The high-end headphones market couldn’t be more competitive as there are plenty of companies with a great deal of them having the necessary design prowess and cutting-edge technologies to come up with products that will leave audiophiles drooling. This should put pressure on companies that have been in this business for decades like Sony. But Sony confidently rolled out the Sony MDR-1R back in 2012 and it scored rave reviews from the critics even though the price was very close to $300. But just because Sony has a killer flagship product doesn’t mean that the company is immune from the rest of the competition. There are audiophiles out there that want to spend a bit less on a pair of headphones. To build more momentum, Sony launched a trio of headphones the following year based on the design and capabilities of the MDR-1R. The Sony MDR-10R is basically the headphones that focus on hi-res audio leaving Bluetooth and noise-cancelling behind.
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Design and Comfort
Design and comfort are two things that Sony cannot afford to sacrifice and fortunately, Sony did a lot of things right when designing the MDR-10R. The overall appearance of the Sony MDR-10R actually makes the MDR-1R look a bit dated. It uses a pleasant combination of black and silver to give the headphones some personality along with the right amount of red accents to make the MDR-10R look stylish without being too tacky. The Sony logos top off the premium look and you can optionally get them in white too. The frame of this pair of headphones takes on more of an oval approach and retains its choice of plastic materials to make sure that the Sony MDR-10R doesn’t weigh too much. The headband is made of aluminum although it is noticeably thinner than the one found on the MDR-1R. While this is one particular area where the MDR-1R wins in comfort, the improved ergonomics of the MDR-10R make this newer product the better choice for comfort in general. Sony really made sure that the ear-cups are shaped with adequate cushioning to provide a very good fit without making the ears too warm.
The earcups can swivel and the entire headphones can compact itself when not in use. Just like any mainstream pair of on-ear headphones, the package includes a carrying pouch. A pair of cables are included as well so you can attach and detach the cable as you please to the 3.5mm jack located on the left earcup. Predictably, one of the cables is meant for smartphones and media players while the other is for stereo systems. However, the lack of a 6.35mm connector suggests that the target market of the Sony MDR-10R is primarily smartphone owners.
The MDR-10R isn’t as feature packed as the pricier Bluetooth-enabled MDR-10RBT and noise-cancelling-equipped MDR-10RNC models but it does have a common element that pretty much defines the target market – Beat Response Control. This is basically Sony’s way of saying that the Sony MDR-10R is a bass powerhouse with deep and tight bass response.
The cable that is meant for smartphones features an in-line microphone along with a multipurpose button that you can generally use to answer calls. These functions work with both Android and Apple devices alike although being an Android user gives you the edge as there is a free Android app called SmartKey, which you can optionally use to remap the buttons.
Armed with refined 40mm driver units, the MDR-10R enjoys an extended frequency response starting from 5Hz to 40kHz. But when using the headphones, your mileage will vary depending on the stuff you listen to. When it comes to tracks in the house music or electronic genre, the results could be very close to perfect because bass truly delivers and it often has highly detailed midranges. It is, however, lacking in the treble department. The odd thing is that you may experience the opposite too with some tracks where the treble is good with the bass lacking in extension and depth. If you fall in the category of critical audiophiles, the best thing to do like with any other pair of headphones priced north of $100 should give the Sony MDR-10R a test before buying.
The Sony MDR-10R can serve as a reminder as to why Sony makes different headphones targeting various price points. There will always be a premium model that does it all and a few step-down models where the audio quality is a mixed bag. But the MDR-10R edges very close to the top of the $150 ladder because the design and ergonomics are spot on. Casual listeners that can afford to spend $150 will most probably not complain about the audio quality and praise just how comfortable these cans are. Further positivity will ensue too if you are a fan of upbeat music because that tight bass response can leave budget headphones in the dust.