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Old 11-12-2008, 11:56 AM
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Jack4L Jack4L is offline
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Default Audio Technica ATH-SJ5 closed portable headphone review.

Ugh, find myself sick, and thought i'd take the time off from work to write a review on a set of headphones I bought during the summer and have been slowly starting to like (didn't like them right away) ...

Okay, well I've had these headphones for awhile now, I bought them because I wanted to have a cheapish set of comfortable to wear cans for on the go use. I paid about $40 for them, and for there price they do there job fairly well. Will add some pictures later.

Price: $40
Type: Dynamic type
Driver Unit: 40mm and CCAW voice coil
Impedance: 32 ohms
Output overpressure value: 108dB/mW
Largest input: 800mW
Playback frequency zone: 8 - 25,000Hz
Weight: 140g
Cord: Elastomer / OFC / 1.2m
Plug: 3.5 gold-plating stereo mini- plug

Build quality:

These headphones, are built well in some ways, and not so well in others.

Lets start with the good. The driver housing is very well built, the outer side is plastic, with a aluminum center that has the Audio Technica logo on it. Personaly I think they are well designed as far as headphone looks go. The inner side of the housing is a strong plastic grill under a soft textile cover, I doubt that anything could break the driver accidentaly with that grill in place. The ear pads are a thick pleather, fairly nice feeling, prefer these pleather pads when compared to most others especialy when compared to the thin kind on my Sennheiser HD 25's and my Audio technica a900's. Audio Technica says that these headphones are built for outdoor use, and the driver housing build quality certainly seems ruged, I just dont see how they could be too much better then any other headphone, considering there are airholes for the driver on the inside and outside.
The caqble length is a good distance for use on the go, the cable itself is nothing special.

Then for the bad, well theres only one gripe that I have with these cans and its the headband. It just feels incredibly weak. Dont get me wrong, the headband is comfortable, it doens't apply too much pressure to the head, enough to keep the cans in place, but not enough to squeeze it like a clamp. It just seems like the whole point of building a fairly rugged set of headphones was thrown in the trash by the fact that the headband will most likly break before the housing would ever get a dent in it o_O Dont get the wrong, the head band wont break in your hands, its just you'd expect there to be some kinda metal reinforcement, or perhaps just a stronger, more durable grade of plastic. Still the headband itself is the only weak point, the joines and other parts are seem fairly robust, and when compared to other products in the same price range I think the SJ5's could take abit more abuse in the backpack.

Then on there portability. They do fold up, but they dont really lock into place and easily pop open. Still they fit into your pocket easier when they are folded. While folded they are about the size of a thick pocketbook.

Lastly, these headphones do not come with any accessories, but out of the 10 or so headphones I've bought and kept, I dont think I've used any of the included accessories I've gotten.

Comfort & Isolation:

Well these cans hit the bullseye for me on the comfort criteria I had. They are a pleasure to wear and I couldn't complain about wearing them. Most other portable closed headphones just apply too much pressure directly onto your ears, which makes wearing them with glasses incredibly painfull after awhile. However these I can wear on a bus for the whole trip, have even slept (sitting up in a bus) with them on.

Isolation is pretty avarage for closed cans, I would say they block out outside sound, rather then say they "isolate" you from overly loud sounds. They are quite good for walking in busy areas, because you dont want to totaly isolate yourself, just incase someone needs to get your attention. With my HD25's or IEMs I'm totaly oblivious as to whats going on everywhere arround me except right infront of my eyes. This means I usualy walk with one ear open, or then I just dont use the headphones in such situations as I cant hear anything untill it comes up and taps me on the back, or runs me down (somthing that has almost happend a few times with careless/arrogant cyclists). This lack of true isolation makes them great for on the go and active use in my oppinion.

Sound quality:

The SJ5's require abit of burn in, right out of the box (compared to my im716) the bass was almost non exsistant and the trebble was far too harsh. After a day of use the lower end started to liven up. After about a week of use the trebble settled in quite nicly, it still has a hint of the signature Audio Technica zip, but nothing as close to the somewhat annoying ATH-ES7. The Mids also come out and are nice and forward. The bass is quite punchy, as opposed to the more common boomy sound you get with closed portable headphones. This is due to the headphones not being totaly sealed, there are a few small holes on the upper edge of the driver housing, these holes are nicly coverd by the headband, but they are one of the reasons these headphones dont isolate too well, but the up side is that the bass is much more controled and natural sounding.

The sound that you get with the SJ5's is nothing spectacular, if you want the best sound quality at this price, you'd better go with an open design like the Koss KSC75's, Sennheiser PX100's etc. The SJ5's however sound closer to a set of KSC75's then most other portable closed headphones. Soundstage is decent, but nothing to brag about, this is mainly due to the signature audio technica treble zip. Most other closed portable headphones are meant solely for DJ use, and this can really be bad if you like listening to anything but club music and rap. The purpose of such phones is to easily identify the beats and because of that the bass on them is always way too dominant, and it really ruins about half of the music I like to listen to. I do like a set of bassy headphones every now and then, but when I only want to take one set of headphones with me I want them to be neutral. The ATH-SJ5's are neutral and balanced. The bass is still muddy but atleast its not muddy and dominant, it sounds cleaner and more accurate when compared to the other popular sub $60 closed portable cans.


Overall the headphones are not perfect, but I personaly rank them high when compared to almost all other under $50 closed headphones. I've tested quite a few and most I outright dont like enough to even bother writing a review about. Just to name a few I've tried AKG's k81dj, K414, Audio Technica ATH-SQ5, Sennheiser PX200, HD 201, HD 202, Philips SBCHP400/00 and the SBCHP460/00. Overall, the SJ5's closest competitors were the Philips HP460. However they cost abit more, come with an annoying volume pod and they broke after about a month of being thrown back and forth into my backpack. Even my replacements had begun to crack at the swiveling joints after another 2 months of use. Philips headphones are just not known for there durability, so I gave them up to a relative. The Sennheiser HD202's would have been fine, if just abit too bassy for me (I get roughly the same result with the SJ5's and abit of EQing and with a FiiO E3 amp) they were also not the most comfortable set of cans to wear for long periods of time. Also not the most portable set of cans either, but work quite well as my backup/spare TV watching headphones.

So to finnish off: Should you buy the ATH-SJ5's? Well, I never try to over exaggerate products when I find that I'm not totaly happy with them from the get go. If you can get these headphones for a decent price they would be ideal. Paying too much for shipping can easily put these headphones out of there league. However all that aside if you find yourself looking for a set of balanced and neutral headphones that will:
  • Treat your music fairly, and work quite well with abit of quick EQing (or hardware EQing, like with the FiiO E3 protable amp).
  • Not cost you more then your on the go MP3 player ( $40, is cheaper then most MP3 players like the Sandisk Clip, and it works quite well with it).
  • Sit comfortably on your head, for extended periods of time.
  • Take a decent bit of a beating. (Easy on the headband)
  • Isolate, just enough to drown out annoying people on cellphones and light engine noise.
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