Pros: Clarity (Mid/Highs), Soundstage
Cons: Slight Comfort Issues, Bass, Packaging
This review is written from the perspective of the Ad900 stock, no external amp or DAC to give readers an idea of what to expect if they buy these without an amp/DAC. I would also like to preface this by stating I will be comparing these to the Ad700 often as they are the next logical step in the Ad series.
I was very surprised to see that the packaging was no better than the Ad700 headphones. They came in a cardboard box with a plastic headphone stand, including a 1/8 to 1/4 adaptor. While the headphones always sell cheaper than the MSRP, you would think that $400 MSRP headphones would come with a higher quality packaging. It's not that big of a deal though, because ultimately what matters are the headphones.
I bought these to replace my beloved Ad700s which had served me well for almost a year of every day use. I didn't think that I would possibly have any comfort issues with these as I did not have any with my Ad700. Little did I know that the Ad700s are shaped slightly different in the cup, super-aural sized, while the Ad900 are circumaural, at least this is how my ears fit in them. Naturally circumaural would be thought of as more comfortable, but the stock velour pads are sometimes scratchy and could very well be softer given the MSRP. Some users also complain about their ear touching the driver, which also causes slight discomfort. If this does happen I suggest repositioning the headphones as I've fixed this problem. The Ad700s use, from the looks of it, the same pads but for some reason were slightly more comfortable.
The Audio Technica wing technology for headphone fit worked well for me. I have no fitting problems, absolutely no clamping. They feel very light on my head, in-fact I barely notice them on sometimes. This is a double edged sword though, as some users do complain about fitting issues with smaller heads. Overall though the comfort is acceptable and I have no problem wearing these for extended periods of time.
There's not much to say about these. They are light when on your head, and I personally think they look fantastic. The quality is solid and I've had no complaints or problems within the four months I've owned these. In comparison to the Ad700, these do feel more solid.
Coming from the Ad700s I was very excited to hear what the Ad900 were capable of. Once I found the perfect positioning of the headphones I was ready to go. The first thing I noticed was the tightened up, more punchy, bass. The bass is very responsive and never seems to drag, definitely quality. You'll noticed I listed this as a con, while the Ad900s bass is improved over the Ad700, they are still lacking some bass without an amp. Even with an amp though, the low end still cuts off earlier than I'd like. I feel the bass is adequate though for non-bassheads and it works well for almost any genre from drum & bass to rock, though it doesn't do well with bass heavy genres like dubstep.
When I first got my Ad700s I was impressed by the clarity, especially for the price. Going up to the Ad900 I was further impressed with clarity that makes the Ad700s seem grainy. These headphones have an excellent mid range that suits female vocalists and acoustic instruments with amazing clarity. The highs are clear and I've not noticed them cutting off at all. Everything sounds great/clear through these.
The soundstage is what makes the Ad700 praised throughout Head-Fi and the Ad900 are not missing out one bit. In-fact the soundstage is even better, adding slightly better instrument separation. The best way to describe this is a feeling of the music surrounding you, you are not at the front of the concert, rather towards the mid-back. Some users describe them as having an airy sound to them.
I may not be the most knowledgeable member here, or most experienced member for the price range, or in general, but I can not think of one headphone that sounds like these in the price range. They are engaging, while not causing fatigue. They aren't aggressive, nor relaxed, hanging somewhere in the middle. They are fantastic for almost every genre, though these headphones shine through though with "clean" music. By clean music, I mean acoustic instruments and music without distortion, for instance folk, jazz, or classical, though they are by no means restricted to that. I would highly recommend these headphones to anyone who has a varied music taste looking for the best bang for their buck.
The only thing that kept me from giving these a 5 star on value is the price fluctuation. For example, in November I bought these for $270 from Musician's Friend, while they were $320 on Amazon. In January I noticed they were $350 on Amazon. Now they are currently, as of February 19, 2011, sitting at $200. I feel that these headphones are almost impossible to beat for the $200 price tag overall.
Please keep in mind my ratings are in comparison to similarly priced headphones, not $1,000 headphones.