So much to love until the sonic patina wears off!
If your primary criterion in a portable (daily) headphone is comfort? Look no further. Weight, clamping force, material feel, headband pressure--name it! The MDR-1AM2 is one of the most comfortable closed-back portable headphones we have ever owned, worn, tested, or reviewed. If you seek a fun sound profile, good build quality, nice aesthetics, and overall just plain comfort? You have landed in Sony's wheelhouse here.
Make no mistake, this is worthy of an audiophile designation. There is a niche group of audiophiles who like a good, closed-back, commuter/hotel/travels mobile sound room. They don't want it to be hyper-neutral. They aren't looking for a planar sound, a Sennheiser signature tuning, or Beyer laser-focused top end. This breed of audiophile wants their headphones to produce and an instant urge to rock their head. To thump into the moment and lose themselves in the sounds of their DAP or phone. They want something that is efficient, and easy to drive, so they can drown out the sounds of the city or the hotel lobby. For those audiophiles, Sony may have landed in the sweet spot.
If detail, transparency, and musicality are your primary considerations we would suggest taking your search in some other directions.
First impressions of this headphone are admittedly extremely satisfying. And if you do not have cause to compare it to something else that is reasonably competent and otherwise more musically engaging, you will likely love the MDR-1AM2 and have them at the ready for many satisfying years. Nevertheless, if you are a critical listener, seeking to extrapolate the furthest boundaries of what your music contains and what your source can convey to you, then you will likely find your first impressions of the MDR-1AM2 muted by a distinctive lack of musicality--an all but sterile and at times lifeless kludge of information. That is not meant to be harsh. These phones are delivering your music files. They are hitting and popping in the right places when broken down into segments.
There's treble detail, without sibilance. There is mid-range bloom, with weight and body that is satisfyingly present. There is bass, that while a bit elevated, does not come off as obtrusive or excessive. Each one of these areas does many things correctly; however, when they are melded together, they collectively erode their better sensibilities--stamping the sound signature with something a bit unnatural. A house-sound-specific and--in the long term--unfulfilling representation of one's music collection. It is after the luster of the novelty has worn off that the MDR-1AM2 reveals it's true character, and for some it is going to understandably bring the goods with great satisfaction. It left our editors wanting more.
Currently selling for around $250.00 at various online retailers.
Check out varying opinions at these locations:
Fabian Blache III spent his years singing, DJ-ing, and selling high-end audio equipment in Manhattan. He has collected audiophile gear since the young age of 18. Now in his mid 50's, he spends his free time enjoying a vast collection of lossless music, vinyl records, real-to-reel and other contemporary and vintage audio formats. A freelance writer of many decades, his written work and reviews can be found in Cigar Aficionado, IGN, Gamespot, Audioholics and numerous other print and online venues.