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Audio-Technica ATH-R70x - In-Depth Review & Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by earfonia, May 2, 2015.
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  1. earfonia
    Many thanks to Audio-Technica Singapore for the demo set loan of ATH-R70x!
    By the time i post this review, i have had it with me for more than a month.
     
    http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/headphones/f39784ce643a82e6/index.html
     
     
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    Sections:

    Summary & Highlights
    Sound Quality, Amplifier Matching, & Comparisons
    Features & Specifications
    Updates and additional information
     
     
     
     
     
    I was quite surprise of how light ATH-R70x was when I took it out of the box. Lighter than other headphones in my inventory. The matte black finish and the utilitarian design gives it a modern and professional look. A nice blend of form and function. ATH-R70x is designed in conjunction with Paris-based design company, ARRO Studio. When I listened to it for the first time, ATH-R70x gave me another surprise with its natural tonality. Not bright, not warm, it just sounds natural to my ears. From the beginning ATH-R70x feels, looks, and sounds professional.
     
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    When mentioning of professional open-back reference headphone, some of us might think of the well-known flagships, such as Sennheiser HD800, Beyerdynamic T1, or AKG K812. Is ATH-R70x competing with those flagships? Does ATH-R70x sound like any of those? The answer to both questions is simply, No. I have HD800 and T1 for years, and auditioned K812 a few times, and I'm glad ATH-R70x sound tuning has taken a different approach. In my opinion, it is complimenting those flagships rather than competing them. I will explain that later. Meanwhile for those who doesn't have much time to read the whole review, here is the summary, pros & cons, and some suggestions for improvement.
     
    03P1260044.jpg
     
     
     
     

    Summary:

    ATH-R70x has a very smooth, polite, and balanced sound signature. Tonality sounds natural and very pleasing without any annoying peaks or dips on the frequency spectrum. Sometime may sound a little too smooth, depending on recording. Tonality leans a little, to the warm side, just a little, not as warm as HD650. Bass and mids are balanced, with good bass presence & low bass extension, but it doesn't sound bassy. It has more bass than Beyerdynamic T1, but less bass than Philips Fidelio X1. Treble is only a tad softer than the midrange, but not lacking and overall still quite balance. I do prefer to hear a little more clarity, especially for my music. If HD800 brightness is North Pole, and HD650 warmness is South Pole, ATH-R70x tonality is probably Australia. ATH-R70x is not for basshead, and also not for those looking for HD800 or T1 transparency, but an excellent choice for those looking for natural and balanced sounding headphone for long period of music listening. ATH-R70x is especially good on vocal. Vocal sounds smooth, natural, and full bodied.
     
    Detail and resolution are good, slightly better than HD650, but not yet at the level of HD800 or T1. ATH-R70x is rather a little forgiving when it comes to revealing detail, especially when compared to HD800 and T1. Dynamic is pretty good, but a little hard to drive. With 470 ohms impedance ATH-R70x need a good amplifier to sound lively. When compared to T1 & HD800, ATH-R70x is not as fast sounding as those flagships, and not the best choice for extremely fast pace & complex music. But regular pace music, pop and jazz, sounds gorgeous on ATH-R70x. I definitely enjoy vocal on ATH-R70x better than HD800 and T1. For example, ATH-R70x is my favourite headphone for albums from Stockfisch Records. ATH-R70x does classical as well, but performs better with small orchestra and chamber music. As an open-back headphone, ATH-R70x imaging size is around average, not very spacious, but also not congested. Imaging is accurate, but not as big and spacious as HD800.
     
    I have burnt-in ATH-R70x for about 100 hours, no changes in sound quality. So, no burn-in is required for ATH-R70x, which is a good thing. Headphone that changes it sound after burn-in, to me is indicating inconsistency. As with DAC and amplifier, I didn't find ATH-R70x to have good chemistry with tube amp or warm & smooth sounding amp, and matches better with neutral to slightly analytic solid state amplifiers. With my ifi micro iDSD + iCAN, ATH-R70x is simply music. At 210 grams, ATH-R70x is feather-light and very comfortable. Headband pressure is pretty light, less pressure than T1, about the same as HD800. ATH-R70x fits really well on my head, always stays in place.
     
    Some factors of ATH-R70x that in my opinion make it suitable for professional applications:
    1. Very balanced, almost ruler flat tonality, makes ATH-R70x very useful for tonality observation & equalizer adjustment.
    2. Light weight and comfortable for long sessions. Headband pressure is light, but it fits very well, and not easily moved from position even with lots of head movement.
     
