Sony, a leading manufacturer of Consumer electronics have for a while been overtaken in the highly competitive headphone market. I still have pleasant memories of my Sony MDR V6, an excellent headphone. Lately with the rise of niche companies such as Audeze, Hifiman and so on, Sony has been playing the catch-up game. They have been seeing success with the MDR1R and now the MDR-MA900 may be another shot in the arm for the giant.
Design/Build & Comfort
The MA900 is “less headphone & more music”. The build is sparse, minimalist and does raise some doubts about durability. The magnesium alloy frame is the backbone holding the plastic enclosed lollipop drivers. The cable is nothing special and I never had issues with tangling. This headphone may not rank high on the build category but remember that it well makes up for it in comfort. Thankfully the MA900 was designed as a stay-at-home headphone and delicate handling should make it last for years.
The highlight (or delight) of the MA900 (apart from the sound) is the comfort. The MA900 disappears once the music starts! The clamping force is delicate, but the headphone sits comfortably on the head – the 70mm drivers cover the ear with ample space to breath! You can wear this headphone for hours and not feel the stress of something sitting on the head. I will confidently say that the comfort offered by the MA900 is unmatched by any headphone in this price range or even several times higher. Kudos to Sony!
As the review title suggests the MA900 has a sweet and lovable presentation. It is polite and smooth, yet has enough bite for an engaging but relaxing listen. Treble is well presented and is without any sibilance. The clarity in the treble is apparent since the rest of frequencies are well balanced. Comparing the MA900 to the HD650, the latter is definitely the darker sounding and colored headphone. The thick bass and smoky mids of the HD650 tend to take away much from the treble, not so with the MA900.Though the overall presentation of the MA900 slants to the warmer side, the treble presence is balanced to provide a good sense of detail and transparency. Some may feel the treble to be a bit too bright (compared to, say the HD650), but in my opinion it is just right! If my memory serves right it’s just like the HD600 tonally and is refreshing to listen to coming from the HD650.
Mids are transparent, detailed and bring out the palpability without any bleed from the bass regions. I personally prefer the voices to be much more intimate than the MA900, which by the way is the saving grace for bad recordings. This also suits the general presentation style of the MA900 (SMOOTH!), and its wide genre compatibility.
Surprisingly good bass for a open headphone! The bass is with texture and speed in the upper and midbass regions. There is of course some amount of “boominess” in the bass but that is still forgivable for an open headphone. The whole “Bass lens” acronym had me worried but all’s good. This is by no measure a “bass-head can” but should satisfy most listeners looking for a good bass performance. The attack and punch of the lower frequencies are however slightly distant in the vast soundstage.
The sprawling “soundscapes” that the MA900 fleshes out is fabulous! This is also where the angled drivers do their magic, and magic it is! Better soundstage presentation in terms of size and accuracy are impossible to find in this price class and can only be experienced in models like the Hifiman HE500 & Sennheiser HD800.The other headphone with such a lavish soundstage that I have listened to is the AKG 240DF, then again it definitely not as musical nor easy to drive! As a design advantage, open headphones generally have a more wide and nautral soundstage. The MA900 in particular with its large 70mm driver, angled driver placement takes the open design to new highs.
Perhaps the biggest asset of the MA900 is its undemanding nature when it comes to other gear in its signal route. I listened to the MA900 through a Burson HA160 Headphone amp/DAC Magic, Macbook pro headphone output, Dell XPS M1530 headphone out, iPod Classic headphone out, iPod LOD to Fiio E11 & O2 headphone amp. Remarkably the overall presentation and much of the detail and clarity remains across the different gear. Yes, the Burson/O2 firmed up the impact and boundaries, the Fiio E11 could add some more warmth but they never altered the overall experience drastically. Good source material meant better clarity and definition, bad recordings (in my opinion) were not intolerable and the MA900 does a decent job here (though you may not be doing justice to this headphone!).I can whole heartedly recommend the MA900 as a single component music listening setup from a computer, AV receiver or any other source – it’s that good! Adding a DAC/lossless audio should provide a higher quality signal to the 70mm drivers for better detail retrieval.
The only thing going against the MA900 is that it is a very niche headphone! If you are a closed headphone enthusiast, then this headphone is out obviously (though you should give it a listen). Some listeners like the presentation to be a bit intimate, the MA900 however projects a large soundstage and therefore may not appeal to these listeners. The first few days of my listening sessions were unsatisfactory because of this very fact; the HD650 & HD600 creates a slight but perceivable sense of intimacy that is lacking with this headphone. As for competitors to the MA900, this budget is crowded with several good headphones like the Sennheiser HD598, Audio technica AD900x and even the Sennheiser HD600 if you can find it at a competitive price!
In spite of the above statements, there is no question in my mind that the MA900 is an excellent buy at the price and performance levels (as good as the HD600!). It goes well with most music genres and could become the “go-to headphone” for music lovers not wanting the hassle of having additional gear or heavy headphones. The Sony MDR MA series is available in India from Flipkart and other online stores and don’t forget to check flipit.com for discount coupons to save on your purchase.
This post was sponsored by Flipit.com.
Burson HA160 Headphone Amplifier/ DAC Magic DIY O2 Headphone Amplifier & Fiio E11 Amplifier
Lossless Audio/ 320 Kbps mp3/ 24-96 Hi-Res Files
Headphones: Sennheiser HD650
- Unboxing video of the Sony MDR MA900 from Hifiguy (youtube.com)
- Sony MDR MA900 Appreciation Thread (Head-fi.org)
- Sony MDR MA900 Review & Measurements from Golden Ears (en.goldenears.com)
- Lachlan’s Youtube Review of the Sony MDR MA900 (youtube.com)