Pros: SOUNDSTAGE, great upper midrange and detail retrieval
Cons: Cables coils too much, might sound too bright for some
Launched 5 years ago, the open back AD900x headphone is smacked right in between Audio Technica’s High Fidelity series spearheaded by the new ADX5000. With all the contenders in the mid-level open-backed headphones market from the Brooklyn built Grado’s, German built Sennheiser’s to the New York based Hifiman’s. Is the Audio Technica AD900x headphone still even relevant in 2018? Let’s find out.
Packaging and Build Quality
The packaging was a simple white box with “AIR” printed on the front and opening the front flap reveals the headphones, there’s only a 6.3mm adapter included, would have loved a travel bag. The AD900x weighs 265g and made of plastic all over except for the honeycomb aluminum casing, the cable is wrapped in matte rubber and retains the initial tangle once removed from the box, it also an OFC (oxygen-free copper) cable to note. It’s fairly long which lead me to shorten it and also change the plugs to a standard gold-plated 3.5mm plug, the lone difference we would be having compared to a full stock ad900x.
The foam pads used on this are soft and not irritable to the skin for me, however it gets hot on my head after only about 2 hours of use, that’s even having my hair fresh off the barber. The weight doesn’t bother me at all and is not an issue as well as the ear-wing type support used which I’ve known to be a headache for some. Overall, packaging is downright simple, build is somewhat on the cheaper side specially if you place this beside the Meze 99 yet ample when placed beside the Grado 225e but will last you a long time with proper use. Comfort is a breakeven experience, as much as the earpads are comfortable, it is also vacuum.
Let’s clear this up fast and on point, the AD900x is clearly bright, once again, CLEARLY BRIGHT. I’ve tried to pair it with the warm sounding Sony ZX1 and the bright signature is smack present. It just doesn’t lean on the bright side, it sits and lays there.
When I stated that this set is bright, it’s just best that we get straight to the bass performance of this cans. The bass here is presented rather weak and struggles to deliver weight. The sub bass isn’t powerful and nor does the mid bass provide punch over this region. It is ample not to be honky yet it doesn’t also provide a controlled grip. I didn’t expect much on the ad900x’s bass and I got what I expected, although it didn’t disappoint, it didn’t overwhelm as well.
I first read and knew about the ad900x’s being a strong contender in the 150-200USD region and that was attributed to how well they performed in the midrange and the upper frequencies. When I first got this, I was using the cd900st as my go to cans and this sounded a tiny bit fuller on the midrange as compared to the cd900st however the detail retrieval and on the cd900st is far superior. The midrange on the ad900x also sounded less realistic and natural than the cd900st. It’s just a matter of preference on this one at least it did perform way better than the bass region.
The ad900x is borderline edgy on the higher frequencies and the polar opposite of the mellow highs which I found on the Audio Technica WS1100is which was also almost steely but since I prefer the strong emphasis on the highs, I regrettably parted away with my ws1100is over the ad900x. Take note that despite the ad900x’s borderline edgy highs, it still handles the higher frequencies excellently. I found it delicate and crisp. Absolutely a recommended can for audiophiles who adore their highs and put a premium on it over other frequencies.
Imaging and Soundstage
Being a frustrated gamer, I was looking for superb performing cans on the imaging and soundstage aspect and boy did we hit jackpot with the ad900x. Going back to the build being plastic all over just adds to the fact that this is light on the head and with the imaging on this which articulately spaces the dynamic facets of audio resulted in a great gaming performance. But you ain’t all gamers so back to audiophiles, Pink Floyd and Chris Botti did great on this, delivery was fast, had depth on each and pace was on time and definitely distinct. This one held up the marketing of Audio Technica being airy with that bold caps “AIR” on the packaging.
The ad900x is easy to drive, it sounded good even on the Oneplus 3T and did sing lightly on the Sansa clip+, on the Sony ZX1 player, it was not hard to like and a nice departure with the noticeable edgy highs you’d get when used with the Hidizs ap200. It sounded most natural on the Opus 1 but most of the time I’ve been using it with the Sony CAS-1 which gave the most compelling performance of its strengths and uplift the bass weakness it had specially when paired with the Hidizs ap200.
