Sony MDR-7506 Headphones 2017 Review: A New Bag!
Sony's venerable MDR-7506 studio headphones are near the top of a tiny list of models recognized as "Standards" in the industry, whether you like their sound or not.
Now, in their newest revision... they come with a better carrying bag.
I actually think this is cool, considering the rest of the headphone is basically timeless. Why not improve the carrying bag?
First released in 1994, the ~$99 MDR-7506 is a rugged on-ear/over-ear hybrid pair of closed headphones with the words STUDIO MONITOR stamped on the top of the headband. They're a slight tweak of the earlier MDR-V6, which was created alongside the emerging digital audio formats like CD in the 80's.
We haven't really outdone the fidelity of the CD by any reasonable measure in 2017, and as a result the 7506 is still an exceptional pair of headphones both for professional work and consumer listening.
The 7506's have a gently rolled off yet powerful-when-needed bass response, perfectly rendered and musical mids, and bristling high tones that might put some people off. The exceptional handling of the midrange in particular is why this pair has endured the test of time for so long. And the elevated highs are great for hearing flaws in audio recordings. I don't personally find them fatiguing at my regular listening levels, but if you're not a fan of high frequency detail, you might not love the sound here.
Bass response doesn't dig quite as deep as, say, Audio-Technica's headphones...but then neither do the bass notes in most pieces of music. If you're not listening to 25hz bass tones for fun, the bass response in the 7506 is more than adequate for 99 percent of music. It's pleasing, accurate, and nicely warm without any hint of artificiality.
Midrange is still among my favorite on any headphone I've listened to. Lyrics and acoustic instruments come through better on this pair than they do on most other models I've heard at any price.
I'm not going to pretend the highs aren't a little bit harsh. They certainly can be. If there's any hiss, hum, or distortion in your music, you're going to hear it. If the highs are mixed aggressively, you're going to feel it right in your eyes and brain. But it's not quite over-the-top crazy.
Soundstage is totally fine for a studio pair. You'll hear nice separation and imaging of the stereo channels, but you won't be wowed by how far away they sound, or anything.
The sound signature is a little bit brighter and less boomy than the V6, which is also still on sale. So track those down if you want something a little bit more oomphy in the low range. I think the 7506 has more than enough bass to accurately represent music, though, and the V6 isn't so much more powerful that it'll suddenly please bass fans or anything.
Unless sound production radically changes, the 7506's slightly bright-of-neutral signature will always be incredibly viable and detailed, especially in this price range. I find they're a more accessible listen than the MSR-7, a more neutral and balanced listen than the M50X, and that they have a more natural midrange than the DT770's. The highs and the pleasant bass will jump out at you on your first try, but it's the midrange that'll keep you coming back over time.
With their hybrid on-ear/over-ear design, the 7506's are some of the comfiest headphones on the market that touch your ears. Make no mistake, these will totally touch your ears, no matter how big or small they are. They're designed to in fact.
The middle of the pad, which is a nice soft fabric that actually seems a bit softer in this current revision, sits and seals against your ear. The rest of the pad is there to help out with isolation and comfort, and goes around the outside of your ear.
The result is a pair of headphones that sits tightly against the ear...but never becomes uncomfortable thanks to its softness, light weight, and balance. You might find them a little bit strange for your first day or so, but the metal band will dial in a bit after that. I find them totally great for long listening sessions as long as I've got them fitted correctly.
The headband is barely padded, but there's more than enough cushion to support the light weight. The hybrid design works well around my glasses, and even on my large head, I have several extra clicks of adjustment available. They get pretty tiny at the other end, so they should work on most head sizes.
Isolation is slightly above average. I've used them frequently in a loud coffee shop with no issue.
Sony probably didn't think this classic design would be copied so much in the last 20 years, but everything here is basically the template for "headphones." There's a metal headband and two metal racetrack-shaped ear cups, a coiled cable that'll stretch to 10 feet, and it'll fold down into itself.
It's a look that unmistakably has the smell of the 80's on it while still looking like something that fits in today's media-driven world.
I like the extensive use of metal in the build. It gives these a surprisingly robust feel in spite of their lightness. I wish more headphones would use metal ear cup capsules.
The two biggest differences between the V6 and the 7506, aside from the slightly brighter sound on the newer model, are the black-tinted plug with gold plating, and blue stickers that say "Professional."
The older V6 model has a silver-plated plug and red stickers that say "for DIGITAL."
And so we finally come to the reason why I'm sure you're all here: the new bag.
For the last 20 years, Sony has shipped this headphone with a leatherette bag that says Sony on it in white letters.
Imagine my surprise then, when I opened up a new pair this morning and found this brand new cloth bag with the Sony logo embossed into it.
The new bag is much better than the old bag, even though I'm nostalgic for the old bag. The new bag feels more durable, and has an incredibly soft cloth lining that feels like the exterior of a stuffed animal. The drawstring is nice too. It's not too dissimilar from the bag that comes with Sony's MDR-100AAP headphones.
Aside from the new cloth bag, you also get a 6.3mm adapter in the box. And that's it. The cable doesn't detach. The folding mechanism is still the same. But the bag is new. And that's quite neat.
If you need a pair of headphones to make sound go into your head and you want to spend less than $100, this is a good place to start your hunt. They don't do extras. They don't have a phone mic or mute button. The cable doesn't detach.
But they have a sound that has stood the test of time. They're efficient enough to be well-driven by just about anything. And they're perfect for people who want to see what the "big deal" is about headphone sound...and not just buy one of the popular bass-focused consumer pairs.
I love these headphones. And now they have a better bag. They often go on sale for around $80, and if you're a sound quality-first sort of person, you can't spend $80 any more efficiently.