The Sony R10 - as good as its reputation?

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Stuff Jones, Oct 16, 2017.

  1. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Over the years I've come across a lot of almost impossibly glowing reviews and impressions of the R10. Maybe part of that is mystique of scarcity. Has anyone heard a pair lately? How does it hold up to today's TOTL headphones? Why did Sony stop making them?
     
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  2. sheldaze

    sheldaze Friend

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    It has an unusual way of emanating a lot of treble energy and 3D depth, without going overboard (I'm talking about you, stock HD800). Meet conditions were definitely a factor - also I had only my Bifrost Multibit for source into my ZDS. But I was comparing directly with Utopia, which I always use from the ZDS. So to compare Sony against Utopia (modern), the Sony only excelled in that one part of the frequency spectrum - the highs. Modern headphones must do justice to the entire spectrum. It did nothing that made me dislike the modern headphone sound.

    However in that one part of the frequency range, I've heard nothing like it - I've never heard another headphone extract so much depth information from the music, with no sense of an overbearing treble that would tire me.
     
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  3. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    Products like MDR-R10, SR-Omega and SRM-T2 are the byproducts of Japan's golden age of the 80-90's. Propelled by a miraculous economic boom and practically swimming in an ungodly amount of cash, they had to spend it on somewhere and a lot of it went to R&D and manufacturing on luxury goods. Then as the bubble collapsed, came the lost decade (or two), and the rest is history. Even after over 20 years, neither Sony nor Stax has managed to come up with something that could hold a candle to, let alone topple, the R10 or T2 of their halcyon days. I haven't heard the latest T8000 yet, but a few people who heard it still regard BHSE (which in turn is outclassed by a DIY T2) as the superior amp.

    Interestingly, a lot of modern headphones have surpassed R10 IMO. Regardless of price, in ideal amping conditions, I would take a Utopia, HEK V2, Code-X or modded HD650 over R10. It's just that Sony has yet to live up to its own reputation.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
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  4. Ice-man

    Ice-man Friend

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    I've heard this headphone MANY times. Is it good, yes of course. But does it reign supreme over the new competition, not entirely...no. Anyone who wants to get a real taste of the r10 but doesn't want to outlay the cash, just find a cd3000 on ebay for around $600. Then recable it with good copper dual exit and replace the pads. This will give you a very good idea of what the r10 sounds like.
     
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  5. 3X0

    3X0 Friend

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    I think @MuppetFace is best positioned to compare the R10 in the context of contemporary offerings.

    Re: halcyon age @songmic mentioned, I do prefer SR-Omega and HE90 over the modern-day stuff I’ve heard.

    But I do think rarity and unobtainability perpetuates inflated expectations about these old flagships.

    FWIW I’d been thinking about grabbing an R10 for a while but @zerodeefex steered me clear given concerns about the primitive biocellulose technology and the possibility of spontaneous failure/degradation and consequent performance variance.
     
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  6. MuppetFace

    MuppetFace Sultana of Seafoam Green - Moderator

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    The R10 does one thing better than any headphone past and present IMO: strings. Dunno what it is, but there’s this level of emotion it conveys that nothing else comes close to save for the HE90 maybe. It’s magical with certain tracks.

    Other tracks not so much. In particular the bass is poo. Age does the R10 no favors, as the materials around the driver deteriorate over time and make the low end even more anemic. Even a pristine “bass heavy” set suffers in this area today in my experience.

    Additionally the highs are a bit glassy sounding, and also it’s a bitch to pair synergy wise. On a lot of amps they don’t do so hot.

    So yeah... it’s fussy as hell and slowly dying. I would only recommend it to serious collectors and people who listen primarily to classical.
     
  7. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    @3X0 has the HE90 and SR-Omega. Makes the R10 a poor choice given all the factors.
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The secret to the R10 was the cups which produced a subtle reverb and decay that has not been replicated since. The lows were veiled by today's standards. FR may have been tipped up in some models, but was smooth.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. MuppetFace

    MuppetFace Sultana of Seafoam Green - Moderator

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    Indeed. The craftsmanship on the zelkova cups is amazing. Puts the wood cups on most headphones today to shame.

    That being said the rest of the materials used haven’t held up with age.
     
  10. Mshenay

    Mshenay Barred from loaner program. DON'T SEND ME GEAR.

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    That being the case has any one attempted to supplement a new driver into that enclosure?
     
