I am quite familiar with the old MSR7 sonic character having owned it for more than a year and so did the bass improve on the special edition? You bet it did! The MSR7se has more sub-bass and has some emphasis making it not as lean in the area as the original one.
It’s not without its flaws though. While there’s more sub-bass here, it’s still not the deepest extension and even though the bass is stronger, it is a touch loose as I feel the upper bass does not contour to the expected curve which is for it to go down gradually from the mid-bass at some point. Having said that, this area is still much better than the original MSR7 which is quite lean and further exacerbates the bright tonality.
Speaking of the tonal balance, the MSR7se has a W-shaped frequency response having some emphasis on various areas in the bass, midrange and treble. The midrange doesn’t sound recessed and thankfully the bleed from upper bass to lower mids is quite minimal, but it’s got an elevated upper midrange resulting in slight shoutiness in female vocals and a touch too much bite with guitar strings. Like the MSR7, I find the overall clarity in this area to be good despite it being excessive to my liking at times.
The treble is unmistakably MSR7 but I thought it got a bit tamer because of more lower-end quantity hence better balance. It still classifies as bright though therefore it can get quite fatiguing if you’re listening for longer sessions and on higher volume. It’s got that 9khz spike and the shimmery haze from some of the air frequencies. Overall, this makes the MSR7se aggressive and lively sounding especially if the genre calls for it.
I thought its soundstage is wider compared to the original one and imaging is decent for a closed-headphone. The transient response is also very good just like the old one as the MSR7se is snappy and fast-sounding. Quite good with busy passages despite the slightly loose mid and upper bass. Timbre, on the other hand, is slightly on the metallic side and I wonder how much of this is caused by the elevated treble frequencies. I would say though it’s not as metallic as the Beyerdynamics that I’ve heard so it’s still good for acoustics and vocal-focused genres.
Efficiency is quite good with these headphones. It sounds plenty loud and good of a portable device but I think a small amplifier can improve it a tiny bit more.
The MSR7se comes with a special cable and I usually do not believe that cables improve sound perhaps because I don’t invest much in aftermarket cables. So I tried this said cable and to my absolute surprise, it did have some change to its sound! Disclaimer: I’m speaking from subjective impressions here so take it with more grains of salt but from my experience, I thought it opened up the sound a bit more and improved the texture of bass notes. Tonally, it’s still the same and it’s still a bright headphone but I ended up liking the sound more with this special cable. Your mileage may vary as always!
TL;DR: You don’t like a bright sound signature, a W or V-shaped frequency response contour, the MSR7SE is not for you. If you do and can actually find one, sure! Go check it out and give it a listen.
Even if this headphone is already discontinued, this may still be available from used headphone marketplaces or clearance sales. At its retail of close to $400, it’s just way too expensive for the performance and you’re probably better off saving some more and springing for the discontinued Focal Elegia or Aeon Flow Closed, or going a bit down and getting the significantly cheaper M50x, which is slightly inferior-sounding but a better value, or go wireless with the Drop THX Panda. The Audeze Sine is also another option as it’s comparable to the MSR7se tonality-wise but the Sine is an on-ear and is also discontinued now.
There is also an MSR7b variant in which the ‘B stands for balanced and reading some impressions, it seems to be very similar to the special edition minus some of the accessories and the bells and whistles of the packaging. It’s available for $250 on Amazon so it’s significantly cheaper for what essentially is a near-identical performance. Again, I have not heard the MSR7b and those are just some listening impressions from others that I’ve read.
Special or limited edition variants are overpriced so maybe it’s an unfair assessment of the MSR7se all things considered. If you can spot some clearance sales where the deal is good, then you should spring for it. But as a whole, the MSR7se is not a headphone that is easy to recommend.