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Audio Technica ATH-EC700

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I searched the forums and didn't find a thread on these headphones so I thought I'd start one. I just picked up a pair yesterday at Yodobashi/Labi in Oimachi/Tokyo. For headphone fans, there are many stores here which have large walls of headphones where one can try them(even ear buds and IEMs). The BIC Camera in Kawasaki even has the ATH-W1000 and ATH-W5000 ($1000 headphone) which anyone can put on and listen too for as long as they want.

But this review thread is on the ATH-EC700.

I decided on the aluminum ATH-EC700gm rather than the titanium EC700ti. I have a reasonable collection of headphones (from the AKG K1000 and Stax Lamdba down to the Koss Porta Pro). I was looking for a smaller ,comfortable, stylish headphone which I could wear on the commuter trains and at work. I needed a headphone which did not leak sound (train/work) but did not want too much isolation (needing to hear station names and when people at work need to bother me). I also wanted to try Audio Technica since I never owned a pair before. I was really looking for some cheap $30ish ATH-FC7 But they didn't have them. I tried all the basic ATH headphones I could and nothing really grabbed me. Lots of very nice headphones and I was really impressed by them. I can really see now why people like Audio-technica. If I didn't have such a large collection (HD580, SR60, Koss Porta-pro, KSC75, HD280pro, ER6i) I would definitely be interested in some of Audio Technica models to fit some of those slots. I will definitely listen to Audio-Technica again next time I get an itch for a new pair of headphones.

But this comes to the ATH-EC700. They caught my eye. And I listened and I was blown away. I know that first impressions like this are usually not the greatest, but I listened for a good 15 minutes very carefully. These are not cheap headphones and more than I wanted to spend, but they ticked all the boxes perfectly for me. I wear eye glasses so the over the ear style usually doesn't work for me. But these have such a thin arm band, it is there more to stabilize than to apply pressure (unlike the Koss KSC75 which is great sounding but really hard to wear with glasses). Last night I listened to them for around 3hrs without fatigue with eyeglasses on. That is very good.

The most important thing about these headphones is that I must wear them with the foam socks. These are very bright headphones without the socks (like a grado without socks). With the socks the sound becomes nearly perfectly balanced. They are very tight and detailed but still kind of warm and remind me of the Stax balance. The bass is full but tight and detailed. Vocals are very expressive. I am listening to the latest Ayumi Hamasaki album (Guilty) while writting this and it is really good sounding, I can really hear her vocal expressiveness. They are definitely more of an "in-the-head" sound than other headphones I have. These are better then the Koss Porta-pro or Grado SR60 (these are both really fun and comfortable headphones though) at least in side-by-side comparison. I almost never listen to the SR60 since getting the Koss Porta-pro and I will likely listen to the EC700 more now than the Prota-pro. But the Stax and K1000 always get the most ear time. My HD580 always seems to fall in the middle not as good sounding as the K1000/Stax but not as practical as the more portable headphones.

I think the aspect of these headphone which really strikes me (with the socks on - important) is the slightly warmer, fuller sound, but this does not come at the expense of detail. This is usually the aspect which really separates high-end headphones for me, and something really rare in portables. It is really easy to make a headphone which is bright and detailed or powerful but thick and lacking detail. It seems harder to hit the balance point. When listening to the EC700s I will sometimes be caught and pulled into the music, close my eyes and be absorbed. This rarely happens with me with anything other than my Stax or K1000s. Please don't think that I am saying that the EC700 is a replacement for the K1000 or Stax (these are 12600yen/$100 headphones). What I am saying is that for a headphone in the <$200 range the EC700 capture more of the essence of the Stax or K1000 experience than any other headphone I have had. A very happy purchase. Makes me want to start using my higher quality minidisc source again on the trains

I will say that I can see how these headphones might not appeal to everyone and I will not rave about how these are the best and how everyone must buy some. But I do want to say that that I went into Yodobashi and tried all the "recommended" headphones, how I was not particularly impressed, and then I tried this basically unknown headphone and found what I was looking for. I guess I am lucky that Japan still understands that paying slightly more in a store where people can try before they buy is important.

