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Audio-Technica ATH-A900 Review

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I finally received these (along with some Eggo D66's ;-) from audiocubes.com a few days ago. At first I wasn't going to prepare a review, simply because I'm not nearly as much of an enthusiast as some of the other members here, and therefore can't provide much of a comparison of these phones to any other high end set. However, I believe I have a pretty good ear and I think my findings may be a useful suplement to some of the reviews posted that describe these cans as overly bright.

These are the first cans I've ever owned where I've _truely_ seen the benefit of allowing them a "burn-in" period. I had always thought of burn in as more of an ear transition than anything to do with the hardware... your ear getting more and more use to the way the headphone reproduced sound, rather than the headphones actually changing the way they sound. This time, however, I let the headphones sit playing for spells while I wasn't listening to them, checking in on them from time to time. I'm going to attempt to make a side by side frequency response comparison of pre and post burn-in that may account for this perceived brightness problem.

Upon the first listen... : Headphones arrived Tuesday afternoon. I, of course, immediately plugged them in and starting listening to some of my favorite CD's. The initial sound was concerning. I would almost consider it poor. I experimented with several types of music for about 45 minutes, and came to this conclusion (these are obviously approximations to my ear):

sub 75Hz - Weak
75-500Hz - Flat
500Hz-1000Hz - Weak
1000Hz-6000Hz - Very Strong
6000Hz-10000Hz - Flat
10000Hz+ - Flat

In addition to these approximations, I'd like to add that the sound in the vocal range (1k-6kHz) was distorted, and boxed in feeling. Voices were slightly nasaly, like the performer was suffering from a cold, and was extremly sharp and biting. Even at normal listening volumes, some songs were very unpleasent.

What to Do? : The produced sound was troubling. I had just spent $200 on headphones that I couldn't return, and after an initial listening, was quite sure I preferred the sound of my Senn HD495's over them. So I came to the head-fi boards to read more about this "burn-in" hub-bub. The concensous was to use a variety of music at slightly higher than normal volumes, so I decided to give it a try. I let them sit for a while with a CD I had created with a good mix of alternative, industrial, and electronic music. I came back about 3 hours later and stuck the headphones back on. I was surprised, but there was already a noticable difference. Bass felt more responsive and the highs were ringing more true. The mid-range was significantly clearer, but was still overly loud, but not quite as biting. This was really encouraging, so I plugged them back in and let them sit over night.

The next morning I woke up and was able to listen to them again for about 30 minutes before I had to head off to work. Once again there was an improvement. At this point the highs felt solid, the bass was there but needed _just_ a bit more umph, but the mid-range was still a bit too much. I plugged them back in, and went to work.

Finally! : I came home that evening, and wow. I put them on and was extremely impressed. The mids had finally calmed down, and the bass was definitely there. At this point, listening to the same mix as I did initially, I jotted this down:

sub 75Hz - Flat
75-500Hz - Slightly Strong
500Hz-1000Hz - Flat
1000Hz-6000Hz - Slightly Strong
6000Hz-10000Hz - Flat
10000Hz+ - Flat

The response had improved, but I wish there was some way with text to show how the overall *sound* improved. I have listed that the 1k-6k band is slightly strong, but really I would say that there is probably a small peak in the 4k-6k range, but it's truely a small boost. The rest is relatively flat. I plugged them in for an additional night just for wishful thinking, but aside from a slight warming of the mid-bass, I believe the sound is for the most part unchanged over what it was yesterday.

In Conclusion : I'm sure my results will vary with others due to my source, my hearing, my music preference, etc. However, I would enjoy hearing from the people that labelled these cans as bright after a while of heavy usage. Mine were ran about 35 hours before I considered them to be at their peak. I'm still sort of shocked at how the sound changed over hours of usage. In any case, now that these things are good and massaged, I can't say anything bad about them, and would highly recommend them. I'll even give them 5 headphone smilies.

EDIT: Adding the following additional information. I suppose while I have you're attention, I can go ahead and make this a fully qualified review...

Build and Comfort : These are quite comfortable for closed headphones. Even after extended usage, my ears only feel warm, but never sweaty. There's no excessive pinching or pressure at any point. My only real complaint is that they're HUGE, and a bit heavy. By huge, I mean I can almost see them with my peripheral vision. They weigh down some, and require adjustment every once in a while until you finally get use to how they position themselves.

The cable is not removable like Sennheiser cables, but appears to be of good quality. It has a cloth covering that offers some protection and seems to do a good job of not allowing the cable to tangle up as much.

The plug is a mini plug that comes with a screw on standard plug adapter.

The blue aluminum on the cans is slick, and the whole package looks very refined.

Sound Quality and Clarity : This can more or less be pulled from above, but in a nutshell, I think they sound fantastic. I listen to all flavors of rock and find them well suited for the task. I'm also a big fan of a lot of independent bands, who can sometimes turn out some rather lo-fi recordings. Instead of exploiting this, these headphones tend to make it almost charming, if that's the right word. Sure, it's still a poor recording, but these headphones are somewhat forgiving. At the same time, when the recording is very detailed and refined, they answer accordingly.

