firing the 40-millimeter, dome-type Liquid Crystal Polymer Diaphragms directly into your ears, the headphones' drivers are offset at an angle to approximate the sound coming from in front of you. I never noticed that design detail before, but some Sony headphones have used angled drivers since the late 1980s.
Sony claims the Liquid Crystal Polymer Diaphragms are capable of delivering unusually high frequencies, up to 80kHz -- that's more than three times higher than most high–end headphones. Though very few people can hear frequencies over 20kHz, Sony's engineers are nevertheless interested in making a design that can reproduce the frequencies we can hear with exceptional accuracy.
The MDR-1R design doesn't have a hinged headband so it can't collapse into a small bundle, but the earcups do fold flat.