đź”· Sony MDR-Z1r

This is the official thread for the Sony MDR-Z1r. This thread is for discussion and reviews.

  • Over Ear
  • No Amp needed
  • Closed Back

:red_circle: HifiGuides Amazon link


[Z Reviews]

[Joshua Velwhore]


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Anyone else have a pair? Mine are paired with the tazzy.

yes, they are my main headphones, paired with the 789.
probably much more capable than my old ears can perceive. can’t really hear the infamous 10k spike.
love the sound signature.

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+1 for the Z1R gang. I love mine, but I only take them out to listen on special occasions. I have a habit of over-using headphones to the point of just running them into the ground, and with such an exquisite headphone I just don’t want to do that. The T5p I had basically turned to dust in my hands.

While I adore these, the treble with certain albums can get on my nerves. I think these are the pickiest headphones in my collection, but when something really plays nice with them, there’s nothing on the market like them. One of my favorite albums to listen to with these is Bob Dylan’s Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid OST. It’s a lovely album in its own right, but it becomes a more engaging and intimate experience with the Z1Rs.

The most beautiful, well presented gorgeously built headphones I’ve seen.

I just wish they sounded good…


on paper, these cans should be right for me.

But the sound signature is so uneven und incoherent that some music sounds way off for me. In addition, the 10k pitch really bothered me. Every slight distortion in the recording or any kind of bad electronics ruins the whole thing. They forgive no weak component in the chain.

For its price point, the sound is unacceptable. In Europe they cost around 2100 dollar and my Focal Elegia simply trash the Z1R in detail and clarity. The Elegia is also a closed can but for one third of the price. :sleepy:

But I envy everyone, for which they work. They are build so beautifully…. I was sad to return them after two weeks and hope for a successor that works for me one day. :upside_down_face:

these are so polarizing that sometimes i’m wondering if the sound might be different not because of the ears of the listener but because of the hands of the person that assembled and built it. :smiley:


Can anyone comment on the sound of these since these seem to be so mixed? I am wondering the type of music these would favor to. I have listened to so many high end headphones and now, I just want something that sounds enjoyable and not so analytical.

Edit: @M0N do you have experience with this headphone?

I used to own one, is pretty enjoyable. I think the reason why this headphone gets mixed opinions is because of a few reasons. The first would most likely be that they are just different from what most people want out of a high end headphone, they have a signature that is like “consumer sound on crack” which is pretty interesting, very thick sounding, warmer, punchy, smoother, treble that can get up there but still pretty present. Spacious with good imaging as well, generally capable (but not as much as others for this price). Forgiving as well. Some might find them bloated and unrefined, or just a signature mismatch from what they like as it’s pretty different for most headphones of this caliber. Sony really tuned this one to be really enjoyable if you like the sound and not super focused on the technicalities, and that might bother some. Second reason is that they don’t live up the Sony R10, and that still gets to some people that wanted this to follow in that same vein. Third reason is that it’s actually somewhat more amp picky, and depending on the amp it can sound quite wonky. I really liked this headphone for almost casual listening for more modern music, a bit more chill and just enjoy than other options, although they are pricey for that so look used to get a decent price. Ah and they also isolate quite well so actually good as a closed back, but not exactly portable because of size and looks imo. Amp wise generally I would suggest going with a higher end sony dap or their desktop dac/amps to really get what sony intended, but the downside to doing that is that those amps really aren’t the best value and don’t work as well with other headphones in the range. But most solid quality components will pair decently well (but I would avoid tubes here imo)


Thank you for the response! Right now, I have the JDS Labs Element II and I don’t know if I will upgrade anytime soon due to desk space and it looks great imo, but I will consider other options if really needed. Just hard to find another dac/amp that I like the performance of and looks visually pleasing.

When it comes to listening to more modern music, would you recommend these over other headphones at this price range? When I went to RMAF 2018, I really enjoyed the Meze Empyrean, MrSpeakers Aeon Flow, ZMF headphone (Forgot which one), Campfire Andromeda/Vega/Cascade, Stax L700. Most of everything else started sounding the same after listening to 50+ pairs of headphones.

Edit: Also would getting an upgrade over the JDS Labs Element II be worth it in your opinion?

That wouldn’t be a bad pairing imo, you could take advantage of a nicer source later on but you should still get a good experience with the element imo

I really comes down to preference here imo, there are a ton of good headphones, it really depends on what you would want in a headphone overall imo

With a headphone at this level def imo

I am just looking for a new headphone that is musical. I know for sure I love the sound of the Empyrean, but not really wanting to spend that much on headphones right now. I am looking for something relatively similar where the headphone is just enjoyable and not analytical. Also that type of experience is probably the reason why I like ZMF headphones…but I don’t like how they look so I probably won’t own one. I could be convinced to buy one though.

Do you have a good recommendation of a amp and dac that looks visual pleasing that pair well with these headphones? Also it might help to add that I am mainly an IEM guy so if there is something that can work with IEMs too, that would be great as well.

What did you like about the sound of the empyrean and what would you have changed?

I mean if you can’t stand looking at one then it’s prob not the best match lol

Disclaimer I am going off the assumption you would buy used

I mean the sony ta-zh1es is a solid match that might be up your alley looks wise but it is priced higher than it should be imo, and I am not sure how it handles iems

For something that would offer more value for the similar money, the ifi pro idsd has a ton of features and really has very nice warmer and thicker sound that works well with the z1r and also most iems I have tried on it. On that note the ifi pro ican with a cheaper dac like a schiit bifrost 2 is also a good option as well if you can’t quite go for a pro idsd (although this combo might actually be higher preforming but with less features than the idsd imo)

Going for a more affordable all in one, the holo cyan is a solid pairing imo, neutral warmer that’s pretty pleasant. For separates in this price range I would most likely pick a bifrost 2 and either a monolith liquid platinum for something warmer and very impactful and smoother or a lake people g111 for something cleaner and accurate imo

If you wanted to go for something portable and desktop worthy that is warmer and enjoyable with a decent amount of features and also works very well with iems, the ifi idsd micro black label is a pretty great choice imo, although not on the same tier as a nicer desktop setup. If you wanted an even higher tier portable that would be up your sonic signature and also work well with iems* the woo wa8 eclipse is pretty great imo. (although what iems do you have at the moment?)

