Visually, the boxes for Sony’s MDR-V6 and MDR-7506 headphones pop, in a kitschy retro way.
They look like they’re presenting the headphones to you on a luxurious velvet pillow. It’s one of the few boxes left in the audio market that lets you see the whole product while it’s sitting on a shelf…assuming you actually still have an electronics store that carries them in your area. And the plastic isn’t covered in dust thanks to static cling.
But then you have to open it. And that’s where the fun stops.
I’ve had a lot of experience with Sony’s classic MDR monitoring series over the last several years.
And that means I’ve had to open their packaging several times.
I always forget how frustrating it is. But last night I opened some new V6’s I’m using for part of an upcoming article, and I remembered the nightmare all over again.
Once you break into the cardboard and plastic shell, the confusion begins immediately. There’s no obvious spot to open once you’re inside. The bottom of the packaging is made of cardboard bits that are carefully attached to each other, both by tabs and industrial-grade glue.
You might try pulling at some of that glue, only for it to stick to your fingers so badly that you need to use solvent to get it off. You might think that getting one of the tabs open will magically release everything else, but it won’t. You’ll be surprised to see that the velvet pillow is really just some cheap fabric wrapped around a simple tray, and that somehow the headphones are jammed in there so tight that there’s a high possibility your brand new headband now has creases in it from the pressure of the ear cup plastic.
Eventually, you’ll give up and just start ripping and tearing at the cardboard, finally freeing your new tool/toy from its confines.
But now a new challenge begins: getting the cord out of a plastic bag that’s taped shut harder than a bank vault.
I have never liked this design. The cord is contained inside a simple poly bag, but the bag is sealed with some thick tape that’s wrapped around it near the top.
In theory, you could just pull on the end of this tape and carefully open it…but the end never sticks out. And the adhesive is too strong to just rip through.
So, you’ll have to carefully cut through the tape with a knife, or pull on it endlessly and hope you don’t break the cord.
Now, you’re ten minutes into an opening procedure that should have taken sixty seconds.
All this so that Sony can present their old headphones in a clear plastic shell for retail shelves that don’t really exist any more.
Most of their competitors now house studio headphones inside eco-friendly recyclable cardboard packaging. Sennheiser has lead the charge on this. Their HD280 Pro, HD 25, and HD 300 Pro headphones come in simple cardboard boxes with the headphones carefully placed inside without any ties or adhesive.
Audio-Technica’s M50X also comes in a big cardboard case, with the tray inside made out of a pressed paperboard material.
Sure, neither one shows off the headphones, but we’re living in 2019. A significant number of studio headphones are purchased online. These are stalwarts of the audio industry. No one needs to pick up the box, and if they do, some images will do just fine thank you.
Furthermore, working professionals, the exact sort of folks who might bulk- order studio gear, shouldn’t have to waste time carefully opening nice display packaging. Even many style headphones have packaging that’s easier to get into than the classic Sony studio box, and easier to recycle as well.
It’s true that I’ve always loved the look of the dumb “velvet pillow” boxes that these headphones have used for most of my life. But they passed their useful life span years ago.
A simple printed cardboard box with a nice description and image of the headphones would work well. There’s no need for the headphones to ship crammed down into their smallest folded position with the headband crimped by the cups. There’s no need for this much adhesive anywhere inside the box, let alone around the bag holding the cord.
The design and engineering of these classic headphones is truly timeless. They offer audio performance, comfort, and durability that have all more than stood the test of time. There’s a reason they quietly sell thousands of units per month.
But the packaging, while still holding some dated visual appeal, isn’t practical. The abundance of adhesive and plastic means most places won’t recycle it, and it’s way too hard to get into.
I’d love to see Sony copy their competitors and switch to a simpler box for their professional gear. It’s time for the fake velvet pillow to fade into the past.