Sony MDR-7506 Review
There’s no time for gear manufacturers to rest on their laurels in the highly competitive world of audio equipment. At the same time, however, change for its own sake rarely turns out well. This is the predicament facing Sony when it comes to their venerable MDR-7506 monitoring headphones. First introduced in 1991, with roots that trace back even further, the Sony MDR-7506 headphones have gone largely unchanged for decades. As it turns out, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ll dig a little deeper into the ins and outs of this classic headphone in this Sony MDR-7506 review.
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Sony MDR-7506 Review: Overview
To those of us who’ve been around professional audio for a while, it’s hard to imagine any professional or advanced hobbyist setup without at least a pair or two of MDR-7506s. No Sony MDR-7506 review would be complete without pointing out that these cans have practically become standard equipment for audio work.
They offer a great sound that makes them versatile enough to handle almost any audio task. They’re also tremendously affordable. The price point makes them especially appealing for budget studio use, but they’re also great for radio, podcast and video applications.
What to Look for in Studio Headphones
While this is a review of the Sony MDR-7506, I like to keep these somewhat educational for readers who are just beginning in audio before really getting into the full swing of things. This is especially true if you’re looking to buy a pair! Let’s run through some headphone basics.
Open-back vs. Closed-back
Studio headphones can be broadly divided into two categories: open-back and closed-back. They can both be used for a variety of purposes, but each has particular strengths and weaknesses. The primary difference is that open-back headphones allow air and sound to pass through the ear cups and closed-back headphones do not.
Open-back cans tend to sound more natural, but they’re problematic to use near microphones or in situations with ambient noise. Closed-back models, meanwhile, are ideal for recording applications and situations in which you need the added sound isolation. Both models can be used for music production.
Drivers, Magnets, & Impedance
Another key specification is driver size, which represents the size of the diaphragm that produces sound. Typical earbud drivers may be 14 millimeters or smaller. For quality studio cans, it’s recommended to look for drivers that are at least 40 millimeters.
Magnet type also plays a role in the overall performance of headphones. High-powered neodymium magnets offer the best performance and lightest weight.
Finally, impedance ratings are useful in determining how much power your headphones need. Headphones that fall below around 25 ohms work best with smartphones, portable music players and other devices that offer weak amplification. High-impedance headphones, on the other hand, usually work best when paired with amplified audio equipment.
Sony MDR-7506 Review Specifications
- Headphone Type: Dynamic, closed
- Magnet Type: Neodymium
- Driver Size: 40.0 mm
- Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 20 kHz
- Impedance: 63 ohms
- Sensitivity: 106 dB/W/m
- Power Handling: 1,000 mW
- Plug Type: Gold-plated stereo UniMatch plug, 1/4″ and 1/8″
- Cord Length: 9.8 ft
- Weight: 8.1 oz
What’s In The Box
I’d been using the MDR-7506s for well over 2 years at the time of writing this review. I bought them back in January 2017, and unfortunately I haven’t held on to the box itself. But part of the greatness of the internet is that there are loads of others documenting exactly what I should have documented back then. Check out this buyers’ experience below!
As we can see, the headphones and accessories are well packaged. The box contains the following items:
- Sony MDR-7506
- 1/4″ TRS to 1/8″ TRS threaded gold-plated adapter
- Carrying pouch
- Service manual
- Warranty card
I somehow miraculously found everything that was in the box at the time, including the pouch. If you watched the video, he mentions that the pouch should have silver lettering, but it looks like Sony may have just changed the pouch over the years. My headphones were made in Thailand and they are the real deal!
The service manual has an exploded assembly diagram and replacement parts information, very useful if you ever need to fix something.
Build Quality & Fitment
Simply put, the MDR-7506s feel like a mid-quality headphone when it comes to materials and build. They’re pretty light, which many who do broadcast and mixing work may find refreshing. No one wants their head weighed down for hours on end.
The housings are made of painted aluminum, and can be folded for mobility on the go. They have plastic blue and red “L” and “R” symbols on the left and right sides. I got the impression that these could be tossed around and contorted in all sorts of ways and still have no problem getting the job done.
The ear cup padding is made of some type of synthetic leather-like material and foam. It’s definitely not memory foam, and the synthetic material feels pretty thin. If I had to take a guess, these are probably the least-durable parts of the headphone and would be the first to go. They are replaceable, though. The inside is covered in what looks and feels like felt.