The soundstage is Gigantic. It's amazing how wide these things sound. Sometimes it's almost too wide. I was listening to a song by Dave Matthews Band this morning in which for some reason the snare drum was recorded almost exclusively to the right channel while the rest of the drum track was primarily on the left. Guitars, vocals, electronic effects, etc that are split across channels are handled well, but in this instance with the drums, it sounded ackward. I suppose it's more the fault of the recording than the headphones themselves, but let it be said that they do exaggerate improper stereo seperation.

In the end, if you're looking for some $200 headphones, I don't have any reservations about recommending these. They really sound great, and are relatively easy to power so you can drop them in on almost any setup. I have them running off the output of a component receiver, and I'm tickled to death. However, I can't stress enough the importance I found with allowing these a good burn in period before you pass judgement on them. Do so, and I can't imagine you being unhappy about your purchase.
post #2 of 22
nice review.
When I upgrade, I'll look into these.

This is just sad. Its not even "if I upgrade" anymore, its "when I upgrade".
post #3 of 22
excellent review xenophase!!

your burn in experience is rather dramatic, im glad their performance has been getting better and better.

im also glad to know that they mesh well with rock. how are they with vocals in particular? also, how are they faring with the electronic side?

this is one of just a few reviews on the A900, so thanks again for posting!!
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by nanahachi

your burn in experience is rather dramatic, im glad their performance has been getting better and better.
Isn't it, though? Like I said, I'm interested to see what other people's experience with the phones are overtime. I'm still sort of stunned at the difference.

im also glad to know that they mesh well with rock. how are they with vocals in particular? also, how are they faring with the electronic side?
Vocals come through very well. Even after the burn in from hell, they're still ever so slightly overzealous in the vocal range, so this stacked with their crispness really brings out voice. Maybe a better way to put it is, compared to other (albeit, lower-end) headphones I've owned, I'm already starting to pick up a lot of lyrics I haven't been able to before, and have been too lazy to look up.

Electronic music sounds awesome. The great bass response and soundstage on these things just eats it up. I don't listen to a lot of Techno, but I've ran them through at least a partial listen of Moby: 18, NIN: Pretty Hate Machine, and Clinic: Internal Wrangler, and have been very impressed.

I need to go see how they fare with Classical, Jazz and acoustic Rock, but I've just been having to much fun auditioning my normal tunes

this is one of just a few reviews on the A900, so thanks again for posting!!
I loved writting every minute of it
post #5 of 22
Excellent review, looks like you spoke to soon though. I've had these in my for a next purchase and they will probabaly be my next phones. Happy Birthday to me next month with some A900's. Who knows after that.
post #6 of 22

Excellent review, this follows my take on these phones as well. I'm up to about 40 hours of burn in and they just get better & better. Enjoy them!
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by kpfeifle

Excellent review, this follows my take on these phones as well. I'm up to about 40 hours of burn in and they just get better & better. Enjoy them!
Cool, at least I'm not going insane

I'm definitely enjoying them, and I hope you do the same!
post #8 of 22
How well do the A900's isolate? Has anyone compared them with the isolation of similarly priced closed phones? (DT-770, DT-250, HFI-650, etc.)
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Rizumu
How well do the A900's isolate? Has anyone compared them with the isolation of similarly priced closed phones? (DT-770, DT-250, HFI-650, etc.)
Isolation is so-so. When they're just sitting on my ears without anything playing, or if it's at a quiet point in the music I can hear a good bit of what's going on around me. Steady music at a normal volume is enough to drain out all "normal" sounds outside the headphone. I can't hear a word people say to me when I have them on and something is playing, but I can still hear doors shut, or a phone that's sitting right next to me ring.
post #10 of 22
How about sound leakage? My 580s leak way too much at high volume.
post #11 of 22
Leakage is not bad at all. Sealing is not too bad either.
On a different note I fail to understand why people are surprised that open phones like the Grados and HD580/600 leak like sieves.
On the whole I would say these are slightly better than the DT250-80 in terms of sealing and leakage, but nowhere near as good as the HD280. The nearest equivalent might be the V6.
post #12 of 22
Actually, I was surprised by how much the HD-580's leak as well. I guess my Portapro's do isolate more than I previously thought they did. Open really means open I suppose...

So I'm still interested in a good isolating pair of headphones. I've been waiting for my HFI-650's to arrive for several weeks now and am getting ancy with all the talk of switching pads and how uncomfortable they are...which leads me to thinking about the ATH-A900, DT-770, or DT-250 as backup options. They all look very comfy, though the A900's are probably what I'm looking most for in terms of sound and I was worried about how much they isolate.

Thanks for the info, I guess I'll just have to wait it out and see if the HFI-650's fit my head/ears well.
post #13 of 22
I expected them to leak...but not to sound like minispeakers while they're being worn!
post #14 of 22
Exactly! I took them off and it was, whoa, it's the same with them on as with them off

Well not really, but other people can hear it almost as well as you can. So...my Meier Audio order better hurry up and get here! Almost 3 weeks now!
post #15 of 22
Can you comment more on the build quality?

I got my AT ATH-A500s a couple of days ago. And while I wouldn't say that the build is exceptionally bad they are the cheapest looking pair of cans I've owned or even auditioned. The seam between the pads and the shell are uneven and look like they are "heat-bonded". And while they feel solid enough they just don't seem like they could take a beating - or even a mild frowning . My Sony V6's are solid and rather heavy in comparison - I think I might even be able to assault someone with them .

The sound quality of the A500s is good though and they are certainly a better match IMHO for the Sony D25s than the V6's.
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