Oh no Tyll, Not You Too! Don’t Make the Same Mistake I Did with the Sony MDR-1000X!
I guess today is the day where I call out tech journalists I really respect?
Good. This is good and totally normal and not weird or bad or mean.
And now, Innerfidelity’s review of the Sony MDR-1000x.
As of right now, I think Tyll is the only major audio reviewer online going to bat for the sound quality and the active noise-cancelling properties of the Bose QC35 both being better than the MDR-1000X.
I kind of made this mistake for myself, for a little while, so I speak from experience. Of course, it turned out that I was evaluating an iffy demo pair. And I apologized. In many different ways.
Of course, I was only defending the sound quality of the Bose pair.
Even a cursory listening examination shows Sony’s dynamic noise-cancelling to be superior, at least in real-world environments on real ears. Sony talks this up all over their website, and I’m pretty sure they’d get hit with false advertising claims all over the world if it wasn’t true. Right?
This whole thing now has me suddenly doubting Tyll, and his measurement rig, and also my own ears.
I don’t know what to believe anymore!
Okay not really but without some drama where would the fun be?
What does Tyll Get Right?
He says that the Sony MDR-1000X headphones look gorgeous, are decently comfy (though not as comfy as the QC35s), and have a wealth of interesting/fun features. All of this is true and correct and good!
What Does Tyll Get Wrong?
Sony prints on their box that they have industry-leading noise-cancellation. Every reviewer has found it to be equal to or better than the Bose pair. I know Tyll has a fancy measuring rig, and maybe his rig is mis-calibrated for noise isolation. Or maybe it’s not representative of real-world heads as well as it should be.
Or maybe everything I’ve heard is a lie and Bose was better this whole time…at least before they ruined their ANC with firmware updates. ;)
I know, sound quality is subjective.
But consider this for a moment.
Both of these headphones have a warm, pleasant, non-fatiguing sound. The Sony pair recycles the driver from the milky smooth MDR-1A. The Bose driver is built off the back of their work on the QC25 and Soundlink II.
These are both well-known sound signatures.
Bose’s stuff sounds pretty good. But their noise-cancellers have a treble problem. In fact, it’s something I never noticed until Tyll himself pointed him out. He says this in his Bose QC35 review:
Treble is where the shit hits the fan. I’ve used this word before and I hear this effect with some regularity: The treble sounds sort of like it’s coming from a crinkled cellophane speaker. Sibilant sounds take on an additional artificial character. I don’t want to overstate this problem, but I don’t want to understate it either. If I listen to a bunch of energetic and poorly recorded music I end up with listening fatigue within a half hour and have to remove the cans. With good recordings this problem is significantly reduced.
(Read the rest HERE)
His observations are absolutely right. Bose’s treble feels like it’s coming through a weird piece of plastic, and that makes it a little bit less musical and less natural-sounding than the MDR1000X.
Sony’s pair has no such issues across its frequency range. It’s a nice listen. And yet! In the MDR-1000X review, Tyll says this:
Compared directly with the Bose QC 35, I felt the Bose bested the Sony with a more neutral character overall, and just a bit less grain to obscure details.
They did well delivering a sound more pleasant than the Sennheiser PXC 550 or JBL Everest Elite 700, but the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 at the same price is markedly better sounding
(Read the rest HERE)
I don’t know how to reconcile these things. If you get into the measurements he did on each headphone, they’re quite similar really. I think the Sony’s measure a touch flatter. You can find them at the end of each article.
Tyll’s already taking flak over this review over in his own comments section. I still have a huge amount of respect for Tyll and will read everything he writes, and watch his videos too.
He’s lead me to more great headphones than anyone else online.
But our heroes don’t always get it right, nor do they always agree with the consensus. And that’s okay! And heck, it’s even nice to be reminded of that sometimes.
Tyll took some heat recently when he didn’t like the Mr. Speakers Ether C Flow. Then, he took more heat when he completely reversed his stance and changed his mind. I think it was noble of him to admit his mistake. It also shows how weird things can get when one person’s opinions are suddenly considered some kind of infallible guideline for quality, whether it be for headphones, or whatever!
Give the guy a break, he’s going to have opinions and they won’t always agree with yours, internet!
And yet here I am, giving him a bad time, and on the internet no less.
I just played myself.