Review for Casual Music Listeners
This is a review for non/ semi-audiophiles and casual music listeners looking for the best deal headphones in this price range.
These are classic headphones. Studios have been using them for years and EVERYONE in the music/ producing industry immediately recognizes these babies. And if you look for it, you can find them everywhere too.
BUT, what if you're just in the market for some good music headphones? You're not an audiophile per se, but you do enjoy good sound.
Well first of all, you have to understand these are "studio" headphones and the sound is "uncolored" and "flat". Yes the eq is flat. A lot of manufacturers "color" their headphones with extra warmth or bass. If you've owned Skullcandies, their sound is heavily bass emphasized. Same thing Beats by Dr. Dre, a very warm sound. The MDR-V6's don't have any of this extra coloration. Their purpose is to playback the natural, original sound of the recording. And in that regard, for the price, these CANNOT be beat. They have pristine clarity. And you will definitely find things in your music you have never heard before. The whole sound spectrum (bass, mids, treble) is perfectly represented. In other words, the quality of the sound is phenomenal, for any genre of music.
So if you want to hear your songs naturally as they were recorded, stop no further and click "Buy Now".
But what if you're more into bass-rich headphones, like Skullcandy. Or what if you were impressed with Beats by Dr. Dre or the Bose at the Best Buy sample booth. Those are warm headphones, and if you were expecting to find something similar to those at a fraction of the cost, these may not be for you. Sure the quality of sound of these Sony's is infinitely better than the Beats or Bose sets. But it is definitely not the same "type" of sound. The sound curves are completely different. Like I said before, the MDR-v6 is flat while the Beats and Bose are warm/ bass heavy.
But do not waste your money on the Beats or the Bose. The sound might be impressive, but it really is cheap bloated bass. The MDR-V6, while it doesn't have as much impact or quantity, the bass is much more clear and tight. The quality is a million dollars better. Still, if you were looking for that warm type of sound (for hip hop and those sorts of genres, although the MDR-V6 do fine in ALL genres, some hip hop/ rap fans might prefer a more colored sound) you can find even BETTER headphones for the same price as the Sony's.
There are plenty on the market, but a quick look on the OnlineShopDealer top sellers and I found these.
Sony XB500: $49 OnlineShopDealer
-Wonderful alternative to the Beats or Bose sets. Phenomenal bass and mids. Treble is also very present. No muddy/ bloated/ leaky bass like the Beats, but even more in quantity and impact.
JVC HARX700: $54 OnlineShopDealer (little bit more bass than 900)
JVC HARX900: $60 OnlineShopDealer (900 has a better soundstage i.e. better gaming/ movie headphone)
Panasonic RP-HTF600: $33 OnlineShopDealer (super budget)
The Klipsch Image S4: $79 OnlineShopDealer
-Similar sound spectrum to the Beats/ Bose except with a much better quality of sound. No muddy/ bloated/ leaky bass, but just as much in terms of quantity and impact.
Brainwavz M2: $54 OnlineShopDealer (similar sound signature)
Meelectronics M6: $15 (super-super budget, only downside is the fit may not be for some/ takes getting used to)
Those are my recommendations. Although ALL in ear headphones break after a few months/ years, which is something to keep in mind. Headphones tend to last much longer. In terms of durability, the MDR-V6 lasts decades according to many accounts.
So if you are looking for the best quality sound for under $100, the Sony MDR-V6 is and has always been the KING!
But if you are looking for a bass-heavy thumping set(the MDR-V6 do thump, but maybe not as much as the Beats you heard at the Best Buy display), if that's the case you might want to look for a more warmer sounding model (XB500 is my first choice recommendation- for $15 dollars cheaper too on OnlineShopDealer)
Note: if this is your first foray into the hi-fi audio world and these are your first headphones, you must realize that studio headphones like these are unforgiving to the source. Unforgiving means they will playback any and every single sound/ static in the source file. If you've downloaded most songs legally through itunes, you should be fine for the most part. But if some of the mp3s in your collection have been downloaded illegally, you might find that they sound significantly worse than before. Why? Because it might be of really low quality. The static noise and any other imperfections will be made apparent.
I recommend you look into lossless audio formats like FLAC files. If you are using iTunes with an iPod/ iPhone, ALAC is the format you should use. ALAC files are much bigger, but are much higher quality than mp3. There is an option in iTunes to rip CD's with ALAC instead of mp3. You will notice the difference. Either that or make sure your mp3's are 320kb/s.
