Monday, October 14, 2013

It's On Amazon: Sony MDR-1RBT Premium Bluetooth Over-The-Head Headphone Review

Although I chose the V-MODA M-100 headphones as my primary set, featuring it in a review about a year ago, I continued to be on the lookout for an equally solid set of Bluetooth headphones, I prefer to use wireless headsets with my tablet and smartphone.  My previous Bluetooth headphones, the Sony DR-BT50, featured superb battery life but middling audio quality and an on-the-ear style as opposed to the over-the-ear which I prefer.  I came across the MDR-1RBT in my search to update the DR-BT50s, and though it's priced in M-100 territory, it checked off several key features that made me think it'd be worth the investment.

First, it's an over-the-ear design with plenty of room inside its earcups.  This was important as the M-100s' cups are at the borderline of too small for my ears, resulting in some discomfort during longer listening sessions.  I'll be picking up and reviewing the newly released XL earcups for the M-100 shortly, but for my next Bluetooth headphones I wanted to be sure that the cups would provide for adequate comfort.  The MDR-1RBT cups don't disappoint, with plenty of space and angled drivers that provide additional room for your earlobes and better position the speakers for audio fidelity.

Second, I've always wondered whether it was possible to add a regular 2.5" audio input jack to a Bluetooth set, allowing it to be used as a traditional headphone when Bluetooth isn't available or in a contingency where its own battery has run down.  The MDR-1RBT says "yes."

Third, it charges via micro USB port, like many of the other portable devices I own (e.g., HTC One, Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Keyboard, etc.), meaning they can all share chargers when and if the need arises.  The battery life appears as good if not better than the DR-BT50, and the audio quality over Bluetooth is very solid.  On the wire, it comes in second to the punchier sound of the M-100, but unless and until the latter's XL earpads solve its sizing issues, the MDR-1RBT wins in the comfort department.

All in all, the MDR-1RBT is a solid contender for the only pair of headphones you'd ever need, as it basically does it all and checks all of the boxes in fine fashion.  In fact, its solid performance has left me a bit torn between keeping the M-100 for its sound and the sweet custom ear shields I designed for it, or adhering to my minimalist consumer aesthetic and sending it off to eBay, retaining the MDR-1RBT as my "only" pair of headphones.  I've decided to give the M-100 a chance to redeem itself with the XL earpads and the finally released gaming microphone attachment, the results of which will feature in an upcoming review.

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