Thursday, December 6, 2012

Audio Technica AD-500 open-backed headphone review

Audio Technica ATH-AD500's
I recently got a chance to perform a headphone trade with a friend of mine, in which I traded my Sennheiser HD 280 Pro's for his open-backed Audio Technica ATH-AD500's for a few days.  This of course gave me a chance to listen to the AD-500's thoroughly, from a variety of sources and with a variety of music.

Right off the bat what most people notice about the Audio Technica ATH-AD500's is how very large they are.  The AD-500's sport 53mm driver units (thats 3mm bigger than the already massive Sony MDR-XB700 drivers) and relatively impressive technical specifications for the price.  Of course, tech specs matter much less in comparison to the actual performance, fidelity and sound the actual signature of the headphones. Nonetheless a 5-30,000Hz frequency response, coupled with 53mm dynamic type drivers and an open air design rather nice.

The build quality of the ATH-AD500's feels pretty standard.  They don't feel as solidly built as Sony MDR-7506's, but the plastic feels to be of high quality and the aluminum "honeycomb" design open air ear cups are a nice touch.  I like the Audio Technica's increasingly popular silver and black color scheme that compliments the color scheme found on many electronics and headphones today.  The cable on the AD-500's is one of the best I have used.  It is not coiled (which in many ways I like) but is still relatively lengthy.  The cable insulation is extremely malleable and easy to move, yet does not crimp.  Its also a relatively thick gauge.   As far as comfort is concerned, the ATH-AD500's are truly phenomenal.  While in many ways I don't care for the AD500's sound signature (I will get into that in a minute) they almost make it up just in comfort alone.  The ATH-AD500's massive ear-cups are generously padded with soft velour.  Supplemented by what I like to call a "floating headband design" these headphones are some of the most comfortable I have worn to date.  The floating headband design is when the headband is designed in a manner that reduces the amount of contact the headband has on the users head, and distributes the weight of the headphones evenly.  It's a little difficult to describe in writing, but examples of headphones with "standard headband designs" are pretty much most of the headphones on the market.  The Sony XB line, Beats by Dre and the Sennheiser HD line all have standard headphone designs, whereas the Audio Technica AD line, and many AKG headphones have the "floating headband design".  On the topic of weight, the AD-500's are extremely light, making them even more comfortable. In terms of cable quality, build quality and comfort the AD500's perform admirably.

ATH-AD500's with "floating headband design"
The area where these headphones failed to impress me however, was their sound quality.  I feel that the Audio Technica ATH-AD500's are very selective headphones.  By selective I mean that the AD500's only perform well with certain genres of music.  The AD500's are very bright headphones, and due to a reasonable deficiency of bass, even despite the large 53mm drivers, they don't perform very well with electronic, dubstep and other bass heavy music genres.  Even with equalization, I was unable to achieve a sound signature that filled in the lack of bass when listening to bass heavy genres.  That said, the ATH-AD500's represent female vocals very well.  Listening to Adele's 21 album and her new Skyfall single, I was extremely impressed with the AD500's vocal performance. However, I still find these headphones far too selective in their representation of certain genres of music.  It's typical for open backed headphones to represent vocals better than their closed back counterparts.  However, I have listened to several open backed Sennheisers (admittedly much more expensive than the AD500's) that produce far greater bass response and impact.

All in all if you listen to a lot of classical music, vocal based songs and maybe even some older classic rock, the ATH-AD500's will serve you very well.  Coupled with their phenomenal comfort and relatively inexpensive price point, these headphones would be very suitable for this type of listener.  However, for those of us who don't have the money nor luxury to own several different types of headphones that only perform well with certain music genres, the AD500's are far from the best choice.  I didn't achieve a sound signature when listening to the AD500's with bass heavy music that was evenly remotely close to what I demanded.  As with any product, it's good for some, and not good for many others. I personally believe the AD500's to be relatively average headphones, but for the price they still aren't half bad. If you are a bass head or just looking for some more bass impact, the Audio Technica ATH-AD500's are not for you. Impressive comfort, vocal representation, cable quality and price point are all positive points of the Audio Technica AD-500's, but they struggle to produce the punch that much of todays modern music demands.

CLICK HERE for Audio Technica ATH-AD500 Amazon product page

1 comment:

  1. This design reminds me of the Sennheiser HD 600, these headphones these intended only to DJs!

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