இ Fuzzy Wuzzy's Summary:
ѾѾѾѾ Somewhat recommended, with reservations and only lukewarm fuzzies. (I actually rate this 3.5 stars instead of a full 4.0 stars)
► Packaging, Style, Appearance: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
► Construction & Build Quality: ѾѾѾ Average not-good not-bad 3-fuzzies rating
► Design & Features: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
► Ergonomics & Comfort: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
► Sound Quality: ѾѾѾ Average not-good not-bad 3-fuzzies rating
► Competitive Pricing & Value: ѾѾѾ Average not-good not-bad 3-fuzzies rating
փ Along with being used as regular wired headphones, these headphones can connect wirelessly either by pairing to a Bluetooth device or by touching to an NFC-compatible smartphone.
փ These headphones are light in weight and extremely comfortable to wear for extended periods.
փ These are one of the most comfortable over-the-ear headphones that I have ever worn on my larger-than-average head.
փ Even though a headphones' appearance should not matter, these Sony headphones look as good and stylish as some of the other trendier hip headphone brands on the market.
փ It feels quite liberating to not have my ears tethered to regular wired headphones or earbuds.
փ Operating a smartphone while wearing these headphones works well.
ჯ These premium-priced headphones are mostly made of plastic parts.
ჯ The bass response is overemphasized and slightly muddy.
ჯ There is not enough higher-frequency treble to add crispness and sparkle to the sound and to balance the heavy bass response; the lack of treble can really dull the sound.
ჯ A 90-day labor warranty is too stingy for $400 headphones.
What is in the box package?
₪ Sony MDR-1RBT Bluetooth headphones
₪ 20-inch USB-to-Micro-USB recharging cable
₪ 5-foot 3.5mm audio cable for plugging the headphones into a regular mini-jack
₪ "Quick Start Guide" foldout sheet
₪ "Reference Guide" foldout sheet
₪ Nylon drawstring carrying pouch with soft interior lining
During the 1980s and 1990s, long before Bose came on the headphones scene, and even longer before Dr. Dre Beats became a hip fashion statement, Sony, Audio-Technica, and Sennheiser were making some amazing high-end headphones. While Audio-Technica and Sennheiser have continued offering great headphones across the entire price range, it seems that during the past ten to twenty years, Sony has focused more of their headphones product line on less expensive headphones and earbuds, perhaps to cater more to the iPod/MP3 generation instead of to audiophiles who are listening at home with their headphones plugged into stereo equipment. These Sony MDR-1RBT Bluetooth headphones are a premium product: premium in design and features, and definitely premium in pricing.
These headphones are packaged inside a softly-lined black box that looks more like a gift box, as if you were opening up a fancy box containing jewelry. Inside the box are the headphones, a 20-inch USB-to-Micro-USB recharging cable to charge up the headphones when used in wireless Bluetooth mode, a 5-foot 3.5mm audio cable for connecting the headphones as regular wired headphones, and two foldout guide sheets. The drawstring carrying pouch is lined with a soft fabric and has a smaller pocket inside it that is useful for carrying the two cables and two foldout guide sheets that come with the headphones.
These over-the-ear headphones are very comfortable to wear, with the surrounding cushions feeling very soft and sumptuous. These are definitely one of the most comfortable over-the-ear headphones that I have ever worn! My head is larger than average (e.g. most bicycle helmets are too small for me), and some headphones clamp on my head too tightly, but I can wear these headphones for several hours in total comfort. Because they totally surround your ears with a soft pleather-like cushion, they can feel more warm to wear for an extended period compared to on-the-ear headphones, especially if you wear them outside or wear them while moving around, due to the heat from your body that gets trapped inside the ear-cups.
