Sony MDR-MV1 review

Well-built, capable and comfortable Tested at £339 / $399 / AU$599

Sony MDR-MV1 wired headphones leaning up on wooden surface in front of pictures next to CD
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Sony’s MDR-MV1 get a lot of things right, combining high levels of clarity with a spacious and punchy presentation


  • +

    Crisp, clear and detailed

  • +

    Spacious presentation

  • +



  • -

    Presentation could sound more balanced

  • -

    Lacks a bit of drive

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Sony’s new open-back MDR-MV1 wired headphones are marketed as studio monitor headphones. That got us thinking. How are headphones designed for use in the studio different from ones intended for the home? Give it some thought and you will find that the answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. 

Studio headphones will be heavily used day after day for hours on end, so have to be comfortable, reliable and durable. Wear and tear items on them such as earpads and cables should be easily replaceable too. But, all of these things are also equally desirable for long-term home use. Ah, you say, what about sound quality? Something designed for monitoring has to be revealing and tonally neutral. Those are exactly the qualities we look for in any piece of hi-fi, so there is no distinction there. Is there really a meaningful difference between studio and home headphones, then? We’re not sure there is one. 

Given that, it seems fair game for us to put the Sony MDR-MV1 through its paces as a domestic product.

Design, comfort & compatibility

Sony MDR-MV1 wired headphones close detail of headband

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The first thing we notice when unpacking these headphones is just how light they are. Weighing in at just 223g, they are lighter than direct open-back rivals such as Grado’s S325x and the Beyerdynamic DT900 Pro X by around a third. 

That lack of weight isn’t to be sniffed at and makes a notable difference if you are wearing them over several hours. The Sony’s argument is helped by nicely cushioned, easily replaceable cloth-covered earpads and a wide, well-padded headband. There is a good range of adjustment to accommodate a wide range of head sizes, which isn’t always a given.

Electrical compatibility should not be an issue either, with a 24-ohm nominal impedance and reasonable sensitivity of 100 dB/mW ensuring decent volume levels even when used with modestly-powered portables and phones. The supplied cable is detachable (which makes it easy to replace) and of a good length (2.5m). It terminates with a 6.3mm jack, but the MDR-MV1 also comes with a short adaptor lead for connection to the standard 3.5mm outputs.

Sony MDR-MV1

Sony MDR-MV1 wired headphones

(Image credit: Sony)

Type Open-back, wired

Bluetooth? No


Built-in mic and controls? No

Cable length 2.5m

Finishes x 1 (black)

Weight 223g

Take a look inside the vented earcups and you will find a single 40mm driver per side. This uses a high-compliance, corrugated diaphragm that is claimed to cover an impressive frequency range of 5Hz - 80kHz, though Sony doesn’t specify how wide a tolerance that figure was measured at.

Given the MDR-MV1 is an open-backed design that gives it certain characteristics. All things being equal, which they are usually not, we tend to prefer open designs to closed-back alternatives when it comes to clarity, dynamic expression and sonic spaciousness. However, typically, closed designs tend to produce more powerful and punchy bass as well as better isolate the user from outside noise. Equally, they don’t leak out sound, making it less likely that any people close by will be disturbed when you crank up Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA.

These Sonys are premium headphones, so while their easy-going electrical properties mean that they can be driven directly by all manner of laptops, phones and budget portable music players, we don’t think you will hear the best from them. If you are using a laptop or phone then connecting an outboard DAC/headphone amplifier like the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt is worthwhile. If you can stretch to the likes of the Chord Mojo 2 then that is even better. Equally, if you use a portable music player, something the standard of Astell & Kern’s A&norma SR35 is a great shout.


Sony MDR-MV1 wired headphones leaned up on wooden surface showing outside of earcups

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Feed these Sonys music from a suitable source and they impress. They have a wonderfully clean and clear presentation that resolves plenty of detail from any recording we play. Their open design coupled with the work the engineers have done in the earpiece structure behind the drive unit (to control airflow and reflections) means that these headphones generate a pleasingly spacious presentation. 

As we listen to Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar OST it is impressive just how open the MDR-MV1 sound compared to class-leading rivals like the Grado SR325x. There is just so much detail on show and these Sonys render each note with pleasing precision. The leading edges of sounds are crisp without veering into hardness. There is an impressive degree of bass weight and power for an open-back design too. This quality gives tracks like Mountains a sense of power and authority that’s enjoyable. But that’s not the full story.

We spend the next few days working our way through various test tracks from Cold Sweat by James Brown and 070 Shake’s Purple Walls to Exile by Taylor Swift and it becomes clear that, good as they are, these Sonys aren’t quite class-leading. That powerful bass proves a bit of a mixed blessing, as it regularly veers into the territory marked ‘overdone’. It robs the Sony of low-frequency agility and the ability to communicate rhythmic drive properly. 

Equally, there is also a bit of peakiness in the otherwise decently refined treble region. This isn’t so bad that listening to poorer recordings becomes a chore, but it does rob the MDR-MV1 of true transparency and balance. Compared to the class leaders for the best wired headphones, these Sonys don’t quite manage to cut through to the heart of the musical message so skillfully.


Sony MDR-MV1 wired headphones in hand showing earcup and logo

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

That doesn’t mean that the Sony MDR-MV1 headphones shouldn’t be taken seriously. They are light, comfortable and well made. Their sound is detailed and fun, and that counts for a lot. They are deeply impressive in many ways and are only a tweak or two from really challenging the class leaders. Come on Sony, we know you can do it.


  • Sound 4
  • Build 5
  • Comfort 5


Read our review of the five-star Grado SR325x

Also consider the Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X

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Closed-back vs open-back headphones: which one is best for you?

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