Rock out like it’s 1985: Sony MDR-V6 headphones review

by | Nov 1, 2016 | Review | 0 comments

Alex Rowe writes regularly about music, headphones, and all things audio on Medium.

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If you want a pair of headphones for less than $100 that produces exceptional studio-grade sound, the Sony MDR-V6 is a wonderful choice.  This headphone has been in steady production since way back in 1985.

It endures the test of time in a way that few technology products manage, because it’s that good.

Sound

Sony sells tons of units of the MDR-V6 (and its cousin, the 7506) every year to people in the production world because of one signature strength: their ability to showcase audio flaws. These headphones have a neutral, accurate sound signature with an impressive ability to highlight all the errors in a recording. If you listen to low quality/low bitrate music files with these, you’ll know it. If you listen to an album that was badly recorded or mastered, you’ll hear the distortion immediately.

The flip side is that these are great at presenting detail in good material, and as such have value outside the production world. Mids are clean and natural, and the most prominent frequencies in the reproduction. Vocals and instruments have a live, exciting quality to them. Bass is surprisingly impactful and punchy. Highs are strong without being fatiguing. If you’re used to the bass-heavy sound of other common consumer headphones, they might seem a bit tinny or shrill at first, but the balance here is versatile enough to work with all types of music and sound.

Give yourself a chance to adjust to them, and you’ll be rewarded with details and clarity you’ve never heard in your favorite songs.

Design/Build/Comfort/Extras

Look at this 80’s business:

Stylish headphones… these are not! But I still love how they look. You’ll either love or hate it.

These come in two flavors: The V6, and the 7506. They’re both nearly identical. Both have “Studio Monitor” emblazoned ridiculously atop their leatherette-covered metal headband. Both have aluminum ear cups with wires sticking out, that look like they’re made for durability rather than fashion. Both have a non-detachable coiled cable with a big solid 3.5mm plug on the end. Both use 40mm dynamic drivers with neodymium magnets that are easy to drive from just about any source.

The differences? The V6 has red stickers that say “for DIGITAL” and the 7506 has blue stickers that say “Professional.” The V6 has a nickel-plated plug and the 7506 has a gold-plated plug, which should allow for slightly higher volumes. That’s it. Don’t let the endless internet debates fool you: the V6 and 7506 are essentially identical.

The coiled, permanent, durable cable is a bit old-fashioned in today’s mobile world. It means these are best used when seated and stationary, whether at home or on the go. I guess you could cram the coil into your pants pocket to walk around or something… but I wouldn’t, myself.

The headphones collapse inward, and come with a nice little bag. Getting a case is rare in the less than $100 price range, so the bag is a great touch.

The ear pads are rather interesting on these, with a unique design that works surprisingly well on my giant glasses-wearing head. They’re technically circumaural (around-ear) headphones, with what’s known as “racetrack-style” pads. In most around-ear models, the seal between the pad and the side of your head provides isolation and bass response. Breaking this seal with glasses, or by having improper fit, greatly changes and diminishes the sound quality.

The V6 creates its seal between your ear and the inner foam part of the pad, sort of like an on-ear headphone. The around-ear racetrack bit is just there to provide additional comfort. So my glasses have no impact on the seal or sound quality. This is a really great idea! So great, that a whole paragraph of the manual is devoted to it… which then made me wonder why it’s not used in every Sony headphone.

Comfort is excellent on this headphone. It’s lightweight, flexible, and tremendously adjustable. It should fit any head without issue. Isolation is also quite good, making these usable in places like a loud coffee shop

Conclusion

If you want accurate sound for a rock-bottom price, the Sony MDR- V6/7506 is a great choice — if you can deal with the style and portability compromises. It’s comfy, isolating, and has a time-tested sound signature. You can find it for between $80 and $100 online. It’s built like a tank and should last you for years. The parts are all user-replaceable, although the headphone is cheap enough to just pick up a new one if your first pair ever wears out. It’ll probably last years. You can have fun now spotting them in behind-the-scenes extras and making-of specials, as they’re ubiquitous in the production world.

If Sony ever updated this model with a removable cable or Bluetooth functionality, it would render large portions of their current headphone lineup redundant. It’s good enough to make its 31- year production cycle make complete sense, and cheap enough to be an easy recommendation.