Weighing 10.5 ounces, these headphones feel relatively light. However, this light weight is achieved by mainly using plastic parts in this headphones' construction. The headband uses a band of metal, but most of the parts are made of plastic, including some shiny plastic parts that are colored to look like metal. The ear-cups are connected to plastic hinges, which does not give the impression of long-term durability. With all the plastic used in its construction, the build quality of this MDR-1RBT feels cheap. For $400 premium-priced headphones, I would expect more lightweight aluminum, magnesium, or titanium metals being used in the headphones' construction, even if that added a bit more weight to the overall design, for better long-term durability. And for premium-priced headphones using not-so-premium build quality, these headphones only have a short 90-day labor warranty, although the parts warranty is for 1 year. Sony should have at least included an all-inclusive labor-and-parts 1 year warranty for these headphones.
The plastic rims of both ear-cups contain various controls and input jacks. The left ear-cup has the power button for using the headphones wirelessly, the Micro-USB port for plugging in the recharging cable to recharge the internal non-user-replaceable lithium ion battery for wireless use, a "Reset" button for resetting the Bluetooth connection, the audio input jack for the 3.5mm audio cable for wired use, a microphone opening for phone use, and a red/blue indicator light to show the power or communication status of the headphones. The right ear-cup has +/- volume buttons, an NFC on/off slider witch to enable/disable the NFC one-touch connection, a forward/reverse/play/pause jog switch for music functions, a phone button to control call functions, and there is an "N" NFC logo on the right ear-cup where you touch a smartphone to active the NFC connection. Once you get used to the location of the controls, they have pretty good ergonomics and are easy to locate while you wear the headphones. The most-frequently used controls are located on the right side. If you are left-handed and prefer to operate most of the controls with your left hand, you can wear the headphones with the right channel on your left ear and the headphones fit just as well.
There are three ways to connect these headphones to an audio source: (1) Use the included 5-foot 3.5mm audio cable to connect the headphones like regular wired headphones; (2) Pair and wirelessly connect the headphones to a Bluetooth device; and (3) Touch and wirelessly connect the headphones to an iOS or Android smartphone using NFC (Near Field Communication). If your Android phone can connect via NFC, you need to download Sony's "NFC Easy Connect" app in order to use this feature. If your phone is housed inside a thicker carrying case, that can impede the NFC detection when you touch the phone to the right ear-cup. But pairing these headphones to a Bluetooth-connected smartphone or device is just as easy and you can wirelessly connect to more devices using Bluetooth, so I tend to mainly use the Bluetooth connection more. The Bluetooth connection was always reliable and consistent. As with most Bluetooth devices, these headphones have a line-of-sight Bluetooth range of about 30 feet. Walls, floors, and other obstacles will reduce the range at which these headphones can be separated from the Bluetooth device. Using the included 20-inch USB-to-Micro-USB recharging cable, it takes about 6 hours to fully charge up the headphones' internal lithium ion battery for wireless use. Once it is charged up, you get up to 30 hours of music and phone usage time out of the headphones.
Sony advertises that these headphones have a "frequency response" of 4 Hz to 80 kHz. The specifications for many audio/stereo components typically list "frequency response" as a +/-3 dB range; i.e. the range of frequencies that the headphones or loudspeakers can play back within a +/-3 dB variation of accuracy. Most humans can hear frequencies between 20 Hz and 20 kHz, although some people can detect down to 15 Hz and up to 25 kHz. So for Sony to publish a "frequency response" for these headphones of 4 Hz to 80 kHz" is absurd because (1) playing frequencies higher than 30 kHz is pretty useless unless you are buying these headphones for a bat, or for your pet dog, cat, or hamster, who can hear the ultra-high frequencies far better than humans, and (2) more importantly, the 40mm drivers used in these headphones cannot accurately reproduce either a very low earthquake-shaking 4 Hz frequency or an extremely high 80kHz frequency. In fact, most high-quality headphones can play a tiny smidgen of an actual 4 Hz or 80 kHz sound, but the sound volume of the 4 Hz extremely-low-bass frequency will be much lower than bass frequencies between 100 and 300 Hz.
