Pros: Great build quality, beautiful detailed sound, well controlled bass with no mids bleed in, detachable cable (3 included), easy to drive.
Cons: Treble may be uncomfortable for some, shallow pads, headband could use more padding, may ruin all other headphones for you.
There comes a time when one realises that sound quality is not about bass quantity, and you start to search for clear, undistorted sound.
While my ATH-M40X does a damn good job of providing me with sonic bliss, they are uncomfortable. And by uncomfortable I mean something close to passing a large kidney stone.
So out I went into the world and searched for a new soul mate. This is how I met the MSR7.
Sturdy and refined, the MSR7 is made up mostly of Aluminium and plastic decorated with tasteful colour highlights.
It dismisses the brash, loud designs of headphones today for a more conservative, elegant look that may not turn heads immediately but it will sure impress those who notice. These are good looking headphones.
Bass: Present, fast and well controlled.
Let me make this clear. These are not headphones for bassheads as the MSR7 values quality in place of quantity.
Bass is well articulated and at no point does it overpower the rest of the music.
Basslines are aptly and accurately reproduced, however there's none of the bass heavy thrills you get with bass heavy headphones such as Beats or the M50X. That's not to say that the bass is not satisfying. EDM does sound very good and you get very tight, controlled thumps, but there's not a lot of it.
Mids: Lush, extended and somewhat elevated.
These are Japanese headphones made primarily for the Japanese market, and indeed, listening to Japanese music, specially with female vocals is an experience to behold. The sense of presence is palpable. Very natural and balanced.
Some people feel the mids are a touch unnatural. They might be right, but considering how these cans turn female vocals into a toe curling experience, I couldn't care less.
Highs: Extremely detailed, bright and effortless.
Highs are a point of contention. They are extremely detailed, even to the point that bad recordings and mistakes become evident, so are poorly compressed files.
Highs have a lot of energy, but don't think they are aggressive. They rarely feel harsh or piercing, and if they do, it's usually the fault of the recording.
However, many people are treble sensitive and it can be too much for them.
I recommend you audition this headphone before you commit yourself.
Soundstage and imaging:
Soundstage is fine for a closed back headphone but it's the imaging that impresses me. Very accurate. It gives you a good sense from which direction the sound is coming from.
Not only does this make the MSR7 good for music but also for gaming.
One very important point to consider is that these phones are very sensitive to the source and source material. That is to say that low bit rate MP3s will not cut it. Artifacts will become apparent and your listening enjoyment will suffer. I recommend lossless formats.
Also, your phone may not be the optimal source for these cans. My DAP gives me much better audio quality than my Samsung Galaxy S5.
So to wrap it up, the MSR7 offer terrific value in terms of sound and build quality.
As always, your value may vary. They are light on bass and the treble can be too much for some. However, if you're on the market for an accurate, well balanced and extremely detailed headphone, the MSR7 is a winner in my books.
Cons: poor frequency response, bright treble and upper midrange, weak lower midrange and bass, not very comfortable
The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 is a bright sounding headphone that will not appeal to people who want a warm or neutral sound.
The SR stands for Sound Reality but the sound is not realistic at all if you ever go to classical music concerts. I have been to hundreds of concerts and every time I am impressed at how big and warm the sound is. The sound in every concert hall I have been in has a huge bass that cannot be reproduced accurately by any speaker and headphone. The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 does not even try. Instead, they try to pass themselves off as “high resolution” by decreasing the upper bass and lower midrange and increasing the upper midrange and lower treble. By doing this you will hear some things that you will not hear in a neutral or warm sounding headphone but you are also missing much of your music.
When listening to “El amor brujo” conducted by Leopold Stokowski, the sound was very strange. It was like listening to tiny speakers with a subwoofer. The bass is deep and extended but there is no upper bass or lower midrange and the upper midrange is super loud. When I play this recording on any of my other headphones, the sound is warm and smooth.
Next I put on Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony conducted by George Szell and got the same results. There was a thinness to the sound that is completely unnatural. You would never hear a tonal balance like this in any concert hall. I have had this CD for decades and listened to it on many different speakers and headphones and it is normally a warm sounding recording. The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 just sucked the life out of the performance.
“The Rite of Spring” conducted by Simon Rattle actually sounded pretty good. There was really good resolution in the quiet parts and the big bass drum whacks had depth and power.
Probably the most disappointing recording was the Mahler First conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. This is one of my reference recordings and on the Philips X2 it is one of the most lifelike sounding recordings I have. On the ATH-MSR7, the sound was thin and anemic and generally unpleasant. I only made it about halfway through the first movement before I had to change to a different headphone.
I use CD, Blu-ray, and DVD as my sound source. I mostly use a Marantz CD6005 but sometimes use an Onkyo C-7030 as my CD player. I use a cheap Sony Blu-ray player for video.
I drive all my headphones with a Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amplifier. The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 is designed for portable use. However, I do not use any portable listening devices and do all my listening exclusively at home.
