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Sony MH1C

Sony MH1C Review

Sony MH1C
Added Jun 2013

Details: Sony headset designed for the Xperia line of smartphones
MSRP: $79.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price:$31 from (bulk packaging); $55 from
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 15Ω| Sens: 115 dB/V | Freq: 1-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ L-plug J-cord with mic & 4-button Xperia remote (works as conventional 1-button with Android devices)
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down

Accessories (1.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (4 sizes) and shirt clip
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The MH1C is rather well-made, with a metal housing, flexible strain reliefs, and a sturdy flat cable. However, it is this rubbery, j-style (asymmetric) cable that can also make the earphones very to use. The 4-button remote is designed for Sony Xperia phones but offers partial functionality with many other devices
Isolation (3.5/5) – Isolation is quite good
Microphonics (3/5) – J-corded IEMs typically manage to avoid microphonics but the rubbery flat cable in the MH1C still carries a lot of noise
Comfort (4/5) – The skinny housings and flexible tips of the MH1C provide a comfortable fit but the j-cord makes it difficult to wear the earphones cable-up

Sound (8.1/10) – Designed for smartphone users in search of great audio quality, the MH1C provides a warm, clear, and smooth sound only made more impressive by the reasonable price of the headset. The bass is deep and full, with an emphasis on sub-bass rather than mid-bass. Generally speaking, the MH1C has rather good bass quality with less mid-bass bloat than the Audio-Technica CKM500, for example. Considering the bass quantity, control is rather good although it’s still not as tight as the bass of the VSonic VC02 or the pricier Philips Fidelio S1.

The mids of the MH1C are not as prominent as the low end, but they are pleasantly warm and smooth. The treble, likewise, is very inoffensive without sacrificing overall refinement. I did sometimes wish for better overall balance as the bass emphasis of the MH1C results in occasional veiling, but the clarity is generally very good.

Better still is the high volume performance of the MH1C – the earphone remains very composed when played loud and its silky-smooth signature is conducive toward high-volume listening. Compared to the Brainwavz M5, for instance, the MH1C has less prominent mids and highs but is also smoother and more natural. Whereas the M5 can begin to distort slightly at high volumes, the MH1C produces no audible distortion.

The soundstage of the MH1C is a little narrower compared to the half in-ear ATH-CKM500 and the pricier Philips Fidelio S1 but the overall presentation is very good, providing a moderately airy and open sound despite the warm tone with good soundstage width and depth.

Select comparisons:

LG Quadbeat HSS-F420 ($32)

Not unlike the MH1C, the Quadbeat is a stock headset included with many LG smartphones. The sound signature of the Quadbeat is on the v-shaped side compared to the MH1C and its bass, especially subbass, is lower in quantity. The low end of the Quadbeat is a little tighter but the difference isn’t drastic. The LGs also sacrifice some of the warmth and fullness of the Sonys, giving up the excellent note thickness of the MH1C for a bit of added clarity, aided also by the extra treble energy of the Quadbeat. Next to the warm and smooth MH1C, the treble of the Quadbeat sounds brighter and harsher overall.

I ended up preferring the sound of the MH1C, which overall sounded more natural and convincing despite the extra bass. On a user-friendliness note, while I found the cable of the Quadbeat to be a lot more tolerable than that of the MH1C, its extra-soft stock eartips did not work for me and had to be replaced with a set of standard bi-flanges of the MEElectronics variety. The Quadbeat was also more sensitive, reaching loud volumes very easily.

VSonic VC02 ($49)

The VC02 is one of clearest and most balanced sub-$100 earphones I’ve ever heard, with a tiny 3mm dynamic driver providing a uniquely delicate, yet punchy sound. Unsurprisingly, the MH1C has a lot more bass and much warmer overall tone than the VC02. Its mids and treble are recessed in comparison to its bass whereas the VSonic set is rather well-balanced. The VC02 sounds brighter and thinner overall than the MH1C. It is clearer and more accurate, but the treble is harsher in comparison. The bass of the VC02 is surprisingly punchy considering its commitment to an accurate sound but remains tighter than that of the Sony.

In terms of overall usabilit, both sets can be a little frustrating – the VC02 sounds best with a rather deep fit and has detachable cables that are not connected to the housings as securely as I’d like. It really is an enthusiast’s IEM, requiring some care in use and storage. The MH1C is easier to fit and has a built-in remote and mic but also utilizes a cable that is rubbery and microphonic in comparison to the soft and flexible cord of the VC02.

VSonic VSD1 ($43)

The VSD1 was released as a budget version of VSonic’s popular GR07 model, providing a less analytical sound than the VC02 but retaining its technical performance. In comparison to the MH1C, the VSD1 is less bassy, boasting better overall balance and more neutral tone. Bass quality is similar between the two but the VSD1 is a touch clearer overall and boasts more treble presence. As with the pricier GR07, its treble does have a slight predisposition towards sibilance in comparison to the buttery-smooth MH1C. The soundstage is a touch wider with the VSD1 and again the VSonic is noticeably more sensitive than the Sony.

THL Recommended Badge 2014Value (9.5/10) – Despite my issues with its j-style cable, microphonics, and proprietary remote, the MH1C offers fantastic sound quality for the asking price, and beyond. The bass is deep and full, and the overall sound is smooth and inviting. As long as its skew towards bass is not an issue, this is a fantastic mid-range earphone for beginners and veterans alike, and one that offers as much audio quality per dollar as anything else I’ve come across.

Pros: Great deep bass & outstanding overall sound quality; comfortable form factor; good noise isolation
Cons: Rubbery, flat, j-style cable can be aggravating



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Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.


