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Electronics

Audio Technica ATH-A700

Now I am a true audiophile. It bothers me when the littlest touch of noise is not right, and I’m not talking about the song. Most of the time, the sound doesn’t sound right or adequate because of the speakers. That’s right I’m talking about headphones. I’ve spent much of my time looking around for the perfect headset. This is NOT easy because it takes dedication, time, money, and good ears. Money is not on my good side, but I have purchased many headphones the past year (and returned them all) searching for that perfect headset.

Now you may or may not have heard of Audio Technica, but they are just as popular as Sennheiser, Grado, and AKG. All of these companies are huge manufacturer’s of electronic instruments such as microphones, amps, speakers, and of course headphones. This whole article is about the ATH-A700’s that by far have exceeded my expectations from headphones.

I spent about a month on the internet reading reviews and whatnot about these headphones. I really wanted to try them out. They looked unique, comfortable, and it apparently had good sound. The problem was that I wanted AKG’s because my friend had a pair and I’ve heard constantly that AKG’s are the best of the best. Luckily I had that friend come over and let me try the K242 HD High Definition Headphones. They were comfortable, but talk about disappointing. The problem with headphones that range from $150 and up become more power hungry, meaning that inserting them into a let’s say a headphone jack on your laptop or MP3 player will not give out enough juice. This equals low sound output. I pretty much couldn’t hear anything when my laptop was maxed on the volume dial. During this time I had the Sony MDR-XB500 set that would blast my ears out at max volume (pictured below). So those who are interested in the how the 242’s sounded, I can’t tell you. I can tell you that my friend enjoys them very much, but it was the first and only high end headset he has every purchased and tried. I’m sure they would’ve sounded amazing with a $500 amp. I wondered if high end headphones had some sort of “not all parts included” on it.

Now it got my thinking, what if I did get the ATH-A700’s? Would I have the same problem? The price is the same and the it was built for professional work in studio’s etc. I was worried so I went on a different path. These are Sennheiser RS160’s. The main point to make here is that it was battery operated and wireless. I used them quite a bit, and what’s nice about them was that it was portable. It came with a dongle that sent the signal to the headset which also took batteries. So I used these while riding my bike and walking around campus, not having any wires flopping around. Pretty soon I realized I didn’t like them. Not because they didn’t have great sound, they did. The low’s were weak, and the high’s were great (take note I listen to techno), but the mid’s were mediocre (no pun intended). They sounded better than 90% of the headphones I’ve ever tried in my life, but they were not particularly comfortable over a period of time. Big, heavy, and took batteries. I knew I could do better so I returned them after 3 weeks. So then I went on a different path…

After much work on finding over-the-ear headphones. I thought I’d give the in-ear sets a shot. The Sony MDR-XB40’s were my next victim. Long story short, I had returned them the day after I bought them. Problem’s were

1) Very uncomfortable

2) Sound was mediocre on all level, except the bass, there wasn’t any

3) Kept falling out of my ear

4) Cables were annoying

5) Allowed too much noise in

The in-ear headphones were so bad, I didn’t bother trying another pair. After weeks of disappointment and effort I finally caved into buying the ATH-A700’s. I had also done some research on amps and most of them were quite expensive. The cheapest were poorly rated and seemed pointless. Then I ran into an amp that was very small, inexpensive, and worked. I had bought it together with my new Audio’s so I could use them right away. As soon as I got them, I was shocked! They were HUGE, I was freaking out! “OMG these are INSANE!” I was even told to calm down. I took them out and put them on, it was the most comfortable thing I had put over my head. It was lightweight and the design was flawless. Plugged it into my ipod nano and let the music sink in.

These were wonderful, I was so happy I had bought them. The bass was there, but not as much as I hoped. Apparently there is a break-in of 230 or so hours on these puppies. After they have broken in, the true potential of the headset comes out. I have not reached that point yet, and I can’t imagine how much better this could sound. The bass is supposed to be sharper/heavier and the mid’s just rock the music, or so I’ve been told. Now these work great for techno, but I do believe these sound better for rock, jazz, country, and classical types of music. The high’s and mid’s is where it’s at. It seems as though I was hearing noises I had not heard before. The problem about juice was no concern. I had not plugged into my amp when I first tried these on. They allowed me to hear my music louder than I normally would. The amp wasn’t needed, but it does make it even louder (way too loud) and the bass enhancer does help a little bit, which is nice for techno or anything of the sort.

There are a few problems with this set. They are big. The size is a problem for people like me who wanted a set that I could use everywhere. Even though I have been able to do it so far, it’s all thanks to my large backpack. They don’t fold or move around at all to allow it to be placed into small spaces, it just wasn’t meant for that. It is though, very adjustable to the head. It’s a snug fit no matter what shape or size head the person has, it’ll work. I’ve been using these while riding my bike and it probably looks ridiculous, but I like that. Wind noise is not an issue because it’s well sealed onto your ear due to it being the closed type of design, which is a problem because the ears become hot and sweaty :(, but it’s better for a more natural bass.  Noise doesn’t leak out too much either, but it’s definitely not the best at it. Also worth mentioning is the cable. It’s basically a rope so it doesn’t tangle easily which is a good thing because it’s about 10 feet long. Now this is both good and bad. It does become a problem when I’m outside, but when I’m inside it’s wonderful.

My friend thoroughly enjoyed them as well. It encouraged her to buy a set of her own. She had plans to buy some Grado’s after a bit of research, then later on she decided to go with Audio Technica’s, the ATH-M50’s. These are smaller, folds into a smaller package, and the cable was coiled. It was everything my set wasn’t when it came to portability. In terms of sound, they are good! To be honest, they sound amazingly similar to mine being half the price. I felt the bass was definitely heavier on the M50’s than my A700’s. When it came to the mid’s though, it wasn’t the same. Wasn’t as crisp and enjoyable as I was used to. High’s are A+. The M50’s also have more of a stick to the head type of design. It’s very tight as it basically clamps onto your head and won’t let go. Doesn’t sound comfortable, but it isn’t too bad. Over a period of time though it became a bother. Overall, she had made a good purchase. She had wished she had also purchased an amp because it increases the bass, perhaps she should just take mine. Take note the M50’s don’t necessarily require an amp to hear it over built in amps on laptops and MP3 players.

My friend's headset

Folded up

While I am sticking with these for awhile and do feel this was the best purchase in a long time, I still would like to go out and keep experimenting. Maybe I’ll find something even better….it’ll be awhile though, that’s for sure!