    I gave 5 stars for ATH-R70x, is that mean that ATH-R70x a perfect headphone? There is no such a thing as a perfect headphone. 5 stars are mainly for its performance, in comparison with other headphones within the price bracket that I've ever tried. Best achievements of ATH-R70x are the very natural tonality, almost ruler flat tonal balance, and the light weight and good fit of the headphones. ATH-R70x is probably not the one headphone that fits all music, but it really excels on what it does best, which are vocal, pop, and jazz. Generally modern recordings with closed miking sound wonderful on ATH-R70x. What I think can be improved further to match other open-back flagships mentioned above are the clarity, detail, speed and dynamic. Overall ATH-R70x is a very pleasing & comfortable headphone. Some headphone may sound technically right, but not necessarily emotionally involving. Not with ATH-R70x. With the right DAC and amplifier, ATH-R70x sounds gorgeous and emotionally involving. For under $500 bracket, in my opinion, ATH-R70x deserves 5 stars. An excellent sounding headphone for both professionals and audiophiles. Kudos to Audio-Technica!
     
     
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    Pros:

    Almost 'perfectly natural' tonal balance.
    Feather-light weight (approx. 210 g w/o cable).
     
     

    Cons:

    Obscured Left and Right markings.
    Only one long (3 meters) stock cable is included.
    Headband size might be a little short for extra-large size head.
     
     

    Suggestions For Improvement:

    Clearer Left and Right markings.
    Larger & thicker earpad for greater comfort.
    Shorter cable (approximately 1.5 m - 1.7 m) to be included.
    Semi-hard case protective carrying case.
     
     
     
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     ​
     
    trellus, Greennatt, Pokemonn and 6 others like this.
  2. earfonia

    Sound Quality, Amplifier Matching, & Comparisons

     
     
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    Sound Quality

     
    On the ATH-R70x webpage, first sentence of the overview is:
    'The ATH-R70x is Audio-Technica’s first pair of professional open-back reference headphones.'
    We know Audio-Technica has the ATH-ADxxx open-back series for many years, but the AD series categorized by Audio-Technica as 'Audiophile' headphones, while ATH-R70x is their first 'Professional open-back reference headphones'. So, what is the difference between Audiophile and Professional reference headphones? In short, there is no standardized definition for it. But, since I have to review 'The First Audio-Technica Professional Open-Back Reference Headphone', I must have some definition of what is so called professional reference headphone. I'm not going to try to create a long list of definition for professional and audiophile headphones, but let's just focus on the most important aspect, the sound quality.
     
    In my opinion, professional Reference headphone must have neutral tonality (perceived neutral by average human hearing). Reference headphone tonality must be neutral enough to be useful for sound engineer to analyse the tonality of a recording. While audiophile headphones on the other hand, might also have neutral tonality, but are allowed to have lesser degree of accuracy, and some flexibility for coloration. While in studio we prefer to have a certain standard of neutrality, from users' point of view we might want to have more colours to suit individual preferences. Audiophile headphones might be tuned to have more bass, or to have more transparency, fun V-shape tonality, or intimate warmer sound, etc. In reality, many so called or labelled professional headphones have very different tonality one to another. Manufacturers may use 'Professional' label as they like. Standard for perceived neutral tonality is rather loose, but not totally subjective. Reviews of a certain headphone by a group of experienced reviewers for example, might give us a general idea of the tonality of the headphone.
     
    Sound quality is not only tonality. There are detail, dynamic, imaging, and maybe some other parameters. Those parameters are not easily measured. The better way to get 'approval' for 'Professional Reference' quality is probably to let well known professional sound engineers, trained ears, who have good experience with headphones, to use them, and get their opinions about the overall sound quality. In this case, I know I'm not qualified to give 'approval' of whether ATH-R70x deserves the label of 'Professional Reference Headphone', but I will do what I can to give honest opinion, based on some years of journey in Head-Fi world.
     
