Review: Sony MDR-7506 Professional Headphones Tweak

Category: Accessories

When Sony gets it right for audiophiles these days, it’s usually by accident. Take their headphone line: I defy you to find one decent-sounding unit in their entire U.S. consumer line with the exception of the well-regarded (but expensive) MDR-CD3000. I’ve tried the MDR-V300 and the MDR-V600, which sell for $50 and $100 respectively, and both were unsatisfying, with tinny midranges and bloated bass (on both models) and creaky build quality (on the MDR-V300).

That said, my beloved open-ear Sennheiser HD580s presented a problem -- not enough isolation when my upstairs neighbors mill around, or in the summer when the windows are open and outside the noise level is high. I’ve never had a pair of Sennheisers I didn’t like, so I was ready to order a pair of closed-ear HD280 Pro headphones until I turned on VH1 one weekend. On more than one documentary, I noticed recording engineers and artists were using Sony’s MDR-7506 Professional closed-ear phones for monitoring, mixing and mastering.


After doing some research, I found that the MDR-7506s are pretty much an accepted industry standard -- the headphone of choice used during the recording of many of the commercial releases we listen to. At $130 a pair, but with a street price of about $100, these became an even more intriguing choice. In addition to being inexpensive, I’d be hearing some of my favorite records -- including Warren Zevon’s farewell gift, “The Wind” -- on the very cans with which they were made.

Next, I searched some discussion forums. Naturally, all of these opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. However, there seemed to be a consensus among the more lucid-sounding participants that these cans are extremely accurate and faithful to the music. To some people, this trait was annoying. To others, it was sublime. One comment I encountered again and again: don’t expect the euphoric house sound of Sennheiser.

The bass, it was said, is another strong point: deep and powerful, yet tight and not at all exaggerated. Many people on sites like, as well as recording engineers with sites of their own, said this was THE headphone, hands down. A good number of pundits claim to have tried considerably more expensive ‘phones -- including top-line models like Sennheiser HD600s, Grado SR325 and others -- and the general conclusion was that one could spend more but not get more faithful sound reproduction.

Unlike my 300ohm Sennheisers, the Sonys are said to be very easy to drive, even with portable equipment. There seems to be some confusion as to what the exact impedance is: the specs on the box list the impedance as a reasonable 63ohms. On Sony’s website (, it’s shown as 26ohms with a frequency response of 10-20,000Hz.

Another point worth mentioning: many people believe Sony’s MDR-V6, aimed at the consumer rather than the professional market, is the identical product with two exceptions: the “Professional” sticker on the 7506 is replaced with a sticker reading “Digital,” and the plug is not gold-plated. Well, there’s another difference: the V6 is about $30 less. In fact, one post on is from a person who bought a pair of MDR-V6 phones and found that one earcup read “MDR-V6,” while the other read “MDR-7506.” There’s even a photo to prove it. I wouldn’t put it past Sony to pull this kind of stuff. But other people seem to feel that these are definitely different ‘phones, and one posting provided a link to a website where a hobbyist put both models on a spectrum analyzer and charted a different response curve for each. Could sample-to-sample variation explain it? Maybe. I haven’t tried both so I can’t say, but it may be worth investigating if you want to save some cash.

I chose the more expensive MDR-7506 Professional version hoping that if I ever have a problem, Sony’s Pro Audio unit will provide better service. Judging by what I’ve read, their consumer product customer service department has a reputation for being difficult to reach and less than helpful in their responses. They also seem to have an annoying habit of replacing products sent in for repair with less desirable models (from an audiophile’s standpoint).

One other caution I’d received: the earpads on the Sonys were said to messily self-destruct, necessitating frequent replacement. On top of that, I was also warned not to expect Sennheiser levels of comfort, and if I did, to replace the vinyl ear cushions with cloth pads from Beyerdynamic instead. (The ones for their DT250 model are said to be an exact fit for the Sony MDR-7506.) With all that in mind, I placed an order with, got free shipping and a price of $99.97. Not bad. I received the ‘phones three days later, revved up my Creek OBH-11 headphone amp and began the break-in process before sitting down to listen.


Most posts I read on audio enthusiast websites stated that a headphone amp was most definitely not a necessity with the Sonys. A few did concede that an amp seemed to help tighten up the bass and improve its extension. I’ll say that, in my experience, the difference a headphone amp makes -- in my case, the Creek OBH-11 with the optional OBH-2 regulated power supply -- is subtle, even with hard-to-drive cans like Sennheiser HD580s. With the Sonys, I don’t believe the Creek presented any audible improvements. If anything, it made the Sonys sound unpleasantly lean and slightly shrill on some material. (More on that later.)

