AD2000X impressions and comparisons
I’ve been a headphone enthusiast for the past 4 years, quickly traversing a journey of personal audio through successive purchases of low and mid-priced headphones, headphone amps and dacs. I tend to prefer a warm to dark sound with a meaty and impactful bass that extends really low, but I also highly value definition and clarity in sound as well. Headphones I have liked include the Denon D2000, Beyerdynamic DT990, Mr. Speakers Mad Dog and Hifiman HE-400. I’ve also tried many other headphones, including the majority of the Sennheiser lineup all the way up to their HD800, the majority of the Grado lineup, the Beyerdynamic T1, and the Audeze LCD2. The HE-400 has been my reigning personal champion for the past two years and no headhpone I’ve tried so far has dethrowned it, due to sonic preferences or cost related issues.
Associated equipment and albums for this review:
Late 2009 iMac 27; iTunes 11.1
Schiit Bifrost Uber Analog
Hifiman HE-400 White Driver (-3db at 8khz and -6db at 16khz)
Audio Technica AD700
Joe Hisaishi: Ni no Kuni Original Soundtrack
Infected Mushroom: Converting Vegetarians
Beck: Sea Change
John Coltrane: One Down, One up; Live at the Half Note
Johnny Cash: The Legend of Johnny Cash
Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More
Trentemøller: The Last Resort
Various Artists: Beethoven; 100 Supreme Classical Masterpieces
Jethro Tull: Aqualung
Two Steps From Hell: Skyworld
Hans Zimer: Man of Steel Original Soundtrack
Rage Against the Machine: Rage Against the Machine
Loreena McKennitt: Live in Paris and Toronto
Modest Mouse: Good News for People who like Bad News
Arne Domnérus et. Al: Jazz at the Pawnshop 30th Anniversary
Packaging, build quality and presentation:
The AD2000x comes in a pretty ordinary cardboard box, with a couple of little gimmicks to make it appear a bit more elaborate than Audio Technica’s lower-end offerings. There’s a ‘door’ on the front of its box that opens and closes via velcro to reveal a plastic ‘window’ showcasing the AD2000x off. If you’ve ever opened a lower end open-air hedphone then you prety much know what to expect with the AD2000x’s packaging.
The AD2000x gives an aggressive and streamlined appearance over the AD700 with its all black aesthetic, completely open grills that showcase the drivers and baffles, and flat metal bands for the headband compared to the AD700’s rubber piping. Its wing system has been trimmed out to save weight. The frame encapsulating the grill and drivers is also thinner compared to the AD700’s structure. Cup diameter is about the same on both headphones, but the pads on the AD700 are larger and more concave in nature. Overall I really enjoy the AD2000x’s presentation.
For how light the AD2000x is I was surprsied at first when I put it on. Its wing system isn’t quite as robust and stable as the AD700’s, which resulted in it feeling more clumsy and heavy on my head in comparison to the AD700, which feels like nothing’s on my head. I still don’t get any pressure buildup on the top of my scalp thanks to the AD2000x’s wing system, but the overall fit around my ears is considerably clumsier than the AD700. Compared to the HE-400, the AD2000x feels as light as a feather, but doesn’t win out in any short-term comfort tests. The HE-400 fits snug and securely, while the AD2000x feels loose and bothersome. In short every time I put the AD2000x on my head I get a different fit. I think if the wing system of the AD2000x were as secure as the AD700 it would alleviate these problems. Over time I’ve grown accustomed to the fit of the AD2000x, but I’m still dissapointed in its comfort and fit when compared to my AD700. I highly doubt any full-sized headphone would dethrone AD700 in the comfort department.
Initial Sound comparison:
The very first thought that sprang into my head when I ran music through the AD2000x was ‘veil.’ It had more overall upper-mids than my HE-400 and a treble that was in nice balance, but there appeared to be a lack of definition in the overall presentation of the music compared to the HE-400. However, that aside I found the AD2000x to have an amazing balance through its entire sonic signature. It has a satisfying and natural warm quality, with an upper mid presentation that’s never too emphasized to the point of sounding tinny or unnaturally aggressive, or never underwhelming enough to the point of sounding too relaxed or grounded. This came as a surprise, as it was a far cry from my AD700 and the collective impressions of what I’ve got from the AD2000. Treble response of the AD2000x is very controlled and never fatiguing nor ever under-represented. There’s a good bit of solidity to the sound due to decent bass response down to about the mid-bass, but sub-bass extension seems to be lacking. If I were to give a difining statement on AD2000x’s overall sound it’d be warm with a hint of veil and lacking in sub-bass extension. However this does not mean I found the AD2000x to sound undetailed or slow.