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  11. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    The above raises an interesting question. Rather, several interesting ones.

    I currently use THX00s as my main cans, and though I plan to upgrade to something nicer sooner or later, I do plan on keeping the Fostexes around because I love the sound. What is the risk that the biodynas on these will experience similar sonic (and structural) degradation in the next few years?

    I realise zelkova is far from plentiful, but one wonders why no modern manufacturers (apart from small-scale boutique ones, perhaps) currently use the wood given their reputedly beautiful sonic character. Also, the venting in the wood cups look interesting. Wonder how that specific structure affects sound?

    @Mshenay beat me to saying it: how would new biodynas sound in the old R10 enclosures, I wonder? If HF reports are anything to go by, there should be no shortage of driver-dead R10s one could freely play with. Also, "primitive" manufacturing process aside, how are the R10 drivers different from current biodynas?
     
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  12. Dhruvmeena96

    Dhruvmeena96 Rando

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    There is one headphone which everybody forgot.
    I think that outclassed r10 and stax

    Sony cd900cbs(between cd900 and cd900st)
    That is one heck of a rare headphone and was only used by nhk studio and Sony music studio in 1980's.

    It looks same as v6 but the bass, mids and treble are so well done, that it makes today headphone a run for money.

    And yes, its a collector item as it had real amorphous diamond diaphragm and n52 concentric flux magnet
     
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  13. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    Good headphone, quite mid-centric and exceptional for vocals. I preferred the K240 DF but of course that thing needed amplification. A mint one might be worth collecting but Sony and parts support, it depends.
     
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  14. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    BACKGROUND -

    A very kind 70-year-old ex-Navy officer (with surprisingly acute hearing for his age) came in with one of his R10s today - he said they were an early SN from 1985 - one of the pairs lighter in the bass. I sat him down at our headphone station to try out a bunch of amps but he insisted I listen and do comparisons (between other amps and headphones) with him and discuss what we heard. I gladly obliged.

    SYSTEM INFO -

    The chain was an Auralic Aries G2 -> PS Audio DirectStream DAC -> cheapo RCA switchbox -> about 10 headphone amps (the entire selection from Feliks, Pathos, PrimaLuna, and SPL). Wish I could've heard these from an ECP or EC, but alas. (FWIW - he bought the Feliks Euforia after we compared everything)

    Headphones we briefly compared with were Utopias, everything from ZMF, HD800 and 800S, and the AT ADX5000.

    SOUND -

    The R10 has this cup-decay effect kind of like the ZMF Atticus, but feeling somehow better delineated despite the decays seeming to trail longer than the Atticus. A unique effect I haven't heard well-executed in a pair of headphones aside from these two, and to a lesser audible degree, the open-back ZMFs.

    The R10 is very strange to the extent that I'd call it a generally bright signature - very lively in the middle mids on up despite not having any evident problematic narrow peaks or dips in the response (which is extra impressive given the resonance play). Very resolving of microdetail with excellent microdynamic contrast. Impressive localization and separation of spatial cues too (even though the stage is somewhat narrow compared to many open backs).

    Paradoxically non-fatiguing compared to other 'bright' headphones like HD800 and ADX5000. Not sure I can explain why (aside from a lack of narrow audible peaks in the response) without having more time to compare at home and seeing some quality measurements. Maybe it's just that biocellulose timbre that's so easy on the ears and recognizable from Eikon/Auteur and my L55s. That being said, I've never heard a biocellulose driver (in a headphone or speaker) that could present as much microdetail.

    Bass extension was clearly lacking but fine for acoustic tracks and live recordings featuring 'real' instruments. Low-end texturing and extension was certainly the weakness of this headphone but the rest of the spectrum was so pleasant and well-executed that I didn't mind the more simple low-end presentation. Definitely wouldn't want to pump EDM, commercial tracks, or hip-hop through them but then again these types of music probably weren't even a consideration when the headphone was being designed 30+ years ago.

    COMPARISONS -

    When switching from the R10 to any of the other headphones on hand, I felt like a bit of detail and smoothness of mid-thru-treble response (and the beautifully extended decays and stage depth) was lost, even though pretty much all the others had better bass extension and texturing.

