Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X

General Information

Audio-Technica's ATH-AD500x open dynamic headphones deliver audiophile-quality acoustic performance with superb clarity and fidelity. The headphones feature proprietary large-aperture 53 mm drivers for high-fidelity playback. Equipped with Audio-Technica's innovative self-adjusting wing support mechanism, the headphones offer long hours of remarkably comfortable listening.

Latest reviews


Pros: Bass (what?), smoothness, imaging, completely open, comfort, price!
Cons: lack of clarity in places,non-detatchable cable, ability to slide down head slightly.
This is absolutely one of my new favorite headphones. I have danced around the mid-fi world for a while looking for something just like this.

I play a lot of games. For all of my teenage years I played (on average) a very unhealthy 10 hours a day. This is what got me into the audio game. I have spent, by now, thousands of dollars building a headphone collection to feed my hobby.

I had never found a headphone that i thought was truly worthy of an absolute gaming recommendation for a variety of reasons. The AD500X is the first to get my full seal of approval for the job.

First, there must be objective requirements, or criteria if you will, for the headphone to meet to get this title.
1. Comfort. This is absolutely the most important aspect of a headphone you will wear for 10+ hours a day. Everything else is pointless without comfort.
2. Imaging. You can have the best soundstage in the world, but if you are not accurate within it, you lose the fight more often than not.
3. smoothness. What good is it to have clear, comfortable headphones if the sound will start to get shrill, and thus uncomfortable.
4. general sound quality. I lump this into one big pile, as many sound signatures can fit the bill for gaming, depending on what you want. The key is to not have a bloated, uncontrollable mess of sound.
5. Price. This is not as important to me for the most part. I am willing to splash cash for a product that has the quality to match the price, and do its job accordingly. I put this as a weighted aspect because many people (especially students) cannot afford to spare mega cash for headphones. Luckily, the AD500X passes ALL 5 of these requirements with flying colors.

1. Comfort.
I avoided the Audio-Technica series for quite a while because the ergonomics make no sense on paper for my dumbo ears, and other wonderful physical aspects of my head. I am glad to say the AD500X is a pleasant surprise for me on this front. They weigh next to nothing as far as headphones go, so no complaints there. The wing system is fantastic, although my head allows them to slide down slightly, which can get a little annoying. If I just let them sit on my head like that, it won't break my concentration unless i think about it. I might have to try the rubber-band thing if I can't think another solution. The clamp is fine, if not great. They stay in place when i shake my head quickly, but I am not annoyed by clamping pressure at all. This is SUPER rare for me, as even the HD700 can feel a little clampy at times. The earpads touch my ears all over, but I actually don't mind it too much. The clamp matches the pad size and material perfectly, which eliminates most of the possible pad complaints. They also do not get too hot. I tested this in the way any sane person would: by eating incredibly hot salsa until I was sweating. I do question whether or not the pads could be more comfortable, as they do particularly touch the top and bottom of my ears.

While on the subject of design and such, I would like to take this time to point out how unbelievably bad the cable is on this headphone. It is non-detachable to start. The part where the cable goes into the earcup is sketchy, as it is loose and slides up and down. This makes me nervous that if i accidentally yank the cable, or twist it too much it may detach. The rest of the cable is awful too. Think pig tail, but several feet long. the shape the cable in the box is what it wants to be forever. The cable, therefore, lays flat on nothing. The redeeming qualities are the overall lightness of the cable, and the simple 3.5mm end with a snap-on 1/4 inch adapter. That aspect is perfect.

The totally open aspect is also essential for the long term comfort of gaming. I can carry on a conversation with someone else while playing a game, and it keeps the ears from getting too hot, or pressurized feeling. Fantastic!

2,3,4 Imaging, smoothness, general sound quality.
I lumped these all into one group for the utility of thought continuity.
Imaging is by far one of the most important aspects in gaming. I have played an embarrassing number of hours of CS:GO at every level of skill. I have had very few headphones that have truly been up to the job. The Stax 2050a system was the previous benchmark. I could tell the difference between the dust 2 tunnel stairs vs either adjacent floor based on positional audio. The AD500X does the same thing. This time on an even larger scale. I didn't even think about the imaging at first until I was in PUBG and found myself making a callout of an enemy on the Pochinki church roof from a hill over 600m away without even looking that direction. It was dead accurate too. I have thus further investiged, and found that up to 3 shooters can be simultaneously positioned before the sound becomes congested enough to be a problem. This is what makes this a particularly good pair of gaming headphones. I find myself being nervous about making statements like this as I know about exaggeration to make a point, especially in audio. I have probably done it before. This is not one of those times. I will also put the disclaimer that I was using the Project Polaris headphone amplifier, which does influence imaging and soundstage slightly.

