Fresh from the factory, the Sony MDR-1AM2 landed on my review desk, just begging to be listened to. Retailing for a fair $299, this new headphone is already turning heads. But does the sound meet the hype?
Sony MDR-1AM2 Review
Packaged in a sturdy box, the Sony MDR-1AM2 comes with a soft carrying pouch, some literature, and two cables – one 4 ft (1.2 m) cable with a mic and remote and a 3.5 mm connection, and one 4ft (1.2 m) balanced-connection cable with a 4.4 mm connection.
The headphones themselves appear sturdy…and yet seem almost feather-light. The quality of construction is top-tier – this isn’t the cheap kind of lightweight you can get for $50 on Amazon. With the MDR-1AM2 in hand, I am left with the distinct impression that Sony spent as much time fine-tuning the looks as they did fine-tuning that sound.
Frequency Range: 3-100,000 Hz
Impedance: 16 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 98 dB
How’s that for specifications?! We’ve got an expansive frequency range of 3-100,000 hertz. While I honestly doubt anyone has the ears to take full benefit of those higher frequencies, the numbers still manage to impress me. Meanwhile, that low impedance of just 16 ohms will pair well with any low output device, from a phone or laptop to a portable high-res music player. Finally, sound pressure is a fairly standard 98 decibels – more than capable of adequate volume in normal listening situations.
In the low end, the 1AM2 exhibits a lively, driving bass – not heavy-handed, but energetic. At times, the bass seems to overshadow low-end detail just a smidgen, but rest assured there is still ample detail at play here. At the end of the day, the lows remain clean and articulate, providing you with a sweet bottom end.
Sparkling detail abounds in the midrange, with clear and contrasting notes defining the MDR-1AM2. Fidelity comes across as nearly impeccable here, giving the impression of truly meaty mids.
Not bright at all, the high end on this headphone seems almost too smooth for the stated frequency range. And while the MDR-1AM2 hits every high note, this part of the frequency range still doesn’t seem as rich as the lows or mids.
A strong sense of soundstage results from equal parts placement and depth – and the 1AM2 handles both with aplomb. There’s a certain gusto to this soundstage, reaching into your ears and dragging your brain out into the music. You can feel instrumentation and vocals as they should be felt – which is rare for a headphone at this price point.
Comfort and weight are perhaps the biggest selling points of this headphone. Sure, those specs are impressive, but they only get more impressive when you actually hold this headphone in your hands and realize just how incredibly light it is. You could wear this baby all day and never feel a thing.
The low end and soundstage make for a deep, deep, DEEP listening experience. And that listening experience is so immersive as to verge on transcendental. Is it the same quality of sound that you’ll get from an open back? No. But for a $299 closed-back headphone, this sound is like sex for your ears.
For those seeking less in the low end and more in the high end, I would recommend the Audio Technica MSR7 for $249. While it might lack the rich, intoxicating low end of the 1AM2, the MSR7 with seem more focused on and attentive to those higher frequencies.
However, if low-frequency resolution is your deal, then the 1AM2 is a deal and a half. If this headphone were only half as good as it is, it would still be a top contender for Best Low End at $299. Kicking ass as it does, you’d be a fool not to snatch this beauty up.
But what about those on the fence? Maybe you’re not sure if you need all those highs or all that bass? Give the MDR-1AM2 a listen anyway. To be sure, the low end is intense – but it still manages to be intense in a natural way. And this Sony’s high end, while smooth, remains paradoxically detailed.
Lightweight and sporting a solid build, the Sony MDR-1AM2 is a quality headphone packing quality sound. The intoxicating level of detail and soundstage are far above and far beyond what you would expect from a headphone at this price, though. If there’s one headphone you need to try right now, this very minute, this is the one.
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