audio-technica ATH-A550Z Art-Monitor Headphones


New Head-Fier
Pros: Amazing sound quality, Affordable price, very comfortable
Cons: the cable is a bit long
I first started with the ath a900x which i fell in love with. Recently they broke, and i did not have the money to purchases them again or the newer model. So i took a chance and got the a550z, for the price i could not refuse. These headphones are very similar to the a900x. I mainly use them for gaming, and just casually listening to music. Im really glad i got these.
Highs - The highs are very balanced. You can really hear the detail in the music.
Mids - The mids are very neutral
Bass -  I was never really big into to much bass, but the bass on these is pretty balanced. I really enjoy them.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Incredible price/quality sound, super comfortable
Cons: Too long of a cable, springs in headbands way too soft, sligh distortion in the lower mids, upper bass, consrtuction
   A few weeks ago I was given a very pleasant surprise by seeing a PM asking if I would be interested in reviewing a few products. I think the keyboard wrote the reply for me I replied with an absolutely so fast. I’ve been really wanting to hear more products from Audio-Technica for my previous experience only consists of their Noise Cancelling ATH-ANC9 headphones and believe it or not I’ve not even heard the legendary ATH-M50 models (I know shocking right).
    Fast forward and I have a package waiting for me to sign for. From here I’d like to begin the review but first I must give a very heartfelt thanks to both Audio-Technica and my good friend who not only remembered me, but invited me to take part in this opportunity. It means more to me than I can put words to that I came to mind when a reviewer was needed so again, thank you.
    I'm a 25 year old firefighter currently for the U.S. Army North Carolina National Guard. I was formerly a civilian firefighter in Kentucky with the Millard Fire Department before I enlisted and moved to my current location in Charlotte, North Carolina. My current goal is to begin my career again in the civilian fire service, and yes, I am the cliché of wanting to do that since as far as I can remember.
    My interests/hobbies are power lifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. On that note over the years I've really came to an understanding of what it is I like and look for in audio products.
    What I look for is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.
    My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have great extension and detail reveal but I don't like artificial treble in order to achieve that. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI/Zeus, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics & Stax SR009.
    -Schiit Lyr 2 w/ matched '68 Amperex Orange Globe 6DJ8 tubes
    -Schiit Bifrost 4490
    -Samsung Galaxy S7
    -HP 15634 Laptop
-Misc. Equipment
    -Source cleaner
        -iFi Nano iUSB3.0
    I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.

The Opening Experience
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    I love unboxing products. It’s one of the few times as an adult I feel like a kid at Christmas again. Yes I get to listen to and experience a new product sure, but for me it goes deeper than that. The unboxing to me represents a company reaching out their hand in greetings and introducing themselves to me the consumer. Blame it on my background of being raised in Kentucky but when you introduce yourself, you do so in a confident, friendly, and respectful manner. This is done by you having a clean presentation, friendly smile, and a firm handshake. Anything but only shows that you don’t care about the consumer/person and are only interested in the money instead of receiving gratitude for a truly outstanding product that you and your team have put your heart and soul into.
    Now, as for the Audio-Technica ATH-A550Z I honestly wasn’t expecting to be awe stricken due to this product's price range whereas effort was really all I was looking for. Wow was I mistaken. Audio-Technica and their team did a beautiful job in this products presentation. As you can see in the pictures it’s placed in a firm custom cut out sleeve (that is all cheaper plastic) that honestly reminded me of Hifiman’s presentation. Inside the art box (which did have a little more writing than I felt necessary [mostly due to having the same thing repeated in multiple languages]) you’ve another, product box. The product itself is presented very cleanly and really gave me a sense of excitement to begin listen to them. I do wish that they added a little bit of contrast instead of being black, on black, in black and so on; but that’s just a personal thing.
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    Coming from a very impressive handshake, we’re now to how well the 550Z’s are built. Just from picking these up you can tell they’re not made premiumly. The construction is almost entirely plastic (of the cheaper tier) that I will say doesn’t possess much give in terms of drop resistance (this is entirely speculation. I did no drop tests during my review period.). So I would recommend being gentle with these. Now I’m not saying you have to worry about just picking them up, absolutely not. Use them, enjoy them. Just don’t throw them down you’re done.
    The 550Z’s also possess an extremely long, 3m (9.8’), non detachable cable that’s included with a ¼” stereo adaptor. I understand that this series is geared more towards the studio performers but at least give us a detachable cable cause daggon this thing seems to catch on everything. I will say in regards for this cable that it does feel rather sturdy and has bare minimal if any microphonics.
    The 550Z have 2 (well 3, but I’ll touch on that next) support qualities. The first, visually anyways, is the wing support system. Yes, it looks like you’re a super goofy fan boy at a science convention but my goodness do I love headphones with that implement the wing system (I’ll explain why in the comfort section). Anyways, they’re made very firmly so I would advise against pinching them but they’ve enough give to survive a drop. The second, and primary, support system is the spring “loaded (I don’t know how else to word it)” headband(s). The idea behind the spring is solid; provide enough give to mesh perfectly to the user's head yet remain firm enough to hold up the headphones. In practice however this feature flopped horribly. The springs are far too soft and don’t support the headphone whatsoever. To confirm this I lifted them up and felt no pressure difference whatsoever.
    This brings me to the final part of the construction and somewhat 3rd support feature, the large circumaural earcups. These are actually something I was most impressed with. The ear cups are actually angled a little bit to direct the already angled 53mm drivers directly at the ear. Though this concept is by no means foreign or unheard of, seeing it in this price point is a very well welcomed surprise.
    To conclude, these headphones, though cheaply made, have some incredible features implemented in them that, at least in my opinion, drastically outweigh the negatives. Unfortunately these headphones don’t have any sort of folding feature (don’t see how it’ll even be possible with the wing system [every time I say wing system Gundam Wing comes to mind haha]) so traveling with these may be rather cumbersome.

