Monday, January 03, 2005

Sony MDR-G74SL Walkman headphones

(Reposted from May 2004)

Finally, I had to do it... Rip the packaging off a Sony MDR-G74SL headphone that's been collecting mould in my 'things to listen to' cabinet.

The 'Street Styles' are universally panned by those with and without experience of them on Head-Fi as phones that sound like ass and leak like crazy too. I wasn't too keen to stick the G74 on my head, but having taken them out of the packaging I have to say that Sony have made an effort with the design and materials. It really is very stylish, and looks extremely cool even on my head. In terms of how the design looks, these are a considerable improvement on the Koss KSC-35 and the Sennheiser PX100 / PX200 with a clean flow to the look (IMO, although the PX series gets very close).

The phone is well constructed, it folds into a reasonably compact package (although not as flat as the Sennheisers). The remote-friendly, short main cable is of a cloth material and is terminated in a super-low mass, super small 3.5mm plug. The phone includes an extension cable with the same cloth covering and low-mass connectors.

Outward sound leakage is not bad. The phone is open but has a back shield of sorts, and things don't just go straight out of the phones into the ear of the person next to you. On a fairly quiet train I couldn't hear above a very slight level of leakage even at slightly above normal listening levels from 30cm away. The inward leakage is pretty much like any reasonably open design phone. You can hear everything going on around you but it's not as apparent as some 'sonic sieves' like Grado phones.

Highs are fairly clean, pretty well represented and not rough. It's all there with a reasonable degree of precision. Low-end extension (extension = the ability to play notes at the extremes of a given range) is good, and it's pretty entertainingly tight. Bass hits come and go without any significant degree of bloat, and with a satisfying attack and weight. (bloat = when a note hangs around for longer than it should) The Sennheiser PX200 (when fitted properly) has a heavy bass hit plus a fair bit of bloat. In comparison to the PX200, the G74 has cleaner and just as weighty bass notes while providing more starting attack.

We've had the good. Now onto the bads. Comfort is as bad as and maybe worse than previous Street Styles for me. Pinched the tops of my ears after a short time and I had to constantly adjust them to stop them hurting. Midrange sounds are honky. What do I mean by 'honky'? There's an enclosed, phased effect to the midrange (especially apparent in vocal choruses) which gives it an over-prominence. It's not something you'd necessarily notice in a portable scenario with lots of background noise, but in a quiet spot to these ears it's disconcerting.

So there it is. It's not as leaky as the Koss KSC-35/PX100 but not as sealed as a PX200, it sounds cleaner than a PX200 but honkier than both the PX100/200, is less comfortable than them and slightly bulkier when folded. It has nice lows, not too bad highs, slightly objectionable mids. And it looks better than any of the PX's. Would I buy it over the PX phones? Probably not, even if only for the reason that the G74 doesn't pack flat. But it does look pretty cool...

CNet Review

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