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Reviewed on May 11, 2018 , Marc Henney, Jean-Christophe Lamontagne

Sony MDR-1A
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

Test Benches: test

  • 1.2: Winter 2018
  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
6.6
Mixed Usage
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.7
Critical Listening
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
6.0
Commute/Travel
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
6.0
Sports/Fitness
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
6.4
Office
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
6.1
Home Theater
Score components:
6.7
Gaming
Score components:
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : No
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

The Sony MDR-1A are comfortable, critical listening over-ears that deliver a satisfying and well-balanced sound quality. They have a sleek-looking design, and they're surprisingly lightweight for their sturdy and durable build quality. Unfortunately, they do not block ambient noise very well, so they won't be ideal to use in loud environments or for commuting.

Test Results
Design 7.0
Sound 7.8
Isolation 5.9
Microphone 6.5
Active Features 0
Connectivity 5.5
Pros
  • Great audio reproduction.
  • Lightweight and sturdy build quality.
  • Comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Poor noise isolation.
  • Slightly bulky and unstable design.
Update 2/16/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
Update 10/2/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.

Check Price

7.0

Design

Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Design Picture

The Sony MDR-1A have a well-designed and polished look that reflects their premium price range. They're sturdy and incredibly lightweight headphones, with ample padding on the ear cups that make them one of the more comfortable headphones we've tested. However, they're not the easiest headphones to carry around on your person without a bag and they're not stable enough to use while running or jogging. They also have a limited control scheme that doesn't have any volume buttons which is slightly disappointing.

Style
Sony MDR-1A Design Picture 2

The Sony MDR-1A have a sleek and polished look that feels high-end. The ear cups are slightly similar to that of the MDR-100AAP or the MDR-ZX770BN but with considerably better padding and build quality. The headband is also well padded and coated with a faux-leather material that further exuberates the premium feel of the headphones. They come in an understated yet stylish black and gray color scheme with red accents and a textured back on the ear cups. There's a silver and brown variant, but it comes with an integrated DAC and costs a bit more than the regular MDR-1A.

8.0 Comfort
What it is: Adjustability and degrees of freedom, pressure, stiffness and weight.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used for long durations.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sony MDR-1A Comfort Picture
Weight : 0.49 lbs
Clamping Force
What it is: The force that the headphones exert on your head, once you have them on. This is purely a measurement of the force applied, which does not take into account the earpad's surface area and the resulting pressure you will feel, on or around your ears.
When it matters: The tighter the headphones, the more force they put on your head. This can get uncomfortable or cause pain and soreness during long listening sessions.
:
0.7 lbs

The MDR-1A are a lot lighter than you would expect when looking at their build quality. That and the excellent padding on the earcups and headband means they deliver a comfortable listening experience that's not fatiguing even if you have them on for a while. However, the padding of the earcups creates a relatively small opening for your ears so they may not fit as comfortably for all listeners.

5.3 Controls
What it is: The control scheme of the headphones, the number of functions provided, button layout and ergonomics as well as the quality of tactile feedback.
When it matters: If you want to control volume, pause your music or make phone calls without directly interacting with your audio device.
Sony MDR-1A Controls Picture
Ease of use : Above-average
Feedback : Average
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : No
Microphone Control : No
Channel Mixing
What it is: Being able to mix audio channels directly on the headphones.
When it matters: This is most useful when using a separate chat software so that you can mix in-game audio and chat audio depending on your needs.
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through : N/A
Additional Buttons : No

The control scheme for these headphones feels lacking. They only have one Call/Music button to pause, play and skip tracks. You won't have any control over the volume level which is a bit disappointing, but at least the button has good feedback, and it's easy to use.

6.5 Breathability
What it is: How hot the headphones get when you wear them for an extended period of time.
When it matters: If you often have long listening sessions or use your headphones while doing physical activities like running or working out.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Breathability After Picture
Avg.Temp.Difference : 5.5 C

The Sony MDR-1A are about average in terms of breathability for an over-ear. They have a good seal which prevents airflow to your outer-ear. This will make them relatively warm after an hour-long listening session, but it's better than some of the other closed back critical listening headphones we've tested like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.

6.0 Portability
What it is: The volume of space occupied by the headphones when folded into their most compact format.
When it matters: If you're often on the move and need to carry your headphones in a bag, purse , or pocket.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Portability Picture
L : 7.9 "
W : 7.3 "
H : 1.8 "
Volume : 104 Cu. Inches
Stand required : N/A

The Sony MDR-1A are mid-sized, over-ear headphones, with large earcups that do not fold into the frame for a more compact format. This makes them a bit cumbersome to carry around on your person, especially without a bag. They're not the most portable headphones, but at least the ear cups lay flat, which may come in handy in some situations.

6.0 Case
What it is: The provided carrying options to protect your headphones when transporting them.
When it matters: To prevent damaging your headphones, if you often carry them in your bag or pocket.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sony MDR-1A Case Picture
Type : Pouch
L : N/A
W : N/A
H : N/A
Volume : N/A

Comes with a rugged pouch. It won't shield the headphones from drops and impact but it will protect them from scratches and minor water damage.

