It’s been a minute since I’ve even used the headphone jack on my laptop and let’s not even get into smartphones! Specifically speaking about Sony, it’s their active noise-cancelling WH and WF series that we’re all more familiar with, but I was also thankful to the Secret Santa at Sony India who sent me the MDR-MV1 open-back headphones for an early preview.
Sony MDR-MV1 review
Bridging the prosumer gap
You could call these basic and you wouldn’t be wrong. The unboxing experience is very 1990s, with no carrying case, no fancy velvet sleeve for storage and just an adapter and detachable cable as accessories. But you still can’t help but be pleasantly surprised the moment you extract the MV1 from the box, thanks to its incredible lightness. Weighing a mere 223g, Sony has masterfully executed an ultra-light aluminium body that in fact feels like plastic to the untrained eye (and weighing scales). Even the clamping force on the head is just right, without leaving an impression on your cartilage. The uber-soft suede ear cushions are supremely comfortable and balance nicely with the memory foam headband. What would be nicer though is user-replaceable or removable ear cups for cleaning and maintenance. A nice touch is the presence of indentations on the adjustable headband along with size markings, ensuring you get a precise every time, even after someone else borrows them.
Being aimed at the professional market, this is strictly a wired headphone with no frills and as such and no marketing team seems to have been assigned to it either. What you see is what you get and it’s all pretty functional. 40mm custom corrugated drivers capable of a wide bandwidth of 5Hz-80kHz with a ducted structure that forms its open-back design. Lockable cable connection and a long 2mt cable with a 6.3mm termination is what you get for studio use but also, crucially, its low impedance of 24ohms means you can even use them without any external amplification. Plug them right into your laptop or if you’re lucky, your smartphone and you can take studio-grade sound with you on the move too. A 6.3mm to 3.5mm adaptor is included, if you must take your masters with you.
Expecting absolute neutrality, I went into the MDR-MV1 harbouring visions of boredom but it took me totally by surprise. These open backs are uncoloured and yet not neutral, in an entertaining way! Toto’s classic ‘I Will Remember’ was reproduced with an expansive and open soundstage that allowed the toms in the intro to really bloom and when the bass kicks in, the MV1 never felt distressed. Vocal staples like Angel by Sarah McLachlan is beautifully nuanced and while there is a slight emphasis on the top end, it always stays in check and true to the artists’ implied intention.
The already wide stereo image takes another dimension on tracks mixed in Dolby Atmos on Apple Music. Sting’s recent remaster of Nothing Like the Sun is a great example of an older recording remastered for modern playback systems and the MV1 do complete justice to ‘They Dance Alone’ by creating an experience that transports you back into the studio with the master musicians and magnifies the spatial cues like the size of the recording room and reverb times. Midrange is its biggest strength, accurately reproducing the timbre of instruments and human voices and letting you revel in it for hours at end without feeling fatigued, like in a closed back design.
The cushions, while extremely comfortable, will make you feel warm in a non-AC room though and you want to let your ears breathe every now and then. Again, not something that studio users will have to worry about, but if you’re an audiophile looking for a rickshaw ride companion, you may also have to invest in a portable fan.
If you value clarity and definition over outright punch and privacy, the Sony MDR-MV1 is one of the best sounding and fitting wired headphones at this price. They need a quiet environment to be appreciated in their entirety and feed them via a DAC and it injects even more subtleties into your ear that you never thought existed in your music library.
A wholesome and accurate sounding pair of headphones that are perfect for desktop use and even accommodating smartphones.
|Open back, dynamic
|5Hz - 80kHz