    So thus far we’ve some positives and negatives in the construction; some of which directly affect the comfort. Let me begin with the clamping force. Outstanding. As mentioned earlier in the construction, I love headphones using the wing system. Though admittedly it looks rather goofy, of all the headphones I’ve used with this system, have had remotely anything but optimum comfort.
    I personally didn’t have any issues with the weight so I can’t really say they were heavy or light but I guess if I had to say anything about the weight is they felt like a normal pair of headphones.
    The earpads, though lack a premium feel, we’re extremely comfortable. I had no issues whatsoever with my ears getting fatigued. I will however say that the pads don’t breathe much so my ears did get warm after around 30-45 minutes time. Mentioned earlier in the reviewI said that the earpads functioned as the 3rd form of support. Well, in all honesty it’s the primary form of support. Do to the weak springs in the headband(s), all of the A550Z’s weight is placed on the ears. Now, in terms of comfort I honestly didn’t ha much of an issue with this; however, I did have to readjust every few minutes or so which did get rather old.
    All in all the ATH-A550Z’s are honestly a very comfortable headphone that I’ve worn, on many occasions, for hours on end. True, there are a few things that can be improved on, but in this sub $150 price point I really can’t complain too much.

    Likely the most important part of an audio piece. The ability to reproduce audio, rather sonically accurate or something else to adhere to the listener's desires. It’s the headphones ability and manufacturers house sound that makes or breaks a headphone to a given listener. So how about the Audio-Technica ATH-A550Z? Well, these headphones are by far the most detailed and neutral headphones I’ve ever heard in the sub $150 price point, no I’ll go as far as sub $200 price point (MSRP not what you can buy used for).
    The ATH-A550Z from the very get go startled me by how, good, they sounded. The soundstage is quite round and respectable for its asking price. Though where it really shines is its positional abilities. I can very easily identify where I’m hearing audio cues and identify my position from the performers (especially in live performances). I also never got fatigued while listening to these. The frequency transitions are all very very smooth with no harshness at all. On a side note, I found these to be amazing headphones for gaming as well.
    I more or less just touched on this but the soundstage is very respectable. It’s not super vast but it’s not in your face either. It is however very accurate with excellent separation; I’m very easily able to separate the artist's voice from the instruments around them and have a pretty good idea how far apart they’re spread. The imaging is meh. I can’t think of ever drifting off into the performance I was listening to like I was there, I knew I was listening to headphones. I’m not sure if that’s part of the design of a studio monitor or just driver inability but whichever the case there’s very little imaging.
    So I’ve covered the general neutral sound of the ATH-A550Z so now I’ll talk about what I got from individual frequency ranges to hopefully help describe their sound a little better, but a spoiler to a word you’ll hear the word balanced and/or neutral fairly often.
    The highs on the A550Z are very balanced and possess great extension, and by great I mean it’ll go up there so songs like “Where’s My Mind” from Maxence Cyrin or “Diva Dance” from Evgenia Laguna will experience every beautiful note to its utmost fullest.
    The energy that the 550Z’s can relay onto the listener are mesmerizing. I absolutely LOVE listening to high energy violins with these. A popular artist I enjoy listening to is Lindsey Stirling. Almost every one of her songs has such energy and vibrance in it one is almost forced to bob their heads and tap their feet. With the ATH-A550Z, every bit of this excitement is relayed.
    I truthfully don’t have any complaints about the treble on these, I sincerely enjoyed them.
