Sony MDR-1000X review: This premium headphone is a sound choice

Sony is upping the ante on its rivals by offering a few extra control noise-cancelling options, some of which are more useful and effective than others.

Sony’s new MDR-1000X is on sale for Dh1,599. Courtesy Sony
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Watch out Bose and Sennheiser. Sony’s new MDR-1000X, on sale for Dh1,599, is a serious competitor in the premium wireless noise-cancelling headphone space, offering wonderful audio performance as well as a few nifty tricks that add up to an exceptional overall package.

Audio-wise, the MDR-1000X is right up there with Bose’s QC35 and Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless; beautifully clear vocals combine perfectly with punchy bass and crisp beats on

The Weekend's Starboy, with Daniel Lanois' shimmering production on Bob Dylan's Most of the Time sounding beautifully balanced.

Sony has also looked to up the ante on its rivals by offering a few extra control noise-cancelling options, some of which are more useful and effective than others.

First, and most helpful, is the ability to turn off noise cancelling and mute whatever you’re listening to by simply touching the right earphone with your fingers, allowing you to have a short face-to face conversation without taking off the headphones.

Next, Sony has introduced two “Ambient Sound” modes, the first “normal” mode allowing you to hear a gentle murmur in the background, and a second “vocal” mode allowing you to hear voices so you don’t miss that plane announcement or your daughter telling you she’s borrowing the car and will back next weekend.

These modes are nice ideas but work better when using the headphones on noise-cancelling mode only, with their effectiveness more limited when actually listening to audio.

The ambient sound control button, on the left earpiece alongside a power button and a noise-cancelling button, adds to a fiddly control system that takes some getting used to.

Changing volume and track is straightforward, accomplished by stroking one’s finger vertically and horizontally respectively on the side of the right earpiece. Playing and pausing (and answering phone calls), accomplished by tapping an ill-defined centre point, is much more hit and miss.

Once you’ve got to grips with the controls, however, the MDR-1000X is a brilliant pair of headphones, offering great audio, or simply a bit of peace and quiet for that long flight or noisy office.

q&a music of high quality

John Everington tells us more about the MDR-1000X’s features:

Sony talks a lot about hi-res audio. Does that mean the MDR-1000X will make my podcasts sound better?

The headphones do indeed support hi-res audio, via Sony’s LDAC wireless music technology. It’ll only work via a Sony music player that supports such technology though, and only then via the headphone cable.

Sony has also included what it is calling a Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX, which “upscales” compressed digital music files …. And takes them closer to the quality of High-Resolution Audio.

Sounds interesting. Does it work?

Audiophiles might be able to pick up on it, although to my ears there was little difference between the Sony and the (admittedly wonderful) Bose QC35.

What’s battery life like?

Sony claims that a full charge (via mini-USB) will last 20 hours, long enough for a direct flight from Dubai to Auckland. When the battery runs out you can plug in a standard headphone cable and listen normally, without noise-cancelling of course.

And how does it rate in the looks department?

Sony’s simple modernist style can sometimes be a bit blocky, and the MDR-1000x is no exception, but it’s really a question of personal taste. The MDR-1000x, QC35 and Momentum Wireless are very stylish devices, although my own personal preference leans towards Sennheiser’s classic stitched leather and metallic arm design.

And what about the colour?

The MDR-1000x is available in a simple choice between black and a sandy looking “grey-beige”, with no pinkish hues in sight.

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