7.5 Build Quality
What it is: Durability, material quality, cheap/expensive feel.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used by multiple users (classes/studios), by children, in tough conditions, on a daily basis, or for exercise.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sony MDR-1A Build Quality Picture

The Sony MDR-1A have a sturdy yet lightweight build quality. The headband is reinforced with a thin metal and plastic frame that's sufficiently flexible to handle a decent amount of physical strain. The ear cups although fairly lightweight are also a mix of metal and plastic that will withstand a couple of accidental drops without getting damaged. The hinges are a bit loose but there aren't a lot of them, reducing the potential weak points of the design.

6.0 Stability
What it is: How the headphones are designed to prevent them from slipping off your ears or falling off your head.
When it matters: If you plan on using the headphones while doing sports or other physical activities that requires a lot of movement.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Sony MDR-1A Stability Picture

The Sony MDR-1A are not the most stable headphones. They stay put during casual listening sessions and the audio cable will detach if it's hooked on something, but unfortunately, they will quickly fall off your head if you use them for running or working out.

Cable
Sony MDR-1A Cable Picture
Detachable : Yes
Length : 4 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRRS

They come with two cables. A 1/8" TRRS-TRRS with inline controls and a simple 1/8" TRS-TRS audio cable.

Top
Headshots 1
Headshots 2
7.8

Sound

What it is: How accurately the audio is reproduced. The tests are performed with the headphones' most commonly used features enabled (noise-cancelling, wireless, etc.)
Sony MDR-1A Frequency Response

The Sony MDR-1A is a good sounding pair of closed-back over-ear headphones. These headphones have an excellent, deep, punchy, and powerful bass, but without sounding muddy or cluttered. They also have a great and well-balanced mid-range, a good treble and great imaging. However, their bass is slightly heavier than neutral, which fans of bass may like, their mid-range could sound a tad thin on vocals, and they don't have a speaker-like soundstage. They also tend to sound sharp and piercing on S and Ts, especially on overly bright tracks. Overall though, these are very good and versatile headphones that are well-suited for a variety of genres from bass-heavy EDM, to vocal-centric rock and indie.

8.6 Bass
What it is: Frequency Response from 20Hz-250Hz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on bass frequencies, such as those of kick drums and bass guitar.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Bass
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in bass frequency response (20Hz-250Hz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) bass performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.03 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
What it is: The lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: Shows how extended the bass is.
Good value: <40Hz
Noticeable difference: 5Hz
:
10 Hz
Low-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 20Hz-60Hz.
When it matters: Kick drums and low frequency effects get their 'thump' from this range. Mostly felt than heard.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.32 dB
Mid-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 60Hz-120Hz.
When it matters: Melodic bass instruments have most of their fundamental frequencies in this range. This is where the 'body' and 'punch' of the bass sits.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.45 dB
High-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 120Hz-250Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments get their warmth and full-ness from this range. When over-emphasized, mixes tend to get muddy and boomy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.51 dB

The Sony MDR-1A have an excellent bass. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 10Hz, which is great. Low-bass, responsible for the thump and rumble common to bass-heavy genres is flat but 2dB above our neutral target. Mid-bass, responsible for the body of bass guitars and punch of the kick drums is also flat and 2dB above our neutral target. High-bass, responsible for warmth, is overemphasized by 1.5dB, but most of that is happening below 200Hz, so it doesn't add muddiness to the bass. Overall, the bass of the Sony is deep, punchy, and slightly heavy, but without sounding boomy or cluttered.

9.1 Mid
What it is: Frequency Response from 250Hz-2KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on mid-range frequencies. This is the case for the majority of audio content.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Mid
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in mid frequency response (250Hz-2.5KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) mid performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
1.19 dB
Low-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 250Hz-500Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments have their fundamentals or low harmonics in this range. Over-emphasis in this range sounds muddy and cluttered. Under-emphasis, thins out the vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-1.54 dB
Mid-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 500Hz-1KHz.
When it matters: This range is occupied mostly by upper harmonics. Over-emphasis sounds forward and boxy. Under-emphasis pushes instruments to the back of the mix.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-0.65 dB
High-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 1KHz-2KHz.
When it matters: Most instruments, especially vocals, get their intensity and clarity from this range. Over-emphasis sounds honky and harsh, under-emphasis sounds weak and distant.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
0.41 dB

The mid-range performance is excellent. Low-mid is underemphasized by 1.5dB which thins out vocals a little bit, but it also creates more room for punch in the bass range. Mid-mid and high-mid are nearly flawless and within 0.7dB of our neutral target. Overall, the mid-range of the Sony is clear and well-balanced, which is quite important for vocals.

7.7 Treble
What it is: Frequency Response from 2KHz-20KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on high-range frequencies, such as voice, cymbals, and any other material where brightness, brilliance and airiness is desired.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Treble
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in treble frequency response (2.5KHz-20KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) treble performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
3.73 dB
Low-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 2KHz-5KHz.
When it matters: Almost all instruments rely on this range for their presence, detail, and articulation. Over-emphasis can sound harsh and painful. Under-emphasis hurts the comprehensibility of vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-1.51 dB
Mid-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under emphasis in frequency response from 5KHz-10KHz.
When it matters: This is the sibilance range. Cymbals, vocals, and lead instruments rely on this range for brightness and presence. Over-emphasis sounds piercing and painful, under-emphasis sounds dull and lispy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-0.08 dB
High-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 10KHz-20KHz.
When it matters: This range gives brilliance and airiness to the sound. Over-emphasis sounds hissy, under-emphasis sounds closed-up and lifeless.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-3.86 dB

The treble performance is good. Low-treble and mid-treble are slightly underemphasized, and the dip around 5KHz negatively affects the detail and presence in vocals/leads. But the effect will be subtle. The peak in the sibilance range at 9KHz however, means these headphones could sound noticeably sharp and piercing on S and T sounds, especially on overly bright tracks.