    My observation of ATH-R70x sound quality, to my ears, the tonality is close to ruler flat, almost colourless, especially for frequency spectrum below 5 kHz. Bass and mids are in perfect balance. The treble also sounds flat and smooth, without any annoying peaks. But to my preference, the treble is approximately 3 dB below the midrange, depending on recording. Mostly for classical and other distant miking recording, like binaural, I do prefer a little more treble. The treble is smooth flat, but a tad soft on some classical recordings. While listening to pop or other modern genres (closed miking), I don't feel the treble is lacking. Treble level is just nice for those recordings. But when listening to classical, I do prefer a more airy and sparkling treble. A simple 3 dB shelf up as shown below satisfies my need for more transparency:
     
    07FoobarEQATH-R70x.png
     
     
    Being flat and neutral, ATH-R70x never sounds dull or boring. It does it in a nice musical way. We need to redeem the use of the word 'flat', which is often associated with dull and boring sound, the kind of lifeless (poor dynamic & frequency response) sound signature. What I mean by flat is balanced tonality, enough bass energy with good treble sparkle to bring music to come alive. But don't get me wrong, ATH-R70x is not V shape either. Not even mildly V shape. So ATH-R70x is not 'n' shape, and neither 'V' shape. To my ears, tonality is almost in perfect balance and ruler flat. Only the treble is tad soft for distant miking recording, but quite balance on closed miking recording. I'm a T1 and HD800 user for years, so I kind of get used to natural bright & transparent headphones. So the lesser treble of ATH-R70x sounds a tad soft to me. Could be also due to aging. At 42 this year, my hearing limit is only up to approximately 15 kHz. I ever tested my hearing with 15 kHz tone, using Beyerdynamic T1. Wearing T1, I heard only a very soft high pitch, and suddenly my teenage son about 2.5 meters away from me asking, 'what's that high pitch sound?'. Oh man, I hope I can have teenager ears :)
     
    As for level of perceived detail, though detail is good and more than sufficient for music listening, probably a more analytic sounding headphone would be more useful for professionals to hear more details, especially when cleaning very soft clicks and pops in the recording. ATH-R70x is also rather sibilant friendly, so, maybe not the best monitor for applying de-esser.
     
    When we talk about dynamic, for professional application, it would be the use of compressor. Sound engineer need good monitor to apply the right amount of compression. I use compressors in mixing, but don't have much experience with it. My friend Leonard, a sound engineer, gave me some samples of the same composition with different amount and type of compressors. Some with mild differences I could hear the difference using ATH-R70x, but some with very mild differences was hard to differentiate. So I would say ATH-R70x score for dynamic is about average. Still not as good as T1 to reveals micro dynamic.
     
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    On imaging, ATH-R70x though doesn't sound very spacious, but has pretty good imaging. Quite accurate with good depth. But I haven't tried, how useful / accurate it is as monitor when applying reverberation. I cannot comment much on this.
     
    To me, the colourless tonality of ATH-R70x is quite amazing. Just from the tonality alone, in my opinion, ATH-R70x deserves the title of 'Professional Reference Headphone'. It doesn't really excel in detail and dynamic as compared to other flagships, but it really does well in tonality. I will use ATH-R70x for observing tonality and equalizer adjustment, while I will still need my T1 for other things such as clean up, applying de-esser, compressor, and reverb. That's the reason in the beginning I said that ATH-R70x is complementing those mentioned flagships professional headphones. But that's my opinion, and I'm really curious to see the result of ATH-R70x frequency response measurement. I hope Audio-Technica will send @Tyll Hertsens a set of ATH-R70x to be measured and reviewed.
     
    In reality, professionals don't rely only on one pair of headphones. It is better to check the final mix on a few reference headphones to hear the overall sound quality from different monitors. And I would recommend ATH-R70x to be one of the reference headphones to be used by the professionals.
     
     
     
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    Amplifier Matching

     
    From some of the DACs and Amplifiers I used for this review, Mytek Stereo192-DSD, Violectric HPA V200, Yulong DA8, Yulong A28, ifi micro iDSD, ifi micro iCAN, & iBasso DX90, to my ears the ifi stack, micro iDSD + micro iCAN, sound best for ATH-R70x. While Yulong DA8 headphone output usually is one of my favourite for my headphones, including the T1 and HD800, but a little too warm for ATH-R70x. ifi stack gives better treble sparkle and improve micro dynamic of ATH-R70x. Also sounds a little more spacious. I also tried ifi micro iDSD + Audio-Technica AT-HA22TUBE amplifier, pretty good especially on vocal and recordings with sibilant, but generally ATH-R70x prefer neutral sounding solid state, the ifi micro iCAN is more sparkling with better micro detail for ATH-R70x.
     
