A comparison question! My favorite! Let’s do this.

These headphones are targeted at two very different types of users, so I get why it’s a tough choice.

Let’s explore this a little bit.

Here’s a little mini headphone showdown, just for you:

Sound Quality
The MSR7NC is a much brighter, more “neutral” headphone. It has that Audio-Technica house studio sound. It’s like the M50X but with more bristling highs. It’s definitely going to make female singers sound better than the 1000X.

The downside is possible fatigue. The MSR7NC’s are a bit of an acquired taste. The highs are going to jump down your ears right away, particularly if you like to listen at loud volumes. The 1000X has nothing offensive about its sound, but it’s not as detailed in the mids and highs.

If female vocals are your thing, then you’ll probably prefer the MSR7NC…just make sure you buy from a place with a good return policy in case you hate them.

I personally prefer the sound of the MSR7NC, but most listeners are going to like the 1000X more because of how relaxing it is by comparison.

Noise Cancelling
The 1000X has much better noise cancelling. It also has some very slight hiss and ear pressure as a result. But this comparison really isn’t even fair.

Some folks have reported issues using the 1000X on train/bus commutes that go through tunnels, because its tech is so good and so sensitive to pressure changes that it causes a brief weird popping sound. The MSR7NC isn’t going to do this, but it’s only going to block about 2/3rds of the background sound in comparison. The MSR7NC also doesn’t have any hiss or pressure on your ears. But again, the isolation performance isn’t in the same league.

Build Quality/Design

The 1000X is better built, slightly…and also more expensive. The materials Sony uses are a little more premium. Both are known to have some joint creaking. That’s just a design side effect and not necessarily a proper defect.

I think the MSR7’s are a little less bulky on the head, if you’re worried about looking cool while wearing them. Their ear cups don’t stick out as much.

Comfort

This is about even. Both headphones are slightly clampy and noticeable on your heard. The MSR7NC is notorious for requiring a slight break-in period. So, don’t be concerned if it gives you some pain on the top of your head in the first week of wearing it.

Sony’s pair has no such break-in issues, but it’s still not going to disappear in total softness while you wear it. I think you can use them both over long sessions comfort-wise, but neither is the absolute best in the category for most heads. That’d be the Bose QC25/35.

I like the fit of both headphones. The MSR7NC has slightly bigger ear cup holes, so if you have larger ears be aware of that.

Value/Features/Extras
The MDR1000X has way more extra features and a nicer carrying case…but it also costs more in most territories. The 1000X is also wireless.

If you’re not going to use the wireless functions or fancy ambient sound modes, I wouldn’t even look at the 1000X as it’s not worth the price premium as a purely wired headphone.

How would I personally decide?

Think about and answer these questions:

Do you need/want the extra noise cancelling features/ambient sound features/wireless features of the Sony? If so, no one else has them to this degree of quality. If you don’t need them, they are the main reasons the MDR1000X is a good choice, so you can rule it out.

Do you prefer a more relaxed sound or a more detailed sound? The MSR7NC is going to show you every flaw in your recordings. So if you listen to lot of really compressed music, it might sound worse to you.

Are you planning to listen for longer than an hour at a time? If so, the Sony is probably the safer choice. Your brain may very well acclimate to the sound of the MSR7NC over time, but it’s a love/hate proposition.

Have you heard other Sony or Audio-Technica headphones before? Both of these models we’re looking at have the sound signatures the companies are known for. The Sony is a warm, consumer-friendly signature and the Audio-Technica model is all about precision and studio-style detail.

Final Thoughts

Personally, if I were going to pick just on sound quality and value, I’d pick the MSR7NC. It’s cheaper, and it sounds better to my personal taste in audio. But the Sony’s are built like fancy leather shoes, have a bunch of cool features that no one else has, handle wireless well, and have a sound that you’ll never get frustrated by. You just have to decide if those things are worth the extra money to you, and what type of listener you are!

I hope that was helpful in some way. Thanks for reading!

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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