Audio-Technica is a global company well-known for its broadcast and recording quality microphones and headphones. The company began in 1962 manufacturing stereo phono cartridges and gradually expanded its product line to include high-performance microphones, mixers, and headphones for professionals and home users alike. While researching the company, I have found its strongest brand prevalence in the television broadcasting and professional music recording industries. So why would PC users ever choose this Audio-Technica’s products when selecting audio accessories for personal use with a PC? Simple. PC gamers love to play games at very high volume levels because they want to hear every detail of the game faithfully and realistically reproduced as if they were a part of it. Sometimes, gamers must use headphones to keep the sounds of their battles private but have no desire to compromise a quality filled sound experience simply because they have switched from speakers to headphones.
In my search for great wired headphones and headsets for [H]ardOCP, I observed educated enthusiasts in our audio and gaming forums religiously recommending the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 open-air dynamic headphones and the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO Closed Studio Headphones. Open headphones are meant to sound more natural but offer significantly reduced sound isolation. Sounds tend to leak in and out of the headphones and tend to disturb those around the listener more. Closed headphones tend to possess stronger bass and keep more of the sounds “inside your head.” Today, I will examine the Audio-Technica open-backed headphones in depth to see if they meet or exceed my needs not only when I am gaming, but also when I am watching movies, and listening to music on my PC.
Product – Pricing – Packaging
Currently, the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700’s retail at Newegg for $89.99 with 99 Cent Shipping and at Amazon for $83.99 with Free Shipping. The company’s website lists this set of cans for $249.99 MSRP so it is a necessity to spend just a few minutes looking elsewhere on the web when making a substantial purchase like this one. HardOCP purchased its set from Newegg.
While the retail package seemed to be securely padded inside Newegg’s brown shipping box, the front of the box had a very long, wide and wrinkled Newegg inventory label plastered over it which obscured a crease in the middle of the box; nothing was damaged inside though. The box’s outer flap is white with small unobtrusive lettering surrounding a purple feather. I believe it is obviously signifying the headphone’s light weight on the ears but I think Audio-Technica should forget the flap and just have the clear window underneath as the primary packaging. The back of the box has every specification I would look for without having to go to the company’s website for further details. I can grab such a box in a retail store and see immediately if my home receiver or PC sound card can power these cans and I can tell if it has adapters for various size jacks included.
- Type: Open air dynamic
- Driver: 53mm Neodymium magnet. Copper clad aluminum wire bobbin type voice coil
- Sound Pressure Level: 98db/mW
- Frequency Response: 5~30000Hz
- Maximum input: 500 mW
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- Weight: 280g/.62lbs
- Connector: Standard/Mini (gold plated), Stereo (2-way)
- Gold-plated stereo 1/8″ (3.5 mm) connector with 1/4″ (6.3 mm) adapter
- Cord Length 9.8 feet (3.0 meters)
- Optional spare ear pads: HP-AD500
The ATH-AD700’s carry a limited one year manufacturer’s warranty according to Newegg, but Audio-Technica lists a two year limited warranty from authorized dealers on their website.
Appearance, Styling and Design
The ear cups for the AD700’s are extremely large. The outer housing on each is painted with a very distinctive and unusual choice of color: a purple-ish looking color. So if you are thinking we are having lighting problems in the pictures, think again.
The outer cover is made of light weight aluminum shaped in a “honey-comb” fashion and both sides are tagged with a very small gold, cigar-shaped “audio-technica” brands. The outer ring of each cup and the rest of the headphone’s frame is a more muted champagne gold color. The headphones have large and very thick velvet ear pads. Underneath, you can see the large drivers hidden beneath black nylon. I do wish the headphones were available in deep blue or black like the AD500 and AD700 headphones. The upside of course is that you do not have to look at the headphones while being worn.
Each cup swivels inward and outward 25 degrees. The two ear cups are attached by two magnesium-alloy, 12 inch long, heavy gauge rods that are covered in rubber. Beneath those two rods, you will find the two attached triangular shaped curved head pads that swivel in three dimensions to conform to the shape of your head to locate and secure the headphones while being worn. Whenever I place the headphones on my head, the wings self-adjust to achieve the headphones’ most comfortable resting position. If I pull the headphones downward, the wings will open slightly. If I push the headphones upward, the wings will spring gradually closer together. I was quite surprised at how light these feel, so the feather on the package was surely highlighting this feature. The ear cups do not clamp tightly over my ears; they rest lightly over and against them. I wear a 7 7/8 hat size and after six hours of continuous wear, I felt no fatigue or discomfort whatsoever. I allowed a child with a 6 7/8″ hat size to try these on, and the cans did not rest as stably and securely as they did on my head. This observation leads me to believe the headphones would be best suited for adults in general and/or gamers.
Audio-Technica built these headphones with almost 10 feet of cord attached so I had no problems plugging these into the back of my PC and having freedom of movement while wearing the cans. It also included a quality screw-on adapter for the larger 1/4″ stereo jack, so there won’t be any problem with the headphones and adapter staying securely connected.
Installation and Usage
When auditioning headphones on my PC, I have learned that many sound purists insist upon dedicated headphone amplifiers. Their reasoning is that an amplifier will deliver a clean, constant sound source to your cans of choice and small changes in volume lead to significant changes in perceived detail.
If I just plug my headphones directly into the front channel jack into the back my sound card, I find that I have to increase my overall system volume greatly to achieve small perceivable changes to my source material. When I use my front panel jack, I have sometimes encountered EM interference from my video card and cooling fans inside my case causing static and other anomalies during headphone playback.