    Somehow the differences between DACs and amplifiers are affecting ATH-R70x, though don't sound like much differences, but to my impression, quite significant. ATH-R70x doesn't sound as analytical or detailed sounding headphone, but it is kind of sensitive to the level of detail of the DACs and Amplifiers. The ifi micro iDSD seems to have better detail and instrument separation that improves overall ATH-R70x sound quality. Therefore I generally prefer the ifi stack for ATH-R70x, up to the point that I prefer to listen to ATH-R70x only with the ifi stack, compared to other gears in my inventory. Beside the ifi stack, the iBasso DX90 surprisingly performs quite well with ATH-R70x for portable player. Not at the level of ifi stack, but quite enjoyable. From my experience, ATH-R70x is quite amplifier or source dependent. Not too difficult to match, but getting a matching DAC and amplifier is recommended. I brought ATH-R70x to a friend house, and tried it with ifi micro iDSD + Meier Corda Classic, and they match really well. Basically ATH-R70x, as mentioned, better matched with detailed sounding DAC and amplifier that have good dynamic.  And I recommend avoiding warm and smooth sounding amplifier for ATH-R70x.
     
    10P1260266.jpg
     
     
    I will use the ifi stack for the comparison here, except for the comparison with HD650. Beside the HD650, all comparisons are with headphones in my inventory. I don't have HD650, therefore I did the comparison in a local headphone shop (Jaben Singapore), and at that time I had only DX90 with me. So comparison with HD 650 was using DX90 as player.
     
     
     

    Comparisons

     
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    Comparison with Sennheiser HD 800

    Comfort wise, HD 800 large ear cups are really comfortable, more comfortable than the 'rather small' ATH-R70x ear cups. While with HD 800 my pinnae are completely 'free', not touching HD 800 ear cups, ATH-R70x ear cups feels a little too fit for my ears, and my pinna touch the inner side of the ATH-R70x ear cups. Not up to uncomfortable level, but when compared to HD 800, HD 800 feels more comfortable. ATH-R70x stays better in position, while HD 800 might shift from position by certain head movement. Especially when I nod quickly, HD 800 is easier to fall from position, while ATH-R70x stays firmer in position. When you need a comfortable headphone that stays firmly, ATH-R70x is the better choice.
     
    Beside comfort, HD 800 is probably one of the most spacious sounding professional reference headphone I've ever heard. HD 800 is simply the best when big and spacious soundstage is the highest priority. Most probably due to the large ear cups that give more distant between the drivers and the ears. ATH-R70x imaging is smaller and more intimate, probably due to the very close distant of the drivers to the ears. ATH-R70x doesn't sound congested, but I cannot say it sounds spacious, especially when compared to HD 800.
     
    For tonality, honestly, HD800 is a little too bright for me for many recordings. It is more suitable for distant miking recordings such as classical, but too bright for modern closed miking recordings. Tonality wise, to me ATH-R70x sounds better than HD800, overall more linear with more natural tonal balance. HD 800 is a little peaky on treble, at around 6-7 kHz, so tonally HD 800 is not perceived very linear. When compared to ATH-R70x, HD 800 sounds brighter, and leaner on the mids and bass. HD 800 has less bass than ATH-R70x. HD 800 bass is very fast and detailed, but lacking bass body. On vocal HD 800 sounds clear, clean & transparent, but also thin and prone to sibilant especially on closed miked vocal. Vocal on ATH-R70x sounds fuller and smoother. When we are used to HD 800 (or other bright sounding headphone), ATH-R70x may sounds a little dull, lacking a little of transparency. So, it is depend on which kind of tonality our brain has been adjusted to. HD 800 puts music in a bright room, 6500K lighting, and inspect it under microscope, everything is crystal clear. ATH-R70x puts music in a music lounge, with not so bright, warmer 4000K lighting, brings listener to a more relaxing environment.
     
    ATH-R70x is not as fast and detailed as HD 800, but it has more balanced and neutral sounding tonality. For spotting details in mixing, HD 800 is clearly the better option. For music listening, I generally prefer the more natural and pleasing sound character of ATH-R70x.
     
     
     

    Comparison with Sennheiser HD 650

    As mentioned earlier, I don't have HD 650. I've listened to HD 650 a few times before, but for a more accurate comparison I went to a local headphone shop (Jaben Singapore), to compare both of them.
     
    I know both HD 650 and ATH-R70x would benefit a lot from good amplifier, but at that time I had only iBasso DX90 with me to drive them. At least both are compared using same player and songs, at approximately the same loudness. I spent approximately half an hour in the shop, not a very extensive comparison like with other headphones, so please take it with a grain of salt.
     