One thing’s for sure: if all Sony headphones were built this thoughtfully, they might give Grado and Sennheiser a run for their money. The MDR-7506 is solidly built with quality materials. The headband is a thickly padded vinyl, with double stitching -- not fake embossed stitching as on the Grado Prestige Series. Most parts are held in place by honest-to-goodness screws, not glue. That would suggest that, if one were able to get hold of parts, they could be easily swapped out. They easily lived up to their label of “Professonal” grade by virtue of their durable build quality alone. Even the sturdy box and rich-looking packaging are a cut above. There was no manual to speak of, but the box did include a handy service manual with comprehensive parts listing and exploded assembly/disassembly diagrams.

The relatively short, coiled cable necessitated the use of an extension cord, so I used the 15-foot Grado, a sensible match for the Sonys from a cost standpoint and a bargain at only $30. The Creek OBH-11 was connected through my Rotel RC-980BX preamp’s tape output via a Monster Cable Interlink 400MkII. My main digital source, a Sony SCD-775 SACD player, was connected to the preamp with an Audioquest Diamondback interconnect. Finally, my analog source is a Rega P2 with a glass platter standing in for the standard MDF platter, an ExtremePhono None Felt mat in place of the regular felt mat and a Denon DL-160 high-output, moving coil cartridge.

Out of the box, with zero break-in hours, the Sonys sounded pretty good. In fact, they were perfectly listenable within a few hours. After a few days of break-in time, they loosened up nicely. One thing was immediately apparent: these may be the ultimate headphones for someone who doesn’t want, or can’t afford to splurge for, a dedicated headphone amp. They were stunningly good when fed the weak signal from the headphone output of my Sony SACD player. The same signal that could barely motivate my Sennheiser HD580s was more than sufficient to power the Sonys. When powered by the headphone jack on my Rotel preamp, the signal was cleaner, more powerful and more dynamic.


Comfort was surprisingly good. The headband is just tight enough to hold these lightweight phones securely in place without pinching the ears. The vinyl ear cushions -- despite their nasty, low-rent appearance compared to the velour pads on some Sennheiser models -- are actually quite cozy for multi-hour listening sessions. My ears got a little warm and stuffy at times, but not too unpleasantly so. The single-sided cord will place a strain on the left side of your head if the full burden of the coiled cord is imposed on it, but this is really only a problem when standing. Once adjusted, the MDR-7506 headphones pretty much stayed adjusted unless acted on by an outside force, like the family dog.


The bass was definitely the Sony’s strongest point. For the first time ever with headphones, I can say I felt the low notes. That’s not to say the bass was exaggerated. It wasn’t at all, in fact. These may not be the ideal headphones for people who like a nice British mini-monitor. But on Holly Cole’s “Temptation,” Rob Wasserman’s “Duets” and Radiohead’s “Kid A,” I was surprised at not only how much impact the bass had, but also the additional detail accompanying it. The initial pluck of one of Wasserman’s strings was crystal-clear, and each note’s decay was like live music played an inch from your face.

The problem with that, of course, is that all of the instruments seemed to be pushed too far forward. Selections that were deeply three dimensional on my Sennheisers were decidedly 2D on the Sonys. In particular, the Sonys had a difficult time relating the position of one instrument (or an instrument section) in relation to the others. Of course, used for their intended purpose -- as studio monitors -- this probably isn’t nearly as important as overall tonal accuracy. And some people might find their “forward” musical style exciting -- they certainly make music sound “big.”

The Sonys were at their best with rock, and in particular, densely layered studio rock in the style of Radiohead, The Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd. Minute details that escaped me with loudspeakers were front-and-center on the Sonys: ticking clocks, approaching trains, even human breath and the sound of an errant finger glancing off a guitar’s fret board.
The Sonys were also very good with bluegrass and folk. Recent releases from Nickel Creek, Ralph Stanley and Dar Williams were well resolved, and due to the sparse arrangements on all three discs, the lack of three-dimensionality was not a serious problem.

Classical music suffered more from the lack of air and space than did other genres, but resolution was still excellent. The Sonys were at their worst with jazz, sounding shrill and over-hyped. The new SACD reissue of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” for example, was unlistenable, as was most jazz featuring brass instruments. My MoFi LP of Wes Montgomery’s “Bumpin’” fared better, as did my LPs of Keith Jarrett’s “Sun Bear Sessions.” (If you love to focus in on minute details during solo performances, these Sonys are a must audition.)