It is also necessary to supply enough power according to your cans’ impedance rating. Although the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 headphones have a low or standard impedance rating, many other quality headphones have a very high impedance requirement and without proper amplification you will have poor sound performance and you can damage your sound card, headphones, and ears with unnecessarily high volumes. To this end, I purchased an ASUS Essence ST sound card because it has a dedicated headphone amplifier on its backplane and a selectable impedance setting in its software control panel. Both Asus and Auzentech have had this feature for awhile now, and Creative Labs’ upcoming Titanium HD will have it as well. HardOCP will be reviewing the Titanium HD upon its release.
Test System Configuration
- AMD Phenom II X4 940 Processor
- Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-UD3H motherboard (Bios version 1.08)
- 8 Gigs Corsair PC6400 DDR2 Ram
- Visiontek ATI Radeon 5850
- ASUS Essence ST PCI sound card
- Realtek ALC889A onboard
- Western Digital 1TB 7200 RPM SATA hard drive
- Lite-On 24X SATA Burner/Lite-On 4X Blu-Ray reader
- Windows 7 64 bit clean installation and patched with Windows Update
Onboard vs. Dedicated Sound
I will say this bluntly. Using this set and any other set of headphones with my onboard sounds awful. I had to increase my system volume to extremely high levels as noted above and onboard sound offers no dynamic range whatsoever for proper, critical listening tests in my opinion. With that said, let’s move on to the ASUS Essence ST and the Audio-Technica headphones.
To begin my music test, I set my EQ in the ASUS control panel to “default/flat.” From a personal listening preference, I have chosen the following test tracks:
- “Open Your Ears”-from HDTracks in FLAC format
- The Best Jazz Album in the World
- Lil Wayne-The Carter
- Queen-Greatest Hits
- Black Eyed Peas-The End
- Garden State Original Soundtrack
- The Eagles-Hell Freezes Over
- Crystal Method-Divided By Night
- The Preacher’s Wife-Original Sound Track
- 100-A state Of Trance Tunes
The rest of the songs are in 320kbps MP3 format
When I was ready to use the headphones for music playback, I thought I was going to have to EQ them to death to satisfy my personal tastes, but for the first time in my life I actually liked the flat setting as no EQ changes were necessary.
After listening to the above genres, I can say that the ATH-AD700 headphones are fantastic with Rock, Jazz, Gospel, and Metal. Hip Hop, Trance, and Rap though sound very average though, because by nature, those types of music are BASS heavy. The ATH-AD700 headphones are open backed and as such have a very natural, rolling bass. There was no pounding, impactful sound like I was hoping for.
To me, the strong point of the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 headphones are that they have a wide sound stage, great highs and mids. But the lows are not nearly as strong as I personally prefer. This is not a negative feature, it is simply a fact with most open-backed headphones.
With these ATH-AD700 headphones, one can identify every instrument being played because of its distinction, clarity, and totally natural sounding reproduction. I felt that I could accurately count the number of vocalists and musicians heard in each track. High frequency reproduction was never annoying and shrill; it was clear, distinct, and vibrant. Vocals were realistic and never raspy. Songs in general reminded me of the clarity and realism found in live acoustic performances.
Movies & Games
I chose to use I am Legend and T4: Salvation on Blu-Ray for movie testing. Watching movies with the ATH-AD700 headphones was a pleasure. Character dialogue was clear and pitch perfect. Surround sound effects gradually pan and transition around you, and I heard many small details in the background of each movie that I had never heard before: screams in the distance, shell casings bouncing off walls, and papers blowing down the street were all subtlety and separately reproduced. Again, though, I miss that impactful bass that I feel during explosions and vehicle chases.
I picked the usual stable of first person shooters to test positional audio with these cans: the Call of Duty series, Bioshock, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Left 4 Dead. When configuring these games, I varied my sound settings based on individual preference from stereo to headphones and more specifically, Dolby Headphone, depending on my personal preference. I have to say that in each of these games, I usually remember a mess of chaotic sounds all around me and I would use visual cues to find my objective.
The ATH-AD700 headphones though have such a great sound separation that I could close my eyes and tell myself my enemy was to my diagonal right, off in the distance and gradually closing. I did not hear explosions, screams, tank sounds, and gunfire all mashed together. I could clearly perceive the enemies behind me and to my left shooting at me, and a truck coming towards me on my right at the same time. Left 4 Dead was especially spooky because I could clearly hear an enemy coming half a block away without having seen him in the distance first.
Musical scores sounded amazing and sound effects seemed genuine. I easily preferred the crystal clear positional audio and amazing clarity in the ATH-AD700 headphones to the World of Warcraft Wireless headset we reviewed recently. The Creative WoW headset still shines brightly in the world of wireless headsets though and are highly recommended for those of you wanting wireless along with an attached microphone.
The Bottom Line
The Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 headphones are worth every penny I paid for them at Newegg. I will continue to use them daily for months to come.
It is however possible that those of you with smaller hat sizes might find them a bit loose fitting. I found them extremely comfortable (I wear a 7 7/8 hat) for long gaming sessions and the ATH-AD700 headphones are a great standard to use when judging the performance and comfort of other open headsets and headphones.
It is hard to find a great all-in-one wired solution for gamers’ headphones needs, but I think the ATH-AD700 headphones come close to fitting the bill. Keep in mind that if you use in-game coms, you will need a microphone of some sort. If you can do without the microphone and “thundering bass” found in closed-back headphones, you will love the true clarity and realistic sound found in the ATH-AD700 headphones. My only wish is that Audio-Technica sold a wireless headset of this caliber.
Currently, the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700’s retail at Newegg for $89.99 with 99 Cent Shipping and at Amazon for $83.99 and we showed Free Shipping when checking today. Both represent a very solid value for the ATH-AD700.
Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 Headphones