Tech Tools Review: Sony MDR-1ABT headphones

Can headphones really be high-res and wireless? Sony takes its best shot

We’ve had high-resolution television for a while; now it’s time for audio to get in on the act.

At recent tech shows, it’s clear that manufacturers are trying to push us towards high-resolution audio, with the music industry also steering consumers that way with services such as Tidal and Pono.

Take a look at the equipment that’s appearing on the shelves, from speakers to headphones, bearing that tell-tale “hi-res audio” mark. The promise of better audio is an alluring one for some – not all – and the notion that they will pay out more for better equipment isn’t a completely unheard-of one.

Sony’s new wireless headphones fall into that category. The MDR-1ABT headphones aren’t just high-res though, they’re also Bluetooth-enabled. So not only do you get better audio, but now you have the chance to ditch the wires.


The good



headphones are comfortable to wear, if a little more bulky than what you might be used to. They feel like proper headphones, rather than a flimsy fashionable set, and are padded everywhere they can possibly exert pressure on your head.

Bluetooth audio hasn’t always had the best reputation but things have vastly improved since the early days. If you are very particular about your music and pay close attention, you might notice a slight dip in quality when you go wireless. For the most part though, the Bluetooth audio is more than up to scratch because Sony has piled in some extra technology – LDAC and DSEE – that helps with not only high-quality streaming but also filling in the detail that may have been lost from your compressed music.

The controls for your music are not just at your fingertips – they’re on your ear. Sony has built touch controls into the ear cup of the headphones, so you can skip tracks, raise and lower volume, and pause or stop audio through a few gestures. Yes, you might look a little silly tapping away on your headphones, but it’s short-lived and quite frankly, if you find that embarrassing, chances are you won’t be keen on walking around with a conspicuous set of headphones on you either.

If you are walking around listening to music from your phone, for example, and a call comes in, you don’t need to remove the headphones. Although they’re wireless, Sony has still included the ability to take and make calls with the headset. A small microphone is built in to the ear cup, which gives surprisingly good call audio.

The not so good

These headphones are pricey, but that’s not what we’re focusing on here. If you want to get the best out of them, and if you’re paying €389 you really should want to, you’ll need to have the equipment to match.

That means a player compatible with high-res audio, such as Sony’s Walkman or Z2 Xperia phone, and a compatible music source. Oh sure, you can listen to regular streaming services or your ripped digital music through the headphones, and it’ll all sound great, but to reach the peak of what the MDRs can do you’ll need those extras. And that, as you can imagine, can all add up.

You’ll also have to remember to charge them, which, while not the most onerous task in the world, is a slight inconvenience if you are less organised and forget.

The rest

If you need to use the headset with a non-Bluetooth enabled device, or you simply don’t want to hammer the battery, there’s a jack that allows you to hook up any audio source to the headphones with a 3.5mm cable.

That opens up the headphones for use with more devices, which is a good move.


HHHHH These may be a pricey investment, but the quality teamed with convenience makes it worth the risk for those who want wireless, high-quality headphones.