Raw Frequency Response
What it is: The average uncompensated frequency response of the headphone. For in-ears and earbuds, this corresponds to the average of 5 measurements/re-seats on the dummy head (HMS). For over/on-ear headphones, this corresponds to the average of 5 measurements/re-seats on the HMS (Head Measurement System) for the mid and treble ranges, and 5 measurements/re-seats on 5 human subjects for the bass range.
When it matters: This is for those who want to see the raw and uncompensated frequency response of the headphone. Some of the more advanced users, are able to read and evaluate headphone frequency response in its raw form and without compensation. This will be especially useful to them if they have their own headphone compensation/target curve, which may differ from the compensation curve/target response used by RTINGS.com.
Score components:
7.8 Frequency Response Consistency
What it is: The amount of deviation of each frequency response pass, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Consistency L Sony MDR-1A Consistency R
Avg. Std. Deviation
What it is: The average amount of deviation in frequency response of 5 re-seats, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.44 dB

The frequency response consistency of the Sony MDR-1A is good. In the bass range, for some reason the right ear cup shows more inconsistency. But the maximum deviation is about 4dB, which although noticeable is not too bad, especially since it's mostly happening in a narrow region. In the treble range, these headphones show more consistently (below 10KHz), except for narrow deviations between 5KHz and 7KHz.

7.8 Imaging
What it is: Imaging qualities are inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'reproduce' them rather than 'create' them. They determine how accurately the objects are positioned in the stereo image, and how transparent the imaging is.
When it matters: When accurate positioning of the objects in the stereo image, and clear and transparent imaging is desired.
Sony MDR-1A Group Delay Sony MDR-1A Phase Response
Weighted Group Delay
What it is: The average amount of group delay calculated based on a perceptual weighting filter. Group delay indicates how long it takes for each frequency to reach their maximum amplitude. This is a monaural quality and can be perceived even with one ear.
When it matters: Headphones with lower group delay have more transparent imaging and a tighter bass. Headphones with higher group delay in the bass range tend to have a wimpy and loose bass, and headphones with higher group delay in the treble range tend to have a less transparent imaging.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.27
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
What it is: The Left/Right balance of our test unit, that is, the amount of amplitude difference between the left and right drivers. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When a properly balanced stereo image and low manufacturing tolerance is desired. A poor score indicates a noticeable difference in level between the left and right drivers.
Good value: <1.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
1.6
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the frequency response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance, is desired. A poor score indicates there may be 'holes' in the stereo image at certain frequencies.
Good value: <2
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
2.61
Weighted Phase Mismatch
What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the phase response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance is desired. A poor score indicates there may be inaccuracies in the stereo image reproduction at certain frequencies.
Good value: <16
Noticeable difference: 3
:
6.15

The imaging performance of the Sony MDR-1A is very good. Weighted group delay is at 0.27, which is within good limits. The GD graph also shows that the entire group delay response is within the audibility threshold. This results in a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were very well-matched. This ensures an accurate localization and placement of objects (voices, instruments, video game effects) in the stereo image.

5.8 Soundstage
What it is: Soundstage qualities are not inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'create' them rather than 'reproduce' them. They determine whether the sound is perceived to be coming from inside or in front of the head, how open and spacious the soundstage is, how much the headphones acoustically interact with the environment, and how strong the phantom center is.
When it matters: When an accurately produced, large and spacious soundstage, similar to that of a stereo loudspeaker setup is desired.
Sony MDR-1A PRTF
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
What it is: The standard deviation of the PRTF (Pinna-related transfer function) of the headphones compared to a reference loudspeaker's PRTF at 30°. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: An accurate pinna activation is mainly responsible for how natural and speaker-like the soundstage is perceived to be. The less error in the shape of the PRTF, the more natrual and speaker-like the perception of the soundstage will be. High amounts of error may indicate a soundstage that is unnatural or odd.
Good value: <2.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
2.04 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
What it is: The average amplitude of the PRTF (Pinna-related transfer function) of the headphones compared to that of a reference loudspeaker's PRTF at 30°. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: This value is responsible for the perceived size of the soundstage. The higher the value, the larger the perceived size of the soundstage. However, values above the reference (5.0dB) could result in a soundstage that is perceived as unnatural or odd.
Good value: >3.7
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
4.34 dB
PRTF Distance
What it is: The depth of the "10KHz notch" of the headphone's PRTF, which is caused by phase cancellations at the concha. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: This value is mainly responsible for the perceived distance and elevation of the soundstage. A small distance value may result in a soundstage that is perceived to be located inside the head. Larger values may help pull the soundstage out from inside of the head and bring it to the front.
Good value: >13
Noticeable difference: 1
:
8.0 dB
Openness
What it is: How open the headphones are, and how open and spacious they sound. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test differentiates between acoustically and electronically produced crosstalk and only takes the acoustically generated crosstalk into account. This value is the inverse of the Noise Isolation test score, and could be indirectly related the acoustic impedance of the headphones.
When it matters: When a headphone with a sense of an open, and spacious soundstage is desired. A value of 10 indicates a fully open headphone, and a value of 0 indicates a fully closed headphone.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
4.5
Acoustic Space Excitation
What it is: How loud the headphones are, and how much they excite their environment acoustically. If the headphones are loud and open enough, the sound leaking from the headphones will be affected by the environment (reflections/reverb) before reflecting back into the open headphones and to the listener's ears. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This value is the inverse of the Leakage test score.
When it matters: Headphones with higher excitation values, similar to openness, tend to have soundstages that are perceived as more open and spacious.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
3.7
Correlated Crosstalk
What it is: How strong and solid the phantom center is. This is mostly a stereo quality and its effects on mono content are minimal. This test is sensitive to the phase of the crosstalk and whether it is produced acoustically or electronically.
When it matters: When a true reproduction of the stereo image is desired. A value of 0 indicates no crosstalk, or that the existing crosstalk is not correlated enough to affect the phantom center. A negative score means the crosstalk is out of phase with the original signal, resulting in a slightly wider stereo image at the expense of creating a 'hole' at the center of the stereo field. A positive score means the crosstalk is in phase and positively affecting the phantom center.
Good value: >1dB
Noticeable difference: 0.3dB
:
0.0 dB

