ATH AD-2000 review #1 - lmilhan
I am excited to announce that I received the ATH-AD2000s in the mail today!
I first want to thank Asr very much for running these loaner programs. What a very cool and kind gesture that I believe the Head-Fi community will benefit greatly from. Let's make him proud, and ensure that all of his Gear makes it back home safe and sound please.
Ok, first thing's first. Some ATH-AD2000 Eye Candy (sorry Dial-up users):
The ATH AD-2000s hanging out with some new friends!Let's honor Asr's wishes and hold off on posting in this thread until all 7 of the reviews are in.Please keep in mind that I do not proclaim to be the world's greatest headphone reviewer (probably very far from it, actually), but I am gonna' give it my best shot! Please be patient with me, and understand that I am doing my best to put into words what it is that I am hearing. And of corse these are all just my opinions, and I am quite confident they will conflict with someone else's opinions soon enough. Equipment used:
Custom built PC as source.
My audio chain looks like this:
- EMU-0404 internal sound card ->
- Blue Jeans digital coax ->
- Entech Number Cruncher 205.2 ->
- Blue Jeans interconnect ->
- Quintete Switchbox ->
- Blue Jeans interconnect ->
- RSA Tomahawk ->
- ATH AD-2000s
Everything is plugged into a Monster PC1000 Power Conditioner/Surge Suppressor. Volex 17604 power cords used throughout my entire rig.
J-River media center used as the music playback interface, output mode: ASIO.
All of my music files are ripped at 192kbps or higher (up to 320kbps) using Exact Audio Copy and LAME encoding. I know there is a huge controversy among the audio geeks with regard to MP3 music files and bitrates. My personal take on this: I can't hear a big enough of a difference between 192kbps and Lossless to justify the space requirement to rip my entire (behemoth sized) music collection in a Lossless format. My rig sounds wonderful to me as long as I keep my music files at 192kbps or better. So there's that.
Other Equipment notes:
I am kind of bummed out that all I have to drive the AD-2000s currently is a RSA Tomahawk. Now that's not to say that the Tomahawk isn't up to the task - quite the contrary actually. The Tomahawk is doing just fine driving the AD-2000s, thank you very much.
The reason I am bummed out is because based on my very early impressions, I can tell that the AD-2000s would probably benefit most from a tube amp. I have a custom MAD Ear+ Purist HD on order, and I was hoping I would have it in my posession in time to review the AD-2000s. It is going to be very close, but seems unlikely that I will receive the MAD Ear+ before my time with the AD-2000s is up. And sadly, the tube amp I had to hold me over until the MAD Ear+ arrived died a few weeks back. So all I have to go on is solid state amplification with the AD-2000s. Oh well, such is life...Fit and Finish:
Like all of the Audio-Technica products, the fit and finish on the AD-2000s is top notch. They come in a slick black box which is adorned with a very subtle grey pinstriping design. The words "AIR ATH-AD2000, AIR DYNAMIC HEADPHONES" on the front of the box are made of a silverish / prismatic material, that interacts with the light when you move the box around for a cool rainbow effect. The box has a flap (secured with two little velcro dots) that can be opened to reveal the AD-2000s in all their glory. One side of the box also has a clear oval window that allows you to peek inside to see the back of one of the (very) open earcups. The AD-2000s are nestled in velvety feeling, crimson colored holder that is molded to fit the AD-2000s. The black and crimson color scheme pof the packaging looks really sharp.
