Audio

Detailed sound from Sony’s comfortable MDR-1AM2 headphones

The Sony MDR-1AM2 adds oomph to songs.
The Sony MDR-1AM2 adds oomph to songs.

In 2016, Sony released one of its highest-end pair of headphones, the MDR-Z1R - which, at $2,599, puts them well out of reach for most, except for the hardcore audiophile with deep pockets.

Now, some of the design cues and sound technology which made the MDR-Z1R so advanced have found their way into Sony's latest MDR-1AM2, making them not just a successor to the popular MDR-1A, but also a budget version of the MDR-Z1R.

While it looks ordinary and unassuming, the MDR-1AM2 has subtle design cues, such as the fancy Fibonacci-patterned grille used in the high-end MDR-Z1R that is supposed to smooth out high-frequency sounds.

And while it is technically tailored for high-resolution audio in the sense of being able to replicate frequencies from as low as 3Hz all the way to an incredibly high 100kHz, do not mistake them for a pair of neutral, reference headphones.

Instead, these over-ear headphones are capable of pumping out fun-sounding bass and adding warmth to music, even as they reproduce clear, pleasing mids and trebles.

If you are a lover of rock, electronic, hip-hop and pop music, you will love the extra oomph the headphones add to songs.

  • Background Story

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $429

    DRIVER DIAMETER: 40mm

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 3Hz - 100kHz

    WEIGHT: 187g

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

The bass response is definitely emphasised, but not to the overwhelming, almost unnatural extent of the bass-pumping headphones in Sony's Extra Bass line.

Instead, the powerful bass, coupled with the heightened warmth, feels deep, natural and resonant - perfect for the electronic-synth tones of Scottish band Chrvches and the cool ambient music of American band Cigarettes After Sex, for instance.

British rock band Radiohead's No Surprises had pleasing mid-bass, with sparkling highs from its xylophone chimes in the background.

One of the huge pluses of the MDR-1AM2 is how easy it is to power. It can produce quality sound even through mobile devices.

Audiophiles tend to carry portable amplifiers to ensure the best sound on the go.

However, the headphones sound so wonderful when powered directly from my Samsung S9+ smartphone, that I am able to ditch my portable amp.

I also enjoy how comfortable the headphones are. They are so light that I do not feel discomfort even when wearing them for hours on end.

The headphones' plastic construction makes them incredibly light, but unfortunately, also makes them feel cheap and fragile.

They do not feel like a premium product costing $429.

For this price, there are headphones with extra features, such as active noise-cancellation, but they are unlikely to offer the MDR-1AM2's blend of powerful, detailed sound in a light, portable package that makes listening to music fun.

• Verdict: The comfort and sound quality of Sony's MDR-1AM2 are hard to beat, making it an easy choice to reach for when heading out. However, it is pricey and does not feel like a pair of $429 headphones.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2018, with the headline 'Detailed sound from these comfortable headphones'. Print Edition | Subscribe