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28 Sep 2015

TOOLBOX Review: AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-R70x OPEN BACK HEADPHONES

I’ve probably reviewed Audio- Technica headphones once too often in recent times, and I promise this will be the last instalment for a while.

ath_r70x_2_sq

But I haven’t been able to resist having a quick chat about the Japanese company’s new ATH-R70x open-backed reference model. It’s only just hit the streets, and surprisingly, it’s the first open-back model ever made by the company. They’ve made everything else by the thousands – closed-back studio headphones, DJ models, ear buds, camouflage fashion statements… you name it – but this is the company’s first foray into the world of what can genuinely be classed professional reference.

The reason I’ve felt compelled to review these headphones is because, simply stated, they sound superb, and anyone thinking of buying a set of reference headphones for mixing (not recording… near microphones at least) should check them out before they buy anything.

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The detail and balance of these headphones is nothing short of astonishing. The 45mm drivers provide full tone right down into the deep sub-harmonics, they’re clear as cut glass yet smooth as silk into the bargain. I have rarely heard such balance and pinpoint accuracy from anything that replays sound – speaker or headphone – and rarely have I felt so comfortable wearing a pair of headphones, both in terms of their physical fit and tonal balance.

The ‘wing support’ system, in particular, which keeps the metal headband off your head is extremely comfortable and well designed, though the system’s workload is relatively easy because the transducers themselves are so incredibly light.

I have lots of different headphones here at The Mill that I use during mixing sessions, but I suspect they’re all going to spend long months in the drawer now that the R70xs have arrived.

The only way the others might see the light of day again soon is if the Audio-Technica’s suffer some unforseen mishap.

One thing about the ATH-R70xs is that because they’re incredibly comfortable to wear and super lightweight (210 grams!), they do seem a little on the fragile side to me, particularly if they were subjected to the rough and tumble of a commercial studio environment.

Though the headband is constructed from metal and the open grilles on the back of the speakers are an aluminium honeycomb design, I suspect they’d be done no favours by a stray boot while cast on the studio floor.

But provided they’re handled somewhat delicately, they will serve engineers well. They’re an amazingly well designed headphone for critical listening: fast, super low in distortion, and impressively wide in their frequency response (5Hz – 40kHz).

The R70xs are brilliant at presenting the stereo image with genuine depth and detail – a well-worn cliché it must be said, but true in this instance. And at $499 they’re a total steal I reckon.

If you’re looking to mix in headphones in the months ahead and your budget doesn’t extend into the four figures, these are a compelling option to consider. In fact, they will be hard to top even if your budget is limitless.

Price: $499

Technical Audio Group: (02) 9519 0900 or www.tag.com.au

 

First published in CX Magazine (September, 2015)

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