Pros: Massive soundstage, excellent separation, good imaging, well extended treble, stunning clarity and detail, gorgeous design, comfort
Cons: Very bass light, bass lacks quantity and presence, thin sounding, mildly sibilant, build quality, value
Disclaimer: This is my first review on Head-Fi, so please pardon any rookie mistakes I may make in this review. Or not, in which case leave a comment so I can correct them. :)
Audio Technica's gaming line (comprising the ADG1 and the closed variant AG1) has received rather little attention from both the head-fi community and even the gaming community since its release, but despite the minimal amount of reviews online, I went ahead with my purchase of the ADG1. Since then, I have had a good amount of time to get a feel of what the ADG1 has to offer, both for music enjoyment as well as for gaming. Before I move on to the review proper, an important point to note is that the ADG1 uses the same drivers as the AD700x, which itself is a revision over the now discontinued but widely regarded AD700. (In particular, it is very popular among competitive fps players due to its large soundstage and pin point imaging.)
The ADG1 comes with relatively few accessories, especially considering its price point. By comparison, the Sennheiser G4ME series offers a nice carrying case, and even the much cheaper Kingston HyperX cloud comes with a much nicer packaging and includes both a carrying pouch as well as extra ear cushions. However, the ADG1 (and AG1) does come with a 2m cable extension and a USB Dac. (my USB Dac is spoiled unfortunately so I cannot comment on how well it works.)
The ADG1 has a non-detachable mic that can be rotated up to 100 degrees, with a flexible boom pole for fine adjustment of the mic position. Again, the ADG1 loses out to its competition which offer a larger angle of rotation allowing the mic to be stowed away, out of view. Moreover, the ADG1 has a manual mic mute switch which is a little more awkward to use than the automatic mute function offered by its competitors that triggers when the mic is stowed away. A nice touch however is that the ADG1's non-detachable cable terminates in a single plug for devices(such as my laptop) that combines both the audio and mic jacks into one. The cable is a little short at 1m, but considering its intended use for laptops it is reasonable. The included 2m extension cable terminates in a separate audio and mic plug for desktop users.
Overall, the ADG1 is a little bare bones in terms of included accessories and features. However, it is a minor gripe considering the ADG1's intended use as a home gaming headset. Still, it is mildly disappointing considering the price it is asking for as even cheaper options from competitors offer a more complete package in terms of accessories.
The design of the ADG1 is very attractive. The honeycomb metal grill on the ear cups and the red/silver accents inside the ear cups make the ADG1 look sleek and flashy without coming off as gaudy looking, something that is uncommon and very welcome in the realm of gaming headsets. The mic is very low profile and looks much less obnoxious than the huge boom mics that come with other gaming headsets. Build quality of the ear cups themselves are very good, with a good amount of aluminium/metal in the build and a sturdy design that does not have any major build flaws. The laminated plastic rim around the ear cups look a little cheap, as I would have preferred a matte-ish finish, but other than that it strikes a good balance between build quality and weight. Mic does not feel flimsy at all, and there is a good amount of resistance in the boom pole that keeps the mic moving around. Perhaps the biggest complaint in terms of build quality would be the Audio Technica's 3D Wing Support system. Two plastic poles connecting the two ear cups and the rather thin plastic extension from each ear cup for the wings look and feel flimsy. While I don't see them breaking anytime with proper care, they do not look like they can survive much abuse at all. I find myself taking caution when storing and putting away the headset. This is definitely not a headset you want to be tossing around! Ear cushions are HUGE, and they are made of a very plush, soft cushion covered in a non-abrasive fabric material. Ear cups do not trap heat, and do a good job distributing the already light clamp this headset has. They are quite the dust magnet, however. Another major disappointment in terms of build quality is the horrible cable that comes with the ADG1. While they are of decent thickness and have appropriate strain reliefs at the plug, they have a ton of memory. Weeks into use, the cable still twists just like it did out of the box. This creates a constant tension in the cable which is quite annoying. I wish Audio Technica was more consistent with their cable quality. By comparison my m50 has some of the most supple and durable cables I have ever seen in a headphone/headset.
Comfort is great. The 3D Wing support makes this already lightweight headset completely disappear of the top of my head. Ear cushions are soft and supple and do not trap heat. Clamp is low. What more could anyone ask? Unfortunately, the comfort takes a plunge for someone with a smaller head such as myself. The wing system provides little support and the headset sits a little low on my head. Ear cups can be a little large and feel awkward to deal with, especially coming from headphones with smaller ear cups, but it gets better with time. So, other than some issues with fit for users with smaller heads, this is truly a very comfortable headphone. It would not be a stretch to describe them as pillows for your ears.
I have mentioned a few things about the microphone in previous sections, but I would like to go into further detail considering the importance of the microphone in a gaming headset. The sound quality of this mic is a beast. Even undemanding skype/mumble/teamspeak calls with friends produce a significant improvement over my laptop's built in mic, and friends in mumble have commented on how much fuller, clearer, and more natural my voice sounded when using the ADG1's mic. In fact, when plugged into an appropriate source, this mic is capable of professional level use. Just check out Docm77's videos, he has a relatively large channel focusing on mainly let's play videos. He uses the AG1 which has the same mic as the ADG1, and you can hear for yourself how capable the mic on the ADG1 is, and what it can achieve. However, for normal voice chat, this may be too much of an overkill. Unless you have plans to use these for professional purposes (ie. video production etc), you may find yourself paying too much for the mic. Also something to note is that due to the design of the mic, it picks up sound from all directions. This could be a problem if you have a fan blowing directly at you like I have, as the microphone picks up this as well.