If you are planning on purchasing the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 and you intend to use them on your home audio system, you will need to purchase a 1/8” to 1/4” adaptor. There are 3 cables supplied but they all are 1/8” and there is no adaptor included. All my other headphones came with adaptors but apparently Audio Technica thinks the ATH-MSR7 is only going to be used with portable players.
I primarily listen to opera and orchestral music. The other headphones I currently own are the Sennheiser HD600, Sennheiser HD700, Beyerdynamic DT-990, Beyerdynamic T51i, and Philips Fidelio X2. All my headphones sound amazingly good when paired with the appropriate recording and each can be the best headphone I have ever heard. I consider all of my headphones to be a good value for the price.
The treble on Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 is loud. It is louder than any of my other headphones but not necessarily more detailed. While other headphones might have a boost in the mid or upper treble, the ATH-MSR7 starts the boost in the upper midrange and through the lower treble. Because of that you cannot really hear anything above the lower treble because it is drowned out by the volume.
The quality of the treble is middling. It is on par with the DT-990 and X2 but not as good as the HD600, HD700 or T51i.
The midrange is the most problematic part of the ATH-MSR7. The lean lower midrange coupled with the bright upper midrange is the downfall with this headphone. If they had gotten the midrange right, I think I might have been able to overlook the loud treble.
The bass is the best aspect of the ATH-MSR7. It is very detailed and extended and neutral. There is no bloat but it is powerful when needed. The big bass drums on Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky had excellent detail and impact. On Handel’s Serse, the bass was big and warm. Unfortunately the upper bass starts to disappear and it makes Beethoven and Haydn symphonies sound too lean.
The ATH-MSR7 does not have much of a soundstage but it images pretty good. There is good separation of images but no depth. Closed back headphones generally do not have as good of a soundstage as open backed ones but my only closed back headphone is the T51i and it has a decent soundstage. The ATH-MSR7 is average or slightly above average in this category for a closed back design.
In head to head comparisons to my other 5 headphones, it usually came in dead last and it never came in first. The highest it ever ranked was 3. I think the problem is that Audio Technica is trying to market this headphone as “high resolution” but they are not using upgraded drivers so they are altering the frequency balance to give the illusion of having a higher resolution.
Cons: hot spot headband, creaky plastic, unnatural midrange
I've had the Audio Technica MSR7s for about a year and a half now. I purchased them myself from amazon for £145. I won't bother with specs/accessories since every other review has already been over that.
Build and comfort
When you first hold the MSR7 the build feels very premium, it is weighty with aluminum cups and plush, high quality pads. However, the plastics used leave something to be desired, with a fair amount of creaking developing at the hinges and a general feeling of "don't stretch them too far" when you go to place them on your head. I think it was a mistake to use plastic on the hinges, it in no way inspires confidence. Luckily, that is the only real complaint about build, the rest of the headphone feels fairly solid and about in line with what you'd expect for the price.
Pads are plush, using what I presume is high quality pleather (materials are not mentioned anywhere). They provide great comfort for me, going all around my ears whilst being deep enough to keep my ears from touching the plastic behind the pads. If you have larger ears, I could see these pads being a little too small for you. The headband uses the same material as the pads but for some strange reason has more padding on top than on the bottom, where it will rest on you head. This, combine with the curved shape that will not conform to most heads, can create a bit of a hot spot on your head during long listening sessions.
Obviously, the MSR7 is an exceptionally handsome headphone, so no qualms there.
Truly the star of the show, the treble is stunning. In quantity, the treble could be seen as having just the slightest hint of warmth, preventing any harshness whilst preserving the details and excitement. The headphones resolve even the slightest detail with ease, never sounding congested or too upfront. In quality, the treble is liquid smooth, no harshness or even sibilance to speak of. The best highs I'm yet to hear in any headphone.
Robust. Bass extends reasonably low, perhaps missing the lowest rumble, but what it lacks in extension it makes up for in, well, everything else. In quantity the bass feels neutral with the treble and has no midbass hump or bleed into the vocals. Not really for bassheads. In quality, the bass in tight and fast with no distortion. Like I said earlier, the best word to describe the bass is "robust".
Mids are where the MSR7s fail to impress quite so much. The upper mids are a little too forward for my taste, introducing a leaness to the presentation of vocals that sounds a little unnatural. Instruments suffer the same flaw, although to a lesser extent. They sound detailed, but lack realism.
Imaging and soundstage
Soundstage is very small, with it feeling like everything is happening within a space the size of the cups. However, this is not to say they sound congested, in fact, its entirely the opposite. Thanks to the smooth, detailed treble and fast bass, imaging is pin point accurate with each instrument and singer given their own spot around your head. This results in none of the congestion and confusion associated with the small soundstage of closed headphones.
To sum up, the MSR7 is a handsome, well made headphone with reasonable comfort and fantasticly detailed sound. A solid offering at the price point.
Update: Forgot to mention that I find this headphone responds incredibly well the the Fiio E10k's bass boost. Great for if you feel these lack bass quantity. The above impressions were all made without the bass boost, however.