This is the place to discuss the audio-technica ADX-5000 Audiophile Open-Air Dynamic Headphones.
I first came across the Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 at CES last year. I heard a ton of headphones there, and since then, but the ADX had always been the one headphone that my thoughts would wander back to. I think a year is long enough to mull something over. I took the plunge.
The first thing you notice when you’re done peeling off all the many layers of high quality packaging and finally get the brown suitcase open is that the ADX doesn’t look like a TOTL headphone. The cups are too thin, the wire headband looks like it’s missing its leather suspension strap, and besides the polished metal cup ring, there is nothing to let anyone know how much money you spent on this headphone. There’s no burnished leather or rich mahogany. There’s no carbon fiber or shiny gorilla glass. Even the company logo is hidden away underneath the stamped metal honeycomb grill.
With the ADX, A-T took what you think of a summit-fi headphone and then stripped off all the unnecessary bits. It’s a Formula 1 car compared to the Focal Veyron and Sennheiser 911. It’s the perfect example of form following function. And, it’s unbelievably beautiful.
When you pluck the ADX out of the satin-lined padding of its case, you notice its weight, or lack thereof to be more precise. At only 270g, it is the lightest flagship headphone on the market by some fairly wide margins. It’s a whopping 45% lighter than the 490g Focal Utopia. The ADX is lighter than its closest competitor, the Ether 2, by 7%.
What you initially mistook as a wire headband is actually thin strips of springy metal over foam padding, all wrapped in soft Alcantara. Having 2 thin headband straps actually makes more sense than having a single large one since weight is distributed to 2 points of contact instead of 1.
The headband exerts moderate to moderate-heavy clamping pressure on your oversized dome, but the clamp pressure is comfortably distributed by the cushy earpads, once again covered in soft Alcantara. There’s a surprising amount of space within the thin-looking cups, and your ears are completely free from touching the pads or the fabric covering the driver.
The combination of ultra light weight, roomy cups, and lack of any hotspots make the ADX the most comfortable flagship headphone you’ve ever worn. You can definitely wear it All Day. But do you want to?
The ADX sports a 420 ohm impedance, but have no fear, its sensitivity is 100db/mW. This means that you can plug it into just about anything without worrying about impedance mismatches or power requirements. You plug it into your LG V40 and immediately turn the volume down to 30. If only the cable wasn’t 10 feet long, with the split at your navel, it might make an awesome BT headphone paired with the ES100.
You fire up your usual test songs and immediately note how much energy there is in the treble. It gives the ADX a sense of incredible detail and airyness, but you wonder if it’s actual resolution or just a trick of the tuning. I mean, the drivers are coated in tungsten. The same dense and heavy tungsten that you chose for your wedding band because you wanted it to weigh your entire hand down as a constant reminder not to do anything stupid and fuck it all up. How fast can a driver be when it’s coated in this stuff?
But that ring also looks exactly the same as when you first put it on all those years ago, just like your relationship with your wife, because tungsten is also incredibly stiff and strong. It’s what you use when you make tools to punch through steel. You want stiffness in a driver to combat distortion.
So, you do some quick and dirty EQ to tone down the treble and add a touch of subbass to check. Yup. Resolution is still amazing in the treble and mids. Bass seems slow compared to the Utopia. So you shut off EQ to further explore the stock ADX sound.
Treble and mids are definitely the ADX’s strong point. It even makes somewhat poorly recorded songs sound more dynamic and full. Vocals, especially female, take center stage and you can hear every nuance, rasp, and whisper. However, it’s also less revealing of distortion in the recording than the Utopia or LCDi4 in tracks like Bassically -Tei Shi and Love Lockdown - Kanye. The distortion in these tracks are from clipping in the basslines but is heard as a higher pitched crackling. With the elevated treble response, you’d expect the distortion to be accentuated but it’s not. The ADX is both incredibly detailed and musical. Crazy.
Bass speed seems to be the ADX’s only weakness… well, compared to super-fast cans like the Utopia and LCDi4. Leading edges are not as sharp and there’s a bit of prolonged decay. You definitely hear it in the rolling kettle drums in The Battle - Hans Zimmer and pulsing bassline of Limit to Your Love - James Blake. Bass speed is excellent, but falls just short of the best examples you’ve heard.
Bass response extends down further than you initially think. While not completely flat like an Audeze planar, it’s very, very close. The ADX might have the most linear bass response that you’ve heard out of a dynamic driver. Hitting the low notes in Lemon - NERD seems effortless and bottomless.
Compared to the Utopia, the ADX is smooth, if somewhat tame, lacking the Utopia’s gut-busting punch. Classical, Opera, and jazz may be the ADX’s forte as those genres take advantage of the ADX’s expansive soundstage to present each instrument in its own natural and not-overblown space. Imaging is precise and layering is handled with aplomb.
Xcellence in sound, indeed.
The ADX is going to replace the Utopia as my office headphone, and thus the one that gets the most head time. The Utopia is comfortable, but the ADX disappears. I was banging my head along with some metal and the ADX didn’t even move whereas the Utopia would have been flying across the room. I love the Utopia and will always cherish it as my reference set for critical listening settings, but comfort goes a long, long way towards the ultimate enjoyment of any piece of headgear. It’s why I call the ADX: All Day Xcellence.
You should write more reviews!
I always found the ATH headphones to look rather goofy looking, but great in comfort.
Agreed, nice job describing the product
Good review. I’m very curious about this can, just wish it was more readily available to try.
