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Review: Sony MDR-1000X

Sony MDR-1000X

We recently tested the Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth headphones, the flagship model of the Japanese manufacturer’s range of wireless hi-fi products. These headphones feature an active noise cancellation system, boast up to 20 hours of battery life and showcase a range of brand-new functions.

Sony MDR-1000X: high-quality Bluetooth transmission

This set of headphones features a wireless Bluetooth receiver, which means it is designed to be paired up with any Bluetooth-compatible smartphone, tablet, laptop, or TV. The main strength of these headphones is their exhaustive compatibility with all transmission technologies. The universal SBC codec is of course supported, but so is the AAC codec, which is specific to iDevices, and the apt-X codec, which is very popular among high-quality Android smartphones and tablets. Lastly, these headphones are also compatible with the LDAC Bluetooth codec.

Sony MDR-1000X

The Sony MDR-1000X headphones and the Sony NW-ZX100 DAP.

The LDAC codec was developed by Sony and is currently integrated into the manufacturer’s audiophile portable players, smartphones, and certain wireless speakers. It stands out for its ability to transmit CD-quality audio stream (16 bits/44.1 kHz) without any compression as well as compressed, studio-quality audio files (24 bits/96 kHz).

In other words, with a Sony smartphone or DAP, the Sony MDR-1000X headphones allow for lossless wireless transmission.

To pair these headphones with an NFC-compatible smartphone, simply bring the two devices together until they are (almost) touching. For other Bluetooth sources, the standard pairing procedure is still required.

Sony MDR-100X

An NFC chip located in the left earpiece facilitates the pairing process with Bluetooth sources.

Sony MDR-1000X: active noise cancellation

The Sony MDR-770BN had already familiarized us with the very convincing qualities of the active noise cancellation system featured on Sony’s headphones. The Sony MDR-1000X, for its part, benefits from an even more efficient noise cancellation system. We tested it while walking through Son-Vidéo.com’s offices, walking downtown, and while inside a really loud car, and we noticed that the lower frequencies were completely blocked. The background became completely silent as soon as we activated the noise cancellation system. We then activated the auto-calibration function by simply pressing the noise cancellation button for a few seconds. Note that the headphones “speak” and actually announce when the calibration process begins and ends.

Inevitably, this silence greatly increases the signal-to-noise ratio for a perfectly clear and incredibly detailed musical restitution. We’ll go over this point in more detail later.

Sony MDR-1000X

Pressing the NC (Noise Cancellation) key for a few seconds activates the auto-calibration function which adjusts the active noise cancellation based on the background noise.

Sony MDR-1000X: Ambient Sound mode

The Ambient Sound mode, which can be activated by simply pressing a button situated on the Sony MDR-1000X’s left earpiece, is the complete opposite of the noise cancellation system. Two microphones implanted in the top of each earpiece pick up the surrounding noises and mix them with the music. A very convenient feature to hear cars coming when crossing the street. Two modes are integrated : “normal” and “human voices.” While the former is convincing, the latter is not as conclusive.

However, Sony had the good idea to allow the user to mute music and activate the two microphones by placing a hand over the right earpiece. It is therefore possible to have a conversation while keeping the Sony MDR-1000X on.

Sony MDR-1000X

The Ambient Sound mode uses two integrated microphones to mix background noises with music.

Sony MDR-1000X

One of the Sony MDR 1000X’s ambient noise microphones.

Sony MDR-1000X: hidden touch controls

All volume and playback commands can be accessed by touching the right earpiece. A vertical swipe turns the amplification volume (separated from the Bluetooth source’s sound level) up or down. A lateral swipe allows you to skip to the next track or go back to the previous one. Pressing the center of the earpiece pauses playback and allows you to answer phone calls. A third microphone has also been added to pick up your voice during calls.

Sony MDR-1000X

A male-male 3.5 mm mini-jack cable and a carrying case are included with the Sony MDR-1000X headphones.

Sony MDR-1000X

The Sony MDR-1000X’s right earpiece is entirely tactile.

Sony MDR-1000X: design

Sony didn’t print the various command symbols on the leather, which is a clever move. The Sony MDR-1000X is not another pair of Bluetooth headphones boasting flashy buttons. The instructions can be found at the bottom of the carrying case, along with the mini-jack to mini-jack cable (for a wired listening experience). The product itself, with its leather earpads and metal headband, is very elegant. It’s worth noting that the earpieces can be folded.

Sony MDR-1000X

The Sony MDR-1000X’s leather earpads feature memory foam padding.

Sony MDR-1000X: S-Master HX amplification and DSEE HX technology

The Sony MDR-1000X is fitted with a Sony S-Master HX digital amplifier. A technology which has proved its worth with Sony DAPs and portable DAC amplifiers. This powerful integrated amplifier can deliver a very high sound level. The amplifier features DSEE HX technology, which carries out an oversampling of audio stream and equalizes compressed files, notably by reinforcing very high frequencies.

Sony MDR-1000X: setup

We used the Sony MDR-1000X headphones with a Meizu m3 Note smartphone (headphone output and Bluetooth SBC) and a Sony NW-ZX100 portable player (headphone output, Bluetooth AAC, apt-X and LDAC). We listened to CD-quality and studio-quality FLAC files (FLAC 24/88-192 and DSD64).

Sony MDR-1000X

The Sony MDR-1000X headphones are light and compact

Sony MDR-1000X: listening impressions

As we mentioned previously, the exceptional active noise cancellation system creates optimal listening conditions. Without any interfering noise, the listener is put in the best conditions to fully enjoy the music. The restitution of the Sony MDR-1000X is not linear and we noticed a significant emphasis on mids and high-mids, while the extreme highs stayed in the background. But the articulation of the sound is excellent and the ear quickly gets used to the coloration, which actually shines a light on vocals instead of altering the sound. The lows are judiciously delivered, with neither excess nor shortage. Despite the headphones’ closed back structure, the width of the stereo soundstage is satisfactory.

When using the cable connection, the listening experience is less dynamic, even with very good DAPs. It only comes in handy when the headphones’ battery is completely discharged.

Lows: deep, tight and nervous
Mids: brought forward, but very well articulated
Highs: slightly in the background, due to the emphasis on the mids

Sony MDR-1000X

Sony MDR-1000X: conclusions

What we liked: the ultra efficient noise cancellation system, the power, the overall balance, the mute function with integrated background noises, the 4 Bluetooth codecs handled, the lightness, the comfort, the construction, the battery life (the headphones lasted 16 hours at high volume) and the design…
What we would have liked: nothing more.

The Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth headphones are easy to adopt and there is no need to own a high-end smartphone compatible with the apt-X or LDAC Bluetooth codecs to enjoy all it has to offer. Its exceptional active noise cancellation system makes it a precious companion when using public transportation or as a passenger in a car, and–to be honest–in any circumstances.

Sony MDR-1000X

The Sony MDR-1000X’s micro-USB port allows you to recharge its battery (in 3 hours).

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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