Review: Audio Technica ATH-ES7, perfect companion for IEM fans + lots of pics!!
Where and why I bought the Audio Technica ATH-ES7
Where - I bought mine at http://www.jr.com/audio-technica/pe/AT_ATHES7BK/, at J&R Electronics for $99. Since I bought mine a few months ago the price has dropped to $89 which is a real bargain for these headphones. J&R only ships to the US & Canada however. If you live in the US and attempt to roll the dice to save a couple bucks by buying from ebay and get ripped off – YOU DESERVE IT. You deserve to have your money taken, and to become the shameful owner of a pair of cheap fakes. There are a number of reputable, legitimate authorized dealers to buy these from so there is no excuse to test your luck and buy them from ebay. No excuse.
Why – Having sold my Panasonic noise canceling headphones I was in the market for something light and portable that sounded good. The ES7’s garnered a lot of praise across the web, as well as other sites online. I listen with IEM’s most of the time, so for times when I didn’t feel like having my Klipsch crammed down my ear canals, and I didn’t want a gigantic set of over the ears, the ES7 seemed like the good solution. Or maybe you just don't want to spend hundreds on a pair of headphones because you prefer IEMs, these are a good sidekick to any pair of IEMs.
Packaging and first impressions
The packaging was pretty standard, somewhat minimal for a pair of headphones. Just a simple thin cardboard box, with the headphones held in place with twist ties. No deluxe boxing, no fancy bubblewrap cushioning.
Because the reviews I saw online before purchasing mine all showed the ES7’s coming in a black “Earsuit” box, I thought I was shipped the wrong headphones because my ES7’s came in a two-tone white and grey box. But the more I looked around on google images I saw others with the same box, so I felt safer. The box has a manufactured date on it, so maybe the older ones were in the black box(?)
Speaking of impressions, the instant I opened the box I was very surprised at how small the headphones actually are. I never found any good pictures online with people wearing them, so it came as a shock to me that these sit ON your ear, not around it. They do not surround or encompass your ear. I have to admit – I was disappointed in this as I was hoping for closed, around the ear headphones. In the grand scheme of things, this is a small issue, and certainly not a deal breaker for me.
Aesthetically they look awesome. Nice shiny reflective ear cups. Some people call them black, some people call them silver – take your pick. I guess it depends on the light you’re in.
Fit and feel
The leather is a bit shiny and not dull matte like other manufacturers. The leather is also stiffer than other cups I have used and sampled. The cord is an average length with a standard straight plug. I have noticed that even after months of usage now, the cord still coils up on itself from memory. I don’t particularly like this, I wish it hung more freely, but it’s worth mentioning.
(that is the reflection of my camera on the tripod on the left image)
The headband is a thick rubber that fits nice. It’s not padded like others, but I have hair on top of my head for “padding”, I don’t need built-in pillows on my headphones. The ear cups are easily adjustable with audible clicking and visual markings on the inside of the band so you know you have both ear cups at the same distance.
Like I mentioned, the leather is stiff, and while it’s not “uncomfortable”, they’re not the most comfortable either. Even after months of usage they’ve only “broken in” a little bit. I guess for $99 I shouldn’t complain.
Part of the reason I wanted a larger, closed headphone was to cut down on noise leakage to the outside world. Fortunately, even though these are on ear, they don’t leak too badly. I am fairly impressed at how well these contain the sounds I’m listening to, as well as shield me from the sounds outside. Although not billed as noise isolating, they do just that, only on a smaller scale.
97% of the time I listen to my ES7’s using my Cowon iAudio i7 mp3 player, the other times it’s with an old Panasonic portable CD player or at my work desk watching movies. I listen to mostly classic rock, some alternative, acoustics, very little house and trance, and some new rock. I let these play on my i7 for a couple days straight, and I have personally listened to them for 30-40 hours so total time burned into these is near 100 hours currently.
Let me just say – that straight out of the box the ES7’s sounded “okay”, not great. After at least 60 hours of burn in the sounds changed considerably and for the first time I actually felt that “burning in” a pair of headphones made a difference. Every aspect of the sounds developed and opened up; highs, mids, and lows.
Highs – nice and clear, well punctuated, easily separated. High hats and cymbals sound clear as a bell. Vocals are crisp and detailed, absolutely no complaints here. No recessed highs here, no sir. Up front and sharp.
Mids – Also clear, very slightly recessed compared to the highs but you would have to really focus on finding this out. Male vocals like David Gilmour, Johnny Cash, Gene Simmons, and Scott Weiland sound bad ass. Easily my favorite male vocals to listen to on the ES7 are Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Very, very lush and in your face clarity. Nice and warm, as if you were standing right in front of him. Check out the song “Blue on Black” by KWS and tell me that doesn’t sound just beautiful. Even female vocals sound rich and textured on these. Sheryl Crow, Bjork, Tori Amos, just to name a few. I LOVE to play “Today” by Jefferson Airplane and melt away in Grace Slick’s voice. *swoon*
Bass – Not bad. I get deeper and more lush bass from my Klipsch Custom 3’s I think, but un-amped the ES7’s are pretty decent. They are by no means jaw rattling, eyeball shaking bass phones but for their size, and the price, I think most people would find the lows adequate. The real lows are there, just not as often as I’d like to experience them. For example, the beginning 15 seconds on Trick Daddy’s song “Nann Nigga” pumps out some really low frequencies, and the ES7s do a nice job and relaying them.
At louder volumes, the mids and bass tend to blend together, but it’s not a mess. By “loud” Im talking volume levels of 25+ on my 40 scale i7. Most of my listening is easily within the 16-20 range so I’m well below the messy stage. If you listen to mainly hip-hop, rap, or loads of electronic and prefer a more bass heavy headphone, these might not be for you. Aside from the fact that they don’t surround your ear, the bass just isn’t punchy and deep compared to others. But then again, you’re going to pay more too.
Soundstage is nice and crisp, equally filling in both ears, I feel like I am right in the recording studio with some albums. Not on stage, in the studio. All in all I don’t have any real complaints about the sound qualities of these headphones. I wish the bass were heavier, but it’s not bad, and it’s certainly not “thin” by any standards.
Hooked directly to the i7, the ES7's sound good in all aspects and the i7 is more than capable of driving these with zero problems.
Enter the Fiio E5 amp.
I've only had the amp for about 10 days now and although it IS a very cheapy amp, it does add that extra "uumph" to the low end that a lot of people usually crave. The difference between amped vs. un-amped is minimal, but it is there. With the Fiio bass boost on it's very apparent there is some extra grunt on the low end, with the "flat" setting I can barely (if at all) tell a difference.
I think for those who prefer IEMs, and have a lot of money wrapped up in IEMs, and don't necessarily want to dump a bunch of money into headphones - the Audio Technica ATH-ES7 offers a nice compromise in sound, price, and looks. The fit is overall comfortable, the band seems sturdy enough and not flimsy, and they sound good even un-amped.
I know these are not "new" on the market, but I'm a firm believer that there's never too many reviews out there, at least not with audio equipment. Easily recommended for it's low price of $89.
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