In the end, I brought the Sonys to work for use with my Sony CD Walkman, model D-EJ368CK. The lower resolution of the portable unit took the edge off these very revealing phones. At night, relaxing on the couch, I much prefer the lush, airy presentation of the Sennheisers. But during the day, under fluorescent lights while sitting at my desk, the Sony D-EJ368CK/MDR-7506 combo is just the ticket: it has the authority to bully its way through any distractions -- ocular and aural -- helping me concentrate on my work and, of course, the music.

Isolation is very good, but not so thorough that I can’t hear my phone ring. Co-workers say there’s no noticeable sound leakage, either. The only problem I encountered had to do with the 1/8th inch plug. It features a screw-on ¼ inch adaptor which, when not in use, leaves the screw threads exposed to pick up unwanted RF interference, resulting in some audible buzzing. A small layer of black electrical tape helped somewhat, though it’s not a very elegant band-aid.

The CD Walkman D-EJ368CK has no problem powering the MDR-7506 headphones to uncomfortable volumes. Overall, for $69.95, this is as decent a digital player as you’re likely to find these days provided you immediately toss the miserable 99-cent headphones that are supplied with it. Sony even throws in a handy, joystick-style wired remote control that works best when velcroed to a solid surface. The player’s sound is full, warm and relaxed with no glaring faults, or at least, none worth mentioning given its price. You’ll never, ever be tempted to hit the ‘bass boost’ button on this little guy. If you do, you’ll be justly punished with some of the most awful sound you’ve ever heard.


The difference between the Sony MDR-7506 headphones and Sennheiser HD580 cans is like the difference between a BMW M5 and a Bentley Turbo R. One is razor-sharp, the other silky smooth. If you want to carve through a set of twisty turns with knifelike precision, visit your local BMW dealer. If you want to set the cruise control for 100mph and breeze down to the seashore for the weekend, I’d suggest a trip to the Bentley store. Both cars will go plenty fast, and both are great performers. It’s up to you to decide which better suits your style.

I don’t enjoy the Sonys at home, but they make for a great travel headphone. Folded up in the supplied vinyl carrying case, they fit nicely into the bottom compartment of my Case Logic CD bag. I’m not overly worried about knocking them around, because (a) they’re built to withstand abuse and (b) most parts are readily available for quick and relatively easy replacement.

If you’re an occasional headphone listener without a dedicated headphone amp, and no plans to buy one, the Sony MDR-7506 is a solid buy. For some people, they may be too revealing. Record surface and groove noise, for instance, are not easily ignored. And they lack the ultimate finesse of the Sennheisers. Still, if you value extreme detail, serious slam and extended bass over relaxed, airy musicality, grab the Sonys.

Buy them from like I did, and you can try them for 30 days. If you don’t like them, trade them for the more laid-back Sennheiser HD280s, which are priced identically. Better still, pay the difference in price for a pair of Sennheiser HD580 or HD600 headphones and then start saving for a good headphone amp. Any way you do it, you probably can’t go too wrong.

Associated gear
Rega P2 turntable with P3 glass platter and ExtremePhono None-Felt mat
Denon DL-160 cartridge
Rotel RC-980 preamplifier with MM/MC phono card
Rotel RA-970 amplifier
Sony SCD-CE775 SACD player
ProAc Tablette 2000 loudspeakers
Kimber Kable 4PR speaker cables
Various Audioquest, Kimber, Vampire Wire and MonsterCable interconnects
Monster Power HTS 2500 Power Center
Record Doctor II record cleaning machine/Disc Doctor record brushes
StudioTech HF series racks
Audioquest MC cartridge demagnetizer
Sennheiser HD580 headphones
Creek OBH-11 headphone amp with OBH-2 regulated power supply
Grado 15’ headphone extension cable

Similar products
Sennhsier HD535
Sennheiser HD565 Ovation
Sennheiser HD580
Sony MDR-V300
Sony MDR-V600
Grado SR60/SR80
Nice review. You might want to post it at as well.
I also own the 7506 which I paid about $85 for at B&H photo/video 2 years ago. I listened to the Senns and grados and they didnt sound right. I also knew the Senns were hard to drive with portables so I picked the Sonys. They are incredibly durable, so much so I dont even use the bag for them I just fold them up and chuck them in my bookbag. They are all scratched up and the foam does deteriorate into a mess but they do sound great. I have had just one problem with them and heres the story:

A while ago I got the cord on my MDR7506 caught on the door. It sheared the hp plug right off. I sent them to Sony and got it repaired ( a brand new cord) and the cups refoamed for $62. I go to plug it in last week and there is a huge channel imbalance to the left side. I went back today to complain and find out the service center at Sony Wonder has been closed for a month. They referred me to an authorized service center downtown. Another trip.