Frequency sweeps indicated a headphone that could extend down well with modest control and authority, but during songs the low bass gets lost with the AD2000x. It’s not as bottomlessly effortless like other open planars such as the HE-400 and LCD2, but at the same time it’s also not completely anemic like the AD700. There’s no mid-bass hump, which would be a plus for those looking for clarity in their music, but a negative for those looking for added impact. In short I would not recommend this headhpone to anybody who even has the slightest question in their mind that they might be a basshead. There’s not very much texture in the AD2000x’s low-mid bass to speak of either, but upper bass is pretty well controlled and sounds good, adding warmth to the overall sound of the headphone. I didn’t find the bass to have the extension and presence required for large orchestral pieces or aggressive eletronic and rock, but I did like it for simpler acoustic recordings and less complex instrumentals. I’d say the bass is the weakest aspect of the AD2000x.
The midrange of the AD2000x is really good. The headphone conveys a very good sense of instrument separation and detail, but the entirity of the midrange apppears glazed over and veiled compared to something with more definition like the HE-400. I attribute this to possible slight colorations throughout the lower treble, or an overall lack of speed compared to the HE-400, which brings more controlled bass and treble elements to many instruments in comparison. Lack of definition aside, the AD2000x has pretty good instrument separation and detail, nearly matching the HE-400 stride for stride. Background instruments are easy to follow in complex passages, and subtle information like room echo is easy to pinpoint. The midrange of the AD2000x is very balanced in my opinion, and has a lot of the warm quality the HE-400 holds, but also gives some more delicacy and presence to instruments like violins and trumpets, and does so without creating an unrealistic cold sound like the RE-400 does at times. The soundstage of the AD2000x is immediately wider than the HE-400, but only slightly. However I do not feel like it extends out in all directions as deeply as the HE-400, which has a knack for creating a good deal of layering and depth in instrumentals depending on the recording. Overall it’s a moderately spacious sounding headphone. The overall sound of the AD2000x reminds me a lot of the Mad Dogs, however it doesn’t have the rubbery/plasticky quality to its sound that makes the Mad Dogs suffocated and congested sounding at times. The midrange is the AD2000x’s strongest aspect.
The treble on the AD2000x is well controlled and possesses a decent amount of extension while never getting overly strident or exaggerated. I find it to have a good bit of air, and it allows for delicate rendering of brushwork on percussion and sparkle for cymbal hits. Vocals are for the most part well controlled and non-sibilant. The HE-400’s treble is a huge fault, and needs EQ’ing to become more balanced with the rest of its sound signature, while the treble and upper-midrange of the AD700 is very grainy in comparison. There seems to be a general lack of cohesiveness throughout the lower treble, and a lack of speed in general which makes the AD2000x sound less defined as the HE-400. However, in general these are pretty realistic sound headphones.
The AD2000x has a very warm and natural sound to me, and it’s higly enjoyable as a headhpone you could just sit back and relax with. It’d be an ideal headhpone for games and movies for me if it had the same wing system as the AD700. It doesn’t have the ball-gripping bass, definition and imaging of the HE-400, but it does sport a very balanced and near-neutral sound signature that would please most any audiophlie who listens to it. I think rawrster’s description of the AD2000x is pretty spot-on. It’s a safe headphone with above-average performance in many areas, but it doesn’t have any absolutely strong traits that would otherwise push it over the edge for fidelity. Coming in at a 5-600 dollar import from Japan, I wouldn’t consider it something I’d recommend because of its price, especially not when the Mad Dogs are such a strong contender for this type of sound at only 300 dollars. I can’t speak too much about a comparison there as I don’t have the Mad Dogs with me right now, but I know I did enjoy the Mad Dogs a little bit more than the AD2000x. Regardless of that this is a strong headphone with little faults. At its current state I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars, if it had its wing-system reworked and price driven down to around 300 I’d give it a 4-4.5 star rating. Both the HE-400 and Mad Dogs get a 4.5 stars in my book. Much thanks to ASR for allowing me to audition this headphone and expanding my experience within the headphone enthusiast world.
This thread is now open for discussion.Edited by TMRaven - 12/22/13 at 6:04pm