Introduction

Audio-Technica is a global company that we have learned is quite well-known for its broadcast and recording quality microphones and headphones. The company began nearly 50 years ago manufacturing stereo phono cartridges which many of our readers have never heard of. Both technology and the audio market in general changed, so the company started creating new products to appeal to broadcasters, recording professionals, and home users. The company now focuses on high-performance microphones, mixers, and headphones.

In June of this year, we reviewed the company’s ATH-AD700 open backed headphones strictly in the scope of PC usage. We had an absolutely excellent listening experience and those headphones earned a gold award. But that style of headphones does not favor two things: sound isolation and strong emphasis on bass reproduction. This is typical of open backed headphones in general, and not a flaw in any way of the product itself; it is by design.

Audio-Technica recently sent us a pair of its ATH-A700 Circumaural Closed-Back Dynamic Headphones and we are going to see in what areas our experience differs from our first outing with the company’s products.

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Product – Pricing – Packaging

Currently, the A700 headphones can be found on NewEgg.com for 124.37 with free shipping. Amazon.com has a slightly lower price of 119.90 and offers its free super saver shipping.

Audio-Technica’s website offers the product for 179.95. We always like to list the manufacturer’s suggested retail price to give our readers incentive to shop around for the best possible price. It is also important to make sure the product manufacturer honors its warranty regardless of where the product is bought. Amazon and NewEgg usually list return and refund conditions at the very bottom of product pages.

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The packaging looks very different than our first set of headphones from Audio-Technica. We found the packaging of the AD700 headphones to be a bit misleading as to what was really inside. That box had a large purple feather on it. The feather does not tell shoppers anything about what is really in the box that might catch their interest. They would have to open the box’s flap and the A700 continues this trend as well. This time though, we were greeted with a slightly more elegant design.

The outer box flap is silver and red and features a violin resting on sheet music. Prospective buyers can open the box flap to see the actual headphones through a plastic window. We simply do not understand why Audio-Technica does not use a simple hi-res photo like the first of the four pictures above of the product to catch a buyer’s eye. Why the camoflage? A buyer has to read the packaging carefully to see in very small letters, “Art Monitor Headphones” beneath the word “ART”.

Features

  • Audiophile-quality headphones with metallic finish
  • Closed-back Double Air Damping System for deep bass reproduction
  • Propriety large-aperture 53 mm drivers with neodymium magnet systems and CCAW voice coils for superior sound reproduction
  • Self-adjusting 3D Wing Support Housing provides comfortable support
  • OFC (oxygen-free copper) cloth-wrapped cable
  • Ear pads featuring A-T’s ultra-comfortable total ear fitting design
  • Gold-plated stereo 1/8″ (3.5 mm) connector with 1/4″ (6.3 mm) adapter

The Audio-Technica A700 headphones carry a one year limited warranty. The product will be repaired free of charge if it is found to be defective upon return to Audio-Technica or an authorized service center. It must also be accompanied by the original product receipt.

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If you are a first time buyer of a quality set of headphones, some of the above terms and descriptions may not mean much to you. Therefore, we will explain some of those terms more in-depth to aid potential buyers in their purchasing decision.

The painted metallic finish of the headphone’s ear-cups are listed first in the product’s feature set. We have to say this does set them apart from a lot of the plain or cheap-looking headphones we have previously considered for review. We are not impressed with headphones that have gawdy and/or bright color schemes as such choices really narrow a product’s appeal in our eyes. Creative’s WoW Wireless headset was targeted specifically to World of Warcraft players, while the A700’s dark and rich colors tend to give this product a classy, attractive, and timeless appeal. The A700 product theme shows us that the company has spent considerable time and effort in the product’s design.

According to the product packaging, the closed-back double air damping system is “used to reproduce linear sound in the bass range.” If you have ever heard the huff and rattle other brands of speakers and headphones exhibit when reproducing low frequency sounds, you may find this feature attractive as well .

After a bit of research on our part, we learned that Audio-Technica employs copper clad aluminum wire in the headphone’s voice coil for two reasons. A copper aluminum blend is cheaper to produce than wire made of pure copper. The blended wire also makes for a better conductor and is stronger than a pure aluminum one.

The choice of the 53 mm drivers in the ear-cups seems to be a good one for closed-back headphones. The extremely large drivers and their housing will be less constrictive on the ears and head during wear. Other popular brands and styles of headphones typically use 30 to 40mm drivers. The accompanying ear-cups for those sizes of drivers may fit too tightly for some users.

