Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Sony MDR-7506's revisited and a note on equalization

Five years after purchasing my first good pair of headphones, I want to revisit the Sony MDR-7506's and talk about why I believe they are still a fantastic pair of headphones.  The 7506's really kicked off my whole interest in headphones and audio as a whole, and was the primary reason I started blogging about headphones. I also want to touch on the topic of equalization and using an equalizer to change the sound of a pair of headphones.

Sony MDR-7506
Since their original purchase in 2010, my Sony MDR-7506's have been haphazardly tossed in many backpacks, dropped, sat on, accompanied me on road trips and vacation destinations that could only be reached by plane, and been around my neck as I walked through the hallways of my High School, which always resulted in strange looks from passerby's.  The 7506's were first introduced in 1991, and were based off of the design of the V6's that were introduced in 1985.  They do have a dated look to them, which I personally like.  No one expects something that looks as plain, boring, simple and somewhat "retro" to sound very good.  It's always a nice surprise for people who listen to them for the first time.

They are exceedingly tough and durable headphones, and are extremely simple in their construction making them easy to fix if need be.  Over the years, the hinges have become a bit squeaky, a small squirt of WD-40 remedied the problem and they are back to near new.  The sound quality hasn't suffered over the years, despite accidentally leaving them plugged into an amplifier that's volume level was set at several times higher than it should have been.  In all honestly, I think a lesser headphone would have blown a driver if put in the same situation.  Five years later, the 7506's are battle-scarred.  They have small dents and scrapes and areas of rubbed away paint.  They still work flawlessly, and I believe they will continue to work flawlessly for years to come.  You can really beat on these headphones and they will continue to keep chugging away.  The only issue is with the ear pads, which if you read any review about the V6's or 7506's, the ear pads do deteriorate relatively fast depending on a host of factors.  Third party replacement pads are cheap and easy to come by however.

The 7506's are studio headphones, and as such are designed to pick up and uncover flaws in a track.  They are mostly very neutral, with very pronounced treble that some find to be harsh and somewhat sibilant. This assessment is relatively accurate, I do find that in certain tracks, the treble is harsh enough to make listening to them fatiguing.  The bass on the other hand is my absolute favorite quality about the 7506's.  It's extremely well controlled, with incredible extension into the extreme low and upper bass ranges.  It's really some of the best bass reproduction I have heard in a headphone, even when compared to headphones several time's it's cost, and thats another thing about the 7506's, they are dirt cheap for what you get.  The bass is clean, with absolutely no muddiness or booming.  The midrange is nicely represented as well, and is not recessed like many competing products (such as the Audio- Technica ATH-M50X's).

Circling back to the somewhat sibilant and harsh treble, how is it that I can listen to the 7506's for hours on end without getting tired of the sometimes fatiguing treble? Well, pretty much all music players have this nifty thing called an equalizer, and audio elitists will always tell you to never use one.  Their reasoning is mixed, but it usually has to with audio elitists not being able to stand the concept of modifying the sound of the original track or the naturally produced sound coming from your headphones (god forbid). For some reason it's ok to use a tube amplifier which purposely colors the sound, but not use an EQ which essentially does the same thing. I do use an equalizer when I am listening to the 7506's for enjoyment purposes and leave them unequalized when I am trying to find flaws in a track.  When you lower the treble of the 7506's to cut down on some of the harshness and give the bass frequencies and ever so slight boost, you can really get the 7506's to sing.  This significantly warms up the headphone and still retains all of the aspects that make the 7506's so good such as the fantastic bass response.  You have to do subtractive equalization however, as the 7506's are extremely sensitive when it comes to distortion, as they are purpose built to uncover such issues in tracks.

7506 connector plugged into Objective 2
In all honesty, I don't understand the adversity towards equalization.  Many of the same people who feel that equalization is bad use tube amplifiers which sole purpose is to color the sound.  Equalizations sole purpose is to change the sound as well, and the distinction between the end result of both is minimal.  Do whatever sounds best to you, whether that be unequalized, equalized or a fancy and incredibly expensive tube amplifier.  

As far as the 7506's are concerned, they are still being manufactured and sold, Sony discontinued them for all of a month before continuing them again in response to the incredible demand for both the V6's and 7506's.  If you wan't insanely durable headphones that sound good for a low price, and you like the treble spike or are willing to use an equalizer, the V6's and 7506's are a fantastic choice.


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  6. I just bought a pair of MDR-7506s and while I'm trying to take your advice (never having touched an eq before) by googling "lowering treble eq" and trying to apply that to my foobar2000 eq, I'm not really sure what I'm doing, I bumped 5, 7, and 10kHz down a few notches? Is that what you'd recommend?