The Sony MDR-1A has a sub-par soundstage. The PRTF graph shows a good amount of activation (pinna interaction), and the interaction is decently accurate too. However, there's no 10KHz present. This results in a soundstage that is perceived relatively large and natural, but located inside the listener's head. Also, because of the closed-back enclosure, their soundstage may be perceived to be less open as that of open-back headphones.

7.0 Total Harmonic Distortion
What it is: The subtle, unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 90dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at moderate listening levels.
Good value: <0.100
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
1.656
Weighted THD @ 100
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 100dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at loud listening levels.
Good value: <0.300
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
15.168

The harmonic distortion performance is decent. The amount of harmonic distortion in the bass range is slightly elevated, but low-frequency distortion is not very audible to humans. However, the peaks in THD around 1KHz and 5KHz could make the treble on these headphones sound slightly harsh and brittle.

5.9

Isolation

Score components:

The Sony MDR-1A only isolate passively. They create a decent seal around your ears so they're not too leaky even at higher volumes but unfortunately, they don't prevent ambient noise from seeping into your audio. They're not well suited for loud environments and won't be ideal if you have a noisy, daily commute or if you're a frequent flyer. On the upside, at moderate volumes, the leakage level won't be distracting to those around you.

5.5 Noise Isolation
What it is: How much outside noise is blocked out by putting the headphones on.
When it matters: If the headphones are going to be used in a noisy envinronment (airplane, subway, etc.)
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Noise Isolation
Overall Attenuation
What it is: The overall amount of environmental noise reduction in dB.
When it matters: In loud envinronments like planes, trains, offices, etc.
Good value: <-20dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-12.3 dB
Bass
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the bass range (20Hz-250Hz).
When it matters: When the outside noise is bass-heavy, like in airplanes.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
0.09 dB
Mid
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the mid-range (250Hz-2.5KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is mid-heavy, like in an office.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-7.47 dB
Treble
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the treble range (2.5KHz-20KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is treble-heavy. Although uncommon, areas with sharp sounds fall under this category.
Good value: <-30dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-30.01 dB
Self-Noise
What it is: The amount of noise created by the active electronics of the headphones (if applicable), measured from 300Hz-20KHz. Applies mostly to wireless and noise-cancelling headphones.
When it matters: If too loud, it could become distracting when listening to quiet material like podcasts and audiobooks.
Good value: <16dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
0 dB

The Sony MDR-1A has a sub-par isolation performance. In the bass range, where the rumble of airplane and bus engines sit, they don't achieve any isolation. In the mid-range, important for blocking out speech, the isolate by about 7dB, which is below-average. In the treble range, occupied by sharps sounds like S and Ts, they isolate by 30dB, which is good.

6.8 Leakage
What it is: The amount of sound bleeding out of the headphones.
When it matters: When the listener doesn't want people around them (in office, recording studio, etc.) to hear what is being listened to.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Leakage
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
What it is: The amount of sound leakage heard 1 foot away from the user, while the user is listening to a 100dB SPL signal.
When it matters: When you don't want people hear what you are listening to.
Good value: <35dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
41.13 dB

The leakage is decent. The significant portion of the leakage is between 500Hz and 5KHz, which is a relatively broad range. The overall level of leakage, however, is not very loud. With the music 100dB SPL, the leakage at 1 foot away averages at 41dB SPL and peaks at just above 50dB SPL, which is around the same as the noise floor of an average office.

