The Head Case

Sony MDR-7506One of the small but enduring benefits from my time in the dot-com boom was the pair of Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones that, in the early days of abundant venture capital and scarce foresight, one of my former employers handed out to every employee free. When I moved on from that job, I conveniently forgot to hand the headphones back in, and since then I’ve been using them more or less every day.

That would have been about six years of continuous service this summer, but the right earphone suddenly ceased to function earlier this week and I was suddenly, shockingly, without their rich, professional sound quality for the first time. I put in a call to Dale Audio, which is just a few blocks away from the office, but a new driver for the headphone would cost a little more than half the full price of a brand new pair, plus the hassle of a manual soldering job to install it. As a compromise, I can buy a pair of slightly cheaper Sony MDR-V6 headphones, which are built nearly identically but lack the gold-tipped plug of the MDR-7506; I’m not enough of an audiophile to be able to tell the difference, especially when I spend most of my time listening to poorly compressed MP3s. Still, I can’t bear the sound of most consumer level headphones, so ultimately I will, somewhat reluctantly, shell out US$75 or more to fix this gaping, inconsequential hole in my consumer life. Don’t underestimate the attachment that one can form to a good pair of headphones.



  1. You should look into the Grado Labs SR60 as an inexpensive semi-professional quality headphone. They run about $60, but out perform most other headphones that cost “five times as much”.

  2. That’s a great tip, thanks. The foam pads worry me though; that is, I wonder if they’ll get destroyed in my backpack or if I’ll have to replace them in a year or two. The MDR-7506’s pads, though deteriorating, have held up for 5+years.

  3. These are supercheap but I’ve had two of these headphones over the last six years. They’re Sony’s. MDR-v150’s. I’m not sure if they’re as quality as the 7506 but they produce an pretty decent sound for the price. I’ve had other headphones in the mid-price range and keep coming back to these. Admittedly, my friend’s $150 Sennheisers are pretty nice but if I ever broke a pair of those…yikes.

  4. I’m a big fan of 7506’s. They’re a great headphone for the price. Thye’re not my critical listening cans, but I’ve used them nearly every day at work for 3+ years, and still enjoy their sound evey day.

    I’ve owned grados in the past, and I think your hunch is right; the construction quality is nowhere near the tank-like build of the 7506. Grado’s have a really different sound than sony’s too, at the low end of the price spectrum (IMHO) don’t compete.

    Also, the aural difference between v6/7506 with mp3’s and ipod will only be negligible.

    you might want to check on head-fi or headwize for a used pair of 7506s. They can be found in great condition used for 60-100. You might also want to post your problem, and see what comes back. There’s alot of DIYer’s and audio geeks out there who might have some good ideas.

    One thing on the 7506 earpads: You can replace the stock vinyl ones with velour beyerdynamic pads. It’s kinda pricey (for this level of headphone, around $30), but it makes them much more comfortable for long-term use. I did this to mine, and think it’s well worthwhile.

    excuse the long post, headphones are a bit of an obsession of mine…

  5. My Sony MDR-V600 (which your link claims aren’t as good as the V6!) are great, and I’ve had them for almost ten years now. They’re super comfortable and they honestly still look brand new. The foam cups are hardly deteriorated at all.

    And they’re super warm to wear outdoors in the winter!


  6. “slightly cheaper Sony MDR-V6 headphones, which are built nearly identically but lack the gold-tipped plug of the MDR-7506; I’m not enough of an audiophile to be able to tell the difference…”

    There is NO difference in sound quality. The two headphones are completely identical (other than the color of the headphone jack, which does not affect sound quality). The V6 and 7506 are the same exact headphone, produced on the same assembly line from the same parts, simply marketed for the consumer (V6) vs. “pro” (7506) markets.

  7. The AKG K240S (about $100) are the best and most comfortable headphones I have found for long listening sessions. Bot Sony and Sennheiser phones tend to have a peak in the high-frequency band which, while pleasing, leads to listening fatigue sooner. Another favorite is the Audio Technica ATH-M40FS, though these are not as comfortable as the AKGs.

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