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    They share some similarities, especially on the tonality. Those who like HD650 tonality will most probably like ATH-R70x as well.
    HD650 is warmer, smoother, and slightly darker, with more 'creamy' midrange. ATH-R70x sounds a little dryer, with better detail and clarity, also slightly better bass and midrange texture. Overall ATH-R70x sounds less coloured than HD650, to my ears ATH-R70x is more natural sounding.
    ATH-R70x also has slightly better dynamic and spaciousness. My personal preference is more toward ATH-R70x sound signature. Both are not easy to drive and will benefit from good amplifier.
     
    I came to the shop with my friend Leo, a sound engineer. I let him listened to both as well, and he also prefers the ATH-R70x sound quality, especially from the view of natural tonality.
     
     
     

    Comparison with Beyerdynamic T 1

    T1 has higher level of clarity and perceived detail, sounds more spacious and brighter than ATH-R70x. The level of brightness of T1 is probably more or less similar to HD 800, but the treble emphasize is on different frequency region. HD 800 treble emphasized is at around 6-7 kHz, while T1 is at around 8-9 kHz. Although looks pretty close, but the perceived brightness is quite different. When we are looking at the human hearing 'Equal Loudness Curves', both Fletcher–Munson curves and the more updated ISO 226:2003 curves, there is significant different of sensitivity between treble at around the 6-7 kHz and 8-9 kHz. Our hearing is much less sensitive at 8-9 kHz than at 6-7 kHz region. Therefore HD 800 treble sounds more glaring or peaky, while T1 treble, although still sounds bright, but sounds more natural and less glaring. Looking at the T1 frequency response graph, although the treble looks peaky, but since the graph at 5-10 kHz area is close to our hearing equal loudness response, T1's treble sounds smoother than HD 800. Both T1 and HD 800 brightness are approximately around 6 dB brighter than ATH-R70x. When I tried to equalize T1 using foobar equalizer to bring T1 tonal balance closer to ATH-R70x, I increased the bass region around 2 dB, and cut the treble region by around 6 dB. For T1 owners, you can try the eq setting below to estimate ATH-R70x tonality.
     
    55 - 220 hz : +2 dB
    311 Hz : + 1 dB
    440 Hz - 2.5 kHz : 0 dB
    3.5 kHz : -2 dB
    5 kHz : -5 dB
    7 kHz : -6 dB
    10 kHz : -7 dB
    14 kHz : -3 dB
    20 kHz : 0 dB
     
    13FoobarEQT1toATH-R70x.png
     
     
    To estimate the frequency response, I did White Noise measurement using AudioTool application and Dayton Audio iMM-6 calibrated measurement microphone. It’s not an accurate measurement, only for estimation. White Noise file was generated by Audacity, played through Yulong DA8. Dayton iMM-6 microphone was positioned at my ear, as shown on the following picture:
     
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    Screenshots of AudioTool when monitoring White Noise that is played through headphone:
     
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    I’m actually quite surprise that T1 could sound pretty close tonally with the ATH-R70x with above foobar equalization. T1 is still better on dynamic, slightly livelier than ATH-R70x.
     
    Btw, I notice that some said earlier production batch of T1 might have some differences in sound quality to newer batch of T1. Inner Fidelity posted measurement of 2 different T1s. My T1 serial number is 7230, not sure if it is the better one or not, but so far, between my T1 and my HD 800, I do prefer the T1, as it sounds more linear to my ears, and better sounding midrange.
     
    Comparing T1 and ATH-R70x, both sounds relatively linear in tonality, with T1 emphasizes more on the treble region, and ATH-R70x emphasize more on the bass to low mid region. For listening to classical, I prefer T1. While for pop and jazz, I prefer the ATH-R70x tonality. Overall T1 excels on clarity, detail, and speed. And ATH-R70x sounds more pleasing for long sessions.
     
    T1 and HD 800 pair well with smooth and warm amplifiers to compensate their brightness, while ATH-R70x pairs better with detailed and neutral sounding amplifiers.
     
     
     

    Comparison with Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro (600 ohms)

    As expected, DT 880 Pro sounds brighter than ATH-R70x, with less bass. DT 880 Pro sounds leaner and more transparent, while ATH-R70x sounds beefier and fuller around bass and midrange area, with softer and less transparent treble. Tonality wise it is like comparing T1 to ATH-R70x. T1 treble sounds smoother than DT 880 Pro, with slightly fuller bass and midrange. T1 also has better depth in imaging, and sounds more refined than DT 880 Pro. But both DT 880 Pro and T1 do have some similarities in tonality. To me T1 is just like a better DT 880 Pro. So, more or less the comparison between ATH-R70x and DT 880 Pro, tonality wise is not much different than ATH-R70x compared to T1.
     