6.5

Microphone

What it is: The microphone section shows the quality of speech capture and transmission by the mic, as well as how well the microphone under test handles noisy environments.
When it matters: For your speech to be transmitted to and understood properly by the listener, the microphone needs to have a good recording quality. If the environment the microphone is being used in is noisy, a microphone with a good noise handling performance would be needed as well.
Score components:
Integrated
What it is: The microphone integrated in the ear cup or ear bud of a wireless headphone.
When it matters: For calls, gaming and voice over IP software or for any other use of the microphone.
Good value: Yes
:
No
In-line
What it is: The microphone inside the in-line remote of audio cables for wired and wireless headsets.
When it matters: In-line microphone are usually better than integrated mics. If you need better recording quality and noise handling for calls, gaming and voice over IP software then use the audio cable of your wired or wireless headphone if it has an inline microphone.
Good value: Yes
:
Yes
Boom
What it is: A typically better microphone, that's also adjustable and extends so that the mic is closer to your mouth.
When it matters: Much better recording quality and noise handling than in-line or integrated mics. Primarily used for gaming and voice over IP software.
Good value: Yes
:
No
Detachable Boom
What it is: A boom mic that is detachable from the headset.
When it matters: If you want to use your headphone outdoors without the bulk and hassle of the Boom mic.
:
N/A

The Sony MDR-1A has an average microphone. In quiet environments, speech recorded or transmitted with this in-line mic will sound relatively thin and lacking in detail and presence. It may also be prone to pops. In noisy situations, it will struggle to fully separate speech from ambient noise in loud environments like a subway station but would do OK in moderately loud places like a busy office or street.

6.5 Recording Quality
What it is: Microphone recording quality shows how natural, neutral, extended and intelligible speech would be with the device under test, in a quiet environment.
When it matters: A microphone with a good recording quality ensures that the person listening to you would hear a full, clear, and easily understandable speech. Therefore, it is important whenever a good quality of speech transmission and intelligibility is needed.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A Microphone Frequency Response
Recorded Speech
What it is: Actual audio recording of the headphone's microphone, recorded while placed on the dummy head, with speech being played back through the dummy head's mouth simulator.
When it matters: When a clean, full, and intelligible speech transmission is required.
:
LFE
What it is: Low-frequency extension shows how deep the bass response of the microphone is, and therefore, how deep and full your voice would sound to the listener. It is the lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: LFE is not a big factor in speech intelligibility and even speech recorded with a mic that has an LFE of 500Hz could still be easily understood. Therefore, it is mostly important if you are concerned with how deep and full your voice would be heard.
Good value: <150Hz
Noticeable difference: 30Hz
:
479.46 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
What it is: Frequency Response Standard Deviation shows how accurately and balanced sound is captured by the microphone at each frequency. FR Std. Dev. is calculated between LFE and HFE, and the rest of the spectrum is ignored.
When it matters: A good frequency response is desired when a natural and neutral speech quality is desired. As opposed to HFE which is more a metric for speech intelligibility, frequency response could be considered as a metric for a natural and neutral sound.
Good value: >3.5dB
Noticeable difference: 0.5dB
:
1.56 dB
HFE
What it is: High-frequency extension is the highest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response. It shows how extended the treble response of the microphone is.
When it matters: HFE is one the most important factors in speech intelligibility. The higher the HFE, the brighter, more open, and more extended the speech quality will be which makes it a lot easier to understand by the listener.
Good value: >8KHz
Noticeable difference: 1KHz
:
4122.85 Hz
Weighted THD
What it is: The unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies, which cause deformation of an output signal compared to its input.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Good value: <1.5
Noticeable difference: 1.0
:
0.126
Gain
What it is: Shows how much louder the microphone can go above our reference loudness level. The gain value is reported relative to our reference level, which is 94dB at a distance of 5cm from the mouth.
When it matters: A microphone with a high gain is important when the input signal (speech) is very quiet. For example when whispering, or talking on the phone in a library.
Good value: >18dB
Noticeable difference: 3dB
:
17.32 dB

The recording quality of the in-line microphone is about average. The dip between 100Hz and 400Hz makes the sound of recorded/transmitted speech a bit thin. But the bump in low-bass makes this mic prone to pops and rumbling noise. The HFE (high-frequency extension) of 4.1KHz results in a speech that lacks some detail and presence. But this won't affect the comprehensibility of the speech, since speech intelligibility is mostly dependent on the 500Hz-4KHz range.

6.5 Noise Handling
What it is: How well the microphone is able to separate speech from background noise, so that the transmission would include more voice and less noise.
When it matters: When a clean and intelligible speech transmission is desired in a noisy situation like talking on the phone on a busy street or on the bus.
Score components:
Sony MDR-1A SpNR
Speech + Pink Noise :
Speech + Subway Noise :
SpNR
What it is: Speech to Noise Ratio is the difference in level between speech and background noise as heard by the listener
When it matters: If the microphone is going to be used in a noisy environment, it is important for it to be able to separate the speech from background noise, so the voice would be easily audible and understandable.
Good value: >24dB
Noticeable difference: 3dB
:
17.13 dB

The in-line microphone of the MDR-1A is average at noise handling. In our SpNR test, they achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 17dB, suggesting they are best suited for quiet and moderately loud environments since they would struggle to fully separate speech from ambient noise in loud places.

0

Active Features

What it is: Headphones with active components that require a battery. This includes noise cancelling and wireless headphones that actively reduce noise or transmit audio via a wireless connection.
When it matters: How suitable the power and wireless specifications of an active headphone will be, depending on your listening habits. The range and/or discharge time of the active headphone you select will be important if you're often on the move or have long uninterrupted listening sessions.
Score components:

These headphones have no active features and therefore do not require a battery. They also do not have a dedicated app or software support for added customization options. 