Pulling the phones out of the box, I made note that they are terminated to an 1/8 inch threaded headphone jack. A 1/4 inch screw-on adaptor is also included. The cord is very long (didn't take a measurement). I seem to recall my ATH-A900s having a very long cord as well. The black, charcoal, gold, silver and gunmetal color scheme of the AD-2000s looks stunning. The back of each earcup is decorated with a golden Audio Technica badge, which is scribed in a prismatic font - the lettering has a rainbow-swirly effect when you move the phones around in the light. The pads are very soft and comfy and made of some sort of fabric-like material. I actually prefer this material over the BeyerDynamic earpad material. As I have come to expect with Audio-Technica circum-aural phones, the earcups are quite large. And boy, are they open - actually I think that the AD-2000s have re-defined what an 'open' headphone desigen is all about. Looking through the screens in on the back of the earcups, you can see all the wiring, driver backs, and driver mounting mechanisms. As a gadet geek, this really appeals to me. Since they are so open, they leak like a sieve. The only phones that I have seen to date that are more open than the AD-2000s are the AKG K1000s.Comfort:
When I placed them on my head for the initial test-drive, I was surprised to discover that they have a bit of a vice-like grip going on. I don't recall such a clamping force when I owned the A900s. I'm not sure if they will loosen up over time (perhaps an AT expert can comment here) - but as they are right now, the clamping force is a bit much for me. Even though they are circum-aural headphones by design, the clamping force is enough to make the inside of the driver housings touch my ears just enough that discomfort sets in after 2 or 3 hours. I also found that my jaw got a bit sore after 2 or 3 hours. I blame all these comfort issues on the clamping force. If I were the owner of these headphones, I would probably do a little bit of an accelerated break-in excercise by stretching the headband mechanism outward. But since they aren't mine, they of corse stay just the way they are. I am pretty certain that the clamping force will relax naturally over time. As such, I would say that these comfort issues aren't a deal breaker by any means.
The pads are very plush and comfy. The self adjusting mechanism is a great invention, and it works a treat. I don't even realize that the '3D wings' are resting on my head.Music genres considered:
- Calssic Rock
- Electric Blues
- Eighties Hair Metal
- Hard Rock
- Heavy Metal
- Motown / Oldies
- Punk /Emo
- Power Metal
- Progressive Rock
For an example of many of the songs I picked as 'reference tracks', Click Here!
That list is not all inclusive, but at least you can get an idea of what types of songs I use for reference tracks when auditioning a new pair of headphones.Listening Impressions:Highs
- are 'just right'. Never really sound harsh or overly bright, even on the worst of recordings. Pleasant, airy and smooth. No complaints here. Of corse the highs are competeing with the pronounced midrange of these phones, but they never get overwhelmed by the mids, the way the bass sometimes tends to.Midrange
- Beautiful. By far the most striking thing about the sound of these phones. Mids are very pronounced and forward. Reminds me a lot of why I love the Grado house sound. On decent to amazing recordings, the mids sound wonderful, on bad or thin recordings, the mids tend to sound shouty and sometimes harsh. Because the mids are so pronounced and forward sounding, it is as if the bass / lower frequencies seem to take a back seat. As A result, they sound a bit thin at times, especially with bombastic bass-heavy music such as Metal, Modern Hard Rock, Punk/Emo, etc.Bass
- As mentioned earlier, it doesn't have quite enough 'oomph' for me, especially when listening to Metal. Don't get me wrong, the bass is there, it goes deep, but it just isn't as thick and present as I'd prefer it to be. Now keep in mind, I am very acclimated to the Grado PS-1s which are bass monsters, and I tend to like a bit of coloring in the bass department. So in defense of the A2000s, just about any phone is going to sound a bit thin after the PS-1s. The best way I can describe the bass reproduction of the A2000s is that it is probably very close to neutral.Soundstage
- I would say that these have a 'medium' width soundstage. For a reference, when considering the 'width size' of soundstage, I consider the K1000s to have a 'large' soundstage and the RS-1s to have a 'small' soundstage. The A2000 soundstage is very obvious, and often times dramatic when listening to high quality recordings where songs have a lot of dynamics. On hot recordings (ie: most modern recordings) of loud and dense music with hardly any dynamic range, the soundstage that these phones are capable of throwing never really gets a chance to shine. If the Grado soundstage 'puts you on stage', then I would say that you are sitting about 5th row, center with the A2000s.Detail
- The A2000s are quite detailed and revealing - I can sometimes hear imperfections and detail in recordings that I don't notice as readily with my Grados. The detailed and revealing nature of these phones remind me a bit of the SA-5000s and the K1000s. This can be both a blessing and a curse. With superb recordings, I really appreciate and enjoy all of the details I can hear in the music, but it can sometimes be almost unbearable to listen to badly recorded music.Other notes and conclusions:
The main beef I had with the AD2000s was when listening to newer (let's say post 2000) Metal of all flavors and some of the Newer Hard Rock recordings. The main problems I had were the lean Bass - the AD2000s just didn't seem capable of giving me that visceral thrill that my Grado phones are capable of. And I really wasn't crazy about how distorted electric guitars sounded. It was almost like there was just too much midrange and not enough low end growl. And it is precisely that low end growl that gives distorted electric guitars the balls that they need. I guess I am just spoiled by the Grado house sound, as I have yet to hear a pair of headphones reproduce an electric distorted guitar the way a pair of Grados can - Especially the RS-1s and PS-1s.
