The Sony MDR-1A are comfortable, over-ear headphones that deliver a satisfying and well-balanced sound quality. They have a sleek-looking design, and they're surprisingly lightweight for their build quality. Unfortunately, they do not block ambient noise very well, so they won't be ideal to use in loud environments.
See our recommendations for the best Over Ear Headphones.
- Great audio reproduction.
- Lightweight and sturdy build quality.
- Comfortable fit.
- Poor noise isolation.
- Slightly bulky and unstable design.
The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
Converted to Test Bench 1.1
. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here
The 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 comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. 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.
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.
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.
Ease of use
Noise Canceling Control
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.
The 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.
The 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.
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.
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 MDR-1A's design.
Comes with two cables. A 1/8" TRRS-TRRS with inline controls and a simple 1/8" TRS-TRS audio cable.
The MDR-1A have a good and balanced sound quality. They have a full and extended Bass which performs consistently, a neutral Mid Range and good Treble. However, the Bass is slightly hyped and the Treble could sound a bit sharp to some. Also, due to their closed-back design, they tend to isolate the listener from their environment and won't sound as immersive as open-back headphones.
Very good Bass Range performance. The overall bass response is relatively flat, but consistently over-emphasized by about 3dB. This would make the sound of these headphones slightly bass-heavy, while still remaining within acceptable values.
Very good Mid Range performance. The response in the Mid Range is virtually flat and unremarkable.
Good Treble Range performance. Low-treble and treble are slightly underemphasized, and the dip around 5KHz negatively affects the detail and presence in vocals/leads. The peak in the sibilance range at 9KHz, makes these headphones noticeably sharp which could sound harsh and piercing with music that's overly bright.
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
Good frequency response consistency. The Bass of our over-ear and on-ear headphones are measured on 5 human subjects, 5 times each. The MDR-1A show good consistency both in Bass and Treble Ranges and the maximum amount of deviation from average in the Bass Range is about +/-1.5dB. However, the right ear cup of our test unit measured less consistently than the left ear cup.
Acoustic Space Excitation
Average Soundstage. The ear cups on the MDR-1A are not deep and large enough to interact with the pinna significantly. Also, due to the closed-back design, they isolate the listener from the environment and don't sound as open and immersive as the open-back headphones.
Driver Mismatch (Amplitude)
Driver Mismatch (Frequency)
Driver Mismatch (Phase)
Average Imaging performance. Phase error is minimal and within good limits, however, the drivers of our test unit show a bit of mismatch in amplitude, and especially in phase above 10KHz which would negatively affect the stereo image.
Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
Weighted THD @ 100
Average harmonic distortion performance. The amount of distortion in the Bass Range is slightly elevated, but low-frequency distortion is not very audible to humans. On the other hand, the peak in distortion around 5KHz, would make the Treble on these headphones sound slightly harsh and brittle.
The 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.
Poor Isolation. There is no isolation taking place in the Bass Range. The overall isolation in the Mid Range is about 7dB which is poor. The passive isolation with these headphones start to kick-in at around 300Hz and reaches -20dB at 1KHz. In the Treble Range, an average of 30dB of reduction is achieved, which is good.
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
Decent Leakage performance. The significant portion of the leakage is rather broad, from 300Hz to about 5KHz, but the overall level is quite low. So the leakage will be fuller sounding compared to in-ears, but still quiet.
No active features.
Line of Sight Range
Audio while charging
In the box
- Sony MDR-1A Headphones
- Carrying Pouch
- Audio cables (x2)
These headphones are somewhat Ok for most use cases, but they're best used for critical listening. They deliver a comfortable listening experience in a lightweight design that's not too leaky at higher volumes. However, they do not isolate enough for some loud environments.
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.
Average 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.
Mediocre-at-best for sports. They're comfortable and easy-to-use but do not have a stable enough fit to exercise with.
Average for office use. They 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.
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.