The headband is made of springy stainless steel, and it is very flexible. It’s lightly padded on the bottom and covered in synthetic leather. The headband has a wide range of adjustments, with 11 total levels of adjustment on each side. I have no doubt in my mind that these will fit comfortably on any fully-grown adults head, big and small. At full extension I measured 10-1/2 inches from ear-to-ear.
Overall, a solidly built pair of headphones for the price. There are definitely more comfortable and better-built ones out there, but as long as you’re not doing anything physical in these, I think they’re more than adequate.
One negative thing I will say about these is the ear soreness I get after wearing them for long periods of time. I’d imagine this will vary from person to person, and I have pretty big ears. But it’s definitely something to consider.
Sound & Frequency Response
Along with roughly 2 years of use, I did a sine sweep through the spectrum to get an idea of how these sound. If you’re using these for mixing, it’s going to be important to consider these points because they will tell you how the headphones will color your sound.
I found the 7506s to be a little harsh when reproducing sibilants, especially with vocals. The frequency response curve shows a peak in that range that’s pretty hard to ignore. During the sine sweep, the sound got worse starting at around 7800 Hz and all the way up to 10 kHz.
Mids are pleasant and clear, and mostly flat. There is a noticeable dip between around 3200 Hz and 4200 Hz, and another between around 4800 Hz and 6500 Hz.
On the low end of the spectrum, the bass response is slightly exaggerated and gets all the way down to 11 Hz. At 30 Hz, you can hear the bass very clearly. I’m pretty happy with the bass response on these headphones.
My thoughts: there are definitely flatter headphones out there for mixing. And the peak between 8 kHz up to 10 kHz is one of the worst parts about the way these sound. All in all though, the MDR-7506s make up for it in the bass and mids, which sound very good for how much these cost. If you’re using these for anything else besides mixing, this is mostly a non-issue anyway.
Sony MDR-7506 Review: The Pros & The Cons
- Mostly-balanced sound reproduction
- Proven history of durability and performance
- Exceptional value
- Great for beginners
- Ear pads require occasional replacement
- Ear fatigue (for me, at least) after long periods of time
- Padding isn’t as plush as some competitors
- Low end favors booming bass over accuracy
- Sibilants are harsh
Meet the Competition
It’s safe to say that a piece of gear doesn’t become as widely used and well-regarded as the MDR-7506 without having something special to offer. In this case, the combination of affordability and relatively accurate, high-quality sound at its price point is very hard to beat. Still, that’s not to say that Sony’s offering is the only one worth considering. As part of our Sony MDR-7506 review, let’s take a look at how these popular cans stack up against a few other headphones that manage to deliver quality performance at affordable prices.
Another option that’s become increasingly ubiquitous of late, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x offers a lot to like. Its impedance of 36 ohms is considerably lower than the MDR-7506’s 63 ohms, which makes it a good choice if you’re planning to use your headphones without an amplifier. With a power source, however, this difference is negligible. Both units offer excellent sound quality and enough fidelity to be useful in studio applications.
A cable that can be unplugged from the headphones is a nice addition that’s lacking on the MDR-7506. It’s not all good news, though. Despite being a closed-back model, the ATH-M40x allows enough sound to leak out that it can easily be picked up on a live mic. You may need to reconsider if you’re planning to use them during recording. On a related note, the ear cups are slightly small and may not fit well for all users. Some people have also complained that the headband offers a bit too much clamping force, though this usually resolves itself after a period of use.
beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
In a perfect world, we’d all take great care of our gear and never have to worry about damage and wear. But even the most cautious among us put our gear through more abuse than we realize. That’s why durability and build quality are important considerations for any new purchase. Fortunately, this is one area in which the beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO excels. With lots of metal, rubber and high-durability plastic, the DT 770 PRO is among the most rugged headphone options in its price range. Velour padding also adds excellent comfort during long-duration listening sessions.
The bad news is that these cans aren’t ideal for doing serious audio work. They sound very pleasant overall, but the booming bass and skewed frequency response certainly don’t offer the most faithful sound reproduction. Additionally, these headphones require a fair bit of power to achieve the best results. A proper amplifier isn’t strictly necessary, but it certainly helps.
Sony MDR-7506 Review: The Bottom Line
It’s hard to believe a headphone model could remain on the market even as it closes in on its 30th anniversary. It’s even harder to believe the same model could still be one of the best options available in its price range. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what Sony has achieved with the MDR-7506. Its crisp sound quality and versatility have made it a fixture almost everywhere audio work is done. When you factor in the extremely affordable pricing, it’s clear there are still few monitoring headphones that can offer better value.
That’s it, thanks for reading. I hope this review offered some insight and helps you find the right pair for your specific application, needs, and situation!