Review: Sony MDR-ZX700 (with reference to the Shure SRH440)

Sony MDR-ZX700 Review

I would like to thank Sony Portugal for lending me this pair of headphones for review. I will write as honest a review as possible.

These received over 50hrs of burn-in, I noticed no real change in sound.

Gear used:
IPod Classic 160gb (rockboxed)  > ZX700
IPod Classic 160gb> DIY Silver LOD > JDS Labs O2 > ZX700

Driver: Dynamic 50mm
Max input power: 2,000mW
Impedance: 24Ω at 1 KHz
Sensitivity: 106dB/mW
Frequency response: 5 - 40,000 Hz (come on Sony, don’t lie)
Cable: single sided 1.2m

Packaging, accessories and build quality:
Packaging is plastic on the front, card on the back, I do not really like Sony packaging as they use too much plastic, it means you can see the whole product, but is awkward to re-pack. The back card peels off to get to the headphones, which are held in place nicely with moulded plastic. Simple but attractive packaging, but a pain in the a** to open and re-pack

Accessories are not a strong point either, all they come with is a 1.8m extension cable, no 3.5 - 6.3mm adapter or carry pouch, even a simple fabric pouch would have been nice.

Build quality is generally good, the cable is of good thickness and quality, with excellent strain relief on the jack and entrance to the cups. The cups are ABS Plastic and feel very solid, with a polished aluminium disc with Sony on it, the headband is covered in soft pleather, and I assume it is plastic inside, the extender arms are also all plastic which may be a weak point in the future. Overall though I can’t complain about the build quality of these. One note is that they do not fold up like the Shure SRHXXX, which would have been a handy feature.

Comfort and isolation:
Comfort is very good, better than the Shure SRH440, these have quite soft ear pads, they are not quite deep enough though, and your ears do rest a little on the drivers. The headband is adequately padded and soft, which helps relieve pressure, but the clamping force is quite strong on these, so after a while you do start to feel them on your head, and as they are closed design, your ears do heat up a little over time.

Isolation is surprisingly good, as these have bass ports on the cups. they make good portable headphones  and I found they work really well to isolate you on a bus or just general listening. They also don’t leak too much sound, so they would be fine to use in an office or a library.

Split into the usual 3 categories, with a conclusion at the end.

Well one the the first things I noticed after a little listen was the extension is not very good, quite an audible lack of sub-bass, and when I found a frequency graph, I noticed that what I thought was true, these have quite severe roll-off from 80hz down. This is not good if you listen to any music that needs deep bass, but this does not mean this is a bad headphone. I noticed this roll-off whilst listening to a dubstep track I know well, and noticed the track had no sub-bass.
The lows these do have are not exaggerated, they are quick in attack and very accurate. Bass guitar notes are well separated and kick drums still have some kick, the bass is quick and lean on these headphones, without bleeding into the mid range.

Slightly forward in presentation and detailed whilst still remaining smooth. These have a very good mid range, with great detail but not in a harsh/cold presentation, the mids have good body and overall tone. Separation is also great and these headphones work very well with acoustic music, as it doesn’t need super low bass, but needs a good mid range, tonally the mids are very good aswell very clean sounding.

Slightly grainy, but with good presence and extension, these have a slight mid/high frequency boost. The highs are, like the bass, slightly behind the mids but still shine through and complete the sound. The highs do feel slightly smoothed over, which is good as they are non fatiguing, but it means they loose some detail. Also spacial ques in the highs are very well presented, I just think the highs could be more detailed and up front.

Angled Drivers, with a very complex baffle, interesting design.

Soundstage, imaging and instrument separation:
Soundstage is really quite wide for a closed back model, and portrays good width but not great depth or height.
Imaging is also done very well, but not quite in the league of the Shure SRH440
Instrument separation is also very good as these have quite a balanced sound, there is good space between instruments.

Well I think the design is good, they look like they mean business and they do sound very good with certain genres, but the bass roll-off really lets these down. If this was my own pair, I would try and mod them, to bring the bass out. The mids are great for acoustic and these also fair well on most rock tracks, but give them some bassy music and they fall short.
I think if they tune the drivers a bit better, these would be excellent value as they are comfy and well built.

These do improve with amping, but are driven fine from a portable source. Tested with my O2 amp, the soundstage widens and separation clarity is better.

VS Shure SRH440:
Well the Shure are more neutral with better definition and extension on both ends, but they are less comfy (can be corrected with 840 pads and foam on the headband).
I would still pick the Shure for sound, and they also have a replaceable cable which is always a plus.

Thank you for reading, any comments or questions are welcome

Tracks Used:
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox) (320kbps MP3)
Paramore – Franklin (320kbps MP3)
Diana Krall – The Girl In The Other Room (FLAC)
Deolinda – Passou Por Mim E Sorriu (live) (ALAC)
Suicide Silence – Unanswered (FLAC)
Massive Attack – Angel (ALAC)
Eat Static – Dzhopa Dream (ALAC)
The XX – Crystalised (FLAC)
Funeral For A Friend – Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings (ALAC)
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (FLAC)
The Scene Aesthetic – Humans (259kbps MP3)
A Hero A Fake – Swallowed By The Sea (254kbps MP3)
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring Allegro (ALAC)
Johnny Craig – Children Of Divorce (161kbps MP3)
Deadmau5 + Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa Remix) (320kbps MP3)
Black Uhuru – Utterance (ALAC)
We Are The In Crowd – Never Be What You Want (226kbps MP3)
Silverstein – Discovering The Waterfront (320kbps MP3)
Concept Of Thought – Our Thought (FLAC)
Nirvana – Something In The Way (Unplugged) (ALAC)

Image from HeadRoom