    Those who like transparent sound will prefer DT 880 Pro over ATH-R70x, while those who have high treble sensitivity will most probably prefer ATH-R70x over DT 880 Pro. Both are equally good, just a matter of individual preferences on tonal balance.
     
     
     

    Comparison with Philips Fidelio X1

    There are some similarities on the tonality. When compared to ATH-R70x, Fidelio X1 sounds mildly V shape in tonality, more bass, slightly more treble, and slightly leaner midrange. Main difference is on the bass. Personally I like X1 bass, it has better low bass extension and bass punch. While ATH-R70x bass level would be more suitable for the purists. Fidelio X1 treble level is slightly more sparkling. ATH-R70x wins around the midrange area, vocal sounds better and fuller on ATH-R70x. When looking for flat and balanced tonality, to my ears ATH-R70x tonality is slightly flatter than Fidelio X1, while Fidelio X1 is more fun sounding. Fidelio X1 has a tad better dynamic and sounds livelier. Probably due to better bass. Fidelio X1 also slightly sounds more spacious, probably due to slightly larger and more spacious ear cups. Level of detail is quite comparable between the two.
     
    Comfort wise, ATH-R70x feels lighter with slightly less headband pressure. Fidelio X1 is also a comfortable headphone with larger ear cups, but does feel heavier. ATH-R70x ear pads are replaceable, while X1 earpads are not. The dual-sided detachable cable of ATH-R70x is theoretically better to separate the ground wire between left and right drivers to reduce crosstalk. While on X1 ground wire is shared between left and right drivers. From my experience, mild to moderate crosstalk is expected from shared ground wire design.
     
    From the design perspective it is quite clear that they are oriented to different segments. The low impedance Fidelio X1 is more smartphone friendly, easier to drive by portable devices, practically can be used by anyone. While the high impedance ATH-R70x requires headphone amplifier or audio player with higher output voltage, oriented more to the professionals and serious audiophiles.
     
    Personally, I like them both equally. Both are 5 stars in my book.
     
  3. earfonia

    Features & Specifications

     
    ATH-R70x with its utilitarian design weighs only 210 grams. It is very light, but it feels tough. It seems to be able to handle frequent use in professional applications. Durability is not something easy to test, I cannot do drop test on this demo set, or to test how strong is the cable until it breaks. So durability is only through visual and some hands-on observation. I've brought it with me in my back pack, using semi-hard case, several times, so not only using it at home. I have no issue with the build quality so far.
     
    The following is weight comparisons without cables, with other headphones in this review. ATH-R70x is simply the lightest.
     
    Audio-Technica R70x : 210 grams
    Sennheiser HD 800 : 330 grams
    Beyerdynamic T 1 : 350 grams
    Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro : 295 grams
    Philips Fidelio X1 : 300 grams
     
     
    20P1260052.jpg
     
     
    ATH-R70x is light, fits well, and also stays well in position. The metal headband can be bent to some degree, for better comfort and fit. I think bendable headband is a good feature to adjust the headband pressure. My concern is probably more on the headband size. My head size is probably around medium to large. T1 has 9 clicks of headband adjustment, 9 clicks left and 9 clicks right. I set it to 4 clicks both left and right for my head. The rest of 5 clicks is approximately another 2 cm on each left and right side of the headband, total of 4 cm allowance left for larger size head. With ATH-R70x, when I pushed it to the max, I estimate like there is only around 1 cm left for each side. That means probably only around 2-2.5 cm allowance left for larger head. So for users that usually need to use T1 at their maximum headband reach, please take note of this.
     
     
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    I highly recommend professional headphone to have detachable cable, to easily replace the cable when it spoil. not only that, when working on very large mixing console, longer cable or long coiled cable will be required. But sometime on small desk, too long cable is annoying. Detachable cable makes it easier to use the right cable to suit the working environment. ATH-R70x cable is dual-sided, each using a locking 2.5 mm TRS jack. Quoted from Audio-Technica website:
    "dual-sided detachable cable that automatically maintains proper stereo orientation (no matter how it’s attached)"
    The stock cable, carries both left and right channels on each side. The 2.5 mm socket on each driver only wired to one of the channel, so it doesn't matter how the cable is connected, left driver only connected to the left channel, and right channel only connected to right channel.
     
