Hello, hello! Welcome back to the Bus Ride Impression and honestly, it feels so good to be back writing reviews and impressions. For quite sometime I have been hounded by relentless deadlines from my real-life job (I consider the hobby as my Utopian paradise) that it held me from writing for quite some time. However, my semi-hiatus allowed me some time to acquire some gems which I think are going to be a joy to read as most of them aren’t exactly something you will easily get within our shores. I will tackle them one by one in the next editions of the BRI.
For today, I am taking on a gem courtesy of a very good friend, Vincent Ventura. He has been to Japan recently and I am not surprised that he grabbed a Sony MDR-CD900ST given the reputation of this monitoring can. I have its brother, the Sony MDR-7506 on my radar for some time now but I learned of the CD900ST a few months ago and has been hearing great things about it. I have been getting impressions that while the 7506 is a lot more neutral, CD900ST seems to have some frequency bumps to satisfy casual listeners if they think the 7506 is a bit too flat or neutral. That put the CD900ST on my future purchase list but my mistake was I did put it in my “future” purchase list. Upon trying the CD900ST on, I knew that I should have had Vince secure me one as well. Even bigger mistake, another friend went to Tokyo even more recently and I still didn’t ask him to get me one (damned Glove Audio A1). Fortunately, I got yet another friend due to take a trip to Japan this coming month and I am not letting the chance pass by without having him getting me one.
With that, you might wonder why was I so dismayed as to why I didn’t get one. Is the CD900ST really that good? Does it have what it takes to at least put up a good fight with some cans within the same price range or even with the higher ones? Let’s see.
I will be bluntly honest, the looks of the CD900ST may tend to be subjective to the user. It is not like some other cans that instantly looks stunning to most people; I feel the way its looks would most likely appeal to the purists who would go after comfort and convenience. However, that is where the CD900ST wins, it is lightweight, weighing only around 200 grams, and is pretty easy to use since you won’t really need a very powerful amp to use it.
Sporting an oval cup, I think it can accommodate average ear sizes although for some who have ginormous ears, the foams might touch the outer lobe of one’s ears. The foam pads are somehow comfortable, but are relatively thinner so it might be best to get a thicker pair. Also, as common as it is with Sony cans, the material used may chip off quite easily for the sweaty ones, so I will really encourage getting yourself a few pairs just so you won’t fuss about replacements once the foam pads decided to give up. It isn’t necessarily hard to replace anyway so the extras should be an automatic.
I am not very happy with the headband, as it looked pretty conservative and seems to lack a bit of cushion when worn. Not really uncomfortable, but it can definitely use a thicker padding. Good thing though that Sony used a different material on the headband compared to that of the foam pads, as it may be a bit of a challenge to find a replacement for it. Either side of the headband shows markings for L and R, but then again the positioning of the cups should pretty much tell as to which goes to which ear given the positioning of the cups. There’s also markings for the headband adjustment so it should be a cinch to adjust it evenly on both sides.
Perhaps one more thing that makes it iffy for me is the plastic material used for most of the parts in the CD900ST. Sure, the cups seems to look fine, but I am a bit concerned with the yokes as it doesn’t necessarily look very durable. Don’t get me wrong, it seems to look like it can last, but Sony could have opted for a better material, perhaps aluminum would have been better. Then again, with the price, I really have no right to demand for more.
Cable seems to have no issue except for the length, but is a given since the idea is to use the CD900ST for studio monitoring (the headband can’t be too obvious about this). Also, the cable isn’t detachable, but these are very small sacrifices in my opinion considering how it performs. The plug is great, it is teeming with durability as you look and hold it, but given the purpose it comes in 6.3mm termination.
Overall, the CD900ST isn’t something that you will brag about when it comes to looks. But whatever it lacks when it comes to looks, it compensates with efficiency in terms of build. There are some opportunities, but again given how much it is priced, you will really not think of complaining. Especially when we get to the sound department.
Perhaps my affinity towards monitoring cans or IEMs may put a bit of bias to the CD900ST, as it did not disappointment me. I indeed notice the difference of the CD900ST in comparison with the 7506, with the earlier presenting a bit of bump from the lower end of the frequency spectrum towards the mids. It is not significant to be honest, but it can be heard clearly.
For me to further assess how the CD900ST sounds like, I shall be using an Astell & Kern AK100 stacked with the Glove Audio A1 (don’t worry, this is in line with the next BRIs I shall be doing in the next few days).
Sara Bareilles (December – The Blessed Unrest)
I am trying my best to come up with the best analogy to describe how the CD900ST sounds like playing Ms. Bareilles’ track, but perhaps what I can say is that it sounds very natural yet seems to want to burst with vibrance. It is natural, but allows a certain shimmer and soundstage that is not very common with closed back cans. The flicks on the cymbals sounded lustrous yet is controlled not to be harsh. Bass is also quite tight but is not too lush to overdo how the track is actually done. Mids is also quite excellent especially around 1kHz area. Bareilles’ vocals sounded quite smooth and naturally upfront, engaging the listener to such an aural experience quite relaxing but still carrying a certain level of aggression to let the listener feel an edge.
Macy Gray (I Try, Stripped)
I immensely enjoyed the bass lines of the track together with the soft flicks on the clapper, with both sounding sufficiently rich which somehow envelopes Macy Gray’s voice in such a way that none is overdone, each sounding as if none is trying to overtake any. Melody of the track is very prominent with the CD900ST, and as the track sounded as if the vocals are recessed with some cans, this one allows that feel that the singer is not exactly in front but is not filled over by the bass. Guitars sounded soft yet is very conspicuous.
Liz Phair (Supernova, Whip-Smart)
With this track, it allows me to feel as if I am standing in the recording booth of a studio while Liz Phair plays inside. Guitars are somehow raunchy enough, with the distortion sounding very obvious between the rhythm and the lead ones. Cymbals are omnipresent, drums are ever present but is definitely positioned at the rear which kind of compliments the placement of Liz Phair and the rest of the band. Kind of whips me twenty years back ago if you ask me.
I know that the 7506 will not exactly appeal to everyone, but for anyone who wishes for a great sounding studio monitoring cans, the CD900ST should be an excellent choice. The price (14,000 Japanese Yen) should be a pretty good price for such excellent performing can. Yes, there definitely are better cans in the market, but when it comes to price to performance ratio, the CD900ST can definitely give a lot of brands a run for their money. This is should be a good choice of can even if you are already the kind of enthusiasts who can splurge at least a thousand of dollars on headphones and even to those who are on a tight budget. I would even recommend getting this than trying to amass a horde of IEMs because hey, this is one heck of a great can which can replace multitudes of audio output devices. As an enthusiast, it will be a shame if you won’t have one. I know it is not easy to find, but if you can anyway, might as well put this as a priority.