N/A Battery
What it is: The power source of your headphones. All headphones with active features have a battery that will deplete over time.
When it matters: To continue using the active features of your headphones. Some models lose features or switch off completely when the battery is drained, which limits what you can do with them until the next charge.
Battery Type
What it is: The type of battery that the headphones use. Usually AAA or embedded, Li-ion rechargeable batteries.
When it matters: When your headphones run out of power. Rechargeable batteries usually charge via the headphones Micro-USB port whereas AAA batteries have to be replaced or charged with an external device.
:
N/A
Battery Life
What it is: The amount of time it takes for a headphones' battery to be completely drained. Battery life will vary depending on the active features used and volume level.
When it matters: For active headphones that connect wirelessly, have noise cancellation or other audio-enhancing features, that cease to work once the battery is dead.
Good value: >10hrs
Noticeable difference: 0.5hrs
:
N/A
Charge Time
What it is: The amount of time your active headphones have to be connected to a power source to charge from 0 to a 100%. However, charging time will vary depending on your power source.
When it matters: To be able to use the active features of your headphones. Especially, wireless ones that completely switch off and need to be recharged when the battery is dead.
Good value: 2h or less
Noticeable difference: 0.25h
:
N/A
Power Saving Feature
What it is: A feature that turns off the headphones, after a set time, when they're not in use.
When it matters: To prolong battery life when the headphones are not being used, or if you forget to manually turn off your headphones.
:
N/A
Audio while charging
What it is: Some active headphones remain usable while charging. They continue to stream audio and do not disable other active features.
When it matters: This makes sure that your headphones's battery are not being drained when your relatively close to a power source. However, this means wireless headphones will need a wired connection to the power source during the charging process.
:
N/A
Passive Playback
What it is: Active headphones that still work when all their active features are turned off or out of power.
When it matters: If you run out of power and do not have spare AA/AAA batteries or access to a power source to recharge your headphones.
:
N/A

These are passive headphones with no active components and no battery.

0 App Support
What it is: The additional app provided to enhance your listening experience. They typically deliver a set of practical features that give you more control over the sound, noise cancelling and effects that the headphones produce.
When it matters: An app with a lot of features allows you to customize your listening experience to suit your taste and preferences. For example, additions like an equalizer can give you more bass or treble and room effects can simulate a bigger Soundstage in closed back headphones.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
What it is: Parametric, graphic or preset sound profiles that slightly alter the frequency response.
When it matters: If you want to tailor, your listening experience. Depending on what you're listening to you may want more or less bass for some tracks or more mid-range for vocals-heavy audio.
:
N/A
ANC control
What it is: Control over the Active noise canceling technology. This could be either a simple on/off button, and adjustable slider or even adaptive self-regulating noise cancellation.
When it matters: If you're in an environment where you need to monitor your surroundings or completely isolate yourself from ambient noise.
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
What it is: Room effects that enhance the audio quality to make it more immersive.
When it matters: If you want to further tweak your listening experience. Adding room effects, can simulate a more spacious Soundstage or deliver a surround sound-like feel.
:
N/A
Playback control
What it is: An in-app player that gives you access to play/stop, track skipping or volume controls directly with the app.
When it matters: It's a shortcut that allows you to control your audio without leaving the application.
:
N/A
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

The Sony MDR-1A do not have a compatible app or software support for added customization options.

5.5

Connectivity

What it is: The inputs and outputs of wired and wireless headphones, as well as their latency performance and range.
When it matters: To know how compatible your Bluetooth device, console or PC will be with your wired or wireless headset.
Score components:
  • 10% Bluetooth
  • 32% Wired
  • 10% Base/Dock
  • 22% Wireless Range
  • 25% Latency

The Sony MDR-1A are not Bluetooth headphones and do not come with a base or dock. They have a wired 1/8TRRS connection with an in-line microphone that will work with your Xbox One or PS4 controller. Unfortunately, since they're wired, they won't have the range and convenience of wireless headphones for gaming or watching movies, but on the upside, they have practically no latency like most wired headsets.

0 Bluetooth
What it is: Bluetooth support for wireless headphones.
When it matters: To connect wirelessly to Bluetooth sources like your phone, tablet, console, PC and TV.
Score components:
  • 79% Multi-Device Pairing
  • 20% NFC
  • 0% PS4 Compatible
  • 0% Xbox One Compatible
Bluetooth Version : N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
What it is: A Bluetooth profile that's allows some headphones to be simultaneously connected to multiple Bluetooth sources.
When it matters: To quickly switch between your Bluetooth sources. For example switching from your phone to your home or work PC.
Good value: 2 devices.
:
N/A
NFC
What it is: Near Field Communication technology that allows you to quickly, pair your headphones with your Bluetooth and NFC-enabled device.
When it matters: This makes pairing with an NFC-enabled device a lot easier than the typical and often tedious hold-to-pair procedure that most wireless headphones have.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
What it is: Bluetooth compatibility with the PlayStation 4.
When it matters: To connect your headphones wirelessly with your PS4.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
What it is: Bluetooth compatibility with the Xbox One.
When it matters: To connect your headphones wirelessly with your Xbox one.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A

These headphones are wired and do not have a Bluetooth connection. If you want a good Bluetooth headset for more casual use, check out the Sony WH-1000XM2.