    22P1260015.jpg
     
     
    Well, it looks like a clever approach, but so far I have never heard users have problem with connecting cable correctly to the left & right drivers. So, looks like a solution to a problem that never been really a problem in the first place. Well, YMMV. My concern is more to the Left and Right marking that kind of obscured. For me clear Left and Right marking is more important than the cable feature above. Since the Left and Right marking are not clear, I have to rely on the different thickness of the area of the earpads to identify the right orientation. The back side of the earpads is thicker than the front side. Later on my DIY cable, I simply use red colour shrink tube on the right cable for easy identification.
     
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    Back to the cable, unfortunately, not like the ATH-Mx series which come with various cables, long, short, & coiled, ATH-R70x only comes with one 3 meters long straight cable. The cable is too long for my home use; therefore I made my own cable for ATH-R70x. I use LyxPro LCP Quad Series microphone cable (4 wires) I bought from Amazon, with locking 2.5 mm TRS jack I bought from Lunashop. The 2.5 mm jack fits & locks nicely.
     
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    Most of the impressions in this review are using my DIY cable. I'm quite annoyed with the stock cable, it is too long. I suggest Audio-Technica to include shorter cable for ATH-R70x. The DIY cable sounds a tad better, a tad more transparent, just a tad. The stock cable is fine, just too long for me.
     
     
    The earpads are smaller than the rest of the headphones in comparison. Still comfortable, but I do prefer a little larger and deeper earpads for better comfort. ATH-R70x earpads touch my pinna lightly, not up to uncomfortable level, but larger earpads would be more comfortable. In comparison with Beyerdynamic T1 earpad below, T1 earpad inner diameter is around 5.8 cm, and ATH-R70x earpad inner diameter is around 5 cm.
     
    29P1260055.jpg
     
     
    Without earpad, the driver frame is actually quite thin.
     
    30P1260067.jpg
     
    31P1260063.jpg
     
     
     

    Loudness Comparisons

    Loudness comparison showing the approximate requirement of output voltage for the headphones to produce equal loudness. I use 85 dB pink noise (0 dBFS) generated using Audacity, to compare loudness between the headphones. I use AudioTool app on my Samsung Galasy S4 with Dayton Audio iMM-6 calibrated measurement microphone (with the calibration file from Dayton Audio). Setup shown previously on White Noise measurement.
     
    The reason why I use Pink Noise for loudness measurement, Pink Noise loudness translates better to my general music listening volume, better than White Noise and Sine tune. Meaning, when I set the volume to 85 dB Pink Noise, the volume is more or less the same as the listening volume I set to listen some of my reference albums (Linn Records, Channel Classics, David Manley Recordings, etc.). Beside that White Noise and Sine tune are quite irritating to my ears.
     
    After the Pink Noise measurement, then I play 100 Hz Sine (0 dBFS) to measure the output voltage of the amplifier. All loudness measurement is done using Yulong DA8. Yulong DA8 digital volume is easier for volume level reading and accuracy. Output voltage measured using Owon VDS3102 digital oscilloscope, unloaded.
     
    Audio-Technica R70x
    Yulong DA8 volume reading : -18.5 dB
    Digital oscilloscope reading : 0.79 Vrms / 2.28 Vpp
     
    Sennheiser HD 800
    Yulong DA8 volume reading : -18.0 dB
    Digital oscilloscope reading : 0.84 Vrms / 2.40 Vpp
     
    Beyerdynamic T 1
    Yulong DA8 volume reading : -15.0 dB
    Digital oscilloscope reading : 1.18 Vrms / 3.40 Vpp
     
    Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro (600)
    Yulong DA8 volume reading : -10.0 dB
    Digital oscilloscope reading : 2.11 Vrms / 6.00 Vpp
     
    Philips Fidelio X1
    Yulong DA8 volume reading : -28.0 dB
    Digital oscilloscope reading : 0.26 Vrms / 0.76 Vpp
     
    As you can see, the output voltage requirement of ATH-R70x is pretty close to HD 800. So far, playing a soft sounding recording at pretty loud volume (not recommended), 6.6 Vrms / 18.8 Vpp is the maximum output voltage required. iBasso DX90 has maximum output voltage of 2.69 Vrms / 7.6 Vpp, so far, generally quite adequate for ATH-R70x. This output voltage measurement is useful when looking for a headphone amplifier for ATH-R70x. Get an amplifier with at least 5 Vrms maximum output for ATH-R70x. Or if you have a lot of soft sounding recording collections, 7 Vrms would be a safer choice.
     
     
     
    I really had good times with ATH-R70x, and I really enjoyed it. One of the best headphone for long sessions. Hope this review would be useful for the readers. Once again congratulation to Audio-Technica for this nice sounding open-back reference headphone!
     
