Sony MDR-Z7 Measurements and Succinct Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, Oct 28, 2015.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    38,439
    Dislikes Received:
    59
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    Per Merv at CS:

    I'm a little bit of Sony fanboy, having grew up with Walkmans (cassette) and stuff. So when Sony announced the MDR-Z7, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one. Now being a fanboy doesn't mean that I need to be an idiot. I went in fully cognizant that the MDR-Z7 would probably sound like about 50%-60% the price (USA). Then again, having a "Changstar Proper Price Point" of 50% of retailer price is pretty decent given the price inflation of all the other headphones other there.

    PRE-MEASUREMENT SUBJECTIVE IMPRESSIONS

    The Z7 is definitely somewhere along the lines of the two prior Sony headphones I've tested: MA900 and MDR-1R. Timbre is similar. Similarities in frequency response in terms of increasing bass sloping upwards from the mids (with the MA900 dropping like a rock after the mid-bass, so really closer to MDR-1R). All three of these 'phones mentioned are slightly laid-back in the mids with a deeper depression in the upper mids. This is easily noted by lack of bite, edge, crunch, or shrillness. The MA900 in comparison is a bit brighter throughout the entire treble region. The treble (and actually all other) characteristics of the Z7 is actually most similar to that of the 1R. I think it's fair to say that the Z7 is a 1R that doesn't fall apart at higher volumes.

    I could hear a small bump a little after 7kHz. I figure that spot because it's similar to the "problem" spot of the TH900, but pushed up a little bit in frequency. However with the Z7, this spike is not what I would call problematic. It's more rounded and less in amplitude of the TH900's spike. Sharp ears will hear it. Most people will not - mainly because of the elevated bass which reaches into the mids. The TH900 bass lift is very much localized in the sub and low bass with a suckout in the lower mids. The Z7 bass emphasis bleeds into the mids ever so slightly. It does relax a bit going down to 20-40Hz instead of getting crazier and crazier like the TH900 as we go lower. From mid-treble up to the air region, the Z7 is gentle.

    Using EQ by ear, I reduced pushed down a broad region (Q=1.2) around 80Hz by 4db and pushed up 4.5khz 3db with a Q of 3. That seemed to do the trick. It's good to know that the Z7 responds to a few PEQ adjustments extremely well.

    Imaging isn't super deep like an HD800, but seamless without being excessively wide. Good stable center image without a three-blob effect where there are gaps between the sides and center.

    In terms of technicalities (resolution, precision, tautness, clarity), I'd say it's about on par with the W1000, W3000 drivers. A little bit more plankton in mids. A little bit more soft and indistinct in bass. Compared to TH900, the TH900 is just cleaner sound with better blackground - the Z7 comes off as a bit grey. (IME is subjective attribute correlates strongly with distortion.) The Z7 is not what I would consider a Summit-Fi headphone. But I need to balance the connection to see what it can do with the Rag's balanced outputs (the Rag's SE output is gimped). BTW, Sony does an extra set of cables: their version of balanced cables with two phono connectors. Terminating to 4-pin XLR should be easy.

    It might be interesting to apply some mods. Lots of plastic, so I wonder if some mass loading will help "tighten up" then sound.

    Comfort is superb. The adjustment mechanism is Sony at its best.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2015
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    38,439
    Dislikes Received:
    59
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    Pictures

    DSCF1884.JPG

    DSCF1883.JPG
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2015
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    38,439
    Dislikes Received:
    59
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    Measurements
    Bass isn't all that clean. Better than Denon D series, but short of the quality bass heard on the TH900. At least they are not horrible. However, I would have liked better quality bass from a closed headphone.
    Fit, finish, ergo are top-shelf.

    Sony MDR-Z7 Frequency Response
    FRD.png

    Sony MDR-Z7 Distortion
    Z7 L HD.jpg
    Z7 R HD.jpg

    Sony MDR-Z7 CSD (Changstar)
    z7csd.gif

    Sony MDR-Z7 CSD
    Z7L.jpg
    Z7R.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    38,439
    Dislikes Received:
    59
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    Effects of Covering Ports

    TOP GRAPH: Z7 - small top vent covered. Gray line is original.
    BOTTOM GRAPH: Z7 - big bottom vent covered. Gray line is original.
    I did not like covering the bottom vent. Results in too much of that "hollow" sound - probably internal cup reflections and also makes that treble peak much more evident. The soft nature of the bass doesn't gel with with the reduced amplitude.
    Covering the top vent yielded decent results. While graph does look nice and straight, I think that slight depression subjectively helps in not having the bass bleed into the mids.
    Covering both vents is a bad idea, hence not pictured

    z7topventcovered.png
    Top Vent Covered

    bigventcov.png
    Big Vent Covered
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    38,439
    Dislikes Received:
    59
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    Internals Modding Potential