A far more indicative audio specification for these headphones is Sony's listing of these headphones' "effective frequency range" of 100 Hz to 4000 Hz. The "effective frequency range" typically denotes the frequency range beyond which, in this case, frequencies lower than 100 Hz and higher than 4000 Hz taper off to less than 10 dB. The midrange frequencies that encompass most vocals go out to about 5000 Hz, although the range between 2500 Hz and 5000 Hz is sometimes referred to as "low treble". The higher treble frequencies add crispness and clarity to vocals since vocal content often goes out to 7000 or 8000 Hz, and treble frequencies also give cymbals and stringed instruments their sparkle, and give electric guitars their sizzle. The bass-heavy sound of these headphones give me an impression of being a bit muddy. This may also be due to the headphones' emphasis on bass and midrange frequencies and not enough high frequencies to provide a more balanced sound. The midrange frequencies of these headphones sound smooth and warm, and all percussion sounds have a strong punchy feel to them, but the treble sounds more muted.
These headphones are best suited for electronic music, dance music, rap, hip-hop, and modern pop music. Talk radio and the voice of late-night jazz DJs also sound warm and full. However, because the high-frequency treble is lacking, I would not recommend these headphones if you mainly listen to classical music. Since I listen to a very wide variety of music, I do not like these headphones as much for classical music and jazz, and rock music does not sound as good because the electric guitars, vocals, and cymbals do not sound as crisp. Acoustic guitars, violins, and harps lack sparkle in their upper timbres. So these headphones do not have a bright high-frequency sizzle to their sound, which may or may not be to your liking. Some headphones can sound too strident during extended listening due to the overemphasis of high frequencies, and with the subdued underemphasized high frequencies on these headphones, they do sound smooth and pleasurable to listen to for long periods of time. But I really wish that these premium headphones from Sony offered a much more balanced sound. You can manually tweak the EQ and boost the treble using your phone, MP3 player, stereo, or playback device to get a better balanced sound, but this should not be a necessary adjustment on $400 headphones. Both with headphones and loudspeakers, I really prefer a neutral sound that does not emphasize either the bass, midrange, or treble. And then if I do want more bass for some kinds of music (or for loudspeakers during a party), I can adjust the bass, treble, EQ, and "Loudness" settings to add more punch to my beat. An accurate and balanced sound reproduction is best if, like me, you listen to many different genres of music.
௫ Fuzzy Wuzzy's Conclusion:
If you use these headphones in wireless Bluetooth mode, the Bluetooth 3.0 A2DP protocol used in these headphones has a maximum available bandwidth of 768 KBPS and Bluetooth utilizes audio compression to transmit the stereo sound. So you will get more audio signal degradation when using these headphones in Bluetooth mode than when you plug these headphones in using the included 3.5mm audio cable. This may not matter anyway if your music source is all MP3 files compressed with a low bit rate. But using Bluetooth headphones is far more about the convenience of being liberated from not having wires dangling from your ears. If your golden ears demand audiophile-grade CD-quality sound, Bluetooth is not the way to go :-) But even when using these headphones in regular wired mode plugged into my stereo listening to CDs (and not MP3s), the sound is still too bass-heavy and not as crisp and clear as many other high-end over-the-ear headphones due to the lack of treble to balance the sound. I still have an old Sony MDR-V6 headphones that I purchased in 1988, 25 years ago, that sounds far more balanced and neutral than this MDR-1RBT, and its price was just a small fraction of this headphones' price. The MDR-V6 and this MDR-1RBT both use 40mm drivers. While the MDR-V6 lacks the heavy punchy bass of this MDR-1RBT, the MDR-V6 is more enjoyable for listening to a wide variety of music, whereas this MDR-1RBT is better suited for music with a heavy beat. Compared to other Bluetooth headphones currently on the market, I think that Sony currently has the best Bluetooth headphones with this MDR-1RBT model. But I would have rated the sound quality 5-stars if there was more treble and a better balance of frequencies to the sound. If sound quality is far more important to you than going wireless, or if you like listening to jazz and classical music, there are many better ways to spend $400 on headphones.
Overall rating for this Sony MDR-1RBT: 3.5 stars