The Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 headphones arrive impeccably packed in a heavy-duty case.
Something special from the longtime headphone masters
Refreshing. Perhaps that doesn't sound like the most lofty superlative for a luxury piece of personal audio gear. But it is the first word that came to mind when I listened to Audio Technica's new flagship ATH-ADX5000 headphones. And I use that word with the highest of praise — these headphones manage to sound both revealing and musical at the same time.
The ATH-ADX5000 'phones were designed and fastidiously crafted in Audio Technica's Tokyo headquarters. They're built from precious materials and succeed from a technical standpoint and in terms of grace and soul. You get clean, pure sound across a wide frequency range.
Appearance matters, too
I can tell you first hand just how special it feels to have these headphones delivered to you. They arrived at my office inside in a large, important-looking shipping box that I thought must contain more than one pair of headphones. Nope.
Audio Technica — a company notorious for their no-frills, let-the-product-do-the-talking packaging — pulled out all the stops. They packed the ATH-ADX5000s inside an extra-large, stitched-leather carrying case. It unlatched with a satisfying snap, and I found the oversized headphones neatly nestled in pillow-soft velvet.
The honeycombed design of the open-air earcups give you a glimpse of the driver unit
Lightweight and luxurious
It seems obvious, but some companies forget: comfort can make or break the headphone experience. Audio Technica's engineers did not overlook this key fact.
As large and substantial as the headphones are, they feel extremely light. Every inch is well-built and pleasant to the touch. I felt it as I held the smooth, strong magnesium alloy frame, and when I slipped the generous alacantra ear pads over my ears.
Uniquely designed driver system
There's a lot going on “under the hood” of these headphones, and Audio-Technica isn't trying to hide it. You get a peek right through the open-air earcups to the driver. Small, honeycomb-style openings allow for the optimum airflow, and the drivers are positioned for ideal sound.
Traditionally, headphone drivers are constructed as separate parts working together. Audio Technica did things a little different — all the separate parts of the driver are combined, then fused with the baffle into a single entity. This seriously cuts down on resonance and allows for a quicker attack, resulting in precise sound.
My listening impressions
I got a chance to do something with these headphones that I don't often get to do. I received them right before I went on vacation, so I could listen to them more for pleasure rather than in a work context.
I made a promise to myself — just enjoy the experience and don't get overly analytical. Easy enough, because while these headphones remain true to the recording, they never sound frigid or mechanical. I could feel the music as much as hear it.
I used the TEAC NT-503 network player/headphone amp to drive these power-thirsty 'phones, and it did quite well. Here are some choice musical tracks:
"Mozart sonata for piano and violin in G major" — Hilary Hahn
I'm not a big classical music fan, but we have some aficianados here at Crutchfield HQ. One of my guys tipped me off to this recording, as a good way to test the chops of high-end headphones. I just closed my eyes and let the graceful yet frantic performance take me. It was thrilling through these Audio Technica 'phones — like I was on a runaway train, but calmly reclining in the hands of a true professional.
The peaceful warmth of the violins are cut by the startling, explosive piano work. The track plays almost entirely in the highs and upper mids, and everything is detailed and specific, yet never grating. No matter how complex the composition got, the headphones handled it all with ease.
"Work Work" — clipping.
This exciting hip-hop track showed off the ATH-ADX5000's dynamics and low-end capabilities. Bass sounded potent and tight here, never bleeding into the light, tingly wind-chime samples or the female emcee's voice. It is not the most powerful bass I've heard, but it is very satisfying.
"Taneytown" — Steve Earle and the Dukes
Earlier in my vacation, I had seen Earle and company play live here in Charlottesville. This song was the highlight of an overall great show. Listening to it through these headphones got my adrenaline going, because it put me right back in my seat for the show: removed, but not too far away.
The soundstage is not quite as immediate as the Focal Utopia headphones, but also not as wide open as the Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones. And since the detail was so spot on, I could pick out the different instruments and distorted guitar tones — just like the band was playing in front of me again.