    Slight measurement differences ~5db @20-30Hz, but too close to call. I feel confident with repeating FR measurements. No so with distortion, especially with kids running around the house. Subjectively, maybe - but again too close to call.
    Huge modding potential though. I think the sound can be made much "tighter". See pics below. No damping material. Thin plastic cups. Surprising, not as hollow or reverberant as many other closed headphones. Baffle the driver rests on is extremely lightweight.
    photo 1.JPG

    photo 2.JPG
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    38,439
    Dislikes Received:
    59
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    Modded Measurements

    And yields pretty good results. I applied some very simple mods:
    • Dynamat in a few select places on back of driver and on the baffle.
    • None on the cups.
    • Acoustic fiber slightly compressed in the cups. (NOT THE SAME THING AS COTTON)
    Much tighter sound now, less soft. Note bass is pushed down about 3-4db. Just perfect. Smoother peaks and dips.

    No more of that hollow reverb stuff.
    Good plankton now.
    Bass is better.
    z7mods.gif

    z7rmods.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
    Valolilol and GelockS like this.
  7. Whitigir

    Whitigir Rando

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2015
    Likes Received:
    10
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Yes, I dampened it with porous tape on the cup and the back, also upgraded internal drivers cables to silver. It is much and by much better. Bass distortion is almost non existent
     
  8. Koloth

    Koloth Klingon SBAF Ambassador - Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    109
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Zürich, Switzerland
    Koloth's subjective review of the Sony MDR-Z7 (13. december 2015)

    (I guess this is the place to post this. I dont want to spam up SBAF by creating a new thread unless it's necessary.)

    This summer I purchased a Sony MDR-Z7. This was the first high-end closed back headphone that I bought, although I had listened to some before (for example the Beyerdynamic T5P [great treble and detail, zero bass?] and the Denon D7100 [wuargh, wtf?]). I bought the Z7 blind, online, basing my decision solely on the opinions of people on the internet… and some bad impulse control. At first I was underwhelmed by its sound but having used it almost daily for the last five months I’ve grown to understand and appreciate the qualities it brings to the table. I can now say that I do not regret the purchase and will definitely keep the Z7 around.

    This is my utterly subjective review of these headphones. I had read about the Z7 before listening to them, so it is quite possible that I was and still am influenced by the descriptions others gave of its sound, or that I have talked myself into attributing a certain sound signature to it. Unfortunately, I am not (yet) able to produce objective measurements, so my possibly biased subjective assessment is all I can offer. It is your responsibility to relate my impressions to the opinions of others and the measurements which can be found on SBAF or Innerfidelity. To get an idea of where I am coming from: I have used a Sennheiser HD600 as my primary headphone for the past eight years straight – and I continue to love their sound. Another review of mine can be found here, where I review the Audioquest Nighthawk: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/audioquest-nighthawk.133/page-3#post-20078

    [​IMG]

    (Note: In the pictures above the Z7 are attached to a 4pin-XLR cable from Surf Cables. This is an aftermarket cable and not an official accessory.)

    I will start with what one notices first when picking up the Sony MDR-Z7: The stellar build quality and the very good looks. The visual design is obviously traditional; there are no experiments here. And yet – similarly to how I feel about the Stax SR-007 - this ‘ideal type of headphone’-design is very appealing and timeless. The headphone is constructed from extraordinarily high quality materials. Metals, magnesium cups. It all feels solid, expensive – and most of all light! I would have never guessed from looking at it how light these headphones are. This brings me to comfort, another high-point of the Z7. The earcups are big, the pads and headband are soft, the pressure is just right, and given its low weight, the Z7 can easily be worn for multiple hours at a time. There is sufficient room around the ears so that one does not get too warm – although an open headphone like the HD600 is unsurprisingly even better in that regard.

    Turning to sound quality, let me start with the bass. In my opinion this is one of the best attributes of this headphone, although I am sure this will be a controversial assessment. The midbass is large, punchy and very emphasized. This is not the most perfectly controlled and certainly not the most accurate bass reproduction. It can easily overpower some songs, and there is also some distortion that can be discerned in loud bass notes. The bass extension is also not that great as the subbass can’t keep up with the midbass. In a lot of ways then this is technically imperfect, and yet, I absolutely love it. The bass just makes music sound very exciting, dynamic and big. When playing a game or watching an action movie you can’t help but smile when stuff blows up and you get to hear that wonderful rumble. Don’t be led to believe that this is just Sony’s version of a Beats sound signature for adults though – it certainly brings a lot of hi-fi technical prowess to the table. If the Z7 just had more subbass extension it would instantly become a favorite among ‘audiophile bassheads’.