Some headphones require an amp to pump out the best sound. These headphones don't require much to be driven. It works fine in just my iPhone. It's unnecessary but it would always benefit. But a better DAC would greatly improve the sound of a portable device/ laptop. If you are in the market for one, I'd recommend the Fiio E7. It's a portable amp/DAC combo. The sound difference is very noticeable. And it has a bass-boost EQ which is very good (don't put it at maximum though, it starts to distort a tiny bit there). It actually produces that "warmer" colored sound I was talking about before. So this could be a solution if you don't mind spending another $89. But if you're willing to spend that much in total ~$150. The Audio Technica M50 might be a better deal? Well, that's a tough question. But my personal preference still goes to the MDR-V6.
Owner since 1992
I bought these headphones in 1992, and unlike most of the rest of the stuff I squandered my money on back then, these were and continue to be the real deal.
My earpads have flaked off their coating like everyone else. But no need to buy new phones, you can order the earpads from sony.com or some specialty audio stores:
MDR-V6/MDR-7506 Ear Pad
PRICE: $6.00 (US)
Sony mdrv6 Headphones - A Classic
I can't recall how long I've owned my MDR-V6 phones, but it's easily been ten years. The sound is excellent, virtually uncolored, and unlike other top of the line headphones like Sennheiser's (which are VERY nice and well over $150.00) these sound as good used with a portable CD player as with a well powered home system.
It was time to replace them since the cord is finally shorting too much to ignore any longer and my ears are always covered with black stuff and foam from the disintegrating earcups. I asked around and a colleague who is the audio technician on a popular TV show told me without hesitation, these are the ones to buy. It's what he uses on the set and at home. I'm glad Sony still makes 'em. Maybe I should buy another pair for ten years down the road...
***(Additional comment added March 2014)***
A friend recently asked about the headphones I had plugged into my iPod. I let him listen to them and he was blown away. I told him to look for them on OnlineShopDealer as it was one of the few places I've still seen them available at a reasonable price. Thirteen years after I wrote the original review above, and about twenty five since I purchased them, they are still going strong. Not many things last that long--outside of body parts. :)
Still making them... because they're still amazing...
My pair is 20+ years old. I've tried others, including some that are very expensive, and I keep coming back to the V6s. They are not the equal of a couple others I have, but the others are much more expensive. The V6's just might be one piece of A/V equipment that's been in production the longest. There is a very good reason for that: how they sound. It's no accident that they're used as studio monitors.
Three things to keep in mind:
1. One thing that makes them very good for iPods is that they don't require much power. So, unlike many other good headphones, these can be driven by an iPod without needing a headphone-amp.
2. Three other features that makes them especially good for iPods: (a) they come with a mini-plug, not the big phono plug that many headphones have, (b) they fold up and become small (for headphones, not for earbuds), and (c) they are CHEAP (so you don't feel it's too risky to carry them all over creation).
3. The ear pads fall apart after a few years, but that's really a blessing because you can then spend about $25 and get replacement cushions for the Beyer DT250 or DT280 that are much better. They have a velour surface rather than Sony's plastic. If I'd known this back then, I would have gotten replacement cushions before the original ones fell apart.
My favorite headphones
The Sony MDR-V6s were the first really good headphones I owned. After about 15 years of use, the foam padding was a bit run down. After doing the exhaustive search for the best headphones, I bought a pair of Sennheiser HD580s (I also own Etymotic ER-4Ps). Comparing the HD580 to my MDR-V6s, I would say that the MDR-V6s are better for two reasons. 1. The MDR-V6s are more comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and 2. The MDR-V6s have a telephone-like cord, which is easier to deal with than the straight HD580 cord. The sound quality was very good on both headphones, and about equal. I ended up buying new foam pads for my 15-year-old MDR-V6s, which made them feel like brand new headphones. I also bought a second pair of MDR-V6s, and shelved the HD580s for now.
Do not buy the MDR-600s by mistake. I have never used them, but I have read numerous reviews that state that the MDR-600s are inferior to the MDR-V6s. You can still buy the MDR-V6s, but they are harder to find. I bought mine at millionbuy because OnlineShopDealer did not have them in stock. For some reason, the MDR-V6 product name at OnlineShopDealer magically changed to MDR-600, even though it is an entirely different product. I am not sure why this happened.
The audioreview Web site has a great collection of headphone reviews.
Best cans I have ever owned or heard
The whole purpose of any quality audio reproduction system is to accurately reproduce sound - speakers or headphones should sound like music, not like hardware. They should not color the sound, or over / under emphasize or de-emphasize any part of the audio spectrum that human beings can hear.