    Also, are very neutral. Rather you’re listening to male or female both sound incredibly life like and inviting. One of my favorite song to listen to is “Muddy Water” by Trace Adkins. The song is filled with emotion and soul, and if a headphone lacks the ability to portray that to me the listener then I have a hard time enjoying the experience. It’s for that reason that I always nit pick the mids first because they’re my favorite.
    Now, It’s in the lower mid/upper bass range that I do sometimes hear some distortion, so everything isn’t perfect. I’m horrible at depicting individual frequencies but somewhere in this range the vocals distort almost like that area was recorded in really poor quality MP3. Actually, speak of the devil while listening I came across this song that gave me consistent results, “Believe” by Brooks & Dunn. You can hear almost a grainy sound (yes, I know all the links are to YouTube. It’s the quickest way you can find the song I’m explaining, no it’s not the best quality but it serves its purpose) that comes from whatever range this artist lies. While listening to female artists, I don’t seem to have this issue.
    Despite the semi-consistent distortion in that range, the ATH-A550Z’s really do have some impressive mid reproduction. For musical enjoyment I doubt the casual user will ever even hear what I’m mentioning. Being modest even listening to it myself I don’t always hear it unless I’m in review mode.

    The heartbeat of a headphone. The bass is what keeps the beat and gives the listener the physical feels of the music. Sadly, the more this area becomes mainstream the more I see great potential in headphones fall because they want the sells instead of showing off what they can do. So, does the 550Z’s follow suite? Umm, kinda sorta but not really. The bass stays very balanced and neutral except for the upper bass range and it’s slight distortion and then in the very low end sub bass range. The sub bass is actually rather impressive. This small section definitely has some forwardness to it. Now I’m not a bass head at all so I’ve very few heavy bass songs in my playlist (in fact I have to YouTube “sub bass songs” when I test this area), so when I YouTube I usually find and play “Argatu” by Divisia. This song serves it purpose as a bass test song rather well and shows that these puppies have some surprising thump for an otherwise very neutral signature.
    Getting back on track, the bass is quite controlled and tight. They play very well with demanding music such as EDM and techno. Going back to its target audience, the studio recorders, I’m confident that these will serve their purpose wholeheartedly.


    To sum up the Audio-Technica ATH-A550Z, they’re an absurdly good price/quality neutral headphone. The amount of detail that they retrieve, the comfort they provide, and the sound quality they reproduce baffles me for them to only be $120. I couldn’t help but think of the Sennheiser HD650 the entire time I reviewed these. My reasoning behind this is the HD650’s honestly aren’t made super premiumly either, but it’s very apparent that the majority of the $500 they retail for was put towards the sound quality and not any other gimmicks or features. The ATH-A550Z followed suite in this concept and, at least in my opinion, made a very good decision in doing such.
    Despite them having a few construction setbacks and a slight distortion in the sound I think Audio-Technica nailed a home run with these. Rather you’re a studio recorder, audiophile/enthusiast, or casual listener wanting a great headphone without going broke; if you prefer a more sonically accurate type of sound then you will very much fall in love with the ATH-A550Z.

Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
@earsekks So long as you take care of them the build quality shouldn't be an issue. From memory they're similar in build to the M40s or 50's.
Thanks. I'll be looking to purchase them soon. Is an okay place? No fakes?
@earsekks I personally haven't used but I'd imagine it'd be just like in which I've never, personally, had any issues from. And even if I got a product and didn't like it their return policy is phenomenal.