The circumaural ear-cup design aids greatly in sound isolation. Sounds should not leak in and out of the headphones as is more typical with headphones that do not completely cover the ears. It also allows for deeper bass reproduction that open-back headphones simply cannot match. Corsair made similar choices as we saw in our Corsair HS1 headset review of that company’s premiere headset last month.

Many other popular headphone manufacturers choose to use a large padded headband that rests on top of a user’s head to support the headphones’ weight. Audio-Technica’s 3D wing support system is intended to eliminate discomfort at the top of the wearer’s head over long periods of use.

The oxygen free copper cable choice should become clear after the following explanation: copper degrades and flakes over time. Oxygen free copper has been shown to exhibit almost no degradation after many years of use.

Lastly, the gold plated adapter included with the headphones will not corrode as cheaper metal choices would, so the output signal received by the headphones would not be degraded as a result of a poor connection.

Appearance – Styling – Design

When we unboxed the A700 headphones, we could immediately see that the product photo at the company’s website simply does not do the product justice. After looking at dozens of headphones and headsets in the last year, we can honestly say that the appearance of the A700 will immediately raise the bar for any buyer that looks for class over flash in the physical appearance of his headphone or headset choices.

Before receiving the A700 headphones for review, we had already seen a single hi-res picture on the company’s website. That photo made it appear as if the headphones had an all black color scheme with only a small amount of gold lettering in the middle of both ear-cups. In actuality, the A700 headphones have two very striking metallic-blue ear-cups. There are two small red label plates directly above each ear-cup that indicate if it is intended for the left or right side of the head. This set of headphones is circumaural. The ear-cups will entirely cover the ears of the wearer, not simply rest on top of them.

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The two pleather-covered and pleated ear pads are replaceable from Audio-Technica as well as third party dealers. Both pads are fairly thick and prevent the drivers’ plastic housing from irritating the wearer’s ears or scalp. When we removed one of the two pads, we found an angled driver inside. This is a great design choice over a flush one, as the driver does not place any pressure directly against the ear.

Each cup can swivel inward and outward 25 degrees to allow for varying head shapes and comfort choices. The two are connected by two “titanium” rods. Those rods are sheathed in thin rubber so the bare metal does come into direct contact with anything.

In between the half-moon rods and the ear-cups are two of Audio-Technica’s unique 3D wings. These wings take the place of a single piece headband. They simply rest on the surface of a wearer’s head, but they do not grip tightly or add unneeded pressure in any way. The wings are padded with foam and can swivel in three dimensions to accommodate various head sizes and shapes with ease.

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We liked that Audio-Technica chose to use a long, braided cable for connection to audio receivers or PCs. This type of cable is very easy to untangle and the extra layer of protection provided by the braided material will prevent premature wear and tear of the copper cable beneath. With nine feet of cord, most people should have plenty of leeway when moving around their PCs.

Because of the sheer size of these headphones, we thought they would be quite heavy and bulky. In fact, they weigh less than two-thirds of a pound but they still retain a sturdy feel.

Installation

The A700 headphones do not require any software from the manufacturer in order to function properly. A user simply has to plug the headphones into an appropriate front panel, headphone out, or front channel out jack on the back of the sound card.

In order to use these headphones with a PC, we feel users should select either two channel stereo or headphones in their sound card’s software control panel to achieve the best listening results. We definitely recommend switching between the two modes to find which works best for your personal setup and preference.

We will be using the dedicated headphone out jack on the back of our Creative Titanium HD sound card to insure the best listening experience. Those that use front panel jacks may encounter EM interference from inside their PC cases and any unshielded electrical components therein. The front panel jack may also fail to satisfy the individual impedance and sensitivity requirements of certain brands of headphones or headsets. We will comment on this possibility later in the review.

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Movies

For our first choice, we felt it would be good to revisit Clash of the Titans (2010). In our August review of the Astro A40 Headset and Mixamp, the movie’s soundtrack quickly exposed some of the shortcomings that plagued the A40 headset.

Eight minutes into the film, Perseus and his family watch as people on the cliffs above them above them are attacked by flying creatures. Once again, we could hear and clearly discern points of action perfectly in every direction. When the villain Hades appears, filling the air with black smoke and thunder, the underlying bass sounds that are present roll beautifully through the headphones. The movie’s score sounds vibrant and not muffled in any way.

A busy market scene a few minutes later shows dozens of people walking and talking, animals braying, and soldiers marching. All the accompanying sounds were clearly separated and reproduced very genuinely to our ears. The Corsair HS1 and its excellent 5.1 movie playback was the only headset we have reviewed that surpasses the two channel A700 when watching an action movie with heavy surround activity.