And when it comes to headphones, not only should they not color the sound, but they should be comfortable, so you can wear them for hours without developing sweaty ears or a headache. They should correctly fit your head, and the best headphones are "cirumaural" design like this which surround your ears and mask most external, ambient noise without so much pressure that it feels like your head is in a vise.
There are more brands and models of headphones out there than I can count but.. I've owned a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones for probably twenty years. After buying and not being happy with various models of headphones made by Sennheiser, Stanton, Superex, Koss, and others.. someone turned me on to the Sony MDR-V6 I bought a pair at an audio store for about eighty bucks in the early 1980s.. Since then, I've never looked back..
Not only are they the best sounding cans I've ever heard for triple the price, but since I've owned them I've never heard any better headphones, any brand, any model. Perhaps someday I'll hit the lottery and blow $4000.00 on a pair of Sony's MDR-R10 (fat chance).. Do NOT confuse the MDR-V6 with the slightly newer, slightly more expensive MDR-V600 headphones which sound highly inferior and cost more.
Now think about it - can you name another model of anything that Sony has made continuously, basically unchanged, for over twenty years? There must be a reason. I've worn out two or three sets of the "pleather" ear pads on my V6s and happily, Sony's parts and accessories Web site still stocks them so if you need a pair of genuine replacement Sony ear pads for them, they are part number X-2113-124-1, about five bucks each, and you'll find them on Sony's DPAC site where they sell parts and accessories.
These are simply the most bang for the buck I've ever spent on headphones and believe me, I've owned (and auditioned).. many brands, many models, and nothing I've ever owned or heard reproduced sound with such accuracy, transparency, crystalline sweet highs, beautiful mid-range, and prodigious bass as these. I've used them with my laptop, HiFi rig, portable players, you name it. On my laptop I plug them into an SRS WoW Thing box (no longer available from SRS Labs), crank up the box's "TruBass" knob and it's like listening to $10,000 speakers. (SRS WoW thing is implemented in quite a few software-based music players as a plug-in, such as WMP and WinAmp.. why they decided to stop making the WoW Thing box, I can't fathom, but it's a stupendous accessory if you can find one.. grab it!..)..
But even without the spatial and bass enhancement the WoW Thing implements, I've lost count of how many friends I've had over on whose heads I've slapped the MDR-V6 headphones, played some wide-dynamic music for them and watched their jaws hit the floor. The first reaction is usually "Holy ____!" and then they ask, what are these, how much do they cost, where can I get them?
I decided since mine were twenty years old, it might be a good idea to grab a new pair, as a back-up, since Sony still makes them, just in case they ever dropped them from their product line, so (true story).. last year, an eBay seller, you know, one of those liquidator types who has a bajillion auctions running at once, put up an auction for three pairs of MDR-V6s and mis-priced them at $14.95 a pair. I sat there staring at the screen thinking "this can't be right, NO ONE sells these $100 cans that cheaply. Are they used? Refurbs? Defective?" I checked his feedback, which was very positive, and said well, no guts no glory.. by the time I smacked the "Buy it Now" button to buy all three pairs, someone else had already snatched one, so I snagged two of them and sure enough, I got the right headphones - brand new, sealed in their Gold and red satin lined boxes, the same packaging my original pair came in twenty years ago. The seller told me he had a bunch of high school kids entering auctions for him and someone had mis-priced them, and entered $14.95 instead of $74.95 but he would honor the much lower, wrong price.
So if my original twenty year old pair ever fail, I have brand new ones on hand.
Audiophiles get religious about headphones. They'll argue all day about which sound the best, which are the most comfy, which produce colored sound or accurate sound, which ones you can wear for hours, which ones hurt your head.. I've read hundreds of headphone reviews over the years and sure, some guys don't like the MDR-V6s for one reason or another, but I think that's usually a case of "Well, I spent $xxx.xx for my Grados / AKGs / Sennheisers.. $100 Sonys can't possibly sound as good.." and they're just trying to justify having spent that kind of money..
You don't have to trust me, but if you're shopping for the best sounding headphones under $300.00, the Sony MDR-V6 are the headphones you want. Even at OnlineShopDealer's price, even at their full retail of $100.00 in my opinion you simply will not find better sounding headphones of any kind. I run out of superlatives describing them. And for you guys who own an old pair and nead new ear pads, as I said above, you can get them off Sony's DPAC site for about five bucks each plus shipping.
Once you slap these cans on your head and immerse yourself in their magnificent sound, you'll understand :) ..
