Sony MDR-SA3000 Headphones

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You have to let these break-in before they shine.

Jul 3, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Amazing clarity, very comfortable, subtle bass but very tight and powerful when needed.

Cons:Require superior material and electronics, need to be broken in.

The Bottom Line: My favorite headphones, but I had to (1) break them in, (2) buy a quality headphone amplifier, (3) use a decent DAC, and (4) recompress my OGG files.


I bought these headphones after listening to them at a dealer and comparing them to the MDR-SA5000s and the MDR-SA1000s. These sound much more like the MDR-SA5000s and are priced significantly lower. In fact, most people probably won't notice the difference between the SA3000s and the SA5000s, except for the finish and materials.

There's a big caveat here, though...these headphones are merciless to bad material and poor quality compressed files. I power mine with a dedicated tube headphone amplifier and use a decent DAC (optical S/PDIF from my source computer) but I still find that MP3 and OGG files compressed at less than 192 Kbps (target) are just about intolerable.

The other quality of these headphones for which you must be prepared is their extreme clarity. They are not shrill or "hissy", but they may appear that way to people who are not used to such high-definition headphones. To some people they are outright fatiguing to listen to. If you have material or use electronics that have residual noise, you will find this very irritating.

Finally, a word about the bass. The SA3000s have plenty of ability to reproduce bass and to reproduce it accurately. Kick drums sound like kick drums, for example. But the low end is not as exceptional as the high end and this may lead you to believe that the headphones are lacking in bass, especially when compared to Sennheisers or Grados. I felt this way myself at first. My suggestions: First, let the headphones burn in at moderate to high volume for at least 30 to 40 hours to "break in" the transducers. Second, give them a chance by using them with a variety of material. I think you'll find that the low-end "magically" improves and you'll soon prefer it to the artificial "boominess" of most other cans.

The comfort and fit will vary from user to user, but the SA3000s are somewhat unusual in that they exert virtually no clamping force on the sides of your head. They just sort of hang there by your ears. I like the design.

These are my favorite headphones, preferred even to the Grado SR325is.


Recommend this product? Yes

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