Picture of the Sony MDR V500 studio monitor headphones.

Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones Review

We owned the Sony MDR-V500 Studio Monitor Headphones  for twenty years. In those decades, we used them with many CD players, iPods, mixing boards, headphone amps, and stereo receivers.  Here, we discuss our experience with them, along with the good and bad points about them we found.

Sony MDR-V500 Studio Monitor Headphones Summary

These dynamic earphones offer probably the best sound of any unit in their price class. They reproduce the high frequencies clearly, and not too strong on the bass, especially once you’ve adapted to listening to the MDR-V500 Sony. But you can adjust the bass level with an audio equalizer.

Actually, the reduced bass output makes these studio monitor phones quite suitable for iPod listening. Why?  Because iPods tend to be heavy on the bass anyhow.

Given the relatively cheap price, I didn’t find too much to gripe about in them, except that the pads wear out rather quickly (after only two years). I’ve had to replace them on my set several times now. But replacements can be gotten for roughly $10 a pair. So this deficiency is minor.

So if $50 to $100 is all you’d want to spend on a decent pair of earphones, then I’d highly recommend the MDR-V500s. For that cost, you get a fairly flat and durable pair of quality audio equipment.

Picture of the Sony MDR V500 studio monitor headphones, left ear cup, back view.
Sony MDR V500 studio monitor headphones, left ear cup, back view.

Benefits, Pros, Features, and Advantages of the Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones 

Lightweight Studio Headphones

I found these extremely light; especially after having adapted to wearing the Koss Tech 2 for eleven years prior. This offering is even lighter than my Sennheiser HD-650.

Long Wearing Comfort

Thus, I could wear these for hours at a stretch without discomfort. The music will fatigue your head before these phones fatigue your ears.

The Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones Have Soft Ear Cushions

There are foamy, soft ear cushions, coated with a thin, highly flexible black film that gives them a soft, leathery feel, further enhancing the comfort level.

Over-Ear Design

The cushions have oval-shaped openings that work well as an ear-surrounding or over-the-ear design.

Speakers Very Close to Ear Entrance

The soft cushions are medium-sized in circumference, but not terribly deep. Thus, the front of the driver speaker touches my ear. But again with the overall softness of the pads, this does not interfere with comfortable listening for long periods for me.

Adjustable Size Headband on these Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones

Light enough and the MDRV500s offer a wide enough range of headband adjustment, that each can does not press too hard against my eyeglasses. Thus, I need not remove my glasses at all while listening.

Soft Headband Padding

The headband includes spongy soft padding as well that further enhances overall comfort. These phones indeed feel as comfortable as they sound good.

Look as Good as they Sound

They look like they sound as well. The unit is black with silver trim, with a red and gold “Digital” sticker on the back of each phone, that gives them a modern, hi-tech appearance.

Compact, Folding Ear Speakers on the Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones

It offers “retractable” earpieces. These can fold up inside the headband that shrinks the size of the overall unit down to a small enough size to fit in the included small black pouch.

Big Dynamic Range

Can play sufficiently loud, with the wide dynamic range over most of the audio frequency band that I can hear. This makes them particularly suited for widely varying musical volume levels such as found in classical music.

Plenty of Volume, Bass, and Treble

For pop music listening, these play loud enough to hurt my ears without any noticeable gain in distortion or loss in fidelity.

Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones have a Fixable Coil Cord

While the connecting audio cable is not detachable via unplugging it, replacement is not terribly difficult.  New cables are readily available as well from numerous Internet vendors, even today, nearly two decades since Sony introduced the MDR-V500 headset.

Non Symmetrical Shaped Earpieces

Can be worn with equal comfort either way (left earphone on left ear, or left earphone on right ear). The angle adjustment on each earpiece probably accounts for this nice feature that I utilize when hearing those cheaper hit compilation CDs, where the stereo left and right channels are mastered backwards from the original LP or single versions.

Noise Isolating

Reduce surrounding noise pretty well, which is a feature the closed-air design that they employ. They use a metal plate that boxes in the driver speaker in each earpiece, and keeps sound both in and out.  Thus, there’s not much audio spill with this model. These are a good choice to listen to when other people are close by and do not wish to be disturbed.

The Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones Handle Rough Handling Well

In spite of their lightness, these phones seem quite forgiving of abuse. I’ve often dropped them on the table or floor when done listening. They’re not fragile, and thus, hold up well in rough listening environments such as studios and DJ gigs.


Just a little audio power produces quite loud output from these phones.  An iPod drives them quite adequately.

Flat Setting Sounds Great

There’s no need to use an equalizer to cut down on the bass response of the MDR-V500 headphones. They sound pretty good with “flat” music sources indeed. While a bit strong on the mid-range audio, they’re not so bad that they require an equalizer, though one does make them sound spectacular when you lower the mid-range a bit.

Picture of a set of replacement ear cushions in black for the Sony MDR-V500 studio monitor headphones.
Replacement ear cushions in black for the Sony MDR-V500 studio monitor headphones.

Disadvantages, Cons, Limitations, and Problems of the Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones 

As I said above, given how cheaply priced these headphones are, I really can’t find too much to legitimately complain about here. But here are several gripes I managed to scratch out:

Need Bigger Ear Openings 

These openings for the ears are rather small, such that my ears just barely fit inside. Thus the inner edges of the leathery cushion rims always touch my ears. This might be a problem with other headphones, whose earcushions are not as soft as those found here. But this causes no discomfort with these studio monitors.

Short Life Ear Pads

The ear cushions begin flaking and pealing only a year or two after purchase. They’ve left little black specks in my hair.

The Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones Have No Gold Connectors

These studio monitors have a silver TRS connector.  Normally, this provides a reliable connection to your audio equipment.  But gold is best.

Non Detachable Audio Cable 

The cord is harder to replace than detachable systems.  But this isn’t so bad really, since the included cable outlasts the headphones in normal use.

Not Completely Flat Output

These earphones favor the higher mid-range frequencies.  So, this can make my ears ring a little after longed listening sessions, unless I tone it down with an equalizer.

Our Rating of Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones

W found this audio gear the best-sounding for the cost that we ever owned. And, we’ve owned many cans, like Apple, Koss, RCA, and Grado headphones over the past five decades.  The Sony MDR-V500 headphones offer enough quality for our listening needs. The v500 lacks only a few features that we expect from a truly great pair of earphones. So we would indeed buy them again.  Thus, given all that, we rate these MDR Sonys at 93 out of 100.

Where to Buy the Sony MDR V500 Studio Monitor Headphones 

These are widely available on eBay and Amazon.  Look for them in a clear plastic box, that displays virtually the entirety of the product, which is primarily black in color.

Related Posts to Sony MDR-V500 Studio Monitor Headphones

    1. Sony MDR V4 Stereo Headphones Review
    2. Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones Review
    3. Apple Headphones Volume Control Gripe
    4. iWorld Sonic Earbuds with Mic Review
    5. Koss Earbud Headphones KEB30K Headset Review

References for Sony MDR-V500 Studio Monitor Headphones

    1. Sony MDR-V500 Studio Monitor Headphones on CNET
    2. Sony MDR-V500 Studio Monitor Headphones specifications
    3. Where to buy the Sony MDR-V500 Earphones

Revision History

    • 2019-02-19: Added key phrase targeting for ‘Sony MDR V500 Studio’, more subheadings and tags, and fixed some typos.
    • 2017-02-23: Revised the tags list.
    • 2015-12-13: Added appropriate tags.
    • 2015-01-10: Tweaked content.
    • 2014-11-25: Revised content, added more whitespace, and adjusted ad placement slightly.
    • 2012-08-22: Originally published.