3 days later I went in and told the guy behind the counter my story and he calls to a guy in the back and asks "What do we do with the bounce backs?" and the guy in the back says "Send 'em back to Sony". I guess this happens often enough. Anyway now its a waiting game. I hope to pick up another pair of Senn px100's to hold me over again. Have a Happy New Year!

The point is the Sony's sound great but this time the Sony service center had their heads up their butts.
I ready with amusement about your Sony's. Last year the Sony MDR-V300 saved our lives. We were sailing when a crack happened on our sail boat when we were out 10 miles. I ripped off the cheap head phone covers and patched the crack with it and duct tape. Perfect. I wrote to Sony and they sent me a brand new pair.

True story.

The hash in the pants.
What is the difference with the MDR-V6, MDR-V600, AND MDR-7506? I am confused. Should I just get the MDR-V900's?
-The MDR-V6 is THE SAME as the MDR-7506.

-The MDR-V600 headphones are terrible and completely different from the MDR-V6. Don't confuse these two with each other!

-The MDR-V900 is THE SAME as the MDR-7509.


v6 = 7506
v900 = 7509

v600 = completely different!

Get the 7506/v6's!! They are THE BEST if you want ACCURACY, not ENHANCEMENT.
I've had two pair of V-6's for nearly 20 years (seriously!!) and they sound as great today as when I originally bought them (One pair to take on the plane with my Sony Discman -- remember the thin square metal one with the flat battery pack?)

One set did develop psoriasis on the ear pads, so I just received replacements from Sony parts, $11/pr. The other pair has been in it's box for years with no problem, so it's probably skin oils that does it. Wipe them clean with alcohol and treat with some silicone spray and buff dry with a towel. That should make them last longer.

Still one of the best (and most comfortable, I might add) headphones I've ever heard, easy to drive, and a real bargain IMO.
Can anyone instruct me how to replace an earpad on the MDR-7506, or provide a link to the instructions. I have searched the Sony website, and the MDR-7506 model does not come up as a model choice in the headphones section of the manual downloads.
Tvad, I'm not 100% sure, but I believe the MDR-7506 is the "pro" version of the MDR-V6 (I have two pair of those. See my post above.)

The Sony part number for MDR-V6 earpads is:

Ear Pad, X21131241 -- $5.95 ea.

Hope this helps, if you want some tips changing them out, email me, but it's pretty easy.


Thanks, Neil. I just finished the replacement. The pads just slip off the plastic donut without the removal of any other part of the earpiece.
I sent Grant the following instructions (if anyone's interested) but he beat me to it, brave soul that he is!

Hi Grant,

It's pretty simple.

To get the old one off, place your index and middle finger
against the interior edge (hole side) of the pad (along either of the long sides) and your thumb opposite them against the outside edge. Then press the pad inward with your thumb toward the other two fingers, and this will pull the pad out of the plastic flange. Continue to pull the edge of the pad out of the flange working your way all around until it's free.

Installing a new one is pretty much the reverse. Except I've found it a little easier to slide the edge of the new pad under the flange at one of the curved ends, slowly stretching it around the whole earpiece until the entire edge is in the groove under the flange. Then place your whole hand on the pad and twist the whole pad back and forth about 1/4" (like you're rocking a steering wheel back and forth) just to make sure it's fully seated and properly positioned.

This sounds more complicated than it really is, but if you're still having problems, let me know and I can have someone take pictures of me doing it (it requires both hands ;~))

Hi Guys, I just recently got the MDR-V6.

I'm 32 hours into breaking them in. Just wondering, How long should I break them in for?

Also, I want to know if it was worth saving the $$$ on a V6 instead of getting the 7506. Are they seriously the exact same cans minus the gold plating? Some people say yes, some say no.

Also, where can I get those Beyerdynamic DT250 earpads from that fin onto the 7506/V6? I live in Sydney, Australia, so they have to be able to ship down under.
If the 7506 is differently constructed than the V6, no one (including SONY) has ever said what the differences are. For Beyer products in Australia, these people should be able to help:

Audio Telex
Conference & Presentation, Music & Performance, Broadcast, Studio, Video & Production, Consumer Products
Communications Pty. Ltd. 149 Beaconsfield St,
2128 Silverwater, NSW,
Phone: +61 2 96471411
Fax: +61 2 97482537
Responsible for: Australia

Why do headphones require breaking in? It's not as though the drivers need hours of flexing to work out the cone stiffness.