The ad900x is a compelling offering from Audio Technica specially those unfamiliar with their other series except the M series. I haven’t tried any of those since I didn’t have any reason to except now to finally see how the A, M, R and WS series of Audio Technica diverges. The WS series is clearly the way to go is you are after overall aesthetics and knowing how popular the M series, it’s a typical safe choice. You’d only be convinced to pick the ad900x if you’re after the best possible gaming headphone while also hitting the right boxes of your audiophile side (except the mic function). The extended highs and great midrange and overall easy drivability makes the ad900x easy to love and keep. I still have my doubts of keeping this can until I try the rivaling Grado’s on this price range (only tried the sr60e, sr80e and ps500e) but since I already half-pulled the trigger with modding this with a removable cable to roll with one’s that has the mic function, the Audio Technica ad900x just might be a keeper after all.
Note: Some tracks used during the realview are as follows;
Pros: Very comfortable (best part for me), Good sound quality
Cons: Cheap cable
My personal thoughts on audio hardware
When I heard these headphones, I wasn't blown away at all.
But headphones never did this with me, and in my opinion, all headphones sounds kinda the same anyway.
When I heard the LCD-2, my thoughts were, sure these sound kinda good I guess. but yeah... not anywhere near a crystal clear difference compared to any decent but not expensive headphone.
With an EQ you can make all headphones sounds similar.
If you never bought high end headphones, and finally get them in the mail, after you read all those amazing reviews.
and you finally put them on..... Its just gonna be sound, it sure won't sound bad at all !! but don't expect to be blown away.
So keep that in mind when you buy those 500 dollar headphones.
Sound quality comes mostly from the music itself and the artists composing skills. for me, comfort comes next, and then a sound signature that I like.
-VERY comfortable, I love the 3d wings, the only headphones that I actually wear for more than an hour. I HARDLY notice I have them on my head, Unlike every other headphone I ever wore. And the only headphones I can wear while high on drugs (because when on stuff, any slightly uncomfortable headphones are REALLY annoying, and I will just revert to speakers)
-Nothing wrong with the sound quality, I really don't like boomy-bass, And these have Accurate, Punchy bass, which is perfect!
All the bass is there, but it wont rumble.
(I still recommend using the EQ to make the lower frequencies slightly louder, but not too much, also between 1khz and 2khz about +2db)
-The highs are not fatiguing, yet very bright
-Soundstage, I played some Bioshock Infinite and CS:GO with this, with properly configured virtual surround. And I could pinpoint sounds around me very well. But not significantly better than with some cheaper headphones. Again, wasn't blown away or anything. >But with music, When listening to music I noticed a significant improvement in soundstage, I listened to some good recorded instrumental, and could really hear the sound all around me. Unlike with closed headphones.
Sadly I listen mostly to PsyTrance Psybient and IDM. which won't have much of this 'directional'(?) audio
-People report that it feels like a cheap headphone.
But it just feels cheap because its light, which makes it very comfortable.
They might feel cheap, but IMO they are just fine.
-The cable is too long for me
Made of plastic that stays in its curly shape from the package-ing forever.
-You look silly due to the design
-Not very suitable for outside use, recommend to keep them in your house.
-Well it was 160 bucks, so you need to have that kinda money, but if you want the most comfortable headphone with perfectly fine audio.
And will last you for years and years. then do it!
-Not for bass heads, the bass is accurate and punchy, but not boomy
And dubstep is just boring without the boomy part. Probably because most dubstep tracks, if you remove the the frequencies from 1hz to 500hz, you're left with silence
Tricks/hacks/mods To solve some problems with the 3D wing design: If the headphones don't sit on your head properly, Push the 3d-wings down, pretty hard. for a few minutes. They will fit better after that. If it clamps on your head too much, I recommend stretching the entire headphone apart to bend the headband structure, and lessen the clamp Do this bit by bit, trying how it fits before you stretch it too much. Mold it into perfectly to your heads shape Also search google for "the rubber band" mod for this headphone, you put a rubber band between the 3d wings, this is very easy to do. and makes it so that the 3d wings are always properly applied to your skull, It doesn't defeat the purpose of the 3d wing design though, the wings are FAR more comfortable than a full headband that goes along your head.
