Entry-level studio monitors ubiquitous among audio professionals and famous for their long-term durability
MSRP: $109.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $110 from amazon.com
Build Quality (9.5/10): Originally introduced in the 1980s as the entry-level model in Sony’s professional monitor lineup, the V6 has aged very well. In a sentence (or rather, a cliché), they really don’t make ‘em like this anymore. The housings of the V6 are slightly more low-profile compared to many of today’s Studio sets and the flexible headband allows the Sonys to collapse into a very portable package. Unlike the popular DJ-style headphones from Audio-Technica, Denon, Ultrasone, and others, the MDR-V6 lacks hinge pivots and is not flat-folding. The housings are aluminum and the 10’-long coiled cord can take quite a lot of abuse. In fact, stories of V6s withstanding near-constant abuse for 10, 15, or even 20 years with only the pads warranting occasional replacement abound.
Comfort (8/10): MDR-V6 may be smaller than the ATH-M50 and most of the other DJ-style sets but it will still be circumaural for all but those with the largest ears. The cups aren’t as large or deep as those of the MDR-ZX700 and pads aren’t as pleasant to the touch but clamping force is fairly mild and the V6 is quite light. The pads of the V6 are covered in thin pleather (a-la Sennheiser’s HD428) but don’t heat up as quickly as the more luxurious pads of the MDR-ZX700. The wide headband is minimally padded but quite comfortable, reminding me of higher-end Alessandro and Grado models.
Isolation (8/10): The isolation is quite adequate for portable use though it trails that of the ZX700 slightly due to the shallower cups and thinner pads.
Sound (7.75/10): The MDR-V6 has managed to maintain its popularity among both audio professionals and budget-minded audiophiles for a reason – the headphones manage to maintain very good fidelity across the range and yet never really sound lean or boring. The bass, for one, really surpassed my expectations. Instead of trying to be flat and level, the V6 adds a good bit of punch and power to the low end, making detail and texture quite prominent even in portable applications. The lows are a little thick in nature and tend to linger a little next to the quicker, crisper-sounding ZX700, but although the low end could be a bit tighter, the V6 is generally quite pleasant to listen to. Extension and depth are quite good as well, handily beating out the larger and pricier ZX700. The subbass response is especially impressive, providing a good amount of controlled and accurate low-end rumble when called on by the track.
The midrange is slightly recessed at the bottom end and can sound a touch dark due to the moderate bass emphasis of the headphones. The treble, on the other hand, is quite prominent and does win out in terms of tonal coloration, making the V6 sound rather neutral with a very slight predisposition towards coolness on the whole. Next to the thicker low end, the midrange of the V6 is somewhat lean-sounding next to the more balanced MDR-ZX700. Detail and clarity in the midrange and treble are quite good but, while the recessed lower mids start out sounding rather smooth, the Sonys do get a touch grainy towards the upper midrange. The lower treble is hyped up but usually causes neither harshness nor sibilance in significant quantities. As with the Senn HD25, the treble emphasis of the V6 gives the sound a bit of an edgy quality, which can manifest as a metallic ‘tinge’, though this is less noticeable with the Sonys than the Sennheisers. Top-end extension is decent but not outstanding, as is the soundstage. The Sonys have good separation and are able to discern very small detail on a track but when it comes to placing all of the small details in the sonic space, they get overwhelmed more easily than the similarly-intimate HD25 or even the cheaper PX200-II. Combined with the relatively forward overall sound, the mediocre positioning leaves a bit to be desired next to some of the other similarly-priced studio cans as well as Sony’s own MDR-ZX700. I don’t think they sound notably congested but the excellent layering of the HD25 just isn’t there, making the V6 sound more ‘closed-in’. Part of the issue stems from the mediocre dynamic range of the Sonys, which makes the headphones a bit indiscriminate in terms of the relative emphasis placed on sonic cues. For the asking price, however, even I feel that I am being a bit nit-picky with the Sonys. On the whole they are very revealing and yet surprisingly fun headphones that work both for casual listening and studio applications. I have read complaints of harshness and listening fatigue but after several 5-6 hour sessions with the Sonys, I have to say that they are, if anything, more relaxing than my HD25s over extended listening. It should, of course, go without saying that the soft-and-smooth Phiaton MS400 or Sony’s own ZX700 would make better relaxation headphones than a pair of studio monitors.
Value (9/10) Despite its age, the MDR-V6 really is a headphone that does very little wrong for the asking price. It is well-built, comfortable, and isolating enough to compete with the best ‘modern’ studio and DJ headphones. In terms of portability, the V6 loses out to purpose-built mini headphones but fares better than the ATH-M50 or Ultrasone HFI-450 aside from the coiled cord, which I don’t actually like for portable use (a straight cord is much more manageable with a cable tie or two). The timeless sound signature also impresses, managing to be fairly accurate without appearing lean or sterile. Those who get annoyed by slightly exaggerated treble response will probably want to pick up a more balanced set but for the asking price I have no bone to pick with the overall sound quality of the Sonys.
Frequency Response: 5 – 30,000 Hz
Impedance: 63 Ω
Sensitivity: 106 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 10ft (3m) single-sided, coiled; Straight Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: Collapsible