I'm a little bit of Sony fanboy, having grew up with Walkmans (cassette) and stuff. So when Sony announced the MDR-Z7, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one. Now being a fanboy doesn't mean that I need to be an idiot. I went in fully cognizant that the MDR-Z7 would probably sound like about 50%-60% the price (USA). Then again, having a "Changstar Proper Price Point" of 50% of retailer price is pretty decent given the price inflation of all the other headphones other there.
PRE-MEASUREMENT SUBJECTIVE IMPRESSIONS
The Z7 is definitely somewhere along the lines of the two prior Sony headphones I've tested: MA900 and MDR-1R. Timbre is similar. Similarities in frequency response in terms of increasing bass sloping upwards from the mids (with the MA900 dropping like a rock after the mid-bass, so really closer to MDR-1R). All three of these 'phones mentioned are slightly laid-back in the mids with a deeper depression in the upper mids. This is easily noted by lack of bite, edge, crunch, or shrillness. The MA900 in comparison is a bit brighter throughout the entire treble region. The treble (and actually all other)
characteristics of the Z7 is actually most similar to that of the 1R. I think it's fair to say that the Z7 is a 1R that doesn't fall apart at higher volumes.I could hear a small bump a little after 7kHz. I figure that spot because it's similar to the "problem" spot of the TH900, but pushed up a little bit in frequency. However with the Z7, this spike is not what I would call problematic. It's more rounded and less in amplitude of the TH900's spike. Sharp ears will hear it. Most people will not - mainly because of the elevated bass which reaches into the mids. The TH900 bass lift is very much localized in the sub and low bass with a suckout in the lower mids. The Z7 bass emphasis bleeds into the mids ever so slightly. It does relax a bit going down to 20-40Hz instead of getting crazier and crazier like the TH900 as we go lower. From mid-treble up to the air region, the Z7 is gentle.
Using EQ by ear, I reduced pushed down a broad region (Q=1.2) around 80Hz by 4db and pushed up 4.5khz 3db with a Q of 3. That seemed to do the trick. It's good to know that the Z7 responds to a few PEQ adjustments extremely well.
Imaging isn't super deep like an HD800, but seamless without being excessively wide. Good stable center image without a three-blob effect where there are gaps between the sides and center.
In terms of technicalities (resolution, precision, tautness, clarity), I'd say it's about on par with the W1000, W3000 drivers. A little bit more plankton in mids. A little bit more soft and indistinct in bass. Compared to TH900, the TH900 is just cleaner sound with better blackground - the Z7 comes off as a bit grey. (IME is subjective attribute correlates strongly with distortion.) The Z7 is not what I would consider a Summit-Fi headphone. But I need to balance the connection to see what it can do with the Rag's balanced outputs (the Rag's SE output is gimped). BTW, Sony does an extra set of cables: their version of balanced cables with two phono connectors. Terminating to 4-pin XLR should be easy.
It might be interesting to apply some mods. Lots of plastic, so I wonder if some mass loading will help "tighten up" then sound.
Comfort is superb. The adjustment mechanism is Sony at its best.
Effect of covering ports:
Internals and modding potential: http://www.changstar.com/index.php/topic,1839.msg49999.html#msg49999
Modded measurements: http://www.changstar.com/index.php/topic,1839.msg50008.html#msg50008