Price: $149 ($129 street)
Likes: comfortable. smooth character, comfy
More info: Sony MDR-7510
by John Gatski
I have used the made-in-Japan Sony MDR-7506 and MDR-7509 professional headphones for many years. They are quite popular for their open sound, foldable storage and comfortable wear factor. Broadcasters, pro audio studio engineers and avid audiophiles bought them by the truck load, and they have managed to find their way to audiophiles and portable audio device listeners, as well.
In my opinion, the new MDR-7510 headphone reviewed here, is a better-sounding headphone and it costs less than the MDR-7509 — with its cost saving Chinese manufacture and plastic construction.
Retail priced at $149, the MDR-7510 is designed with 50-mm neodymium magnet drivers for each side, incorporating what Sony calls PET technology into each diaphragm — claimed to increase the accuracy, smoothness and frequency response.
The MDR-7510 is part of the new 7500 series headphones, including its big brother MDR-7520. The newer ‘phones differ from the standard Japanese-manufactured 7500 series headphones in that they are not foldable and are made with composite plastic ear cups instead of the metal construction used in the 7506 and 7509 series (no longer made). But the composite plastic build makes for a lighter, more comfortable headphone that still is acoustically articulate. The drivers are also a new design.
Other features include an OFC attached cable, 1/8-to-1/4-inch adapter and a soft carrying bag. Spec wise, the headphone is said to have a frequency response from 5 Hz to 40 khz (no tolerance given). The sensitivity rating is 108 dB at 100mW, and impedance is an easy-to-drive 24 ohms. The oxygen-free wire is enclosed in a 9-ft. coiled cable; weight is a comfortable 9.2 ounces.
I found the MDR-7510 to be a fairly neutral headphone — with a fairly tight frequency response for such a reasonably priced headphone. I was impressed from the first playback.
As a headphone distributed through pro and MI channels, the new 7510 (and the big brother 7520) are quite affordable. Since they are distributed through the MI dealers, they are also easily available to non-pros. I see a wide variety of users for the headphones: pro engineers who need a budget, good-sounding phone for daily monitoring chores, location-sound and broadcast folks — as well as musicians and audiophile recordists who use the current generation of hand-held 24-bit recorders.
I tested the MDR-7510 with numerous headphone-capable audio devices; high-end rack-mount professional 24-bit recorder, a high-end analog mixer, and various handheld 24-bit recorder/players, such as the highly regarded TASCAM DR-100 and the Sony PCM-10. I even plugged the MDR-7510 into an iPod.
I also plugged into an audiophile/professional Benchmark DAC1 Pre D/A converter headphone jack, and the headphone output of a Nord Electro 3 electronic keyboard in the Hammond B3 mode.
Headphones sound better after a three or four day break-in period, so I plugged them into an AV receiver and let them play with a pop FM station at high levels. Most new headphones seem to open up after a few of days of such intensive play. You can also play pink noise and warble bass tones for break-in as well.
Since headphone listening lets you listen deep into the audio, I keep my rack components AC connected with Essential Sound Products power cords and power strip to reduce AC has, buzz and noise. These USA-made cords have excellent RF noise immunity.
First up, I plugged the MDR-7510 into my high-resolution TASCAM DVRA1000-HD recorder/player (up to 24 bit/192 kHz sample rate PCM as well as DSD) and listened to a number of home-brew 24-bit recordings of my Martin acoustic and Gibson L5CES jazz guitars through an original 1966 Fender Deluxe Reverb amp. My reference headphone is the AKG K701, an open-back design that is priced in the $550 range. I also use a Shure SRH-840 headphone as well. For comparison purposes, I also listened to the Sony MDR-7509, which is still available.
I really appreciated the 7510’s even frequency response on Classical music (violins and classical guitar in particular) and the dynamics of Big Band horns and percussion.
With the acoustic guitar recordings, I found the MDR-7510 to be a fairly neutral headphone — especially for its price. Its top-end presence is just slightly elevated and the bass just has a smidgen of midbass bump, but the overall characteristic is a fairly tight frequency response for such a reasonably priced headphone. I was impressed right from the start.
The drivers bring out the detail in the stereo mix with nice separation and depth, and the top end is not overly sizzly. The all-important midrange and low treble frequencies had little of the peaks that I often hear in today’s headphones. The 7510‘s sonic smoothness enabled pain-free, long-term listening sessions, even at louder levels, without extensive ear fatigue.
To my ears, it definitely is smoother than the old MDR-7509. The Shure SRH-840 has an appealing tone — slightly more elevated presence and midbass bump — that makes it seem more inviting than the 7510, but I think the Sony’s flat character will garner lots of fans.
When I played audiophile pre-recorded SACDs and DVD-As, as well as downloaded 24-bit music from HD Tracks, the Sony MDR-7510‘s smoothness characterized that music as well. A 24-bit dub of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, sounded superb. I really appreciated the 7510’s even frequency response on classical music (violins and classical guitar in particular) and the dynamics of big band. It does not match the AKG K701 for openness and ultimate transient response, but for $130 bucks on the street, it’s pretty darn good.
On pop music, the lack of overly emphasized treble and bass frequencies was welcome — in that the 7510 allowed the music to sound less edgy and dense. Some headphones are tuned for extra mid-bass, which can get muddy with material that has extra bass. The Sony MDR-75010 has just the right amount of extra bass to keep it balanced.
The closed-back design offers decent isolation, but it is not a headphone that you would want to use in really loud sound reinforcement duties, or sitting next to the wing engine on an airplane. The headphone is light in its feel, comfortable and did not push against my eyeglasses the way the 7509 does.
I did not have any negatives regarding this headphone. I missed the space-saving, foldable function of the MDR-7509, but then again, you have to trade off something for $100 fewer dollars.
I like the new Sony MDR-7510 headphone. Although it lacks the metal build of the more expensive MDR-7509, I think it sounds more accurate and is easier to listen to for long periods. Throw in the very reasonable under-$150 retail price and comfortable wear factor, and you’ve got yourself a headphone bargain that deserves an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.
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