110 Responses

  1. I stopped looking for the ideal pair of headphones after finding these. I was searching for something that was durable, provided excellent noise isolation, could accommodate eartips that inserted deep enough to minimize occlusion effect, emitted minimal cord noise/feedback, included a microphone, and had good sound quality. These paired with Shure olive tips include all of the features I was looking for in a pair of headphones. I regularly stock up on MH1Cs to pass on to friends, many of whom also appreciate their utility and durability.

    I have gone through one pair so far in about three years–they hold up much better than most in-ear headphones I have tried. Their weak point appears to be the strain relief near the connector, which can eventually be the location of a short from one too many falls of a music player from one’s pocket while connected. I suppose their weak point would be weaker without the strain relief, but could also be stronger with an improved strain relief design.

    I believe they are very intelligently designed wear-wise. When I wear them as they are supposed to be worn, and run the cable under my shirt, the microphone is situated very close to my mouth and therefore in an ideal location for talking, and stays in place there because the reinforced section where the cable splits hooks onto my shirt collar. The cable produces very little cord noise/feedback, especially when it is run under a shirt, and is tangle-free. Also, I think the cable design prevents strain on the connection between the cable and monitors when worn under a shirt, since hooking the reinforced section where the cable splits on a shirt collar prevents strain on the cable sections connected to the monitors. The lack of strain between the cables and monitors probably helps add to the lifespan of the headphones.

    The design of the monitors allows for retrofit of Shure olives, for deep insertion of eartips (see for instructions for retrofitting olives to the MH1Cs). Paired with olives, the headphones probably provide upwards of 30 dB of isolation, unaccompanied by occlusion effect (e.g. noises of your swallowing/talking/etc. due to bone conduction) when inserted deep into the ear canal, similar to Etymotics but without the terribly loud cable noise (which more than makes up for the lack of occlusion effect for Etymotic headphones in terms of unwanted noises). I would rather wear MH1Cs paired with olives than noise cancelling headphones for blocking noise, as they do almost as well and probably sometimes better on their own, but without the hissing noise or silly need for batteries. If I really want to block out external noises, I can pair them with earmuffs (e.g., 3M Peltors) and probably outdo most noise-cancelling headphones, again minus hissing or batteries.

    Also, I use them with the microphone side eartip only while driving, to talk on the phone or listen to audiobooks; they make it much easier to hear phone conversations due to their ability to block out road noise. I think using these for talking in the car bests holding a phone up to one’s head; connecting to car speakers to talk on the phone; or wearing a Bluetooth headset that may not block out road noise as well, generate occlusion effect, and has a battery that has to be recharged. They are less distracting, much easier to hear, and don’t excessively suck or require the recharging of batteries like other alternatives for car phoning.

    When I compared the MH1Cs with a few other headphones I bought at the behest of recommendations in forums (ranging from $10-200, and many of which broke within a few weeks or months), I much preferred the MH1Cs sound-wise. I never hear sibilance with them, and though a little recessed the treble is very clear. Bass is adequate for my wants without an amp, and mids are prominent. When listening to music I use them with a Cowon J3 or my iPhone with the CanOpener app. Paired with a headphone amplifier (Fiio F11 and Digizoid ZO 2), their sound quality didn’t seem to improve much, although the sound signature included more bass when listening to bass-heavy music (I don’t use the amps much, too lazy to charge their batteries). There are probably many headphones out there that sound better, but the MH1Cs sound pretty good to my ears, which is good enough for me.

    My only complaint is that the microphone doesn’t consistently work with my iPhone. When it isn’t working, I either have to press the bottom button repeatedly or do a hard reset on my phone to get it to work again. If Sony revised the MH1Cs to work more consistently with iPhones, they’d be just about perfect in my book (although they’re pretty close as-is). Overall, these headphones are pretty darn good, and have caused me to stop a largely wasteful consumer quest for the holy grail of head gear (thus hopefully avoiding my fate as another Patrick Bateman).

  2. I usually recommend the Yamaha EPH-100 for this. There’s a bunch more info in the other comments on this page.

  3. Hi joker, what is the clear iem upgrade from mh1c under $200? I like mh1c coz it has warm, lush,rich sound, and its smooth sound

  4. Depends on what you want your new earphones to do differently from the MH1C. I haven’t found anything to replace the MH1C directly in that price range, so I don’t think finding an actual upgrade for $80 is possible. At best you can find something with a different sound tuning but a similar performance level. The VSD3S, for example, has very good clarity and a very crisp sound, but it won’t be as rich or smooth as the MH1C. If you’re looking for clarity and accuracy, VSD3S is arguably better (and one of the best earphones in its price range), but it’s not a direct replacement for the MH1C.

  5. Hi ijoker
    I had wonderful time of 2 years with mh1c, though i have been tired of cord. NOW I’m up for upgrade. As my budget is limited to $80, i have some options in mind like, VSD3S, ATH IM50, SE215, RHA MA600 etc. I’m confused, plz help with your expert opinion.

  6. EPH-100 would be closest. If that’s not available to you there’s the Shure SE215, which I don’t think sounds better than MH1C but it has a very different fit.

    If you’re okay with also having less smooth/more prominent treble then you have other good options such as the Alpha & Delta AD01 and Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear. None of these suffer from under-emphasized bass.

  7. OKkz.. Then what would you suggest me as an upgrade over Mh1c. Please provide more than one options with Bass not under emphasized and price range under $100.

  8. FXD80 sounds very different from the MH1C – it’s brighter and doesn’t share the rich, warm, full-bodied sound of the Sonys. A closer match would be the Yamaha EPH-100 – it’s one of the few sub-$100 sets that can compete with the MH1C while offering a similar sound tuning. I personally like the fit of the EPH-100 much better, but it’s mostly due to the cable being much lighter and more unobtrusive. If your issue is with the earpieces of the MH1C, EPH-100 may not fit that much better.

    No experience with h.ear yet.

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