Thanks to Taron for the loaner!
Pros: Build quality, comfort, clarity, instrument separation, speed.
Cons: Overly prominent midbass, lack of air.
Sound Signature: Warm overall, without sacrificing treble
Source: Matrix HPA-3u
Cost: $1,999 on headphone.com
The ADX5K forego the divisive winged design of past Audio Technica headphones, for a standard design which should offer a proper fit for a higher portion of users. The ADX5K sit securely on my head and do not move unless I make some ridiculously aggressive head movements. Unless you’re wearing these to fight in the octagon or doing some serious headbanging then these are not going to move on your head. Clamping force is secure, yet only a light horizontal clamping force is felt due to the soft filling of the pads, I should note that this is with an “average” sized head. I do not know how smaller heads will find security, but larger heads should be fine as there seems to be plenty of width for expansion. Downwards force is minimal on my head keeping a light feel when worn.
The frame uses a lightweight magnesium metal which Audio Technica has used through the years on many headphones. They are listed as 270 grams which puts them slightly heavier than the 260 gram HD600, and lighter than the 330 gram HD800. I have worn the HD800 back-to-back with the ADX5000 and the ADX5000 do feel lighter, though neither are a bother to wear for extended periods of time. I find the ADX5000 to be marginally more comfortable and secure on my head than the HD600.
The pads are made of Alcantara, which is a proprietary patented material with similar qualities to suede. Something about the material causes a very mild irritation to my skin, nothing that leaves a rash or causes significant discomfort, but I’m constantly aware of the cups around my ears unlike softer leathers.
Overall, the comfort is good. The lightweight and secure design allow for long sessions without a worry of discomfort for me, even if the material of the pads is less than ideal for my skin.
I’m not going to spend much time on this, the fact is I’ve only had them for a few months and I can not possibly comment on durability for a long-term situation. In more than 3 months with an estimated 100 total hours of head time I have not seen anything that warrants concern about the build of these. Removable cables is appreciated, even if they use a less common A2DC connector. They get my seal of approval with this level of time spent.
The Short: The ADX5K are an intimate headphone with a mid-bass hump that has a tendency to steal focus away from the rest of the music. The ADX5000 have great detail and clarity throughout, with great instrument separation, and imagines, but they lack a vast soundstage that I’ve begun to crave, and are too mid-bass focused out of the box.
See my stream of conscious listening impressions here.
I hear the bass hit the deepest notes during any song that I can possibly think of playing, they also perform admirably using the bass shaker test located here. I have no issues with the extension of the sub-bass despite a gentle rolloff as it hasn’t caused any music that I have listened to to sound wrong. The sub-bass is clean, quick, and thick, but if you’re looking for a rumble then look elsewhere. There’s a respectable amount of presence, but I do not get any visceral response in the sub-bass regions. These aren’t marketed as a basshead option, and I feel that the sub-bass quality is acceptable for the target market of this headphone - those looking for a high-end reference headphone.
The midbass has an emphasis which often becomes the focus of attention as it’s thick and overly present with the stock tuning. Since the sub-bass has a mild roll-off and I hear a lower midrange deficiency, this amplifies the emphasis of the midbass and songs often sound overly warm to my ears. Aside from presence issues, the midbass is clean, detailed, and punchy, I enjoy the quality of it as a whole.
As a whole, I enjoy the quality of the low-end. There is plenty of presence that should satisfy most, the midbass is punchy, and clarity is great. A quick EQ can “fix” my issues with the ADX5000 in the low-end, mostly centered around a gently decrease of the midbass and a gentle increase of the lower midrange.
As stated above, the lower-midrange often times is overshadowed by the midbass, which tends to pull focus from acoustic guitar, piano, male vocals, and etc. It’s a shame because the midrange sounds lush and natural with a slight warmth and offers a wonderful experience. When listening to vocal prominent parts of music like that of the Hamilton play, it reminds me of seeing it live in an old theater. Occasionally I hear a tinge of plasticy compression, but it is only occasionally, and usually when the midrange is competing with the midbass for presence. I have no issues to complain about clarity or detail retrieval, my issues are entirely about the volume balance.
The upper-midrange sounds a bit too forward at times, notably with some female vocalists, snare drums, and occasionally some brass instruments. I’ve found that with some hip-hop albums, noticeably some older ones with very snappy snare hits (EG: Outkast’s “Aquemini”), I need to listen to the ADX5000 at a lower volume than I’d really like to because the snare hits are painful. The upper-midrange is a touch dry, and slightly compressed sounding at times. I don’t have any issues with grain, mostly midrange tonality.
The midrange is disappointing to me as a lover of the AD2000. While the midrange tends to sound warm and natural, occasionally tracks sound compressed in this area which throws off tonality, and it lacks the “je ne sais quoi” that Audio Technica has gained fame for. EQ can help a little bit, the lower midsrange needs a slight boost in volume, the upper midrange needs a slight decrease, it’s so close to sounding right to my ears.
The treble leaves something to be desired from me. There’s not much “shimmer” or air, it’s accurate and present, but lacks character. With that said, the treble is clean, quick, and the tonality of the treble sounds correct to my ears. The speed and clarity of the treble is definitely something to be remarked though.
The soundstage is intimate, lacking huge width, depth, and air, that I had hoped for. Despite an intimate soundstage, it sounds cohesive and accurate thanks to great instrument separation and great imaging capabilities.
Audio Technica has been a brand that I have a lot of experience with, at one time I owned over 15 of their headphones including the W5000, W1000x, A2000x, and others, with the AD2000 being my favorite headphone of all-time. I was immensely excited when Taron messaged me about reviewing the ADX5000, I had thought they might be my end-game. Unfortunately after an initial honeymoon period, I find that I yearn for a brighter and more expansive sound. In a vacuum each part of the ADX5000 is very enjoyable, but as a whole they lack air and have too much of a midbass hump for me. When the ADX5000 sound good, they sound good. Solo piano sounds fantastic, so does the violin, so do vocals, but multi instrumental music can sound too focused on the midbass which pulls me from fully enjoying them.
I think that the ADX5000 are great headphone, but I do not think that the value is good. The ADX5000 command a premium that is hard to swallow, but if you’re going to spend $1,000+ on a headphone I imagine you’ve heard them before and know that you’re going to enjoy them.