     
     

    Specifications

    Type: Open-back reference
    Driver Diameter: 45 mm
    Frequency Response: 5 - 40,000 Hz
    Maximum Input Power: 1,000 mW at 1 kHz
    Sensitivity: 99 dB
    Impedance: 470 ohms
    Weight: 210 g (7.4 oz), without cable and connector
    Accessories Included: Protective carrying pouch
    Cable: 1 x 3m included; Detachable with 2.5 mm TRS connector

     
     
    32P1260084.jpg
     
    33P1260089.jpg
     
    34P1260090.jpg
     
     
     
     

    Equipment used in this review:

     
    Headphones:
    Audio-Technica ATH-R70x (loan demo set)
    Beyerdynamic T 1
    Beyerdynamic DT 880
    Philips Fidelio X1
    Sennheiser HD 800
    Sennheiser HD 650
     
    DACs & Headphone Amplifiers:
    Audio-Technica AT-HA22TUBE
    iBasso DX90
    ifi micro iDSD (firmware 4.06)
    ifi micro iCan
    Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC (firmware 1.8.1)
    Violectric HPA V200
    Yulong DA8
    Yulong A28
     
    Cables:
    Atlas Equator MKIII Integra RCA cable (0.5m)
    Forza Claire Hybrid RCA (8 inch) (loan from @igndenny - Thanks a lot! Very nice sounding RCA cable!) 
    Pangea Audio - USB cable - PCOCC & 4% silver - 2 Meters
    QED Reference Audio Evolution XLR cable (DIY 40 cm cable)
    Some DIY cables
     
    Computer & Player:
    DIY Desktop PC: Gigabyte GA-H77-D3H-MVP motherboard, Intel i7-3770, 16 GB RAM, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit SP1.
    foobar2000 v1.3.3
     
    Measurement Instrument & Application:
    Dayton Audio iMM-6 calibrated measurement microphone
    Samsung Galaxy S4 (SHV-E330K) - Android 4.4.2
    AudioTool v6.3 for Android
    Owon VDS3102 USB Digital Oscilloscope
     
     
     
     

    Some recordings used in this review:

    Albums2015-01.jpg
     
  4. lalala6
    Excellent write-up! Very tempted to get a R70x now...
     
    How you would compare it to the MSR7?
     
    Thanks for the review!
     
  5. earfonia
     
    Thanks!
     
    ATH-R70x is tuned very differently to ATH-MSR7. While MSR7 has typical AT house sound with emphasized clarity and forward upper mids, ATH-R70x has zero AT house sound. No AT house sound at all on ATH-R70x. Tonality is almost perfectly neutral.
     
    Let's wait for @twister6 to review his ATH-R70x, hopefully he will compare it with MSR7.
     
    lalala6 and kawaivpc1 like this.
  6. kawaivpc1
    How would you compare R70x to Shure's SRH1840???
     
  7. earfonia
     
    Good question! The last time I tried SRH1840 was a few years ago. So only a very faint impression left, and I remember it sounds bright.  ATH-R70x is not bright at all.  So I guess, very different tonality.
     
  8. lsamod
    Great work earfonia! Have you heard the Mad dogs as well? Any thoughts on those two? 
     
  9. kawaivpc1

    I see.. how about LCD-X? can you compare it to LCD-X? LCD-X is Audeze's only reference headphone just like R70x.
     
    Also, do you think R70x is better than AD2000x? and AKG K812?
     
  10. twister6 Contributor
     
    First of all, AMAZING review!!!  In comparison, when my review will be out you can call it an "impression" next to your masterpiece!!!
     
    Regarding R70x vs MRS7, MSR7 has a little more bass quantity, in particular a stronger mid-bass punch,mids have a bit less clarity and pushed a little back, treble has a little more sizzle, soundstage depth is the same but width is a little more narrower, and overall tuning is more balanced vs R70x being more neutral (with a very impressive natural transparent tonality).
     
    lalala6 likes this.
  11. Pokemonn
    Are R70x harsher than HD650 or AKG K712 in treble???
     
  12. Music818
    Really great and details review! Thanks!
     
  13. earfonia

    I only heard Mad Dog briefly long time ago, didn't have accurate memory for the sound signature, so I cannot comment on that.
     
  14. earfonia

    I haven't tried LCD-X. AD2000x is rather coloured, so it is depending on personal preferences. For me, I prefer the neutral tonality of R70x.

    K812 is with the group of T1 and HD 800, natural bright analytical reference headphones. So very different to R70x smooth and natural tonality.
     
    kawaivpc1 likes this.
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