Speaking on the subject of amplification; The AD500X does not require much power to drive correctly. I will say that source quality does seem to have an effect on them (more on this later).

The balance does seem to have a slight v characteristic. The highs are clean in some places, and veiled in others. This is also true with the mids. Direct comparison to the K7XX shows the K7XX has more refinement all the way around, but at the cost of cohesive smoothness and bass. Yes bass.

This is the kind of headphone that allows me to slide back in my seat and just enjoy the music. Everything is just right.

I had to double check which headphones were on my head as I couldn't believe how the bass was going ALL the way down, and cleanly too! Let us get this clear: There is quality in the bass, and not as much quantity, but plenty as far as I am concerned. I am so used to every headphone dying off at some point in the bass range. Even the Fostex TH-X00 dies off in places, at least to my ears. Every song I have thrown at the AD500x has had the most even bass with consistent control across the board. I also can hear that the aforementioned Polaris amp adds to the bass department in terms of volume, not so in tightness. This took me by surprise to the extent that I had other people come and try them without any knowledge of what they were. The reaction was the same, they remarked on how open they were, then mentioned the bass, then then ever present "how much were these?"

I should also make note of the other aspects of the sound. I do not feel like they were are out of my head like HD700s. They had a very centered sound, but carry soundstage when asked. I found this curious as so may people prise the AD series for their airy soundstage and such. I think airy, cleaner sound would make these some serious world class headphones, as long as they keep the bass right where it is, and keep the body and smoothness. I get very little fatigue from the sound of these headphones, which from a price perspective is very impressive. Most similarly balanced headphones in this price range can get harsh really quickly. Are they Sennheiser smooth? Not even close! Are they AKG rough? Not even close! Very little sibilance at all, and you have to look for it.

On the subject of comparison:
When I A/B with other headphones, I find it difficult to judge as better/worse in an overall sense. They are less clean to the ear than the vast majority of my collection, but the balance is such that I don't seem to notice this at all when just using the AD500X. I don't miss the clarity and separation nearly as much as one might think. Sometimes I even like it much more without.

5. Price
A proud member of the sub $100 club; These made me question why the prices on some other headphones in my collection are justifiable. This is absolutely fantastic from a budget minded point of view.

If you need competitive gaming headphones, these are a Fantastic option. If you need to enjoy your music more, these are a fantastic option. If your headphones are uncomfortable, these might be your solution. Give them a shot.

If this is what the bottom tier headphone in Audio-Technica's lineup sound like; I want to hear every single one of the AD line of headphones.

Song Suggestion: Avalon - Roxy Music
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Pros: Excellent 3D imaging and soundstage, relatively neutral, good mids, very light and comfortable
Cons: A little bass-light, wing mechanism can be too loose for some people (use a rubber band)
I enjoyed these cans for 2 years. Only sold them recently because I like the "V" character of my Takstar HI 2050 cans more.
If you are a bass-lover then skip the AD500X, these headphones are surely not for you. :) The bass is tight, much tighter than the bass in the Superlux HD681 EVO, but much less in quantity. The sound signature in overall is rather neutral and slightly bright giving more space for vocals and instruments in the midrange. The highs are never sharp, if you are sensitive for treble spikes, this is a safe buy.
Soundstage and imaging:
This is what you will LOVE in these open cans. :) They are totally open, you can see the angled drivers through the honeycomb grille, no isolation at all, giving a very natural listening experience. The soundstage is big, not planetary space like in the Takstar TS 671, but it is more 3D and more accurate. Sound separation is great, but the vocals and instruments never detach from each other, the music keeps flowing together. Also great for FPS gaming, its imaging can be a big help in pinpointing enemy footsteps.
Build and comfort:
Very light headphones, weighing only 235g without the 3m cable. The build of the AD500X, AD700X and AD900X is almost identical, only the color of the grille and the Audio-Technica logo are different. No squeky plastics. The velour earpads are big and soft, but the 3D wing mechanism can be too loose for some people - in this case use a rubber band to tighten the grip. Overall the comfort was perfect for me, like there was nothing on my head. Probably these are the most comfortable headphones I have ever tried. :)
With 48 ohm impedance and 100dB/mW sensitivity these cans can be easily driven from almost any sources. I have used it with a Fiio E10 DAC/AMP, but several people said that the Denon DA-300USB DAC is a perfect fit for it with its dynamic popular character. I also enjoyed its sound with a very cheap entry-level MyAudio Pop MP3 player and it was completely satisfying for me.
Music I loved from these cans:
Depeche Mode, OSI, Collective Soul, Keith Caputo, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Acoustic Alchemy, Imogen Heap, Zaz, Incubus, Chris Cornell, Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree and classics.
What can I say? If you want a good and comfortable open headphone for home gaming or music, the ATH-AD500X is a very good recommendation.


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