Finally, to the guts of the review. As I have previously mentioned, these use the same drivers as the AD700x, hence what is written here will also be applicable to the AD700x. The ADG1's most striking feature is its incredibly spacious soundstage. Couple that with incredible separation and great clarity and you get a sound that is very articulate and clear even when a lot is happening in the music. Instruments are well separated and there is a lot of space for vocals to breathe. It is easy to transition between focusing on an instrument in the music and stepping back to enjoy the music as a whole. Female vocals in particular are a strong suite for this headset. The great clarity and detail of this headset lends itself well to vocals and certain instruments, allowing them to cut through cleanly with no congestion or murkiness whatsoever. The well extended treble gives certain instruments such as the triangle and female vocals a good amount of energy, and they have plenty of space in the sound stage to give off a satisfying shimmer and beautiful decay. String instruments also sound fantastic and the bright signature of this headset really makes them stand out from the rest of the music. They are not overly smooth nor rolled off in the treble region, so those who love treble energy and clarity will find this sound signature very satisfying. Mids are detailed, clear, and are not recessed or veiled in any manner. However, they are not warm nor organic, and are in fact the exact opposite. Due to the lack of bass and massive sound stage there is a thin and airy quality to the mids and treble. This also gives them more texture which can be quite enjoyable.
The bass however is a real letdown. Never have I heard anything quite as bass light as the ADG1, and it is very much a hit or miss situation in the bass. Some genres/songs, such as acoustic music and even edm are sorely lacking in bass. It is barely present, and while it's tight and controlled, it lacks impact and punch, and is poorly extended. Where it performs better is in songs where there are punchy mid-bass elements where they can sound quite impactful and catchy, but even then, they are lacking even when compared to neutral headphones such as the AKG K612. Listening to some progressive/electronic music, the lack of bass leave me craving for more bass, even though I am not a basshead myself. Playing the same tracks on the m50, the abyss in the lower end is filled, and much of the visceral rumble and punch is back. The recessed bass also extends to the mid section, where piano notes feel a little thin and do not sound quite as full as they should. This further contributes to the headset's thin and airy signature.
All in all, this leads to a very laid back sound signature. This may seem weird, seeing that they have a mid/treble focus, and most "laid back" headphones such as the Sony ma900 have a mid-bassy sound, but I feel that the incredibly spacious sound stage gives mid/treble elements space to breathe, and distances them just right such that they do not sound particularly forward and congested, which are elements that contribute to an abrasive and fatiguing listening experience. The light bass makes them very easy going. Contagious beats, catchy segments and head pounding bass are tuned down, such that you won't be rocking your head and jamming to the music. Hence, this makes them a very suitable headset to just lay back and chill to vocals and acoustic/classical instruments in particular. The sound stage and clarity also creates sort of an "out-of-head" experience which is very relaxing. Of course, there is still some mild sibilance on some tracks, especially if you like listening at loud volumes. Vocaloid music in particular and some violin pieces can sound quite ringy and abrasive, but they are not overly disturbing for my own preferences. Your mileage may vary.
Just as the AD700 is praised for its excellence for competitive gaming, the ADG1 is ridiculously good for fps games. The large sound stage and excellent imaging makes pin pointing enemies a piece of cake. There is no boomy bass to distract from the all-important sound of footsteps, making them amazing for fps games like CSGO. Aural wall hacking, if you will. Unfortunately, other than the sound stage and clarity there is not much to make games sound immersive and beautiful. Firing rockets as a soldier in TF2 sounds incredibly artificial, and gun shots can sound a little too diffuse at times. However, if you are looking for a headset that will give you a competitive advantage in games, you cannot get much better than the ADG1.
This may be one of, if not the best gaming headsets ever made. Gaming headsets in general are notorious for sounding terrible and being overpriced, with "gamer designs" that just come off as childish and many gimmicky features that are unnecessary. In fact, I would classify the ADG1 as a very good headset for professionals. Not audio professionals, since you will be over compensating for the bass when mixing/mastering, but for competitive gamers(especially FPS) and also those looking to do some video production(YouTube videos/streaming on Twitch etc). The integrated mic is very capable and can achieve much more than just Skype calls. The accessories are bare bones, but lack nothing essential. Its large size and somewhat fragile design make it unsuitable for portable use anyway, so I did not really mind the lack of a carrying case. It has a somewhat clinical sound, great for detail retrieval in games, and its very excellent sound stage, clarity, detail, and treble extension put them miles ahead in terms of sound quality than other gaming headsets, at least for some genres of music anyway. Comfort is excellent, and I have no issues wearing them for hours at a time for long gaming sessions or just for long hours of easy listening. However, as mentioned above, the bass can be too lacking and this makes them a rather poor choice as an all rounder capable of many genres of music. For solely music enjoyment, I would gladly recommend something like an AKG K612 instead which has a much better balanced sound while remaining quite similar to the ADG1 in terms of its dryness and analytical sound. Additionally, the treble/upper mids can be too sibilant for people sensitive to that region, although it is very acceptable for my own preferences. My biggest gripe with this headset is its rather prohibitive price. At around $250 street price, there are many options that offer much better bang for your buck if you are not making full use of the mic or don't really need the competitive edge this headset provides for professional gaming.
In conclusion, sound signature, features, and price considered, this a headset that satisfies the needs of only a very niche market, but does so very, very well.