9.1 Wired
What it is: The type and compatibility of audio cables for wired and wireless headphones.
When it matters: For all devices with a regular audio jack (line-out) and also compatibility of the in-line remote/boom microphone with consoles and Personal computers.
Score components:
  • 13% Analog
  • 9% USB
  • 26% PS4 Compatible
  • 26% Xbox One Compatible
  • 26% PC Compatible
Cable Tested : Not OS specific
Analog
What it is: A regular 1/8" TRS audio jack or a 1/4 or 1/16 TRS with a 1/8 TRS adapter.
When it matters: For all devices with a line out.
Good value: Yes
:
Yes
USB
What it is: A USB or USB adapter to connect to your devices for audio and microphone.
When it matters: A digital USB adapter usually offers a slight advantages over a regular audio jack, like a DAC, and amplifier module or software support and compatibility with PCs. However it may not be as compatible with consoles.
Good value: Yes
:
No
PS4 Compatible
What it is: PS4 compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your PS4
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
Audio + Microphone
Xbox One Compatible
What it is: Xbox One compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your Xbox One
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
Audio + Microphone
PC Compatible
What it is: PC compatibility with a regular 3 or 4 pin 1/8 TRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your PC.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
Audio + Microphone

The Sony MDR-1A come with a non-os-specific audio cable with an in-line remote and microphone that is compatible with consoles. They will provide audio and voice chat support when connected to your PS4 or Xbox One controller, but you may need a headset adapter for PC if your PC does not have a 4 pin audio jack like tablets and phones.

0 Base/Dock
What it is: The base station, dock or dongle transmitter of wireless headphones that receive data/audio via a proprietary frequency range.
When it matters: Knowing the inputs and outputs of the base/dock/dongle as well as its compatibility with consoles and Personal Computers. Also whether the base supports dock charging to easily recharge the headphones without any cables.
Score components:
  • 4% Optical Input
  • 22% Line In
  • 4% Line Out
  • 22% USB Input
  • 4% RCA Input
  • 9% PS4 Compatible
  • 9% Xbox One Compatible
  • 9% PC Compatible
  • 2% Power Supply
  • 13% Dock Charging
Wireless Type
What it is: The type of wireless connection used by the base station/dock to communicate with the headphones.
When it matters: For latency and range. For example Radio frequency has low latency but mediocre range when obstructed and proprietary docks have their own 2.x GHz or 5 GHz frequency which varies in performance.
:
N/A
Optical Input
What it is: Optical input for audio.
When it matters: Optical can carry a bit more data at faster speeds than typical wired connection which allows for more high quality, lossless audio.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Line In
What it is: The regular wired input via a 1/8" TRS audio jack.
When it matters: For any device that has a line out for audio transmission.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Line Out
What it is: A regular 1/8TRS audio jack output.
When it matters: If you need to share the audio source with other devices. A line out lets you connect other headphones or speakers to the dock/base station.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
USB Input
What it is: A digital USB input instead of a typical 1/8 TRS line-in.
When it matters: A USB connection can provide both an audio input and power to the Dock or Base station.
:
N/A
RCA Input
What it is: Audio input using via an RCA connectors.
When it matters: Provides better stereo audio to the dock/base that's then transmitted to the headphones.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with the PlayStation 4.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with the Xbox One.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
:
N/A
PC Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with your Personal Computer.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Power Supply
What it is: The connector type of the power source.
When it matters: The accessibility of the power source. For example a power supply with USB/USB-C connects to multiple devices, PC , PS4, Xbox One or even with your regular phone charger whereas a A/C adapter is less common.
Good value: USB/USB-C
:
N/A
Dock Charging
What it is: Charging the headphones via the dock/base station instead of a charging cable.
When it matters: It makes charging your headphones easier and gives you a sport to store your headphones when they are not in use.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A

These headphones do not have a dock. If you need a headset with a dock that also has a wired connection for gaming or watching movies, then consider the SteelSeries Arctis 7.

0 Wireless Range
What it is: Headphones that offer a cable-free listening experience over a wireless network, typically via Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: If you don't want to be limited by the length of an audio cable. This means having the freedom to move around in your home or office with a much greater range than an audio cable could provide, especially, if the Bluetooth source is heavy or difficult to carry.
Score components:
Obstructed Range
What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when the Bluetooth source was placed in another room.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in an indoor environment. Although, the obstructed wireless range will slightly depend on your home or office layout.
Good value: >35ft
Noticeable difference: 5ft
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when in direct line of sight of the Bluetooth device.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you, while listening to your audio in a large and open environment.
Good value: 170ft or more
Noticeable difference: 10ft
:
N/A

These are passive headphones that do not have a wireless range since they're wired. If you want a good wireless headset for critical listening, consider the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2.

10 Latency
What it is: How long it takes for audio to play through your headphones once the audio signal has been sent from a source.
When it matters: When gaming or watching movies. High latency means you will hear the audio much later than the images you see on screen.
Score components:
Default Latency
What it is: The Base RF latency or the default sub-band coding (SBC) of most Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos a high latency can cause sync issues between the images you see and the audio you hear.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
0 ms
aptX Latency
What it is: An audio coding algorithm (Codec) that improves bit rate efficiency. It reduces latency and improves sound quality over Bluetooth.
When it matters: For better sound quality if your often streaming music over Bluetooth. Also it slightly improves latency when watching videos with wireless headphones.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15ms
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
What it is: Low latency variation of aptX that significantly reduces sync issues between video and sound when using Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos or gaming latency is a lot more noticeable than just listening to music.
Good value: 50ms or less
Noticeable difference: 5ms
:
N/A

The Sony MDR-1A have a simple wired connection with practically no latency. Unfortunately, this also means that they're limited by the range of the provided cables.

