Having spent the better part of the past few days under the spell of the new Audio Technica ATH-MSR7B, today I’m stacking this beast up against the Sony MDR-1AM2. And while they share certain similarities, they also offer different caveats that deserve consideration. Both of these headphones utilize a closed-back design and come with 4.4 mm balanced cables (as well as 3.5 mm single ended cables). However, the Sony retails for $299 – $50 more than the $249 Audio Technica. But when it comes to these two models, which comes out on top? And is the sound worth the spend?
Audio Technica ATH-MSR7B vs Sony MDR-1AM2 Comparison Review
Both headphones feature a closed-back design that remains relatively lightweight during longer listening sessions. Thanks to soft PU leather earpads on both models, the fit never feels uncomfortable – even where my giant elephant ears are concerned. The headbands, too, offer a noticeable level of comfort. While the MSR7B’s headband shows noticeable improvement over that of its predecessor, the MSR7, the 1AM2’s headband is still lighter and more comfortable.
In terms of design, these headphone offer a strikingly similar layout. The biggest difference manifests itself in the Sony MDR-1AM2’s single input, while the Audio Technica MSR7B features dual inputs. Sony also offers a mic and remote on the 3.5 mm cable, while Audio Technica skips this feature.
Under the hood, the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7B utilizes a larger 45 mm driver. In contrast, the MDR-1AM2 sports a smaller driver measuring 40 mm. Both being relatively easy to drive, neither one requires amplification, though the MSR7B would benefit slightly more from some amplification.
Overall, the Audio Technica offers a more balanced sound profile, with ample extension in the lows and highs. The Sony, in contrast, skews a bit more fun-sounding, though its powerful bass can lead to an impression of a darker sound.
In the low end, the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7B exhibits solid dynamics with good detail. Less thick and weighted than the Sony MDR-1AM2, it seems more enjoyable for longer listening sessions due to a less fatiguing sound.
The 1AM2, on the other hand, offers a more powerful, rousing low end with tons of bass. Rock, hip-hop, and electronica sound more affected, with some blood-churning “oomph” in the lows. While far more emotive than the MSR7B, the 1AM2 seems less accurate as a result.
More present mids and a slightly forward sound characterize the MSR7B. But the mids here also showcase more contrast, giving the impression of grip. As a result, the mids on the MSR7B tend to jump out, with better isolation from the lows and highs.
And, while a level of midrange detail still presents itself on the Sony MDR-1AM2, those details seem overwhelmed by the powerful low end. For some genres, this won’t be as much of a problem – but it still prevents the Sony from sounding great with anything (unlike the MSR7B).
More relaxed and or smoothed out for vocals and instruments, the highs on the ATH-MSR7B remain incredibly detailed. Pop, classical, and acoustic jams sound phenomenal here, with the MSR7B’s sparkling detail adding something special to each of my test tracks.
Meanwhile, the Sony offers a similar level of emphasis, but comes across as sounding brighter. This brightness, combined with the intense, dark lows, gives way to a fun and emotive sound that doesn’t skimp out on energy, either.
Soundstage on the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7B comes across as pretty impressive, with good space and depth. While it’s more spacious than the Sony, it doesn’t sound quite as deep.
And that depth on the Sony MDR-1AM2 constitutes most of it’s soundstage. There’s a characteristic separation of vocals from surrounding instrumentation. However, the soundstage still seems a bit cramped for instruments. The result is a deeper but narrower listening experience.
Overall, the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7B seems a better all-around headphone with ample detail and good balance. Of these two headphones, it works better with just about any genre of music you could want to listen to. The Sony MDR-1AM2, in contrast, specializes in a deep, bass-heavy sound that works well with rock, hip-hop, and electronica, but falters when other kinds of music come into play.
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