Sony IER-Z1R Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'IEM Measurements' started by purr1n, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    Fuck that shit, I'm not listening to it then. Anything sounding similar to Grado nowadays will make me kill myself.
     
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Just get on the loaner :)

    I need to try some different tips than the ones included with it. The loose seals definitely make it Grado-ish. No seriously. It finally came to me: where have I heard this before. It's a Grado sound.

    I hoping a deeper insertion with smaller tips might work. Maybe I can fit one the smaller Final tips to work. I'm just leery of losing another tip inside my ear canal.
     
  3. JK47

    JK47 The Beer Houdini

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    You're already dead and don't even know it...
     
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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  5. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    Fine, I have a death wish Dad.

    [​IMG]



    And on that note, I'll post again when/if I get the loaner. The Grado sound makes me want to run.
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'll close with a few notes:
    1. I mean it's entirely possible that some of you guys may like it. It won't hurt my feelings if you do. In fact, it would be cool if some people in the loaner did like them.
    2. My approach here was nitpicky as hell because I was asked to directly compare technicalities to other TOTL IEMs. Thanks for asking. You guys know I won't bother to say more or look into things more unless if asked.
    3. As far as the frequency response, I already sort of expected that I would not like it based on @La @Cenric's frequency response plots.
    4. I was hoping there were other traits that would win me over or allow me to recommend this for others.
    5. IMO, the execution toward Sony's vision (three drivers, each working at what they do the best, and having a good quality glue that binds them) fell short.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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  7. La Cenric

    La Cenric Friend

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    I'll drop my 2 cents from the perspective of someone who had the cash ready to spend on either the Solaris and IER-Z1R and ultimately went for the latter after a few weeks of back-and-forth. Obviously my wheelhouse is in IEMs but I've also tried a sizable collection of headphones as well so don't hesitate to ask for reference gear.

    YMMV, IMHO, sound is subjective etc. etc.

    The case for the Solaris:
    • Projects outward much further than the Z1R. Much more spacious sounding.
    • Faster transients in general, more specifically in the bass regions
    • More obvious and forward detailing, though not necessarily "more resolving" in my opinion
    • Well executed treble tuning, wouldn't call it dark nor piercing by any means
    The case for the IER-Z1R:
    • More realistic bass response, digs down into the sub-bass regions better
    • Timbre (time domain stuff) sounds more accurate, lacks any resemblance of classic "BA timbre" that I'm always complaining about
    • Better tonal balance in the midrange area, follows my target curve more closely
    • Speed of treble response (less splashy though not by a large margin)
    The case against the Solaris:
    • A "dilution" of the bass response, sounds like typical BA bass mixing in with the DD which helps with coherence but also diminishes the realism of the bass as a whole
    • Odd dip past 4kHz, your "target curve" may vary but for me it results in an unrealistic suppression of upper harmonics for many instruments that make them sound strained or choked out
    • Odd shell shape, horrible fit for many ears as they stick out in a weird angle
    The case against the IER-Z1R:
    • Extremely huge and heavy shells, more than most ears can fully fit
    • Highly dependent on insert depth, a shallow fit results in harsh and sibilant treble similar to that of the EX1000. A point made worse by the above.
    • Suppressed lower mids, essentially the antithesis to the Solaris' suppressed upper mids. Not strong for the bass to alto range of instruments.
    I also wouldn't agree that they shouldn't be compared, they're actually more similar than different in terms of frequency response. Ultimately the Solaris' FR and slight limpness of what should've been raw DD bass were dealbreakers for me, so I went for the IER-Z1R. Neither are flawless by any means of course, the IEM game is all about compromise given the lack of real estate and sacrifices required for portability.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
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  9. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    There’s not doubt about it, the Sony IER-Z1R is one of the most beautiful in-ears I’ve laid eyes on. The housings just look great. No gaudy flashiness; just refined class.

    I absolutely love the build and even though they are very large housings, Sony has somehow come up with shape that fits my ears like a key into a lock. There’s only one way to insert, due to shape, and it’s super easy to get a deep fit that’s surprisingly comfortable.

    The stock cable is fantastic. It has an understated, elegant quality, particularly compared to over built boutique style cables. It has virtually no memory and will lay flat and straight without kinks. The built in ear hooks are soft and pliable and also glasses friendly. I really, really like this cable. I’d like to try getting my hands on the M7/M9 (black) version and trying it on Solaris, as the super litz cable has proven to be too memory prone and stiffer than I remember.

    Stock tips narrow bore is doing the Z1R no favors in the SQ department. While comfortable, they are terrible for the Z1R; they make an already fairly warm signature even warmer and uninspiring. Something wider bore helps relieve some of the claustrophobic warmth imparted with stock tips. I ended up settling on Ortofon single flange silicone. They upped the notch in comfort and, unlike the stock Sony tips, tip bore opening exceeded that of the nozzle opening. Sony has a slightly narrower nozzle, so making a tip adapter from an old Sony or Comply tip is recommenced if you don't want various tips coming off in the ear.

