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Headphones that Span a Generation

Sony’s legendary MDR-V6 headphones taught me how to really listen.

The author's pair of MDR-V6s. | Eric Yang

In a shapeless cloud of childhood memories, I remember clearly my father’s home office. It was clean and considered. A free-standing desk, made of oak, sat facing the window. Behind it was a leather chair, dyed blue and faded from the sun. His diploma hung on the wall next to an old drawing he made in elementary school. It depicted a lone saxophone player, his eyes closed, playing in the park.

In the corner, next to a floor plant, was a glossy stereo rack. As a boy, its contents looked like treasures: a Yamaha A-1000 amplifier, a T-1000 tuner, a Dual 1229 turntable and a large, Teac X-7 reel-to-reel tape deck. A few of his favorite records were stacked to the side. He was a student of doo-wop — and he loved Perry Como.

Some nights after dinner, we’d escape there. He’d switch on his equipment and the lights would glow in the darkness. I’d sit on the floor wearing a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones. Over the years, the ear cups had worn and cracked to expose the foam underneath, but my dad refused to buy replacements. He liked things as they were, and they worked just fine.

He’d play a song and tell me to listen to the lyrics, asking me afterward to describe what they meant. I always found that to be a difficult exercise as a kid. I was drawn to melody, not meaning. When I didn’t know the answer, I’d fumble with the long coil cable on the headphones until he’d just give in and tell me. Eventually, I figured out that the common denominator in all those songs was love. The first time he played me “Happy Man”, by Como, he said it changed his life. Some other nights, I could find him alone in his office, listening to music by himself, headphones on, the rest of the house still with silence.

When I moved away to college I bought a pair of MDR-V6 headphones to take with me. I’m not as responsible as my dad, and I’ve lost many pairs since. But they’re cheap, available on Amazon for about $100. They used to arrive in a gold-colored box. Though that packaging has changed, the quality hasn’t.

Sony introduced the MDR-V6s in 1985 and, amazingly, they’re still in production. As studio monitor headphones, they’re used and beloved by everyone from DJs to producers. They’re comfortable during bouts of extended wear and fold down in transit — though that cable could be shorter. Today, I keep a pair in my office desk drawer. The sound is clear and neutral, without unnecessary frills. You hear things as they were made to be heard, things you wouldn’t notice with a lot of bass. I’m loyal to them and doubt I’ll ever switch. I like the way they make me really listen, like my dad did.

Dimensions: 8.62 x 3.87 x 4.25 inches
Driver Unit: 40mm
Sensitivity (db): 106dB/mW
Frequency Response: 5Hz – 30,000Hz
Power Handling Capacity: 1.0W
Cord: 10 feet, with oxygen-free copper ends, 1/8-inch plug with 1/4-inch adapter

Buy Now: Here

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