[edit: If you don't read the whole thread, I am truely impressed with these headphones. I rate them slightly better than my HD580 with GilmoreLite amp. Like a mini stax without need for any extra amps. Truely a highend headphone.
also check out this thread]
post #2 of 28
Thread Starter 
Ok these keep getting better and better.
I am listening to Armin Van Burren at work on my iMac and the bass is truely amazing. Absolutely amazing. Very clear and clean midrange, vocals, with lots of expression. Yet a wonderful driving bass. Easily beats the HD280pro and Koss PortaPro. They are even starting to get a little bit of depth to the sound.

I wonder if these little headphones need a some break in and if they actually need a little more power. They definitely need the foam socks to balance out the sound (otherwise they are bright), but with the pads, wow!

Jessica
post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 
I wanted to write a follow up review on these headphones now that I've had them over one month.

I know people may doubt me when I say this, but these headphones are better than the Sennheiser HD580. I think these little ATH-EC700 need break in. After a month of nearly daily playing the bass has become amazing and the soundstage has opened up a lot. The sound is no longer "inside the head" it wraps around the head just like really high quality headphones like the Stax Lambda or HD580. These ATH-EC700 have also developed a bit more 'depth' in soundstage too. In comparison to the Sennheiser HD580 these are more open sounding. Vocals and piano sound more natural on the EC700 than the HD580 too, and high frequency instruments/sounds are clear without any shrillness that can happen with cheaper earbuds.

I would never have though that an 'ear bud' could ever sound this good. Granted this is a $150 earbud, but this is better than a lot of IEMs that I've listened to. But I am amazed that these little ear buds have now moved up to the #3 position in my headphone arsenal (#1 Stax Lambda, #2 AKG K1000, #3 ATH-EC700, #4 HD580, #5 Koss portapro, #6 HD280, #7 KSC75, #8 Grado SR60)

The Audio Technica ATH-CM700 appears to have the same driver but without the over-the-ear piece.

I am listening to the Matrix soundtrack right now as I write this which has a lot of bass heavy tracks with driving beats and the ATH-EC700 are making this sound absolutely brilliant. Absolutely wonderful!!! I love these headphones. Too bad the IEMs have become so prominent that people don't bother listening to the earbuds anymore. I don't like IEMs and I am so glad that at least one company has taken the effort to perfect an earbud design.
post #4 of 28
Great review Jessica!
Follow-up is really helpful as well - If I wasnting getting livewires, these would have gotten my attention.
post #5 of 28
Thanks for the review.

ATH-EC700 is definitely one of the best clip-on/earbud (if not The best) on the market. It is a shame that AT 'phones cost a lot more oversea than they are in Japan or else I would have pick one up myself
post #6 of 28
How does the overall sound quality compare to the Grados or the Senn HD280? How about the bass?

I have a pair of the EC7 and am sorely disappointed in them. Lack of bass or if with the foam pads, veiled highs. Did you get a chance to try these out?
post #7 of 28
I also don't like IEMs and prefers earbuds. I thought about giving PK1/2 a listen, but maybe I should try these ATs out as well.
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ev01ut10ndt View Post
How does the overall sound quality compare to the Grados or the Senn HD280? How about the bass?

I have a pair of the EC7 and am sorely disappointed in them. Lack of bass or if with the foam pads, veiled highs. Did you get a chance to try these out?
No they didn't have the EC7 at Yodobashi. I think the EC7 is an older model. Looking at the Audio Technica website it looks to be a 2004 model. I have not heard them yet.

Luckily I have the HD280 at work so I am listening to them right now. Again you all might think I am crazy, but the bass on the EC700 is much more powerful and deeper than the HD280, but still detailed. In fact listening to the HD280 right now they sound really thin, almost anemic. The HD280 don't seem to have as much 'drive'. I thought that maybe the HD280 might have a bit more high end detail, but when I go back and forth (using Rob Zombie Dragula from the Matrix Soundtrack), there is not more detail. The HD280 is a really comfortable headphone with great isolation. But it really is a top heavy headphone, so I tend to play them louder just to get some bass. I use my iMac to drive them (64ohm version).

I just can not listen to the Grado SR60s anymore. They just sound so thick and bass heavy to me. Maybe my pair has gotten worse over the years, but I don't think so. They remind me of 'one note bass' speakers. boom boom boom with no detail. And they seem so rolled off on the high end too. No detail, no expression, just boom boom bass.

The Koss Porta pros (also at work so I am listening to them now) are worlds better than either the HD280 or the Grado SR60. The Porta pros have deep powerful bass with good detail. Overall they are balanced a bit more mid-bass heavy than the EC700s. The PortaPro is also not close to the detail of the EC700s. The PortaPro is a great headphone for rock or dance music. But they can lean a little to the 'thick side' of things, but not anywhere as bad as the SR60s. These were my favorite portable/work headphones until I got the EC700. But now in comparison (having lived with the EC700 for over a month now) the Portapro sounds warm and a bit bass heavy. The HD280 and PortaPro are completely opposite from each other.

The EC700 falls right in the middle between the HD280 and PortaPro. They just strike me as 'balanced' and 'refined' like the Stax (but not to the same level as the Stax). The EC700 bass is strong and detailed without falling into being thick or 'bass heavy'. The EC700 midrange (like female vocals or piano) just sounds spot on. Piano on the Portapro sounds like a grand piano being played behind a curtain (a real piano, but warm and lacking detail), while piano on the HD280 sounds like a toy piano (absolutely no body or resonance to it, almost doesn't sound like a real piano at all). Piano on the EC700 sounds like a real baby grand that might have been a little too closely miced. But wow piano sounds really good on the EC700. It really sounds like a real piano if I close my eyes. Tone is right, good weight on the bottom, some resonance, nice air around the notes and even some room/studio echo can be heard.

As you might pick up from these comments, tonal accuracy and soundstage are really important to me. Probably the main reason why I love the Stax so much.

Actually thank you for asking me. I hadn't actually done a real side by side of the EC700 to PortaPro to HD280 in a very long time. These three headphones could not be more different. They really represent three completely different characters. The EC700 sounds most like the Stax to me. Balanced.

But like I said in my first post, others might not hear what I am hearing. The EC700 headphones are refined (like the stax). They don't really have any character to them so people might think they are boring. But if one has experience with a range of headphones or likes Stax, then they will likely hear the brilliance of the EC700 balance. My guess is that the EC700 is balanced kind of like the AKG K501 (working from memory). I think the EC700 were voiced by people who know classical music and know how to get tonal accuracy correct.
post #9 of 28
funny, i just started looking at these. they also have a titanium version as well that is about the price you mentioned. the aluminium ones you have are now down to 9000yen - i wish i knew the differences between the two.
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shigzeo View Post
funny, i just started looking at these. they also have a titanium version as well that is about the price you mentioned. the aluminium ones you have are now down to 9000yen - i wish i knew the differences between the two.
It is just cosmetic. The EC700Ti uses titanium for the arm band. Same driver, same sound. The titanium version does look really nice though. I have the GM (gun metal) version which also looks nice.

Wow where did you find them for 9000円? For that price I might pick up a separate pair.

They are still 12600円 at yodobashi
audio-technica ATH-EC700GM
post #11 of 28
ec current page has them for 9450 with free shipping - i have bought some equipment from them before - great. i don't know the other stores that have them for 8500 and so, but anyway, hope this helps. i might check them out at bicc just to hear them - if i likes, i will get ec-current to send me a pair. great is that you don't have to pay first, you pay after, when it arrives. 現金交換

hey again jessica - just wanted to know that i have been looking for years to find a good non canal based phone that does not look like the yuin! i checked out your profile and liked that you started from the beginning looking for was it l3000 or was it the stax?! amazing. what again are you doing in tokyo? study? research was it? you must be quite good at japanese!
post #12 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ev01ut10ndt View Post
I have a pair of the EC7 and am sorely disappointed in them. Lack of bass or if with the foam pads, veiled highs. Did you get a chance to try these out?
I was reading more on the Audio Technica website and it looks like the EC7 is really similar to the EC700.

For what it is worth I noticed that my EC700 were a little veiled at first. But they kept getting better and better with more and more hours of break in. I have probably played them for some where between 150-200hrs now (about 4-6hrs a day). I think these phones need break in. Mine have really changed a lot since I first got them. The ones in the store sounded so much better than mine when I got them home, which gave me the feeling that I should give them time. If you still have the EC7s and you have not listened to them a lot, they still might need break in. If you can set them up on shuffle (mix of music) for 24hrs a day for a week or two that should be enough (if you can not stand listening to them during the burn in phase). Just a thought.
post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shigzeo View Post
hey again jessica - just wanted to know that i have been looking for years to find a good non canal based phone that does not look like the yuin! i checked out your profile and liked that you started from the beginning looking for was it l3000 or was it the stax?! amazing. what again are you doing in tokyo? study? research was it? you must be quite good at japanese!
I bought my stax Lambdas back in 1985 when I started University (yes I am old . Before that I had some old 70's Koss headphones and some Sony MDRs (which I still have I think). I bought the Stax from a shop in Madison, Wisconsin that had a wall of headphones so I was able to compare. I fell in love with the Stax Lamdba and decided to buy them ($350 back in 1985). The same pair has been with me ever since. Now that I am in Japan I think I might pick up a pair of SR-303 just because I can (and they are pretty reasonable here).

Basically I love headphone listening. The Stax really spoiled me . But every couple years I get curious about listening to something else. Also to hear what everyone is raving about. But I always come back to my Stax. Maybe someday I will buy some OmegaII (SR-007). If I ever get tired of the K1000s I might swap them for some SR-007s.

I am a research scientist at RIKEN in Yokohama but living in west Tokyo. My Japanese is not very good actually. Work is all done in English. But I have picked up enough to survive. I keep studying and trying though. Nice to meet you.
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jessica_fae View Post
I was reading more on the Audio Technica website and it looks like the EC7 is really similar to the EC700.

For what it is worth I noticed that my EC700 were a little veiled at first. But they kept getting better and better with more and more hours of break in. I have probably played them for some where between 150-200hrs now (about 4-6hrs a day). I think these phones need break in. Mine have really changed a lot since I first got them. The ones in the store sounded so much better than mine when I got them home, which gave me the feeling that I should give them time. If you still have the EC7s and you have not listened to them a lot, they still might need break in. If you can set them up on shuffle (mix of music) for 24hrs a day for a week or two that should be enough (if you can not stand listening to them during the burn in phase). Just a thought.
Thanks for your input on this. I tried burning them in significantly before making any decisions on whether to get rid of them or to keep them. I've noticed that with the foam pads, the bass is adequate (but no more than say the iPod earbuds), but feels somewhat veiled compared to my Grados. Without the foam pads, the highs are nice and detailed, but the bass is GONE. I cannot hear the kickdrums or the bass guitars. I would max out the bass eq in order to get a decent amount of bass. Only then, I really enjoy these headphones. I'll take a closer listen to them this weekend (I have an exam tomorrow that I should be studying for).
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by shigzeo View Post
ec current page has them for 9450 with free shipping - i have bought some equipment from them before - great. i don't know the other stores that have them for 8500 and so, but anyway, hope this helps. i might check them out at bicc just to hear them - if i likes, i will get ec-current to send me a pair. great is that you don't have to pay first, you pay after, when it arrives. 現金交換
Sorry about thread jacking a little bit, but how does 現金交換 work in Japan? I have relatives in Japan, but not sure if there will be someone home during the day to sign/pay for the item.
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