Also as mentioned earlier, I had a bit of a comfort issue - the problem was persistent for the entire 10 days I used the
AD2000s. My ears actually got very, very sore. It does seem kind of strange that a pair of circum-aural phones are designed such that the inside driver housings are able to touch the ears. I am assuming that the clamping pressure will loosen up over time with normal use to where they will be quite comfy. Or perhaps it is possible to stretch the headband out a bit to make them more comfy. I suppose the AD2000 fans will be able to answer these questions.
Considering the types of music I listen to most, I don't really see a spot in my headphone lineup for the AD2000s. But as a Grado fan (favorites being PS-1, RS-1 and MS-2i), and a K1000 fan, I would take the AD2000s any day over the other 'Mid-Fi' phones I have owned, such as:
- BeyerDynamic DT990
- BeyerDynamic DT880
- AKG K701
- Sennheiser HD5xx
- Sennheiser HD6xx
- Sony SA-5000
- AKG K340
- Sony CD3000
Who do I think would appreciate these phones?
People who like a detailed, airy and slightly forward sounding presentation with gobs of sweet midrange, a 'medium width' soundstage and uncolored bass that is pretty close to neutral.
Who probably wouldn't appreciate these phones?
Bassheads, Metalheads and Rockers who appreciate some 'oomph' in the lower frequencies.
People who prefer a sucked-out midrange, ala DT770s.
People who prefer a bit of a laid back presentation, or 'veil', ala Sennheiser HD650s.
The Genres of music the AD2000s were absolutely brilliant with were:
- Motown / Oldies
- Classic Rock
- Big Band
- High Quality recordings in general
The Genres of music the AD2000s weren't all that hot with were:
- Heavy Metal
- Power Metal
- Hard Rock
- Poor quality, and/or thin sounding recordings in general
I honestly feel like I only got half of the picture in the time I got to audition the A2000s, because I only had a solid state amp available to drive them. I have this gut feeling that the A2000s would benefit most from tube amplification. A nice tube amp that handles low impedence headphones well, with bass heavy tubes rolled in would be just the ticket to thicken them up a bit in the bottom end, while adding a little bit of warmth to the midrange, thereby taking a tiny bit of the edge off for those times where they can get a bit shouty with bad or thin sounding recordings.
As a Grado fan, I can honestly say that I very much appreciate the sound signature of these phones, especially in the midrange area. They ended up being a bit more aggressive than I imagined they would be - but not to the point of being fatiguing. If it weren't for the fact that I primarily listen to Metal, and prefer a thicker bottom end in Bass presentation, the AD2000s would certainly be a contender - assuming the comfort issues would go away over time with normal use.
Thus ends my 10 day audition of the ATH AD-2000s. Once again I want to thank Asr for running such cool and generous loaner programs. What a great asset to the Head-Fi community.
Up next, "003" gets to play with the ATH AD-2000s. I am looking forward to his impressions.