Audio Technica ATH-A900 Closed Headphone Review
(Couldn't post in the user review area, so move this on there if you feel its the right place for this.)
I've had my Audio Technica ATH-a900 headphones for some time now, they were my first Audio Technica(AT) headphones. I have been an Audio Technica fan ever since. I was looking for a good set of all purpose closed cans, as I had had enough of background computer noise, street traffic and loud neighbors with dogs behind thin walls. I had read many good things on these cans, and for there price, I found a few good reputation competitors. So what made me compleatly forget well known brands for a complete stranger? For starters lets take a quick look at the specs of these things, as shown on the back of the box.
Price: $200 (Might have to pay alittle more these days in dollars, $220+)
Headphone Type: Closed Dynamic (Circum Aural)
Driver Unit: 53mm, Bobbin winding OFC voice coil
Frequency response: 5-40,000 Hz
Impedence: 40 Ohm
Max. Input Power: 2,000mW
Special Features: "3D Wing" head support
As far as looks go, Audio Technica has aparantly always had very unique looking and intersting headphones. While the a900's are on the more generic side of large sized closed type headphones there are a few things worth mentioning.
Most notable feature of the a900's and all larger AT's is the unique "3D Wing" head supports, which is quite a different step from traditional headphones. These 3D wings and the large cussion like earpads just make these headphones the sort that you put on and might compleatly forget your wearing them. They do feel abit frail at first, but thankfully Audio Technica sells replacement pads in most of its major distributors (Bluetin, AudioCubesII, Price Japan)
The earcups themselves are on the larger side. While this is quite welcome for comfort, they are quite difficult to wear any other way then on the head. Wearing these cans arround the neck, will restrict your head movement quite abit. Not impossibly difficult, as the 3D wings give quite alot of space, the ear cups aren't pulled into your neck so to speak. Its quite the same with all larger scale closed headphones, however when comparing to DT-770's the a900's are just so much easier and more comfortable to wear arround the neck.
The elastic aluminum earcups are also said to help to remove unwanted vibration, I guess from reflecting sound waves. Was abit skeptical of this feature, but when you compare it to the cheaper set of plastic a700's you do notice a lot less blurr in the lower end. This could be a feature of the driver, or the aluminum, I'll just trust Audio Technica on this one.
To almost everyones misfortune the earcups use a fairly thin pleather padding, while this has little to no effect to the wearing comfort, they do feel really cheaply coated with the pleather. Audio Technica does make several different types of replacement pads: Slightly thicker pleather pads, real leather pads and velour pads. The later however are said to reduce the isolation of the headphones, and the thicker pleather pads are said to give even less grip on the already lightly clinging nature of these headphones. Finaly, the genuine leather pads are a fairly pricy 50€ upgrade to go for.
Isolation is quite adequet considering the level of comfort these headphones provide. As mentioned before the background noises of computers, street traffic and loud neighbors with dogs are quite nicly isolated out when theres music playing. You could ask for more, but I always find it reasureing to be able to hear when someone is standing next to you and talking to you.
The cord is a very well made sturdy 3.0 meter cable with a textile covering. The textile, while makes the headphones look very nice, makes the headphone cord abit difficult with twisting. A few twists and the cable is already going in fairly stiff loops. The length doesn't help with this either, as the cable will most likly need to be rolled up a few times for almost all uses except when hooked to a TV accross the room. You also get a screw on adaptor for the larger 6.3 stereo jacks.
Finaly these are not portable headphones, there big, comfy, audio bean bags for your ears, and while they can be driven by extremely small and portable players they just are massive. While I have worn these headphones outside on numerous occasions, and will always take them with me when I want to go outside and sit in the shade on a warm spring day they just dont appear to be as ruggedly built as other more portable headphones are.
Now, this is probibly the hardest part for me, I have fairly little experiance with really high grade headphones, mostly European headphone manufacturers like Beyerdynamic, AKG, Sennheiser, etc. Best set of headphones that I've had for awhile were a borrowed set of HD600's. So take my views for what there worth, I'll give this a go anyway.
The headphones are generaly categorized as "Good for Jazz, Movies and Games" which just happens to be the most generic category ever, and really doesn't tell you anything. The headphones in my oppinion are the most well rounded up set of closed cans I've ever had a chance to listen to. The bass is nice and neat, punchy many would say. For the isolation they give, the bass is the slightest bit muddy. The a900's just have more bass then other phones, especialy the really low end, but with qualty, not the kind of over emphasized muddy bass you get from other closed type headphones. There are other bassier headphones out there, I would say that the a900's are quite subtle and laid back and easier to listen to in the bass department compared to the true beasts and behemoths. The upper mids and highs are crystal clear, and they really show off the a900's soundstaging capabilities. Some higher pitched female vocals just give me a slight shiver, asif they were right infront of me. For closed headphones, that cost you only $200 and can beat most generic open headphones you cant get any better then this.
I have a really hard time pointing out any one flaw on these headphones. However after playing with alot of EQ settings, it is abit easier to tell that there weakest point is in the lower mid range. Listening to male vocals, with a flat EQ just doesn't do anything for me. Now, being Finnish I've listend to alot of Ville Valo (Singer of HIM) and I quite enjoyed listening to his voice off of the HD600's. However on the a900's its just alittle boring, unintresting and is always slightly buried by the other sound characteristics. Most people wont notice this, unless they have had a chance to listen to a better set of headphones (beware HD600/&50 owners) but then again, why are you looking at this review if you already have better?
The a900's are the all purpose use at home headphones. They can be driven by anything, there low 40 ohm impedance allows them to run off even the weakest of players. They'll even sound good to boot. The a900's are some of the least amp dependant phones I've ever tried. Thats somewhat of a problem to some though. They wont really sound that much better off of a iRiver H320, then they will off of a really high end player with a really high end amp, like a NW-HD5 in line out mode with a Corda 2Move or off of a high end home setup with proper headphone amplifiers. However this is exactly the feature to go for, for someone who isn't looking to spend lots of money into improving there audio quality. Just getting good sound from good headphones.
This isn't to say they sound good out of the box though, like all dynamic driver headphones it takes them awhile to burn in. I ran mine over a weekend before I started properly listening to them. At first the bass was almost non exsistant, but after the weekend it was all there. While I did like the sound signature right from the box, I knew it was going to change, so I didn't want to get too attached.
If your the kinda guy that has a decent run of the mill MP3 player, maybe likes to listen to music off the computer/laptop with no special soundcards, the a900 are the phones for you to use at home. The sound is a relaxing, easy going presentation, with the power to really bring out the lower end when its needed, or with added bass boost. Pair this with the wonderful dream they are to wear, there just is no better way to unwind, listening to music after a hard day at work, especialy in a not so calming place, like an apartment in the middle of the city...
If you use your computer for gaming, watching movies or other activities that you dont want to bother other people in the room with, then the a900's are perfect for you in that reguard too. As you dont want to be wearing a set of cans that fatigue you, or put pressure on your ears/head. Plus they really sound good even out of a poorer source. I'm probibly starting sound like too much of a fanboy, but theres really no way to hate these cans, aslong as you remember the price they are sold at.
Only wanting to buy a single set of cans? You should seriously consider the Audio Technica a900's. Closed cans just are more usefull then fully open or semi closed ones.
So maybe they aren't the "Dream Audiophile Headphones"
but they are a decent, never let you down
because you didn't spend moar money
on other things but headphones
jack of all trades headphone.