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can describe in detail what made the Empyrean sound so good since it was 2 years ago with a 10-15 minute audition. What I can say is it sounded really engaging, full and natural at the same time. Hard to explain, but when you hear it, it makes sense. It may not have the technical ability of something like the Utopia, but Utopia was kind of lifeless to me. Also, the Empyrean is really comfortable. This doesn’t really help in general, but that is what I remember from that audition.

Never bought used, but will have to for this stuff if I can. I am sure people take care of their stuff at this level.

I do like the looks of all these amps/dacs. Will look on the market to see what would be the best option. For the Holo Cyan, there are 3 configurations with it (2 with the amp), which would you recommend?

I currently own the Campfire Audio Solstice (Custom Andromeda), Westone ES50, JH Audio Lola, soon I will have custom Empire Ears Legend X. I did own the Sony IER-Z1R, but had to return it because of their comfort.

Edit: When I am on the go, I generally use my LG G7 and will probably soon get the Audioquest Cobalt or other smaller dac for portable use just for usability reasons. I’d rather not have to carry that much equipment when I just want to listen to music on the go. I use IEMs a lot because they sound really engaging.

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No worries

Gotcha gotcha. I think the diana v2 would also be up your alley but that’s about the same price as the empyrean lol (although I think it outperforms the empyrean at what it goes for). Regarding the zmf, you might find them a bit too neutral or not as engaging as the emperyan actually. You might enjoy the eikon or the vc with the right amp, but I think the sony is the more fun tuned headphone either way tbh

The PCM with the headphone amp


With the iems you have, you will easily be rewarded for getting better sources. Have you considered a dap?

I actually didn’t know about that headphone, I knew about the Diana Phi, but didn’t know there was a V2. Next time audio shows happen again, I’ll definitely try it out.

I’ll look into those as I do think those do look the best out of the other ZMF headphones. I do actually like the look of the VC LTD, but that might be too much for me right now and might as well go to the Empyrean if I am spending that much. Do you know how the Eikon compares to the MDR-Z1R?

I considered it, but it’s too much equipment to carry around when walking around through college. Like to have a phone and a dap. I did try using a phone and C5D a couple years ago while going around and it was too much. Now that you are mentioning it more and more, I will definitely upgrade a source for desktop use to get the most of these IEMs. Just found it more fun for me to buy new headphones than buying new amps/dacs.

Edit: After some research, it seems like I would need to go with the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label for now since I use so many IEMs. Later on, I can have that and a more proper desktop setup. The other desktop amps suggested has a 32ohm minimum output except for the iFi Pro iCan but apparently the iCan is still not that great for IEMs in how they sound. I think in the future, going with the bifrost 2 and liquid platinum or just the holo cyan would be perfect. Thank you for the suggestions.

Do you think the amp on the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label would be an improvement or not on the Element II?

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The eikon would be a bit tighter and more detail forward than the z1r, I think the z1r might have better bass extension and impact, but the eikon sounds more organic in it’s impact, the eikon would be more linear in the midrange compared to the more crafted midrange on the sony, the eikon in the treble would also be a bit more neutral in the treble as well, actually more refined in the treble and better extended imo. Speed wise the eikon sounds speedier to me and tends to have better separation and detail retrieval imo, but the sony is really interesting spatially and creates a more impressive soundstage than the eikon. Generally the eikon is more neutral with a bit of fun, where the sony is really leaning into the fun aspect. Imo you can make the eikon more fun on some tube amps, but that would mean getting an amp that wouldn’t work well with your iems for the most part (in the price range you would be spending)

It is pretty dang versatile

Solid idea

Yes for the most part the desktop gear isn’t really geared for iems

I think it depends on the iem and also what mode you have the ican in, it doesn’t do well when you have it in tube mode, but in solid state mode imo it preforms pretty well with most iems I have tried with it (outside of some really picky ones)

Yes I do, not a massive leap forward, but imo an improvement in capabilities and a signature change that leans towards more warm and fun. It isn’t going to be as clean as the element ii but I think the ifi makes up for it in other ways

Based on your description, I think I will go with the Z1R since that will be better for me at the moment.

I have also been seeing the RME ADI-2 DAC being recommended for IEMs. Would you go with that or the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label if you were to choose one to work with IEMs and Z1R for the time being?

Assuming you mean the adi 2 dac fs, I think it would depend on the sound you are after. The adi 2 dac FS is going to be more neutral slightly analytical, whereas the micro is going to be more warm and slightly smoother. Knowing my preferences I would probably pick the micro bl, as the adi just never really impressed me sound wise, but as an all in one it’s compelling if you will use the features it has to offer imo. I will say that it is good with iems though, better than most all in ones in the range. I haven’t heard the z1r on a adi 2 dac FS so I can’t say how well of a match it is. I do think the adi 2 is a bit higher tier than the ifi, but I do think the ifi is a more enjoyable listen (also it’s portable so that is also more valuable personally).

Sweet, I will be getting the black label for now and I have a better idea on upgrading my desktop setup in the future. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem like the iCan is on sale on the used market that often, so this is going to be interesting wallet wise once I get to that point. Thank you for all the help!