In the box

Sony MDR-1A In the box Picture

  • Sony MDR-1A Headphones
  • Carrying Pouch
  • Audio cables (x2)
  • Manual

Compared to other Headphones

Sony MDR-1A Compare Picture

The Sony MDR-1A are very comfortable critical listening closed-back headphones with a sturdy but surprisingly lightweight design. They look great and deliver a well-balanced sound quality that packs a good amount of bass without over-powering the instruments and vocals in the mid-range. They can sound a bit sharp with some already bright tracks due to the peak in the treble range, but overall they're a good option for critical listening as long as you don't mind losing a bit of soundstage since they're closed-back headphones. Unfortunately, although they're a good choice for most listeners, they are a lot more expensive than some of the options available below.

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0

The Sony MDR-1A are a slightly better headset than the Sennheiser HD1 Over-Ear. The Sonys have a much more comfortable over-ear fit than the Sennheiser. They're also a bit better built with durable materials that are a lot lighter than the HD1's build quality. They also have a better sound quality that's more balanced with the higher frequencies and does not sound as dark. On the upside the HD1 over-ear leak a lot less which make them a bit more suitable for noise sensitive environments like the office. They also have a better control scheme with more functionality even if they're a bit limited to iOS devices.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are not as premium looking as the Sony MDR-1A but deliver a sound quality with a better bass and treble reproduction. They feel sturdy and durable although they are mostly made out of plastic and do not have the lightweight aluminum alloy build quality of the Sonys.  They're also not as comfortable. If you're looking for the best-sounding closed-back headphone for critical listening, then the ATH-M50x are a much cheaper alternative to the MDR-1A with a slightly better-balanced sound. However, if you have the budget, the Sonys are a great choice with a good sound quality, a more polished and comfortable design, and an audio cable that's compatible with your phone, console, and PC.

Sony MDR-1000X

The Sony MDR-1000x are the older model of the WH-1000XM2. They have the same design but do not benefit from the app support of the newer model. However, they are wireless which makes them a bit more convenient for day-to-day use than the MDR-1A, although they're not as comfortable or as well built. they also have quite a bit of latency when watching videos, but on the upside, they do provide an audio cable in the box so you can use them wired like the 1As. Unfortunately, they do not sound as balanced as the MDR-1A, even when used wired so if you want the more comfortable and better-sounding headset overall, get the 1As instead. However, if you prefer the convenience of a wireless design, then the MDR-1000X are a good option with great noise canceling for commuting. But you may want to get the pricier WH-1000XM2 instead, which has less build quality issues and app support.

Sennheiser HD 598 Cs

The Sennheiser HD 598 Cs are the closed back variant of the popular HD 598. They have about the same performance as the Sony MDR-1A but have a much cheaper build quality. They also do not look as premium, but they are about as comfortable with slightly more spacious ear cups. They do not sound as bright on some tracks as the Sony, but they have a little less bass. Unfortunately, both headphones are not ideal for commuting since they do not block a lot of noise, although they are a bit better suited to use outdoors since they come with an in-line remote to skip tracks when connected into your phone. The in-line remote is also compatible with consoles. If you want the better looking and more durable headset, then go for the Sonys. However, they are twice the price of the Sennheiser for a comparable performance in most use cases.

Conclusion
SEE PRICE
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6.6Mixed Usage
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
Average for mixed usage. The Sony MDR-1A are best used for critical listening but deliver a comfortable and lightweight design that's not too leaky at higher volumes. They're a decent option for the office and a suitable choice for gaming since they have an audio cable with a microphone that will work with your consoles. However, they do not isolate enough for some loud environments so they won't be the ideal headphones for commuting and since they're wired, they won't be as convenient to use on a daily basis as the other wireless headphones we've tested.
7.7Critical Listening
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
The Sony MDR-1A are great headphones for critical listening. They have a well-balanced frequency response that packs enough bass without drowning the instruments and vocals on any track. They're also lightweight and super comfortable so you can have them on for hours and not feel the fatigue that some other headphones induce after a long listening session. However, they have a closed-back design, so they won't have the same ambiance as open headphones, which some critical listeners are looking for.
6.0Commute/Travel
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
Mediocre for commuting. They do not isolate well in loud environments, so they won't be ideal for the level of noise typical on public transits. However, they're comfortable and have a simple to use if slightly limited control scheme.
6.0Sports/Fitness
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
Mediocre-at-best for sports. They're comfortable and easy-to-use but do not have a stable enough fit to exercise with. Also like most closed back over-ear headphones, they are not the most breathable and will make you sweat a bit more than average during more intense workout routines.
6.4Office
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:
Average for office use. The Sony MDR-1A don't leak much at moderate volumes and have a comfortable design you can wear for hours without getting tired. However, they do not block a lot of ambient noise so if you have a loud and lively office then they may not be the most suitable headphones for that use case.
6.1Home Theater
Score components:
Above-average for home theater use. They're super comfortable headphones with a great sound that caters well to music and movie watching. However, since they're wired headphones, they won't have the best range. Unless you have an extension cord for the audio cable, they won't be the best headphones to comfortably watch tv from your couch.
6.7Gaming
Score components:
Decent for gaming. They have a good sound, a comfortable design, and a somewhat decent in-line microphone that will work with the PS4 and Xbox One. However, they won't be as convenient as wireless gaming headsets, and they are not customizable, so you won't be able to tweak their sound profile to match what the game you're playing.

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