    What about the mids then? Unfortunately, this is the Z7’s weakest point. Voices sound somewhat thin, they don’t seem to have any ‘body’. It’s the opposite of a meaty, warm sound. Accordingly, voices and certain wood instruments sound artificial at times. There is a tendency for the mids to seem a little incisive. It’s not a horribly frustrating experience by any means, and I do enjoy the Z7 with vocal music. However, if you are listening to a lot of ‘vocal-first’ music, then the Z7 is clearly not the headphone for you. Some of my old country tracks sounded too thin, too clear and in the end just too unrealistic. What the Z7 nails though is distance. The singers don’t sound too distant (as in the case of the Audioquest Nighthawk) nor RIGHT IN YOUR FACE, instead they are perfectly positioned in a way that you can perceive the little subtleties in their voices without straining and without them overwhelming the rest of the music. There is definitely some sibilance in the presence region, but then again I’m very sensitive to that sort of thing and others might not even notice it. On some tracks the Z7 goes right up to the edge in terms of sibilance – but it never falls over.

    The treble I liked quite a lot. It does not stick out in any way, which is usually a good sign. You get a lot of clarity and detailed, airy sound without the aggressiveness of overly emphasized treble that so many other headphones fall victim to. It’s not muffled, it’s not exaggerated, and there is a good but not great amount of details. In short, the treble is neither the strong nor the weak point of this headphone – it’s just perfectly alright.

    The tonality in general is certainly not neutral then. It is colored – but colored in a very tasteful way. The Sony MDR-Z7 present sound in a big, exciting and immediate way that is almost never aggressive and almost always pleasant. The sound this headphone produces is slightly on the bright side – but it does not come with the pitfalls of other bright-ish designs: There are no obvious treble peaks, no emphases in the upper mids that would make lesser recordings insufferable. The Z7 produces big, exciting and fun sound that will inevitably have you tap your toes. I just realized that even while listening to test tracks for this review and being critical of some aspects of the sound I’m continuously moving my head to the rhythm of the music. Music sounds incredibly lively and engaging on these headphones. There is an immediacy to the sound that is most apparent with female voices, which have an ethereal quality about them. This is not the headphone for critical evaluation of a track – say in a studio setting. One never gets the feeling that one hears all that a tracks has to offer over the Z7, as some details are undoubtedly overshadowed by the big, dynamic sound. And when a lot is going on at the same time, the sound can become a little harsh. But the way the Z7 combines a powerful, energetic and direct tonality with lots of clarity and a finely-layered and detailed presentation is truly impressive. This is not the subtlest of sound signatures and the Z7 is not some magical device, that fools you with its utter realism into thinking you’re right there in the audience of some live event. It’s just a headphone – that makes music sound incredibly exciting. It catches your attention and does not let go. In that sense the Z7 are not well suited for civilized background listening, but they are amazing for high-energy music like pop, rock, or orchestral movie scores. Listening to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Death to my hometown’ (from the 2012 album ‘Wrecking Ball’) on the Z7 is a perfect showcase of their abilities. I don’t think there is a headphone out there that could make this sort of music sound a lot better than the Z7. And if you enjoy playing games I can tell you that the Z7 excel at that sort of thing as well. In fact this is what I use them for all the time.

    Finally, the soundstage of these headphones is nothing short of impressive. I don’t have the technical understanding to say whether this is a function of the tonal tuning, the angled 70mm drivers or some other cause or combination thereof, but the Z7 easily have the best soundstage of any closed headphone I’ve ever listened to. In fact, I don’t think they are much different from the Sennheiser HD600 in that regard – one of the best reviewed open headphones of all time. The Z7 offer great localization of sounds and a superb sense of space. One truly gets enveloped in the music. On the other hand, the noise isolation leaves a lot to be desired. While formally closed, you could never use these headphones in a library or on an airplane.

    Given all of the above: Are the Sony MDR-Z7 worth their asking price? They certainly aren’t worth the 950$ MSRP that Sony is showing on the official product page. Then again, Sony has always been known for massively exaggerated MSRP’s compared to street pricing. Comparing the Z7 to the Sennheiser HD600, a 15-year-old, 350$ open-back headphone that does some things better and some things worse, while being built from much lesser quality materials, being a lot less elegant looking and coming with fewer accessories, then the MDR-Z7 should cost no more than 500$. In my country the cheapest online price for the Z7 is 580$ at the time of posting this review. That’s not too far off actually.

