Audio Technica is a Japanese company who produce a wide variety of headphones and earphones as well as microphones, phono cartridges and record accessories. The A500X is an evolution of the older A500 and is the least expensive model in a three strong range.
This is comfortably the largest headphone in the test and the one that makes the least concessions to portable use. This pretty much begins and ends with the fitment of a 3.5mm jack that will fit phones, MP3 players and laptops. The three metre chord is a tricky thing to use on the move and they neither swivel nor fold up. In fairness Audio Technica makes no great claims to portability so this should not come as any great surprise to a buyer. The large earpads contain a pair of 53mm drivers which are pretty substantial for any headphone and the enclosures set them back a reasonable distance from your ears. This is important with any closed back design as it gives a greater sense of air and space to the performance that would otherwise be achieved by opening the back and leaking more noise in and out as a result. The earpad encloses the bulk of the ear and this makes for a comfortable design when used at home.
The greatest aid to comfort is the mounting though. Unlike all the other designs in the test, the A500X does not use a conventional headband. The earpads are mounted on a pair of arched metal supports but these make no contact with the listener’s head. Instead, Audio Technica uses a “self-adjusting wing support mechanism” which consists of two independently sprung pads that support the headphones on your head. The result looks a bit odd but is an extremely impressive solution to keeping large headphones in place and comfortable. Coupled with an all up weight of 290g- impressively low for headphones of this size- and you have something you can wear for hours without discomfort.
The build of the A500X is good as well. Making something feel light but substantial is something of a dark art but Audio Technica has done well at achieving this. The movable sections of the earpads feel solid and the use of the metal arches to provide the sprung resistance on either side of your head creates a good but not overly constricting mount. The materials used are of good overall quality and although these are some of the more expensive headphones in the group, they still feel sound value.
With their large earpads and the clever wing mount system; these are the most comfortable headphones in the group for sitting and listening. They do have enough grip to stay attached to your head when moving about but there is no way that you are going to look anything other than odd walking about with them on. Although they are a closed back design, they do not seem to leak much less noise than some of the semi open designs but they are effective at keeping the outside world at bay.
Audio Technica has a studio and pro audio background that matches the German brands in the test but the A500X doesn’t have quite the same characteristics. This is a warmer and more inviting performer and in many ways it is a much more natural sounding design. It would be wrong to say that the A500X is coloured but I suspect it isn’t the last word in neutrality. What it is is something that is incredibly easy to listen to for long periods.
Give the A500X something with human voices- be it talk radio or multiple people singing and the result is very compelling. There is plenty of detail and richness and warmth to the performance that is hard not to like. The space between your ear and the drivers is enough to create a very real sense of space and soundstage that can be tricky for headphones to reproduce but is impressively in evidence here.
Bass response is good too. The A500X combines some serious depth thanks to those larger drivers with a speed and finesse that is very welcome. More than any other pair of headphones in the test, there is a sense of timing. Play something with a beat and you will more often than not find yourself nodding along (which is also a fine test of how well they stay on your head). In the time that I have had the headphones on test, if I am trying to drown out Glee or Cougar Town the A500X’s are usually the pair I reach for from choice. My wife felt that this liveliness was a little less suitable for accurate home studio work however.
Results with compressed music are very listenable but the better the signal you feed them the better the Audio Technica gets. High resolution audio from Songbird is a very impressive experience and introducing an external headphone amp like the DacMagic Plus or the Furutech into the signal yields further improvements. Of the six headphones here, this is the most responsive to improvements in the quality of the equipment that you use with them.
In terms of sensitivity, the A500x is able to work impressively well with the iPhone and was well within the capabilities of the laptops too. As it doesn’t allow a huge amount of noise in, overall volume levels are a notch or two lower than some of the other designs here for the same perceived volume level. The A500x might best be listened to at home but it is not too fussy about what source you use while you are doing so.
- Open, engaging and lively sound
- Very comfortable
- Good build
- Not suited for use on the move
- Leak more noise than might be expected for a closed back design
Audio Technica ATH-A500X Hi-Fi Headphones Review
If you are looking for a pair of headphones that will be equally effective on the commute as they will be at home, these are probably not the ones for you. The lack of compromise in the design does mean that for domestic use, the A500X is the best performer here and even at one of the higher prices in the test is something of a bargain.
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