Advice on Closed-back Headphone: Sony MDR-Z1R

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Hi Everyone,

I am not a big headphone guy...but when my wife is near exam time, it is one of the rare times when she asks if I can go from system to headphones. The Sennheiser HD650s are great (thanks JackD201!)...and I am absolutely happy with them...got them in a package deal for 250 (including Apogee portable DAC for laptop)...great deal.

But they are open backed, and I happen to have an opportunity to get the MDR-Z1R for a steep discount. These are closed-back, apparently silent from the outside and supposedly amazing. That said, if it were not for the steep discount (and the fact that they are silent from the outside)...I would not bother. On that basis, would appreciate any advice on whether they would achieve 2 things:

- they would be truly silent from outside at moderate volumes
- they would be far superior to the HD650s (which people like JA at Stereophile claim it to be their reference, so perhaps not?)

Unless there is another closed back phone for less than USD$500, please dont post other high end close end phone (Audeze L-XCD)...because that is the price I can buy them for, and I would otherwise never contemplate buying these.

Thanks for any advice!
 

wbass

Member
Jul 12, 2020
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Another option might be the Focal Elegia, sometimes available below $500, more often at a street price of $650.

On the headphone enthusiast sites, the Sony are controversial--some like, some don't. On the same sites, there's also widespread opinion that it's hard to better the HD650 as an all-arounder. The HD-650, to my ears, get the tonality really right. They have a wonderful midrange and a slightly warm but still detailed top end. They do like a decent amp with a little power, however, and there's a lot of feeling that tube amps, especially, are a good fit.

The Focal phones tend to be more sensitive, so would work okay with your Apogee portable. The Apogee (Groove?) wouldn't be my personal first choice for the HD650, but that's just one set of ears.
 

djsina2

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May 31, 2019
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The MDR-Z1R are nice for closed. They take a long time to break in. I played mine 24x7 for two weeks straight before they sounded their best. Straight from the box I thought they were awful.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
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Another option might be the Focal Elegia, sometimes available below $500, more often at a street price of $650.

On the headphone enthusiast sites, the Sony are controversial--some like, some don't. On the same sites, there's also widespread opinion that it's hard to better the HD650 as an all-arounder. The HD-650, to my ears, get the tonality really right. They have a wonderful midrange and a slightly warm but still detailed top end. They do like a decent amp with a little power, however, and there's a lot of feeling that tube amps, especially, are a good fit.

The Focal phones tend to be more sensitive, so would work okay with your Apogee portable. The Apogee (Groove?) wouldn't be my personal first choice for the HD650, but that's just one set of ears.
Thank you! The Apogee Groove/HD650 was a Sennheiser package-deal...i really bought it for the headphones and either the Apogee (or the phones) came for free given the price.

Yes, I really like the HD650s and if my wife could not hear them at all...this would not even be a question. They are really great...but for such a knock-down price on the closed back Sonys, I had to ask.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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The MDR-Z1R are nice for closed. They take a long time to break in. I played mine 24x7 for two weeks straight before they sounded their best. Straight from the box I thought they were awful.
Thank you!
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Get the Sony. I have been tempted multiple times.
Thanks, Dan31...will definitely keep that in mind! Will aim to decide by tomorrow. I notice you have the HD600! I have heard great things about that one...and some even prefer it to the newer HD650s which we have.
 

dan31

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Jul 22, 2010
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Headphones have been used frequently during the covid. My take has been they have to be comfortable first and foremost. The HD-600’s fit me great. Fairly neutral, but neutral has been hijacked in audio. HD-600 are smooth and detailed enough. The Sony’s are designed with a specific sound in mind. Like most high quality phones the amplifier will make an important partner. For closed phones they would probably be #1 on my list.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Thanks, Dan31. Very very good to know.
 

bazelio

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Sep 27, 2016
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The HD-6x0 are really mediocre at best. The 650 is warmer and darker than the 600 primarily. Similar Senn sound overall. That you're looking only for a closed back can is a big limiting factor. It's very difficult to make any closed back headphone sound decent. But if you're ... open ... to open back, then there are many recommendations.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Thanks. The main system is where I focus on the quality elements. The headphones are the once in a while when my wife has exams. So that is why after getting the 650s (which I am perfectly satisfied with for the few days a year)...I am thinking the ONLY move away from HD650s would be towards closed-back (because the only reason for me to have them is for when she is studying for exams). The HD650s are a lot better than having the full system running...so it did work this year and last...but it is not silent.

I had no intention of looking for another pair...but when these came up so deeply discounted (and they are closed-back), I was curious.
 

dan31

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Jul 22, 2010
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Just curious, what kind of discount are you talking about? They are $2299 msrp, I have seen $1800 in the USA.
I am considering the focal clear, they are open back around $1500. I’m still happy with what I have so no purchase for me at the moment.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Apparently 'like new' for $475. Again, that is by far the primary reason for my doing this.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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...just ordered it...actually turned out to be $450.00 so a little less.
 

dan31

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Jul 22, 2010
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I see why you are interested. If they are legit, it’s hard to pass on that deal. They are a headphone that gets love and hate. It’s a choice, but at $475 I think I could just enjoy them for what they are, unique.

I will be interested to see what you think.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Thanks, Dan31. I am expecting something extremely well made (given the cost synergies of a Sony)...probably good quality parts (same reason and its Sony's flagship)...as well as very high quality sound. But whether the balance is for me who knows...but as you say, at that price for a high-end closed-back headphone that retails for $2K, at $450, I think it is worth it when I am primarily looking for something silent for my wife when she has exams, and I am working while listening (which I always do).
 

bazelio

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Sep 27, 2016
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At $450 it's an easy choice to take for a test run if nothing else.

Dan, FWIW, the Focal Elear retrofitted with Clear pads gets you 90+% of the way to actual Clears.
 
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cjfrbw

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Apr 20, 2010
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I'm listening to the Z1R as my computer headphone in Santa Cruz right now. The Z7 is also great, and less expensive. $450 is an extreme bargain for Z1R, so no reason not to jump on it.

I also like the Senn HD 580, also real bargain and hard to beat when tricked out with proper amp.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Thanks all! Will update when they arrive...should be Wednesday they said.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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I'm listening to the Z1R as my computer headphone in Santa Cruz right now. The Z7 is also great, and less expensive. $450 is an extreme bargain for Z1R, so no reason not to jump on it.

I also like the Senn HD 580, also real bargain and hard to beat when tricked out with proper amp.
Thanks...I am using an Arcam rHead amp with the Sennheisers which works very well...a nice combination. Any idea of how it will work with the Sony? I would have thought fine given that (I think?) the HD650 at 300ohm is a tougher load to drive than the 64 ohm Z1R?
 

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