Next, we chose The Karate Kid (2010). In the last twenty minutes of the film, the protagonist has his final showdown with his foreign opponent. Every sound of their fight is clearly defined. The characters’ bodies slamming on the mats beneath them, the sheer impact of punches and kicks landing, and the crowd’s chanting were all clearly evident and added to our overall immersion in the film. Although some of the foreground dialogue in this movie was too quiet for our tastes, we thoroughly enjoyed our viewing experience.

Music

We use no surround processing whatsoever for our music listening tests. We set our Creative Labs console launcher software to Audio Creation Mode, enabled bit-matched playback and used Foobar in WASAPI mode for our music player.

We used a selection of high bitrate MP3 and FLAC tracks from Metallica, The White Stripes, Lil’ Wayne, Queen, Garden State Soundtrack, The Black Eyed Peas, The Best Jazz Album in the World, The Crystal Method, The Preacher’s Wife Soundtrack, The Best Of The Most Relaxing Classical Music In The Universe, Ministry Of Sound – The Sound Of Dubstep and Open Your Ears from HDTracks.com. We decided to add one new album that we feel every music lover should try: Ray Charles-Genius Loves Company also in FLAC format from HDTracks.com.

We performed a sixty hour burn in of the headphones before testing using a continuous loop of songs of different genres as well as pink and white noise clips.

The music playback of all the above tracks was excellent with one exception. We were constantly nagged by the unusual midrange sound reproduction of these headphones. When hearing Whitney Houston singing on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack, her vocals sounded as if they were coming from slightly behind and below us. We came across the same annoyance on many other songs as well.

A quick web search on this model of headphones showed us that many users have labeled these headphones as having a “recessed mid-range.” That label is very fitting. One workaround we found for the recessed mid-range reproduction was to increase by 2 decibels the 2k and 4k bands of Creative Labs’ EQ software. We do want to note that this was our personal preference and your own taste may differ greatly.

After spending a three weeks with these headphones we actually became accustomed to the A700 sound signature and it does not seem nearly as pronounced to us as it did before our burn in process and extended usage. The hip hop and dubstep playback was absolutely exceptional as the A700 reproduces low frequencies very smoothly and deeply.

The Ray Charles album we noted above gave us a truly great headphone listening experience. The “church style” organs and bass playing throughout the album were beautifully subtle and rich. Cello, violin, and guitar passages were absolutely exceptional. Male vocals were rich and clear as well. The AD700 headphones open backed headphones we previously tested tend to give music listening a very sharp clarity but the accompanying low frequency characteristics are lacking.

When comparing these to Audio-Technica’s open-backed AD700 set, we had a difficult time deciding which set we liked better. The AD700 has such a wide sound stage that gives whatever music we chose such a clear and natural sound. The closed-back A700 set brings better bass and low frequency reproduction that gives an overall richer sound. We thought we would lose the inherent wide sound stage when switching to our closed-back A700 set, but surprisingly, the A700 have a great sound stage as well.

To give our readers an overall guide as to which set of headphones we feel is better in each music genre, we feel that the A700 is excellent with dubstep, blues, hip-hop, hard rock, trance, techno and male vocals favoring tenor and bass singing styles in general. The AD700 is truly great with classical, 50s and 60s country, jazz, pop, anything acoustic and female voices favoring soprano and alto styles in general.

As popular as we have learned the A700 headphones to be, many gamers and audiophiles prefer the JVC HARX700 for $38.75 and JVC HARX900 for $99.95 instead. Both sets are less expensive and both can be modded easily for improved sound. We have used both of the JVC pairs listed above and hands down, the Audio-Technica A700 sound superior to both of the JVC pairs in every music test we performed with no modding necessary.

Gaming

For game testing, we decided to use Left 4 Dead 1 and 2, as many gamers primarily use headphones when playing those titles. Creative’s CMSS-3d for headphone mixing was activated beforehand in our sound card’s software.

In Left 4 Dead 1, we ran through the “Hospital” level and in Left 4 Dead 2, we used “Dead Center” in single player mode. Both run-throughs were excellent to say the least. As we ran through the indoor and outdoor environments, we found ourselves thoroughly immersed in the game. We could easily tell the difference of being inside or outside because of the spatiality the headphones reproduce.

Every time we killed a zombie we could literally feel the impact of our own shotgun blasts. The one thing we did notice though, is that we did not have as great of a perception of distance. Using these closed backed headphones gives us more of a “right in front of you feeling” rather than being in the middle of a large, open environment. We were still able to discern action above and below us and side to side, but we were just not certain how far away it was taking place.