    In conclusion, I truly love the sound of the Sony MDR-Z7. It’s not for every occasion though: If I want to listen critically to a piece of music I pick something else. If I want to listen to background music for long periods of time while doing something else, I most definitely pick something else. But if I want to enjoy a few tracks of engaging music, I pick the Z7. And if I want to get lost in a game or action movie I most definitely pick the Z7.

    =================

    Formal stuff: I used the Sony MDR-Z7 (which were well broken in) out of my BMC Audio PureDac and my Cowon J3 PMP for the last five months. I used a variety of songs from different genres: Mainly vocal-heavy country/bluegrass/folk music and orchestral movie scores. Some hip-hop and rock. Also a few electronic and operatic pop songs. I played video games using the Z7 for uncountable numbers of hours and watched quite a few late-night movies with it. My trusty HD600, an original 7-bump AKG K701 and an Audioquest Nighthawk served as direct comparisons.

    TL: DR: Fantastic build quality, design and comfort; large, fun, emphasized midbass; thin but clear mids; treble is non-obtrusive; good amount of detail; some sibilance depending on the tracks; excellent soundstage and distance; lively, powerful, exciting sound; weak noise isolation; big bass and soundstage make these fantastic gaming and movie headphones.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2015
  9. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,415
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Laguna Hills, CA
    Home Page:
    Any Friends still have a Z7 that I might be able to try out?

    Covering the bottom vent and adding dampening could make these a beast.

    I just don't want to drop hundreds on a pair blind.
     
  10. Mshenay

    Mshenay Barred from loaner program. DON'T SEND ME GEAR.

    Contributor Banned
    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    298
    Dislikes Received:
    60
    Trophy Points:
    63
    I've got these exact MDR Z7s on loan from Whitigir, and I must say they are much cleaner modded! Happy to see the graphs to back that here purrin
     
  11. hellwhynot

    hellwhynot Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    48
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Belmont, CA
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    38,439
    Dislikes Received:
    59
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calabasas, CA
    Dino, dr_gonzo and hellwhynot like this.
  13. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

    Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    3,053
    Dislikes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Winnipeg
    I just got these in a trade today. Initial impressions are it's a very dark and somewhat lazy sound. Well, lazy is the wrong word, but the recessed mids/treble range relative to the bass is really throwing me off. Bass region is nice, not the cleanest I've heard, but not sloppy by any means. Comfort and build quality are excellent.

    I'll give it a couple days before I start opening them up for mods. My initial thoughts are to use some micropore tape to lessen the effect of the bass vents. If that works and I can get a clearer sense of the rest of the spectrum, then we'll see about filling stuff into the cups.
     
  14. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

    Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,620
    Dislikes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Tempe, Arizona
    When I saw the measurements I immediately thought of the HE-400i if it was tilted...so I had to check for myself...

    HE-400i is red trace, Z7 is green trace

    [​IMG]
     
  15. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2015
    Likes Received:
    235
    Dislikes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Black Forest Germany
    Home Page:
    Speaking of acoustic fiber, would adding some acoustic fiber damping material in the cups of the ATH-W3000 yield good results? I notice quite a bit of coloration because of the closed wooden cups, not unpleasant, but a little too much. On my friend´s TH900 I heard less of this.
     
  16. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,415
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Laguna Hills, CA
    Home Page:
    Just got a used pair. First impressions are good. All I really want to address is the hollow sound. I like the frequency response.

    Some Dynamat behind the drivers maybe?
     
  17. Flatfi$h

    Flatfi$h Rando

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2015
    Likes Received:
    21
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    I would suggest some dynamat on the back of the drivers and applying a layer of paper gauze tape on all surfaces of the cup and baffle to clean up reflections and bass distortion as shown on this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/794373/sony-mdr-z7-upgrades-and-mods-thread#post_12242165

    Some of my impressions on this mod applied to a MDR-1R in case you are unsure of the result: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/sony-mdr-1r.322/#post-96786

    Any of your impressions on this mod would be greatly appreciated, because although the head-fi impressions seem too good to be true, the improvements that this mod makes to the sonys are genuinely impressive, and I would love for word of this mod to reach more of the SBAF community struggling with bad closed phones
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  18. BlueElephant

    BlueElephant Rando

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Hey Kohloth do you mind doing a comparison between the HD 600 and the Z7?
     
  19. Koloth

    Koloth Klingon SBAF Ambassador - Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    109
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Zürich, Switzerland
    I would gladly. Can you give me a little more information about what's important to you? What kind of music would you have me use? Do you own either of them and consider the other?
     
  20. BlueElephant

    BlueElephant Rando

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    8
    I have neither of the headphones but am looking at them as possible options. I listen to everything from Kodaline, Fun, Sam Smith to The Chainsmokers and Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel. Basically a pretty diverse range.
     

Share This Page