If you have any questions, leave them here in the comments. I'll try to notice the email in time and reply
EDIT: I just cant stop thinking this, they are SO comfortable, It's like you don't even have headphones on. See the Tricks/mods section to make them the perfect shape for your head.
Pros: Crispy highs, wide soundstage, great with vocals
Cons: Lacking bass impact, highs can be slightly fatiguing, can be picky with genre
Note: This headphone is for music that does not rely heavily on bass for enjoyment; it doesn’t have that body at the lower end that is for that genre. If you listen to mainstream pop a lot, these are likely not for you. These headphones are not all rounder headphones like the HD558 which can sound good with everything but does not wow me in ways the AD900X can.
These headphones do not have that metallic sheen over the upper midrange and highs like the AD700 which turned me off. That was the least enjoyable aspect for the AD700, not sure if it is fixed on the AD700X .
First thing I thought was that these headphones lacked dynamics when I put them on because they sound light in the sense that they don’t exert the authority in bass. My first day with them I did not like them but that’s because my mind did not yet adjust to its sound signature. It took a week for my ears to adjust and to enjoy these headphones. I am glad I did as I know where the headphones excel .
The comfort is excellent and these headphones simply disappear overtime. I never felt the clamping force was too much at all. The drivers are angled and the pads are firmer than the AD2000X which is great as my ears do not touch the driver grill. These are probably the most comfortable headphones I have ever owned.
Feels solid, looks appealing. Not much to complain about, no creaking anywhere. I prefer they didn't cover the "headband" with rubber but I guess ATH wanted to make users spend on th AD2000x for that...
These headphones have a bright sound signature and lush mids; AD2000x is even more so. Some people like the mids to sound a little more recessed as it lets them perceive it as clarity since the mids are more in balance. The midrange is forward on these; just like how I like it on my grado but the mids sound thicker meaning at times it could sound very rich or muddy depending on the song. As mentioned many many times already, these truly excel with female vocals; sound very lifelike because it does not sound sibilant with female voices. Female voices sound breathy Male voices sound quite good as well but nothing truly out of the ordinary which is perfectly fine. If you really like listening to female singers, I highly suggest trying a ATH AD headphone sometime.
These headphones offer a good amount of detail, better than the HD558 at picking out nuisances for example plucking on guitar strings is more distinct and edgy. The soundstage also helps with these as the spacing makes things seem less blended in. The background seems more obviously separated from the vocals. Since the midrange is forward, I feel it is hard to perceive depth with these. The soundstage is fairly wide left and right, almost right up there with the K701. Listening to music which already has a wide soundstage because of the way it was mixed will sound quite good on these. I don’t think these headphones sound particularly good with rock music but it is acceptable as the midrange makes the guitars sound too thick for my liking.
The highs give everything that crisp top end but depending on the song it could be overwhelming but I am personally used to it by now as I am with more bright headphones. The higher end ATH AD headphones have toned down the highs quite a bit, doesn’t sound nearly as bright but further improves the midrange and bass impact. AD2000x highs sound blanketed compared to AD900X; it doesn’t stand out. I am personally not sure if I want to give away the soundstage and highs going to the AD2000x for its magic mids and better bass.
Do not expect it to amaze you in anyway. Expect light sounding headphones and keep expectations of bass very low. Of the mids and highs, bass is the frequency range I personally care least about which is why I decided to give ATH a try.
If you listen to the right songs (such as songs from M83, Explosions In The Sky, She & Him, Sara Bareilles, Lindsey Stirling) these can wow you but on the other hand, listen to something it is not suited (Bullet For My Valentine, Linkin Park, Lady Gaga, Sum 41) for then the wow factor is gone and it becomes an average sounding headphone. You can cripple these headphones by playing the wrong music really. When it sound good it is amazing but when it’s bad it’s not pretty at all.