As in previous reviews, we attempted a blind run of our games. We played through the levels periodically opening and closing our eyes. With our eyes closed we did not get an accurate perception every time of where an enemy or ally was.

If you are a professional or competitive gamer, you may want to consider your headphone choice carefully. You would want to weigh the positionality your headphones reproduce rather than their atmosphere and immersion. We would say that an open backed headphone would be more sterile and precise in its sound signature, but the feeling of “really being there” is slightly lost.

Our overall gaming experience was absolutely excellent. We enjoyed the frantic pacing and personal feel that headphone audio seems to bring to gaming. The A700 gave us back the impactful bass we have been missing in some of the headphones we have tried.

Long Term Comfort

We spent three weeks with these headphones and we found them to be very comfortable. When the headphones were worn on a 7 7/8 size head, there were no issues whatsoever with tightness or weight after hours of wear. If you are a gamer and you like to wear your favorite ball cap, you will not have any issues doing so when wearing the A700.

We placed these headphones on a teenager with a 6 1/2″ hat size. He had some issues with the headphones falling forward or backward if he moved his head sharply in any direction. In general, we feel these headphones are best for those with hat sizes 7″ and above.

These are not something you would take on the bus or wear on your head when riding a bicycle. They are simply not a very portable pair of headphones, but they would look great at a LAN party compared to your friend’s cheesy Walkman headphones.

Also to note, we never felt a stuffy feeling while wearing the headphones and we think that may be due to the pleather ear pads. Cloth ear pads may feel softer to some people, but pleather is harder to stain, easier to clean, and we feel, more comfortable for long periods of wear.

Isolation

Some headphones tend to leak sound and those near the wearer can be disturbed and annoyed by it. Sounds from around the user can still be heard as well. When wearing the A700 headphones, friends in the room had to be directly next to us in order to hear music that was being played at 60% of our maximum level. We ran a washer and dryer 30 feet from us and could not hear it running while listening to music or watching movies. Overall, the A700 headphones have a good, although not perfect, level of isolation.

Tech Support

After some of our previous headphone reviews, some of our readers have had questions regarding headphone impedance and sensitivity. Many want to know if they can use certain models of headphones with their PC’s front panel jack or onboard sound. Some dedicated or onboard sound cards simply cannot adequately power headphones with an impedance higher than 32 ohms. The A700 headphones have an impedance specification of 64 ohms.

We contacted Audio-Technica’s support department directly during this review as any end-user might because we wanted an authoritative answer rather than user to user opinion. We sent an email on a Thursday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. central time and we received a response the next day shortly after 10:00 a.m.

Audio-Technica’s Scott Shaw responded: “I would get some clarification on the sound card specifications from the sound card manufacturer. From a headphone perspective, the higher the impedance of the headphone, the more amplifier power it takes to drive it to the same volume level as another headphone with a lower impedance specification (provided the sensitivity specification is the same value). You can’t do anything about the output (or source) impedance of the headphone amplifier on your sound card or do anything about the amount of power it delivers, but you can choose headphones of varying impedances. A lower as opposed to higher impedance headphone will require less headphone amplifier power to be driven to an average listening level. Given that distortion levels increase with power output levels, less distortion will be created by the amplifier if less demand is put on it. As a result, cleaner sound at average listening levels and a higher maximum listening level can be achieved.”

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We tried the A700 headphones with our front panel audio jack and we did not have to raise our volume level much higher than that of our dedicated headphone jack at all. We did hear a bit of “hum” from our case fans and cooler though.

The Bottom Line

After three weeks with the ATH-A700 Closed-back Dynamic Headphones, we very much enjoyed these but we encountered a few caveats. The ATH-A700 headphones are extremely comfortable and these look beautiful. The headphones were very good in our music testing, but we feel its sound signature is absolutely an acquired taste and may not be for everyone. Movie playback was absolutely excellent and was only surpassed by the Corsair HS1 .

For gaming, we really liked the added dimension that the A700 brought with its bass and low frequency reproduction, but professional and competitive gamers may want to stick with a more positionally accurate headset or headphone choice like Audio-Technica’s AD700. If you are considering the ATH-A700 Closed-back Dynamic Headphones for purchase, we absolutely recommend that you listen to a well-worn pair before you buy them.

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ATH-A700 Closed-back Dynamic Headphones

Discussion

SOURCE:http://www.hardocp.com/article/2010/10/23/audiotechnica_atha700_headphone_review/