Sony MDR-CD780 Headphones

3 ratings (3 Epinions reviews)
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Not enough quality for a perfectionist, too expensive for the casual.

Aug 14, 2001 (Updated Aug 14, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Decent audio quality. Very comfortable. Silent interior.

Cons:Decent audio quality. Bulky and awkward assembly. Noisy exterior.

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for excellent audio quality -- keep looking. If you are a casual listener, this set doesn't deliver enough for the price.


When I'm looking for a good pair of headphones, two points are foremost. One, the audio quality (of course), and second, the long-term comfort. I'm the type of person that is strapped into headphones for at least 80% of the typical day. Compounding the heavy usage is the fact that I have an extremely small head, and I generally keep it shaved to the skin. So unless I want to wear a knit cap all day, the headphones are going to need to be cushioned along the top at the least.

So, comfort is what initially drew me to the CD780 in the store. Comfort is what I got! Putting these things on your head is like curling up in your favorite blanket. The self-adjusting design means no maintenance. You just set it on your head, and it wraps itself around your ears.

There are a number of drawbacks to these headphones though. I'll outline the pros and the cons by section.

The ear pieces:

The earpieces deviate from the typical concept of putting a cushion around the edge of the ear (or in cheaper headphones, directly over the ear.) Underneath the new design, the basic premise is the same. There is a rather thick and extra-foamy cushion that goes around the perimeter of the average ear. Placed over this like a drum-cover, is a thin fabric that appears to be made out of cotton. According to Sony, this distributes the lateral tension of the headphones evenly across the ear. This way you neither get sore ears, nor sore rings around your ears.

Instead, in practice I've found everything gets a little sore after extended (5+) hours of use. In my opinion it is acceptable, since the alternative usually means headphones that require removal and letting the skin relax under hot-points. Though more expensive headphones due offer better comfort than this.

There is a big disadvantage with this design concept, however. By using an extra soft (in other words, airy) foam instead of vinyl or thicker foam, noise tends to escape the ear pieces with ease. It is actually a bit perplexing. When wearing the headphones, I have found that they do a good job of dampening most exterior sounds out, while still keeping a smart amount of sound available for ringing phones and such. So it is a bit confusing to me that it lets such a large amount of sound out. If you are looking for headphones that will give your co-workers or family members a bit a break from your listening habits, this is not the headphone set for you. Even at relatively mild volume settings, it is quite audible to those around.

The fabric that covers the speaker assembly is removable and washable. Kudos go to Sony for making this possible.

The head band:

As mentioned earlier, this is a self-adjusting based on a counter-weight and tension system that Sony has dubbed the "Aura-Nomic design." I do not know how well this works for people with large heads. I generally find that headphones don't fit my head, even on the smallest setting. I was pleasantly surprised when this set worked well for me. The top band does not press down too heavily on your head. Unlike most older headphone designs, the weight and tension of the device seems pretty evenly distributed between the top and sides.

Usually I get a painful and unsightly depression along the top band, with this set I have had no such misery. There are four dimples in the soft rubber along the top. I haven't figured out what the point of these dimples are, but they do end up leaving small indentations on my head.

Cord assembly:

This model has a detachable cord. The nice thing about that is flexibility. If you need a longer cord than the one supplied (almost 12 feet) then one can be purchased. You would probably want to stick with Sony cords though, as a mini jack might not snap as tightly into the headphone, making it prone to popping out at bad times.

As for the default cord, I've yet to have it jerk out of the headset yet. Considering the amount of force it takes the pull it out, I'm sure the headset would come off of your head entirely before the cord every came out.

The cord itself is pretty high quality. It has a fabric exterior, and in general it stays out of the way. Of course, gold connectors along with Sony's traditional miniplug to 1/4" jack converter with a screw-on screw-off.

Portability and Weight:

Here is where this set of headphones really blunders. While it is obviously not intended to be a walk-around pair of headphones, you really will be reluctant to even move them from one position to another. They are very heavy for a pair of consumer-level headphones, and if it weren't for the clever comfort designs described above, they would be painful to wear over an extended period of time.

As far as bulk goes, the earpieces are massive; the assembly is not compactable in any way. So if you are thinking of toting them back and forth between home and work, forget it unless you haul a backpack around with you all of the time (and then it should be mostly empty.)

I obviously have not tested the break point, but they do not feel very heavy duty. They have a resilient, bouncy amount of give, which suggests they might fare okay in the long run, but to me the assembly looks a bit weak. If you hold the set by the headband straight out, the weight of the earpieces bend everything down.

Audio quality:

Now we get to the important part: How well does it reproduce audio. As a low impedance, consumer level product, this is no audio referencing set. For a consumer level set of headphones though, it does a great job. The frequency range falls well below and above the human range, at 5hz to 30khz. I'll reprint Sony's details here, since epinion does not have all of the facts at the top:

Type: Closed, Dynamic
Drive Unit: 50mm Dome
Diaphragm: PET
Magnet: Neodymium
Impedance: 32 ohms
Sensitivity: 106 dB
Power Load Capacity: 1500mW
Weight: 10.6 oz (sans the cord.)

There you have the numbers. The large driver and higher quality magnet do a little to make up for some of its failings. The other big negative is the fact that it clocks in at almost 11 Ozs. without the cord.

While they mark this as a "Closed" headphone, I would think that is a mistake. This is definitely an open-back type. You will hear noises through the headset, and it probably has 5-10dB damp on exterior noise, but that is a wild guess.

To me, the quality of the sound is good. If this is your first pair of headphones that did not come with a CD player you will be duly impressed! Intricate sounds and full sonic range will be obtained. If you listen to any sort of music that has a lot of subtle depth in it, a pair of headphones like this is a must. You are cheating yourself if you go with less.

That said, I do not feel fully satisfied with the output. The midrange feels a bit too dominant and "muddy." Blacks do not sound completely black; there is a good deal of hissing in them. The overall sound is very warm, with a soft, undefined bass and diminished trebles. This is a shame, since the clarity of higher frequency sounds are crisp, just not balanced with the rest.

Despite what Sony says, you will generally not want to use this with your portable players. To get the best quality sound it would be best to use a moderate to high quality stereo system, and if you are really serious, at least a low-level headphone amplifier (but then, you wouldn't be buying these, would you?)

Here is where the title of this opinion comes into play. I feel that if you are somebody who is dedicated to listening to, or to the production of music, you will be better off spending a few more dollars and getting something with better quality (like say, a pair of Sennheisers). On the other hand, if you are a casual listener who is just looking for a comfortable set of headphones, the price tag is really too much. The MDR-CD580 is built on the same design concept, with slightly less bulky audio components, reducing the weight around to 9 Ozs.

If you find yourself in the latter category, but would rather not trade off quality for comfort, I'd suggest looking in to Grado or Sennheiser mid-range sets. They do a much better job of delivering crisp output, at a fraction of the weight and clunk, and for about the same price, if not a bit less. Higher end headphones are going to be just as comfortable, without all of the strange bulky methods that Sony has employed here.

I've tested them, and I'll be returning them to the store later this afternoon.


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