Sony MDR-R10 Short Impressions

Though most Sony headphones are considered to be non-audiophile headphones, the MDR-R10 is an exception. This is a discontinued model that has gained a legendary reputation in the headphone world, and used models sell in the $6000 price range.

Jaben Networks kindly provided me with an opportunity to audition the Sony MDR-R10. The set up was mostly mine, except for the R10, so it was a setting I’m very familiar with. It was as follows:

Source: CEC TL51XZ CDP
DAC: Buffalo24
Amplifier: Grace M902

I know that the Grace M902 may not be the best pairing with the R10, so perhaps next time we can pair it with a better single ended amplifier like an EAR HP4 or a Zana Deux.

The Sony MDR R10 is very comfortable on your ears. It has genuine leather pads, and everything feels very light on the head, definitely lighter than a HD800. Comfort and fit is probably one of the best that you can get from a headphone.

The first thing that struck me is that it has an exceptional soundstage. A closed design headphone with a soundstage on the same level as a Sennheiser HD800 is something to be recognized. The soundstage is smaller than the HD800’s, but it has a deeper depth. What’s weird, however, is that some sound seems to come out from the back of your ears! Initially I got the impression of a more 180 degree soundstage on the R10, but then I noticed that it’s because it has this presentation of soundstage that seemingly project some sound from the back, though it shouldn’t be like that.

I really wouldn’t comment too much on the sound quality, knowing that I didn’t have a good amplifier for the R10. On a short impression, the R10 has a smooth sound with quite a forward lower treble. This lower treble should make vocals very intimate and seducing. However, the forward lower treble gets in the way when listening to a Classical symphony. The R10 that I auditioned was a bit light on bass, both lower and upper. I also didn’t notice anything special on the quality of the bass as well as the impact– the HD800 definitely has the upper hand here. Overall, the R10 is definitely more mellow than aggressive.

Based on the sound presentation, I wouldn’t prefer it for classical, due to the forward lower treble and lack of impact. I also don’t think it would be a good headphone for Rock as it doesn’t seem to have the impact and the rawness needed for Rock. However, the smooth sound and the intimate vocal would make this headphone sublime for Vocal or Jazz.

Thanks to Jaben Networks for providing the opportunity to audition this legendary headphone.

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