Review- Sony MDR-7520 Studio Monitor Headphones– The Sony 7520 is the professionally tuned model of the previous closed can flagship, the MDR-z1000. While it is still available, it is a rarer set of headphones due to its professional focus. I have ahd the headphones for about one year now and the following is my IRL (in real life) review.
I first encountered the MDR-7520 when I was looking at Sony’s high end headphone game last year- I had been out of the seen for the flagships for some time and wasn’t really following what was in Sony’s best of the best stable. It was here that I read about the MDR-Z1000, a headphone that was good but not great- it was appealing in some manners, but it was not impressive to most reviewers- in particular, most people did not like its low end response. Sony later retuned the headphone and physically adjusted a few items that I am not sure of, that resulted in a much better low end response. The interesting thing is that many people still consider the 7520 the same headphone but with different colors (the Z1000 has a silver cup harness and different cables). Jude at Head-Fi has assured readers that speaking with the Sony engineers, that the 7520 is an entirely different headphone regarding tuning. I don’t know myself, as I was never interested in the Z1000 because I thought the styling looked stupid. A few years down the road, I decided to get into the design and I quite like it. Above is my excited unboxing of the 7520 after it arrived from the excellent people of Axe Music (they provided great service and help!). The 7520 is not available for sale from your typical headphone source- its a professional can only available in music instrument retailers like Axe Music or Sony’s pro division sales unit (SonyBiz.ca)
Design- The Sony 7520 is a very conservative design- it does not jump out at you and scream look at me. In this sense, its very refined and will look great with the professional attire. However, its also not really a premium design either. I have to say I am divided about its design. It reminds me of a playschool toy set- simple big shapes. I am actually a bit curious what the silver lined Z1000 can would be like in person. Regardless, I still ejoy the big oblong shape of the ear cups and the headband. Its an over the ear design. The cups themselves ar emade of magnesium (!) the arms are made of plastic, the band part metal and headband is wrapped in a pelathery material. Its premium but not luxury. I would say it fits the targeted demogrphic well- its meant to be well constructed to last in the studio but its not mean to be a high end can you can place beside your Rolex. That’s what the MDR-Z7 is for (! for having a set). There is a light creak in the headband when you twist it but its nothing really. Its quite a bit better in durability and feel than the MDR-SA3000 which is quite a bit more creaky and cheap feeling for more money.
Sound Isolation– The headphone is considered closed cans- there are tiny vents on the top. This means that the music does not leak a lot and you don’t hear too much form the outside. I don’t have issues with wearing it out in the public. (I quite enjoy the “professional” sticker here).
Comfort– The headphone is quite comfortable on my big noggin and I don’t have issues wearing it for long periods of time. Clamping is adequate but not overwhelming. I wouldn’t rate it the most comfy- that would go to my MDR-1R. I do think that it is an uncomfortable headphone with glasses.
You can see the oblong shape here -ts its certainly a departure from the traditional DJ and monitoring styles seen by previous Sony iterations. I like how there is a colored dot to indicate right and left side.
The incldued cable is a pliable plastic coiled bit and incldues a solid premium feeling 3.5mm jack on both ends- the headphone end has a screw in that secures it solidly to the headphone. You can use other 3.5 mm plug cables with this headphone, which helps for mobile use.
I really need a light box to take product shots- this was a shot I found online of the box’s presentation. I quite like the silvery cloth material its presented it- you get the impression you are buying a premium product here.
Portable use- this is a home use phone but can be used as a portable. The headphone does not fold flat in any way so is rather bulky to carry around However, its of a light enough and durable enough of a design that using it for portable use would be fine (especially compared to the huge and delicate MDR-SA3000). I do find that the cans require a lot of power to run, so I think they would be suitable for a portable amp, although jacking the volume up on a portable might work in a pinch. I just don’t think you are getting the full gist of the headphone running it straight from a DAP.
Audio Quality– To be honest, I am an audiophile but I don’t get really into the whole technical mumbo jumbo terminology in terms of sound quality. What I can say is that I find the headphone generally flat overall- this is great for detail listening but not necessarily musicality. Its a headphone that will reveal great recordings and bad recordings. Its a headphone that will not necessarily work well across all music genres. What genres do I find it work well with? TBH I actually dont know. I use to find it worked well with vocals …but I’m not sure. This is a pretty bad conclusion on my part, because audio quality is a huge portion of a headphone’s success or lack of. I guess I don’t find them as exciting as something like the MDR-SA3000 which can make the strings of a guitar twang in your ear like you are really there. Its definitely a lot more refined in detail than the MDR-1R, which tends to gloss details over. I just don’t find the 7520 particularly adept at any one particular item- BUT I do find this makes them a good all around can for listening to anything, just with more detail than the MDR-1R (a can that works well with all genres and quality of recordings).
Conclusion- this is a hard one to write. I find that I am more influenced by the headphone’s other qualities than audio here. I find the audio quite good overall and a big step in details compared to something like the MDR-1R. Its clearly not the sound signature of a consumer headphone- there is no pronounced V-shape EQ here. But its not necessarily adept at anything and maybe that’s is strength. Its a good all arounder that provides a more audiophile grade response than most consumer focused cans. Aside from that, the build quality in this is outstanding- its not luxury bur rather durability focused. Its design is timeless- its not something that would look too retro (or so retro its a fad/hipster look) and yet its not something that looks so modern that it would go out of style. Would I buy it again? Sure. I kind of get the feeling its more of a collection completion piece rather than a “gotta have this slamming headphone” piece. I doubt most cosnumers would pay the MSRP for this – it truly is a piece of kit only an audiophile would appreciate. I would have preferred more mobile focused accessories to come with it, considering its price, like a hard case or a short cable, but that’s unfair considering its target studio audience.
TLDR- Pros- good overall audio quality, excellent build quality, great sterile design (not sure if that’s really a big pro)/ Cons- its not particularly great at any one music genre, would have preferred more mobile focused accessories