Pax et Lux
I purchased my Sony MDR-V6 headphones in my very early teens (if not earlier) after reading a review in Stereo Review (I believe). Since then, they've gotten tons of use and I've seen them everywhere. I've gone through 3 or 4 cords over the years and they're finally falling apart. I wanted another pair but settled (ha!) on MDRV600's, which are very muddy - all mids. They're going back today to Best Buy and I'm getting a new set of V6's from here -- I can't believe Sony has kept this model alive so long. These are incredible 'phones. Trust me.
This classic continues to satisfy
The MDR-V6 has had a long production run and I have owned three pairs over 15 years. The first was stolen after I only owned it for a year, around 1989, and I immediately replaced it. This second pair has been durable and I continue to use them now (2004). I bought the last pair recently as a backup but I now use it at my office.
What strikes me about these headphones is that they are easily the most useful audio accessory I own. I have used it with my stereo (vinyl/tape/CD), with many computers (CD/DVD/MP3), on the airplane, and with other devices such as a DV camera and of course, the iPod. While other full-sized headphones I have tried have certainly sounded good--even better in some ways--none have the versatility of the folding design coupled with great audio quality. My music taste varies widely and I have found these headphones to reproduce orchestral or jazz acoustic instruments and still be happy listening to the bass drive of overproduced techno or rock.
The pads wear out by splitting, cracking, and flattening over time, making the headphones uncomfortable. Worn out pads reduce bass response, perhaps due to a poor seal, as I was able to tell from a head-to-head comparison between my old and new pairs. Today, I just replaced the old pads with a new set from Sony (under $20 incl. tax + ship) and now both pairs sound virtually identical. I figure five years on a pair is a good life. Other minor wear from over a dozen years of use: the compression from the headband needs refreshing with a squeeze, and the vinyl (NOT leather) case is slightly scratched. All other parts have aged incredibly well despite daily use and travel.
I find little to fault, but here are my objections: the sealed headphones make my ears warm after an hour or two. The UniMatch plug is easy to lose; the case has no special place for it. The plug is straight, instead of a more durable L-shaped design; I have been careful to not bend it. In one office environment, the headphones would transmit electrostatic shocks when I rolled my chair on the floor. The cord length is perfect for the desk but a little long when I'm listening to a device and walking. The headphones are portable, but too big to be the pair of headphones I carry everywhere, so I keep a tiny pair of in-ear headphones for that. Lastly, (but least importantly) they say nothing about today's headphone fashion.
Few electronics products are perfect, including this one. But every once in a while a gem like this comes along, a nearly perfect compromise of value, sound quality, portability, and durability (or at least serviceability).
Built like tanks....
Had to put my two cents in after reading an earlier review from the guy who throw these in a backpack. These things are the toughest headphones I've ever had, and I'm a headphone junkie. They are, however, studio monitors--often deemed industry standards. They are not for "throwing in your backpack." Get inexpensive Senns for that, and burn the other forty bucks, or do something useful and give it to charity. Oh, and they sound fantastic too...a great balance for multi-use phones. One more thing--the more expensive 7506's ARE the exact same phones for more money...some have even shipped with a V6 labeled cup on one side and a 7506 labeled cup on the other!!!
The best pair of headphones I've ever owned
I cannot speak highly enough about these headphones. I originally bought a pair of Sony MDR V600 headphones. They were a little cheaper than these but seemed to be a good pair. And they were. Their sound was beautiful. It was crisp and clear with deep powerful bass and smooth highs. My only problems with the 600's was that after about an hour my ears would start to hurt. That and they wouldn't fit well under my welding helmet.
So I returned the 600's and continued my research towards which headphones to buy. I wanted a closed circumaural design to not only block out outside noises, but also because I have sensitive ears, and circumaural would be more comfortable for me. I came across these headphones and after reading positive review after positive review, I decided to throw down a little extra cash and purchase them.
I couldn't be more pleased! The sound of these cans is simply incredible. Especially out of my stereo. They are the best sounding headphones I've ever worn in this price range. They sound a little weaker running out of a portable cd player than my receiver, but they still can pack quite a wallop. It just loses a little of the crispness out my discman.
The only negative aspect I've heard of from these headphones is that the earcups will start to disintegrate after YEARS of use. This hasn't happened to mine yet, although I've only had them for about 6 months so far. That is such a minimal and easily replacable problem (You can purchase replacement earcups online) that I'm not worried about it.
These headphones can be worn for hours without much discomfort, which is impressive to me as my ears are very sensitive. They sound wonderful, and even fit under my welding helmet.
I cannot say enough positive things about these. I wish the cord could be changed (I like straight cords) but that's just me and minimal.
All in all these are a great pair of headphones that I recommend wholeheartedly!