    Utopia's metallic timbre was more evident (and distracting) when switching from R10. HD800 felt veiled and peaky despite having better low-end extension and separation. Atticus and Eikon sounded muffled and flat spatially in comparison. Aeolus sounded downright dead mids on up. Auteur sounded smoothed-over, rounded, and flat despite being just as pleasant to listen to. Verite came in a close second in the qualities R10 excelled at most, but with better bass and stage width, despite being slightly drier and grainy in the top octave and a half. ADX5000 didn't feel veiled in comparison, but started to induce fatigue at the same listening level despite feeling about as bright.

    Of course, not quite enough time for brain burn-in on each headphone, and if I didn't have R10 to directly compare, each of these headphones can give a satisfying presentation with unique strengths given good system synergy, etc. And FWIW, I would take almost any of the others as general-purpose headphones for the genres I listen to most.

    CONCLUDING NOTES -

    I suppose it all comes to sonic priorities. R10 definitely seems like a king of some of the aforementioned qualities, but certainly less than a jack-of-all-trades in some others. I would not want to own the R10 as my only headphone, and for something all-purpose would greatly prefer one of the ZMFs or a well-modded early HFM. Staging and imaging (and to a lesser extent, microdetail), while impressive on the R10, generally don't matter to me for headphone listening compared to bass, slam, and a gently downsloping tone (these qualities tend to give me the most emotional engagement with the music I listen to, though there are exceptions). Then again, I do have basshead tendencies and do predominantly listen to music that R10 doesn't flatter. Maybe it could be my only headphone if I listened just to acoustics, jazz, oldies, etc.

    Now I'm wondering about the modding potential with these clearly-capable R10 drivers. That'll probably never be explored, but it was a good experience nonetheless. Glad I heard them but I won't be searching one out and would definitely prefer a different system given my sonic priorities at the ~$10k price.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
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  15. Darko

    Darko Acquaintance

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    Bumping this thread because I am so damn fascinated with these. Just spent 30 minutes reading the patent Sony had in 1993 for biocellulose drivers. Too bad I can’t find anything on the engineering of the cups. You would think with all the money Sony has they could create something similar but more robust with today’s tech. Instead we get the Z1R...
     
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  16. TomNC

    TomNC Facebook Friend

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    It is subject to speculation how much the R10's unique cup design contributes to its sound. The wood is rare. The shape is much like a music instrument with a deep and asymmetrical design which may help create the concert hall sound effect, which is also drastically different from the somewhat hollow stadium-like sound stage of Sennheiser HD800. The R10 has an unparalleled capability to present the recording space and the height of soundstage. I have seen that ZMF Verite closed and Focal Stellia show some resemblance to the R10 in cup design. The driver is also mounted with an angle relative to the ear. I cannot help but wonder how soon the 3-D printing tech will allow creating of a more close replica or variation of the R10 cup.
     
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  17. takato14

    takato14 Doglover

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    The R10 cheats. It's a closed headphone, but the cups are CNC'd internally using a very precise pattern which is designed to reflect the backwave of the driver back at itself over and over again until it loses all of its energy -- cancelling any erroneous reflections which would compromise the phase of the front-side waveform.

    [​IMG]

    upload_2020-4-26_18-50-47.png

    Basically, it has the benefits of a closed headphone (higher back side pressure/more flexibility with acoustic damping), and the benefits of an open one (phase accuracy and treble performance), in the same package.

    It also destroys itself if you turn it too loud because sony made the voice coil leads too short in an effort to """reduce signal impurity""". :confused:
     
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  18. takato14

    takato14 Doglover

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    Additionally: there are two versions of the R10, a "Bass heavy" and a "Bass light" version. The bass heavy model has marginally better bass extension but everything above the middle midrange is absolutely fucked. Avoid at all costs. The bass light model drops off pretty hard after 100Hz but measures like this:

    upload_2020-4-26_18-56-24.png

    :eek:
     
  19. gepardcv

    gepardcv Almost "Made"

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    This seems like an excellent idea. Has no one tried to clone this pattern, perhaps in the DIY community?

    Do the bass-light and bass-heavy versions have different hole patterns? Different drivers?
     
  20. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    Fostex TH-series baffles all have something somewhat like this, but made of plastic and paper instead of CNC'd into wood. Cups too shallow for much of an effect, no room for varying depth, and the pad mounting ring and front dense foam surrounding the driver mitigate much of the effect. ZMF wood baffles have tiny controlled holes for this type of thing as well, but not nearly as sophisticated in terms of design, or as open. The more open the holes in the baffle, the less bass you'll get. Nearly impossible to have both, unless the holes are semi-sealed or damped or somehow directional.
     
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