    Sound Impressions
    SDAC>Cavalli Liquid Carbon X and a bunch of Rock-n-Roll

    Unfortunately the sound quality is a bit of a let down to me, especially after the superb build and aesthetics. The overall presentation is warm and slightly bassy with odd treble timbre. The treble has a very thin and wispy note. The tonality just sounds wrong. Cymbals don’t have that brassy, lifelike timbre. At times the treble can seem a little zingy but never anything piercing and cringe inducing. Bass is a bit on the soft and rounded side; I now get what @purr1n means when he says it can’t get its bass up in terms of dynamic. Staging, layering and resolution seems fairly average for a high end, kilobuck IEM; it’s certainly not bad but it also doesn’t stand out. It’s just a little too pedestrian overall.

    Albums mastered on the thinner side, sound too bassy from the Z1R; it’s not that this sounds bad (and can be quite enjoyable with the right album) but it’s telling about the overall color and warmth of the Z1R. This coloration is very noticeable on Metallica’s and Justice for All. The Z1R sounds warmer and bassier than Solaris in direct comparison. Solaris bass sounds more linear, solid and dynamic; which I’m better able to pick up on deep/sub bass texturing. Solaris, while sounding more up front, also sounds much larger overall. It’s every direction- width, height and depth. There’s also more noticeable laying and separation from Solaris. However lower treble harmonics are a little blunted on Solaris and it’s really noticeable switching over the Z1R, which sounds fuller in the transition from upper mids into lower treble.

    Solaris’ blunted harmonics are most noticeable with female vocals. When listening to Halestorm’s in The Live Room, Lzzy’s voice is lacking energy and just sounds a little too subdued. Upon switching back to the Z1R two things immediately happen- the stage collapses, while becoming more distant and Lzzy’s exuberance and energy returns. Interestingly she becomes more engaging the more I turn the volume up on the Z1R.

    Roxanne’s latest album brings out the zingy wispiness of the Z1R treble. The Solaris treble note is weightier and brassier. While the Z1R sounds noticeably warmer on this album, Jamie and Dug’s vocals have more heft on Solaris.

    Swtiching over to the Apple dongle and iPhone with Black Label Society’s The Blessed Hellride, all the things I don’t like about the Z1R seem to be exacerbated- thin, wispy treble; closed in staging and a slightly pervasive warmth. While the blunted harmonics are noticeable when switching back to Solaris, it ends up being much easier to acclimate to this than the odd treble timbre and presentation of the Z1R.

    I used both iems on many other setups, ranging from bluetooth receivers like the Fiio BTR1K and Earstudio ES100, to my Mezzo modded AK120 and even added a Chord Mojo in the mix. The contrasting impressions pretty much held across each device, if if slightly mitigated here and there.

    I really want to like the Z1R- it’s just strikingly beautiful and for such a large and heavy in-ear, it fits me really, really well. I just can’t get on with its sound reproduction. I kept coming back to it hoping to be pleasantly surprised but just just felt non-plussed every time.
     
  10. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    I liked the Sony stock cable so much, I tried to buy one. Sony outsourced official parts and both vendors do not have it and can’t get it. (4.4mm balanced is available via the parts vendors but not 3.5mm single ended.) So I contacted Sony directly and they said the stock cable isn’t for sale. WTF. So if you accidentally lose or break your stock 3.5mm cable on the Z1R, M9 and M7, you are SOL.
     
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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Not a measurement extremist, and really we need more data and repeated or alternate measurements and visualizations to be more sure. But I noticed that while the overall bass distortion is acceptably low, the higher 3rd and 4th harmonics in lows do track with the 2nd harmonic (grey line below). Note that a total harmonic distortion plot would not pick this up.

    I don't think the harmonics tracking together is typical of IEMs. At these volumes, it's typical for 4th order to be quite a bit lower than the lower orders. Typically on BAs, the 2nd order would be slightly less than than the 3rd. For DDs, the 3rd order slightly lower than the 2nd.

    upload_2019-7-3_9-18-18.png
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
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  12. Rockwell

    Rockwell Almost "Made"

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    I'm interested in picking up a 4.4mm Z1R cable...do you have a link to where one is available? TIA!
     
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  13. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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  14. Kunlun

    Kunlun cat-alyzes cat-aclysmic cat-erwauling - Friend

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    Here are my brief thoughts on the Sony ier-z1r:


    I like these a lot, the design and tuning choices add up to a very nice iem that I have little desire to buy but whose flaws mostly don't keep me from enjoying.

    Other people have summed up the basics of the iem itself: Good tip choices which you'll likely want to mostly ignore in favor of your own (straight silicon, in a bunch of sizes and silicon with a little foam tucked in for better isolation and to eat a little treble).

