Pros: Excellent bass response, lush mids and tamed highs; remarkable build quality; made in Japan
Cons: Uncomfortable after an hour of use; funky headband; availability
While looking into a new closed portable, I came across a discovery thread created by Dsnuts. Having owned several other AT portables in the past -my first foray into decent headphones being their ATH-FC7-, and being frustrated that I never got a pair of ATH-ES7, the ES700 were really tickling my wallet. After a couple of days of following the thread, the opinions from other users started pouring in, praising the headphones for their improved sound over the ES7, their interesting design choices and apparent deviation from that classic AT v-shape sound; it was settled, my next portable would be the ES700.
I got them through cdjapan.co.jp for $160 shipped to my doorstep in Mexico City. It took them around 3 days to stock it, and another 3 for them to get to my home. I'm overall very pleased with their service and will definitely be getting my AD900X from them in the near future.
Desktop with Realtek ALC892 Codec
Desktop with Numark Omnicontrol soundcard
iPod touch 1G
* all listening was done with and without a Fiio E5 amp
- First impressions
Right out of the box, I was impressed with the soundstage in these cans; it's remarkably spacious for their size and the fact that they're closed-back.
The mids are obviously forward, but they sound really mellow and engaging.
Highs are somewhat tamed, making it a "polite" headphone; I did not detect any noteworthy sibilance, something that is rare for an AT headphone in this pricerange, at least in my experience.
- Music selection
I have quite an eclectic taste in music, so there will be a bit of information for everybody.
- In-depth dive into their sound
Ruben Blades - Estampa
Instrument separation is just great with the ES700; bass is punchy but controlled, it goes reaaaaally deep and it's there only when required.
Beardyman - OH!
The bass here really shines. I started bobbing my head immediately. These headphones are VERY engaging and fun. All the detail is there, and nothing is muddied by the lows at all.
Passion Pit - The Reeling
Wow, the mids and lows just continue to impress. After Beardyman's song and this, I can see that the ES700 are quite sensitive to mixing and compression in songs. When presented with the right arrangement, these headphones bring out the POP in pop music.
Therion - The Siren of the Woods
While the instrument separation is really nice, soundstage feels a bit constricted and imaging suffers as well. They feel somewhat sluggish when it comes to handling all the high notes. The sound is enjoyable, but I don't see myself running to get these headphones when feeling in a "big arrangement" mood.
Ch'aska - Pururauca
The ES700 work very well with metal too. Their polite highs make them ideal for this genre, since it's generally easy for songs to become oversaturated with notes and speed, the ES700 keep everything tidy and fun.
Cannonball Adderley - Clouds
The lush mids from the ES700 bring out the best from the trumpets and piano. Again, instrument separation becomes really apparent and while the soundstage is still constricted, there is an undeniable willingness to please the ears. Jazzy tunes are more than playable in the ES700.
Casa del Mirto - The Haste
The punchyness and depth of the bass really brings this song to life. Again, the ES700 is a very bass-capable headphone, but it's so controlled that it only comes forward when called for.
City and Colour - The Grand Optimist
This just gave me chills! The mids are sooooo sweet and coherent. Vocals just come alive and you can feel the inflections from the singer. Folk fans, look no further for a portable closed headphone.
Wildbelle - It's Too Late (Employee of the Year Remix)
Hello sub-bass! Lush mids and deep, controlled bass is all this song needs to shine. That great desire to just get up and dance is back!
I really think Audio-Technica is onto something with their ES700. The emphasis on the mids, controlled bass and tamed highs make it a really versatile closed-back headphone; if you find yourself listening to really varied music, it is a really great option. Personally, I'll be grabbing these instead of my DT 1350, simply because of how fun they are! They keep the detail and separation, but add that POP in your face that makes you want to dance!
I wouldn't recommend it for classical/orchestral music; while it's listenable, the ES700 feels "lazy" for all the nuances and imaging necessary.
Overall, the headphones feel solid, well designed, are very pretty and look fantastic on your head. Their versatility makes it a great value for everyone, regardless of music taste; just be aware that they can be uncomfortable and may require some modding for them to be wearable for extended periods of time. I ordered a pair of WS55 pads, as Dsnuts recommended, but in the meantime I stuffed the pads with cotton to help my ears a bit. At 160 dollars shipped, I believe this headphone will become a really big player in the mid-range portable segment, continuing the legacy of the ES7 with pride.