REVIEW: AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-ADX5000 OPEN-BACK HEADPHONES
There is just something alluring about a flagship model in a product range. Maybe it’s the meticulous craftsmanship, the clever design, the bold technology claims, or the luxurious packaging. We take a closer look at the ATH-ADX5000 from Audio-technica.
Reference Air Dynamic Open-Back headphones
I love seeing a new flagship product from a juggernaut audio brand like Audio-technica.
There is just something alluring about a flagship model in a product range. Maybe it’s the meticulous craftsmanship, the clever design, the bold technology claims, or the luxurious packaging - something about the whole experience makes me feel like I just checked in to a fancy hotel.
Despite having a product to suit any and every headphone application, Audio-technica is very familiar with the high-end market. Back in 2005, it released the highly popular ATH-W5000 which packed massive 53mm drivers and gorgeous ebony wooden cups.
For open-backed headphone fans, the ATH-AD2000X was the flagship to get. The “AD” prefix in the model number stands for “Air Dynamic”. Renowned for being a comfortable set of cannons and easy to drive, they have grown in popularity over the years.
While the beautiful, wooden closed-back flagships from Audio-technica are no stranger to the four-figure pricing mark, the AD series have been yet to break that threshold, until now.
Audio-technica's new flagship product in the AD line, the ATH-ADX5000 sells locally for $2,699 RRP.
The AD series' fanbase has come to expect a sensational soundstage, a wide-open sound, impeccable imaging and iconic aesthetics. Will this new flagship satisfy the fussy Audio-technica fans?
The presentation of the ATH-ADX5000 is nothing short of outstanding. They come neatly packaged in a miniature suitcase, complete with two solid clasps holding it shut.
Upon opening the clasps and lifting the lid, the ATH-ADX5000 peek out, sitting snugly in a fitted bed of silk.
Most of the headphone is made of magnesium alloy, and I was expecting them to be much heavier. Weighing only 270 grams, they are lighter than they look.
There is very little plastic to be found on the yolk and headband assembly. Audio-technica says that this results in a “rigid, thin and lightweight construction” and I agree on all fronts. At first, the thin and light nature of these almost seem like they might be flimsy or brittle - but after spending some time with them, I came to realise that they are rock solid.
Every pair of ATH-ADX5000 headphones is crafted by hand in Tokyo and comes etched with a serial number. The sample I received for review carries the serial number of “0000” - how lucky!
The soft and squishy pads are made from a microfibre Alcantara, and the clamping force is ample, but not too tight. This leads to a firm but comfortable listening experience, which didn’t overheat my ears over extended listening periods.
The included 3-meter unbalanced cable is removable; it uses the proprietary AD2C coaxial cable that Audio-technica fans will already be familiar with. If you’re after a balanced option, Audio-technica sells one for $499 RRP.
Inside the headphone
These are hands down the biggest dynamic drivers I’ve ever listened to in a headphone. Coming in at 58mm, they are 5mm larger than the ATH-AD900, and 4mm larger than Sennheiser's HD800.
The drivers aren’t just large; they are also packed with R&D. This is the first release to showcase the new Core Mount driver technology, which according to Audio-Technica:
Positions the driver’s voice coil in the middle of its housing so that the acoustic space is balanced in both the front and the back of the driver. This configuration provides the ideal amount of bass cancellation, which is necessary for accurate low-frequency response.
To further tune the bass response, dampers have been installed inside the driver housing. Airflow from the ventilation only comes from the rear of the driver, not the sides via the new “honeycomb punched housing design”. This design is said to avoid any drops in air pressure from the inside during playback.
The 58mm driver isn’t only large but is also a brand-new design from AT's engineers. It features a tungsten-coated diaphragm with a Permendur magnetic circuit, which is all integrated into one solid piece - where the voice coil, driver housing and everything in between is all housed in one tight unit.
The drivers have an impedance of 420 ohms, allowing the flexibility for a wide range of amplification. The ATH-ADX5000 certainly matched well with solid state and tube (OTL) amplifiers in my tests.
The bass is fast, dynamic and lightweight, and extends deep. Even thunderously quick basslines, such as that found in Endorphins by Sub Focus are reproduced with absolute finesse and depth. The bass response of these cans reminds me of a skilled boxer - light on their feet, accurate, able to outmaneuver anything that comes their way, but all the while throwing sharp jabs at their opponent.
Those jabs are only light stabs and not heavy punches, however. Much like other Audio-technica flagship headphones, the ATH-ADX5000 is not an overly bassy headphone. If you’re looking for flagship bass cannons, you may need to continue your search onwards.
The upper-mids are the real star of the show here. Vocals shine through with strength and power, and even show a hint of aggression at times. Well mastered tracks, such as Don't Bother Calling by Moses Sumney, are reproduced with incredible realism. This track can offer plenty of hidden tiny details and nuance that can often be missed with headphones that have been tamed in the 4kHz - 6kHz band, which isn’t an issue with the ATH-ADX5000.
True to what I've come to expect from Audio-technica, the soundstage is phenomenal, both intimate and accurate. This is particularly showcased neatly by The Lizard by Hidden Orchestra. This track has plenty of carefully placed samples and spatial cues which can often be panning left or right, or swimming between the two. The ATH-ADX5000 makes it very easy to keep track of all the layers that are constantly piling on top of each other, and all of the movements the samples make around the soundscape.
The overall signature is mostly natural and analytic, with a hint of brightness, and lightning fast transients. These are some of the most detailed over-ears headphones I’ve reviewed to date. Some listeners might not prefer the extra treble detail and extension these cans offer, but if you’re a big fan of a bold, bright and resolving sound signature, you will love these.
Sennheiser HD800S Comparison
The venerable HD800S is the newer, reworked version of the classic HD800. On price, it's close to the ATH-ADX5000 at around $2500 RRP.
The HD800S requires just a whisker more power to drive, and the headband has an ever-so-slightly weaker clamp.
The entire midrange is presented slightly more forward on the ATH-ADX5000, and the overall presentation is a little more upfront. This is to be expected as the AT's drivers are much closer to the ears. Overall, the HD800S' soundstage is a little less intimate.
The bass on the ADX5000 headphones is reminiscent of the original HD800. It shares a similarly accurate-yet-lean presentation, but with slightly more punch. In terms of bass pressure, the levels sit somewhere between the HD800 and the newer HD800S.
With outstanding presentation and packaging, deep-reaching bass extension, pinpoint accuracy and detailed but bright-leaning sound, Audio-technica has undoubtedly unleashed a beast with the ATH-ADX5000.
If you’re looking for a flagship open-backed headphone, this these should be high on your audition list.
For more information visit Audio-technica.
Further reading: Headphones Discussion Forum
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.