Sony’s MDR-MV1 headphones offer a stunning insight into your mixes and masters

These lightweight, open-backed headphones promise pinpoint-accurate reproduction, even if you’re mixing in 360 degrees.

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Sony MDR-MV1 headphones

Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

Superb, accurate reproduction
Very comfortable for long sessions
Remarkable frequency response range
Highly capable of tackling 360-degree and surround mixes

Ear pads are not user-replaceable

Sony may be typically known as a developer of consumer products, but the electronics giant has a long and reputable history in the pro audio and video worlds. Now stepping into the studio are the brand’s new MDR-MV1 Reference Monitor Headphones, with a focus on immersive audio and audiophile-grade playback – which is arguably reflected in their £420 price tag.

READ MORE: 13 best all-purpose headphones

The MDR-MV1s are a different prospect entirely to, say, Sony’s much-admired WH-1000XM5 wireless noise-cancelling headphones. They offer a much more traditional approach to listening, without the many bells and whistles we expect from modern headphones. Though suitable for casual listeners, they are certainly designed for mixing and mastering engineers.

Sony MDR-MV1 headphones

These headphones are remarkably lightweight and so are designed for extended periods of listening; producers will know you can spend countless hours going over and over the same track, and some cans will start to feel hot and heavy after a while. Not these though – it’s not quite that you don’t know you’re wearing them, but they’re as comfortable as any professional headphones you’re likely to find. The breathable ear cups are soft and the fit is secure without feeling tight or restrictive, though they don’t seem to be user-replaceable.

As noted, there’s no wireless connectivity of any kind – these are strictly old-school. The left ear cup has a mini-jack input with a screw fastener to ensure the cable remains securely attached at all times (just be careful not to stand on it!). It also comes with a 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter and this is a short cable rather than a double-ended plug, meaning when you plug into a laptop or another portable device you won’t have a big, solid plug sticking awkwardly out of the side.

Sony MDR-MV1 headphones

Sony’s headphones use specially designed driver units with an ultra-wide frequency response of 5Hz to 80kHz, far exceeding the 20Hz to 20kHz standard of higher-end consumer models. Being wired-only means you don’t sacrifice any of this fidelity or volume for wireless transmission. It’s always surprising switching back to wired headphones and hearing just how loud they are able to go.

The first thing that strikes you about the sound of the MDR-MV1s is just how balanced it is. Years of wearing closed-back headphones or earbuds can condition us to get used to a more boomy, boxy sound. Throw in the noise cancelling we all use and it’s an even more enclosed sensation. These cans are quite the opposite; their open-backed design means there’s no colouration of playback at all, with a bottom end that is accurate rather than exaggerated. Initially, this can be slightly surprising, since we are so used to hearing big, solid bass. In truth, while that might be fine for your commute, it’s not useful for mixing and mastering where you need to be shown the most accurate version of the signal possible, not a beefed-up version. That colouring will be added by your listener according to taste, but your job is to provide a clean end product. This is a fundamental difference between good consumer headphones and models that are designed for mixing and mastering.

Sony MDR-MV1 headphones

Most consumer headphones, bar the audiophile-level ones, are not open-backed since – spoiler alert – an open-back design means they leak a lot of sound. Of course, that also means these Sonys aren’t really for recording, where unwanted noise spill into the mics would be significant. And consumer models are meant to sound sympathetic, whereas reference models like these prioritise accuracy.

But, boy, what accuracy. The audio playback is simply superb, revealing with startling clarity the myriad ways in which tracks from different artists and eras have been mixed and mastered. If the mix or mastering engineer intended it, you’ll hear it on these. The placement and separation of sounds are remarkable and present a wonderfully enjoyable listening experience. They’re forensic but not in a way that detracts from their musicality.

Sony MDR-MV1 headphones

Beck’s Colors, with its lush and verdant production, positively oozes from the drivers, its warmth shining through. Rapsody’s Eve, on the other hand, reveals its punch and energy, bursting with life. The mids are crisp and clear and that extra top-end headroom fizzes with life. The low end is tight but controlled; as noted earlier, it’s accurate and balanced without feeling artificially enhanced or boomy.

Sony touts the capability of this model to work with immersive surround production, both its own 360 Reality Audio system and others such as Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio. Listening to music that had been properly mixed in one of these formats – or the online demo videos that Sony and others make available – they effortlessly handled the virtual surround. Aural elements move not only from left to right, but up, down and around the sides and back of the listener. Testing Logic Pro’s Dolby Atmos mixer with the headphones achieves the same pleasing results, and we’re able to place sounds accurately into 360-degree space and hear this reflected in the headphone drivers.

Sony MDR-MV1 headphones

The MDR-MV1s are superb reference monitors with accurate reproduction and a neutral character that lets you trust that the mix and mastering decisions you’re making are based on truth and not the colouration of a room or other factors. They’re also remarkably good at dealing with 360-degree and surround mixing, and playback of commercial tracks in those formats. The price is reasonable for professional reference headphones and they are supremely comfortable, meaning that neither your head nor your eardrums will get tired during lengthy sessions. If you’re serious about production or even just want to hear your music collection as the artists intended, these are well worth the investment.

Key features

Price: £420
Specially designed drivers
Frequency response of 5Hz – 80kHz
Wired-only operation
Open-backed design
Breathable ear pads
Designed for 360-degree reproduction
Cable with 3.5mm adapter
Adjustable headband
Lockable headphone cable

Learn more about Sony MDR-MV1 headphones at


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