    The key point is that you need a very good fit, slightly deep. Cf Marv's comment about a grado like sound with a shallow fit.

    The shells are big and heavy, no big deal for me (another reason for a deeper fit), but weighed themselves right out of a friend's ear.

    The cables, they are good.

    Give these power, give them all the power. I used my apex glacier, as usual. A tube or tube-like amp seems perfect.

    On to the sound. I used the straight silicone tips, slightly deeply fit and listened medium loud to a range of classical, Indian classical, folk metal, and pop.

    So, what I think the committee at Sony that designed and tuned the ier-z1r (it kinda had to be a committee) was aiming at is a sound which is warm, extended, spacious, yet detailed and non-fatiguing. I'll explain what I mean and how the iem hits and misses that or what trade-offs I hear in trying to reach that.

    The bass is full sounding, with excellent extension into the subbass. It's not slow, but the transients are less sharp than in the mid and lesser still than the treble. The bass also doesn't have the punch that the midrange has. While the bass can certainly be powerful at times, cellos tend to recede slightly in a string quartet, partly for the reasons I mentioned.

    The midrange has areas that are punchy/percussive in relation to the bass, which is a funny way to help bring lead vocals and instrumentals to front our attention in a mix, but it mostly works. The pluck of a string can really pluck, sometimes. In general, the mids are clear and don't get lost, with the bass to give a warm foundation, the mids are clean with a natural decay.

    For the treble, the first thing that stood out to me was that cymbals snap a little more than they crash. There's a particular treble quality here that gives you an energetic transient but maybe dampens a little in a bid to keep fatigue at bay. I'm assuming this has to do with Sony's custom built armatures and is what they were aiming for in a treble that has energy and extension without stabbing resonances or peaks. I think they've succeeded and some people won't like it...

    The main effect Sony's pulled off here is that everyone I had try the ier-z1r (non-audiophiles) used the word "rich" to describe its sound. People end up saying embarrassing shit like "there's a lot of sound here", which I will make fun of them for while at the same time knowing what they mean.

    I think Sony pulled off what they wanted to with the ier-z1r's sound. The trade-offs of different qualities to the three drivers or whatever tuning tricks they used to keep the sound of each driver civilized in whatever part of the frequency range are just part of that design philosophy. It's at least a mature take on an iem and sounds like it to me, an iem whose sound makes a credible argument for why it deserves to be a flagship iem. That said, play a cello concerto (one instrument, full range) and listen to the emperor have no clothes as Yo-Yo Ma ends up sounding like he is playing a trio of slightly different instruments in a test that a much cheaper single driver iem passes easily. I think I'll leave it at that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
  15. Rockwell

    Rockwell Almost "Made"

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    Caveat: I'm a bit of a noob who likely lacks the delicacy of perception of many others who have posted in this thread. So take everything that follows with a sufficient grain of salt.

    I currently own both the Z1R and the Solaris and of all the comparisons I've read this one above strikes me as the most fair and balanced. They are both fantastic IEMs but for me the Z1R improves upon the Solaris in a couple key areas. While I find the bass impact of Solaris to be more-or-less on par with the Z1R (I've never understood complaints of Solaris' weak/limp bass) but to my ears the latter's bass is more controlled, better defined and slightly more extended. I don't hear it bleeding into the mids whereas there is a bit of this with the Solaris. I've read that this could be due to the dip in the lower mids of the Z1R's FR. For me the most significant improvement the Z1R makes over the Solaris is with treble "airiness" and extension. The Z1R feels like a better mix of "Andromeda like qualities" with DD bass. I never would have noticed this with out trying both but after listening to the Z1R for a week and going back to the Solaris I find the upper frequencies to be a little muted and muddied. As a result of this I hear the separation on the Z1R a little better and the staging better defined-- it's a little easier for me to pinpoint different instruments and layers of sound.

    On the whole they are both tremendous IEMs however for my own listening preferences I would give a slight edge to the Z1R.
     
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  16. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    It strikes me as polite, as that is @Kunlun's style.

    What's most "fair and balanced" is the acceptance on SBAF of a multitude of impressions as long as they are genuine and intelligible*. The willingness to accept or even invite criticisms of any product, even harsh criticisms, without censor, is part of this being "fair and balanced".

    I might have thought that it wasn't fair when @Hands posted a photo of a piece of shit for the executive summary section of his review of the AGD S-19 DAC. That is until I heard it, and realized that it was actually fair assessment.


    * Examples of not being genuine or intelligible:
    1. Copying and pasting of manufacturer specs
    2. Parroting manufacturer's techno-babble without understanding their meaning
    3. Appealing to authority and credentials (as opposed to being able to succinctly convey what one hears)
    4. Not being clear on personal sonic preferences / absolute statements (this is da best) without qualification
    5. Not using proper capitalization, punctuation, and paragraph breaks
    6. Stating that the review is "honest" and making a case that the reviewer is not biased (impossible for human beings)
     

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