Sony MDR-1A Headphone Family — The Comfort Champ

I think the silver and brown color is the best. I also think the camera focused on the door behind me. I’m not retaking this photo. I’m a rebel.

Let’s say you want a headphone that looks good, sounds good, and is super comfy. Like, so comfy that it disappears on your head, and you could wear it for hours and hours and not even mind.

That last requirement is really hard to find. Which is stupid. You would think that comfort would be a priority in headphone design, since you have to wear these things on your head. Heads are pretty important. If your head gets uncomfortable, your brain is going to freak out about it really quickly. Whereas sometimes, I’ll accidentally sleep on my arm for a while and it’ll get all numb, and my brain won’t wake me up right away, and then I wake up and wonder why my arm is all numb and how long that has been….

I’m getting off track.

Headphone comfort is supremely important, especially if you plan on listening to audio for more than an hour or so. That’s usually the breaking point, even for some of the more premium models out there. It’s a problem that’s further exacerbated in my own personal case by the giant size of my head. So when headphones manage to both fit on my head and be incredibly comfortable for more than an hour, I take notice.

If comfort is your top buying priority, you need to focus on just two brands: Sony and Bose. That’s it. I’ve just shaved hours off of your headphone-buying experience. No one else offers the same brand of extreme long-wearing comfort. Comfort that’s so impressive you’ll forget you’re wearing headphones.

Let’s talk about the Sony MDR-1A family of premium headphones. Sony’s mainstream flagship model. Sure, they make more expensive headphones, but those are for crazy enthusiasts. The MDR-1A (every Sony headphone name starts with the letters “MDR” for reasons) is a super-comfy headphone that feels instantly good, and provides a sound that rivals and/or bests everything in this 300 dollar price range. I think a lot of that comes down to the aluminum-coated drivers and the special, iterated-over-many-years design of the ear cups.

The instant I tried on a demo unit in my local Fry’s Electronics I went “Uh oh these are comfy I have to buy them.” Headphone comfort is about 75 percent of my metric for whether a headphone is good. The MDR-1A fit on my head with plenty of extra room to adjust larger, and it was immediately comfy.

This family of headphones has three models, with varying prices. 1)A standard version with a couple different cables. 2) A bluetooth version. 3)A version with a DAC and headphone amp built in, and a whole crapload of different cables for digital connection to various devices. All three come with a very nice, durable carrying bag.

Because I’m a crazy person, I bought the one with the DAC and amp.

A DAC is a digital-to-analog converter. It’s a little processor that takes the digital music data from your computer or media playing device and turns it into analog electrical signals that your headphones can actually play back as sound. Better DACs offer more features and play a wider variety of sound files. Your phone/computer/whatever you use to listen to sound has a DAC and amp in it, and the MDR-1ADAC by-passes it completely.

I’m no DAC expert, but I like how it sounds. It’s the first and only DAC I’ve used that supports direct playback of high-res audio files. I listened to a bunch of high-res audio files the first week I had the headphones…and I didn’t really notice a big difference. But hey, if that matters to you then great!

All three models offer exceptional, balanced sound with less of the tweaking that makes headphones like the M50X a love/hate proposition. I would be shocked if someone put these on and thought anything was bad about them. That’s the way it should be given we’re talking about 300 dollar headphones. Rest assured, they are worth every penny. They have the look and feel and sound of a premium product, and they’re just simply good in every way. And stupidly comfy.

If you want active noise cancelling, you should check out Bose products. But if you just want a stupidly comfy, good headphone you can use for years, then the MDR-1A is a perfect choice.

At this point you might think I’m just writing headphone reviews of good products I like. And you’d be right. But that doesn’t mean I’ll never write a negative review. Oh no. Far from it. The storm is coming!

These are probably the classiest-looking headphones in this price bracket, if that’s something that matters to you. You won’t look silly at all wearing these, and you’ll actually get good audio and comfort too!

I write independent tech, game, music, and audio reviews and analysis from a consumer perspective. Support me directly:

I write independent tech, game, music, and audio reviews and analysis from a consumer perspective. Support me directly: