or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › [Review] Audio-Technica ATH-A9X
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

[Review] Audio-Technica ATH-A9X

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I am the fortunate owner of a fairly rare pair of headphone: The Audio Technica ATH-A9X. It is the precursor to the highly popular and successful ATH-A900, and I feel they deserve a proper review (since so few people own them outside of Asia).

 

The Audio-Technica ATH-A9X was part of the second-generation "Art Monitor" headphone series that surfaced during the late-90's (it was produced between 1997-2002), alongside its siblings the A5X and A7X. It was preceded by the first-generation ATH-A9 (introduced in 1994) and succeded by the ATH-A900.  I do not own a ATH-A900, though I do own the the newest incarnation in the series - the ATH-A900X, and I'll be happy to do a brief comparison to show you how this popular headphone series has progressed and how it has stayed the same.  

 

Build Quality & Comfort

The old ATH-AXX series was never sold in the United States. I purchased it during a trip to Taiwan in 2001. It is a very unique-looking and eye-catching headphone, and one would probably love it or hate it. That said, it is undeniable that the material and construction quality are very high - in fact I find it superior to both the ATH-A900 and the A900X in this regard.

As you can see, the cups are made of ultra-polished aluminum alloy. They look very slick, though fingerprints stick very easily.

 

The earpads on the ATH-A9X were very high-quality protein leather. It was soft, supple, and non-sticky (it breathes better than the kind used on the AKG K550), which made me really sad when I saw the kind of cheap pleather Audio-Technica chose to ship the ATH-A900 with. The A900X uses better-quality pleather than the A900, but still a farcry from what the A9X had. 

 

Like many of the enthusiast-grade Audio-Technica headphones, the ATH-A9X came with the famous "wing-support" system, and sits very comfortably on the head. This is in spite of their weight - at 350g, the A9X is pretty hefty for a dynamic headphone. However, the A9X has superior clamping force and the wings exert better downward pressure than the A900 and A900X (whose wings feel flimsy in comparison). They do not slip down and press against the top of the ears as its successors do. 

 

Several other traits of the A9X that are worth noting:

  • The plastic parts on the A9X are not monotone, but an elegant "metallic" brown (it has shiny metallic flakes in the material). It's subtle, but very elegant and tastefully implemented.
  • The cord is wrapped in tangle-free fabric, which is a silky brown color that complements the plastic frame. It looks a lot better than the simple black cords on the A900 and A900X, in my opinion.
  • The padding on the "wings" are also encased in high-quality pleather, as opposed to the simple fabric covers on the A900 and A900X.  This is a small but very nice stylistic touch in my opinion, as the wings complement the earpads very well when the headphones are not in use, and the whole thing just looks more elegant in comparison to its younger cousins.

 

Sound Quality

The A9X has what - to my understanding - is called the "old school" Audio Technica sound. Intoxicatingly thick and warm in the mids, with rolled-off treble and bass. Here are its technical specifications, as provided by Audio Technica's Japanese website.

 

Technical Specification:

  • Mirror-polished, high-strength aluminum alloy housing.
  • Special coating completely absorbs unwanted vibrations and provides superior isolation.
  • Employs same φ53mm high-quality drivers from flagship model A10ANV.
  • Frequency Response: 5 - 30,000Hz
  • Sensitivity: 103dB/mW
  • Maximum Output: 2,000mW
  • P.A.T. anti-resonance mechanism.
  • High-quality cloth-wrapped PCOCC signal cord.
  • Specially-formulated pleather earpads.

 

*According to the specification sheet, the aluminum housing, the A10ANV-class drivers, the PCOCC signal cord, and the "special" pleather earpads are all unique to the A9X (not shared by the A7X and A5X).

 

Treble: The treble presentation on the ATH-A9X is rolled off and laid-back. The younger A900X is noticeably sparklier and more resolving, but depending on your preferences they can be more fatiguing. The A9X is very good for relaxed listening.

 

Mid-Range: The mid-range is A9X's strong suite (if you like the AT house sound). It is warm, thick, and forward. Vocals sound very sweet and full-bodied, and instruments (particularly wind and string) are intimate and inviting. I find the A9X to be excellent for smaller, more intimate pieces (small or solo performances). It lacks the resolution and expansive sound stage of its younger cousin to properly render complex orchestral pieces. The A900X, in comparison, sounds significantly cleaner and more neutral.

 

Bass: The A9X has an adequate amount of upper and mid bass to give proper presence to most instruments, and when present, it is decently controlled. However, the bass is rolled off quite early and there isn't much sub-bass that I can hear. Quantitatively the A9X is on the bass-light side, and isn't suitable for modern genres.

 

Sound Stage: The A9X has a curiously small soundstage (possibly the smallest I've ever heard in a headphone) - singers literally sound like they are signing into your ears. This works well for some pieces but not for others. It's an interesting quality and I wonder why AT tuned them this way. If I have one big gripe about the A9X, this would be it.

 

 

Conclusion

The ATH-A9X is a unique-looking headphone with a sound signature that old school Audio Technica fans enjoyed. Its younger cousins - the A900 and A900X have been progressing more and more toward being tonally balanced and neutral, so the likes of the A9X will likely fade away. That said, it is a small piece in AT's history that I will gladly hold onto.


Edited by Bagheera - 12/5/15 at 8:39pm
post #2 of 11

Ooh they look nice!

post #3 of 11

Wow, that is indeed a unique look. But the sound stage impression made me back off a little...

post #4 of 11

Nice review!, the A9X looks stunning! I have the A900X myself and I kinda wish AT kept that look with the A9X instead of switching to matte black.

 

I would be very interested to read a comparison between the two when you get it. I believe the biggest differences are probably going to be the bass and soundstage. If the A900X are new, I would suggest giving them a long burn in (100+ hours) before they sound their best though.

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AbsoluteZero View Post

Wow, that is indeed a unique look. But the sound stage impression made me back off a little...

 

Yeah, all I can say about the sound stage is that... it was a very unique tuning choice on AT's part. It works great for some genres, and not so well for others - the A9X is definitely not intended to be an all-rounder (people who like that old-school AT sound signature tends to listen to a lot of vocal tracks, and the A9X shines brilliantly in that regard)

 

To be honest though, I've gotten used to the sound stage presentation of the A9X and it doesn't bother me (I might if I have a good pair of cans with a wide sound stage to compare it against, but I don't - the Superlux HD668b doesn't count because the sound quality on it just isn't in the same league).  Look forward to seeing how well the A9X stacks up against the A900X, of course. :) I hear the sound stage is very good on the A900X.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 5370H55V View Post

Nice review!, the A9X looks stunning! I have the A900X myself and I kinda wish AT kept that look with the A9X instead of switching to matte black.

 

I would be very interested to read a comparison between the two when you get it. I believe the biggest differences are probably going to be the bass and soundstage. If the A900X are new, I would suggest giving them a long burn in (100+ hours) before they sound their best though.

 

Oh nice! :) How are you enjoying the A900X?  I don't dislike the styling on the A900X (from what I've seen of it in photos anyway); it's not as head-turning at the A9X, but the A900X looks quite edgy and classy in a subtle sort of way.  It's definitely a cut above the A900, anyway - the A900 just looks cheap... by looking at it, I couldn't have believed it's supposed to be in the same class at the A9X.

 

So far the reviews I read seem to indicate that the A900X is very well-balanced and neutral - that was a huge shocker for me, coming from Audio-Technica (added to a wide soundstage- again a shocker - old AT headphones are NOT known for sound stage). biggrin.gif I actually saw a frequency response graph (on Inner Fidelity I think?) and it was probably the flattest graph I've seen.  I am very interested to see how this neutral presentation affects the famous "vocal" performance that AT is known for.


Edited by Bagheera - 2/5/13 at 6:04am
post #6 of 11

very cool! love the way those look. I had the ath-a5 years ago, it was very boring sound-wise, sounded like a very low end modern audio technica (think m20), but the fit and feel were great. 

post #7 of 11
Quote:
5 - 30,000MHz

?? 

post #8 of 11

^ it can produce microwave!

post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bagheera View Post

 

Oh nice! :) How are you enjoying the A900X?  I don't dislike the styling on the A900X (from what I've seen of it in photos anyway); it's not as head-turning at the A9X, but the A900X looks quite edgy and classy in a subtle sort of way.  It's definitely a cut above the A900, anyway - the A900 just looks cheap... by looking at it, I couldn't have believed it's supposed to be in the same class at the A9X.

 

So far the reviews I read seem to indicate that the A900X is very well-balanced and neutral - that was a huge shocker for me, coming from Audio-Technica (added to a wide soundstage- again a shocker - old AT headphones are NOT known for sound stage). biggrin.gif I actually saw a frequency response graph (on Inner Fidelity I think?) and it was probably the flattest graph I've seen.  I am very interested to see how this neutral presentation affects the famous "vocal" performance that AT is known for.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the A900X regarding sound reproduction. I found them to be similar to the Shure SRH940s (which I liked a lot!) but with more bass presence. I wouldn't say they are neutral, they definitely have slightly boosted mids, but I liked them anyway... what I did NOT like was the choice of earpads... yuck... When you see the earpads used on the w1000x and w3000an and then look at the ones on the a900x... yeah, a big let down and the ONLY reason I let them go (I didn't wanted to spend $100 for w1000x pads... at that price I just would have bought the w1000x...)

 

Enjoy.

And good review too. ;-)

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by facilitator View Post

5 - 30,000MHz?? 

Sorry, typo. :(

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gelocks View Post

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the A900X regarding sound reproduction. I found them to be similar to the Shure SRH940s (which I liked a lot!) but with more bass presence. I wouldn't say they are neutral, they definitely have slightly boosted mids, but I liked them anyway... what I did NOT like was the choice of earpads... yuck... When you see the earpads used on the w1000x and w3000an and then look at the ones on the a900x... yeah, a big let down and the ONLY reason I let them go (I didn't wanted to spend $100 for w1000x pads... at that price I just would have bought the w1000x...)

 

Enjoy.

And good review too. ;-)

Hmm, what kind of pleather are the pads? Are they similar to the ones used on the old A1000?

 

I actually contacted Audio-Technica's parts department recently about replacing the pads on my A9X, and the guy says the A900 pads should fit. But I don't want the crappy A900 pads, so I looked around for alternatives.  The A1000 pads looks good and only costs $30 through AT. I am not asking for real leather - if the A900X comes stock with pleather similar in quality to the A1000, I'll be happy. xD


Edited by Bagheera - 2/5/13 at 5:46pm
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 5370H55V View Post

Nice review!, the A9X looks stunning! I have the A900X myself and I kinda wish AT kept that look with the A9X instead of switching to matte black.

 

I would be very interested to read a comparison between the two when you get it. I believe the biggest differences are probably going to be the bass and soundstage. If the A900X are new, I would suggest giving them a long burn in (100+ hours) before they sound their best though.


Hey! Comparison review is finally up! :D And I even managed to throw a K550 into the mix. Hope you enjoy it!

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/newestpost/650499

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphones (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › [Review] Audio-Technica ATH-A9X