Sony MDR-CD3000

The Sony MDR-CD3000 are one of the most legendary headphones ever released, produced just after the MDR-R10 and coming with bio-cellulose diaphragms. Now vintage, at almost 30 years old, they are becoming rare and sought after, and most pairs are in beaten-up condition with degrading pleather on the headband and ear pads. My pair has original ear pads but the pleather is completely gone (which is better for hygiene). I also have spare original ear pads but the pleather became stuck to the plastic film they came with.

The CD3000 is quite large but not that heavy (403g) and very comfortable, thanks to the suspension headband and soft angled ear pads. The clamp is very low (probably because of use), which doesn’t help with my small head. Build quality is not great by modern standards : average quality plastic cups and yokes, and terrible pleather that doesn’t age well. The cable is non removable and 3m long. They are very easy to drive.

○ Release : 1991
○ Current status : Discontinued
○ Type : Over-ear / Closed-back
○ Measured weight : 403g
○ Impedance : 32 Ohms
○ Sensitivity : 104 dB/mW
○ Average used price : $400-700

Sound Impression
The CD3000 is, like most old Sony headphones I’ve tested, on the lean side, and definitely close to the CD1000 that I’ve heard just a few months ago. They both share same drivers. 

The CD3000 is quite pleasant to listen to for its separation, staging and overall sense of clarity. One of the most open and articulated sounding closed headphones I’ve heard. I haven’t heard some of the current closed flagships, like the ZMF Eikon or Verité Closed, but I would put the CD3000 above a Denon D7000, Focal Stellia or Audio-Technica W5000 when it comes to “openness” and “transparence”. It’s by far the greatest strength of the CD3000 ; the clarity and articulation it delivers.

The tonal balance is a bit rough. The bass has decent extension, considering we are listening to a vintage pair. It seems to roll off around 50-60hz which is not up to modern standards for a closet set. It rumbles a bit better than an HD600, and sounds quite tighter. The midrange is correct ; it is forward with a bit of nasal / shouty coloration around 1-2khz that I dont really like. The lower-midrange also seems slightly dipped, but I’m not sure without measurements.

The mids to treble transition is good, but the treble suffers from moderate peaks around 8-10 khz and the “air” is a bit accentuated. Overall, a lean sounding headphone that I can tolerate better than an HD800 (I’m too sensible to 5-6 khz energy), but not for many hours on harsh music.

The CD3000 is pretty solid when it comes to resolution and technicalities. On top of the nice stage, it has quite good detail retrieval, and can compete well with most current headphones below $500. The decay and dynamics are also not bad ; decent punch (except in the bass) and it’s not a slow sounding headphone. I would put the resolution a bit above an HD600 or DT880. When A/B comparing the Sony CD3000 and Sennheiser HD600, I always had the same impressions. HD600 : “Ah ! The timbre is great, it’s intimate and well-rounded, but a bit slow and soft”. CD3000 : “Ah ! It’s super clear, with better attack and speed, but it’s a bit sharp and nasal”.

Only crazy headphones enthusiasts could be interested to hear a pair in 2020. Considering the rarity, the reliability (voice coils can get damaged/broken after extensive use) and the headband/pads deterioration, it’s impossible to recommend this headphone. And of course, spare parts are no longer available. 

Measurements & Resources

http://20cheaddatebase.web.fc2.com/SONY/MDR-CD3000.html

 

2 Comments

  • Bill Kinsman

    If you have a pair of CD3000’s that are working, I would get a set of lambskin pads for them. I like them better than the original ones. I wish I could find a pair of headphones to actually replace them, but everything I have heard is just not the same.

  • PY

    Awesome impression. Agreed with the above post regarding the lambskin ear pads. No tonal issues with the lambskin pads. If you really want to hear what the CD3000 can do, I suggest you to modify cable for a balanced amplification. In fact, I have done this same mod to both the CD1700, and CD3000 and both sets sound quite a bit better now. The stock copper wire is very thin and shortchanging the sound of the CD3000.

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