Thanks, dude. That’s a big compliment coming from you as I always enjoyed reading your reviews.
I think the A-Ts with wings can look a bit funny, but the ADX is so low-profile for a flagship that I think it looks great on the head. My wife hasn’t made fun of me one bit.
It’s a shame that it’s not more readily available since it’s in the same price and performance range as the HD800S and the Clear, and offers a different flavor in tuning. I spent the last 6 months looking for a used set, on and off, and have never seen one pop up. I hope that changes because the ADX is a real gem.
What a great review. I really like your descriptive style. Easy to follow and to the point. A great read. Thanks.
I’ve been looking at getting a proper pair of these in for demo for quite some time as I found listening to them at shows was a difficult experience. I’ve never been a fan of the lower-end Audio-Technica headphones as I found their tuning to be off for me and their headbands to either be hit or miss.
Would you say the ADX5000 is brighter than the Utopia?
Thank you! The ADX5000 is a bit brighter than the Utopia around the 5-6k range, but that’s nicely balanced out by a similar bump in bass response. I wouldn’t call the ADX5000 V-shaped by any means, but maybe a slight check mark in comparison to the Utopia.
Thanks, Paul. I’ve been trying out this thing where I attempt to give the reader a first hand account of what it’s like to experience the headgear I’m reviewing instead of just writing out my opinions. I don’t know if it’s actually working or not, and there’s definitely room for improvement, but I appreciate the positive feedback.
Sorry that I previously missed this review. Great job.
Thanks to @antdroid for pointing me here.
Andrew dropped this off the other night so I’ve been using it for a couple of days now. Here are some preliminary measurements:
Once again, disregard that 4.5khz peak. This measurement rig is… less than ideal for that region. But in general this curve looks kind of like what I imagine the former RTINGs hybrid target was - brighter than Harman in the treble but still with the bass elevation. It should be mentioned that this is even brighter than the HPN compensation’s target, which means it has a ton of air up there.
General thoughts so far:
I like it. While it’s a bit too bright and airy for me, it’s not sharp or fatiguing. Tonal balance seems pretty good. Every once in a while there’s a sort of sharpness to certain cymbal hits that I can’t put my finger on. It makes me think of when you switch cymbal brands, where you’re used to one type of ride cymbal but then the new brand has just a slightly different flavor to it. So while there might be some slightly odd timbre going on, the overall tonal balance is there. If anything, there’s just a bit too much sizzle and splash for me, but for orchestral swells, this headphone is nuts. It reminds me a bit of an HD800s with fewer peaks, more air, slightly smaller stage and not quite as good detail retrieval (I think… midrange detail on the ADX5K is excellent).
This is also interesting to me because it demonstrates that it’s fine for a headphone to be bright sounding, as long as it has decent tonal balance. So the upper mids aren’t so recessed or withdrawn that it throws anything off for the treble elevation above 7khz. And speaking of 7khz, yeah it’s a bit strong, and I even mentioned this to some friends who had also heard it before measuring it, so it was nice to have guessed it correctly - and indicative that it’s audible as well. But at the same time it’s not as crazy a peak like a lot of Beyerdynamics have, so it’s not exactly sibilant. It’s just… bright.
No it’s not. Well, for me anyway.
I’ve noticed that you may be a treble-head. One of these days I’ll convert you to the dark side. We have cake.
This reminds me of the diffuse field vs. Harman crowds. Diffuse (bright) is usually the choice of “audiophiles” (whom are often older listeners) while Harman is where more casual listeners (and generally a broader spectrum of music listeners) fall under.
Hey now, I’m a warmuck. I personally own the ZMF Verite haha. I only appreciate the counter-clockwise tilt if it’s balanced. I can’t stand beyer peaks for example. I’d say my preference is somewhere in between diffuse field and harman targets (weirdly similar to the older RTINGs hybrid target). Think like, Focal Clear or Hifiman Ananda.
Neutral, just neutral. Focal Clear, HD-600s, neutral. I myself get distracted by either too much treble or bass. When you hear a song on multiple devices the commonalities become apparent, so I can spot deviations from the source. That bugs me over time.
Clear is as bright as I can tolerate while still enjoying.
No offense, but I don’t think generalizations like that serve the community well. Unless there is data to show such a thing actually exists, it’s my hypothesis that you probably have a somewhat even mix of preferences for these two target curves, despite age and despite advanced experience in the hobby. I say this as someone who is fast approaching the age of “older listener” who has been in the hobby for decades.
I think the audiophile hobby has told us in obscure and very round about ways that more treble = more detail… which is absurd. The ZMF Aeolus presents just as much detail (or information) on cymbal crashes as the Beyer 1990dt, the only difference is the Beyer is unquestionably fk’d up with it’s incredibly uneven volume in the treble region.
Here is the paradox in @Resolve’s statement: (Paraphrased)
It’s ok to be bright, as long as there is tonal balance…
My thoughts are: If there were tonal balance, it wouldn’t be bright!
I just base my opinion on my short term experience in the community.
Harmon samples a large group, not specifically self identified as audiophiles, and averaged out their preference.
We gradually lose the ability to hear higher frequencies as we age. This meme kind of illustrates that.
It’s just opinion. I’ll be there some day…
Edit: I believe this is why most TOTL headphones are made more in line with the Diffuse Field target. Typically consumers with the most expendable income are older, and they often self identify as audiophiles.