REVIEW: AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-DSR9BT WIRELESS OVER EAR HEADPHONES
Click below to open the StereoNET Digital Magazine review, otherwise read on.
Wireless Over Ear Headphones
A few months ago, I received Audio-Technica’s ATH-DSR7BT ($599 RRP) for review. Despite being initially disappointed with the physical build of the headphone, the audio capabilities were enough to win me over in the end. Not to mention the aggressively low-price tag.
The entry level ATH-DSR7BT left me curious about what the ATH-DSR9BT flagship model would bring to the table.
Would it remedy the issues I had with the ATH-DSR7BT? Would the sound be compromised as a result? Coming in at $899, the price is nothing to sniff at and in this price bracket, we’re in the major league now playing against fierce competition – such as the noise cancelling version of the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 ($799 RRP), and the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H9 ($799 RRP).
So, with it’s ambitious price point and strong audio heritage, the Audio-Technica DSR9BT is pitching at a pretty high benchmark this time around. Will it meet the expectations?
Inside the headphone
The ATH-DSR9BT contains a smorgasbord of audio technologies, both digital and physical.
Starting with Audio-Technica’s proprietary Digital Drive System, which does away with the traditional DAC system found in all other Bluetooth headphones. In its place, Trigence Semiconductor have stepped in with their flagship Dnote chipset, which acts as the “all-in-one” Swiss army knife of portable audio.
With only one chip, the duties of both a DAC and amplifier are performed in one neat little package. This allows the signal path to remain digital, all the way from the source device, right up until it hits the drivers. Neat!
All this digital circuitry is kept completely isolated from the acoustic housings, brick-walled by a dual-layer isolation structure - eliminating any chances of interference during audio playback.
The 45mm True-Motion drivers were exclusively designed to work with this Dnote technology, as traditional drivers would be incompatible with this unique chipset. They feature 4-core twisted OFC-7N voice coils, “Diamond-like Carbon” coated diaphragms, and an integrated high-performance magnet, built into the iron yoke at the rear of the driver.
On the playback front, the DSR9BT is at the cutting edge of codec compatibility - one of the few Bluetooth headphones I’ve reviewed that allow for APTX-HD playback. In addition to this, the usual suspects are here: APTX, AAC, SBC (enabling a Bluetooth playback resolution of 48kHz/24-bit). If you need to push this envelope any further, utilising the included USB cable will allow you to boost all the way up to 96kHz/24bit.
Also included here is NFC pairing, a 15-hour battery life, a comprehensive LED indicator (demonstrating which codec is currently being utilised), and the ability to pair with 8 entirely different devices. All in all, a very satisfactory tech package.
Using the headphone
Thick memory foam lines the headband of the DSR9BT, evenly distributing the 318 grams of wireless audio across the head. This, paired with the luscious faux leather and memory foam on the circumaural earpads, leads to a very comfortable experience, even for lengthy periods of time.
The cups swivel inward, and have a healthy amount of tilt adjustment to be able to compensate for a variety of head shapes. I consider myself to have a large head, and I didn’t have any issues adjusting the headphone to be comfortable.
Volume can be adjusted by using the slider, and the oddly placed touch panel serves as a multifunction button (play/pause, answer and end calls, and when double tapped, gives a vocal battery life indication). The panel seems like a neat idea, but due to its curious placement, it could be accidentally pressed when removing or adjusting the headphones.
Due to the digital-only Dnote chipset taking the audio reigns here, there is no 3.5mm headphone jack option available. The only cabled option for listening is via the included USB cable.
Using my Android device, the in-built microphone wasn’t very clear. It sounded very faint and quiet to anyone that I called. This may have to do with the audio profile that my device used, and it may improve depending on the source device.
If you’re worried about the completely digital nature of these headphones, fear not. The Audio-Technica house sound has made its way back to this flagship release.
Sub-Bass is pronounced, but not overwhelming. Thumping and driving basslines will feel energetic and deep-reaching, but not obnoxiously loud or overbearing. There may not be enough presence or body in the bass region for the thirstiest bass-heads, but there is definitely enough to satisfy the average listener.
It’s a similar story with the midbass; prominent when called upon, but not an overwhelming bass cannon by any means. Kicks are tight and punchy, and true to the Audio-Technica heritage, the lows have gobs of detail. Even light rumblings buried deep in music tracks will be clearly audible with these.
It’s the midrange that is the absolute star of the show with these headphones., showing off the truly stellar technical nature of the 45mm drivers. They are lightning fast and responsive, and the entire mid-range oozes with detail as a result. Vocals are especially realistic, and shine through the mix with epic clarity.
The noise floor hiss (which usually plagues many Bluetooth headphones) is completely silent here. Combined with the excellent detail retrieval of the midrange, gives these headphones an extraordinary dynamic range response. Even the lightest plucking of a guitar string, quietly sitting at the back of the mix, is clearly audible.
Despite having slightly lean and brighter signature, the DSR9BTs certainly aren’t delivering any painful bite in the highs, which remain smooth, laidback and controlled. Paired with the highly detailed midrange, they provide a quick and energetic response, without too much ringing or screeching.
Soundstage is excellent for a closed-back can, and is almost class leading. Just like their smaller brother (the DSR7BT), the True-Motion drivers are gently angled inwards towards the listeners ears, providing an expansive sense of size, and accurate imaging.
Isolation is good, but don’t expect these to compete with noise cancelling releases. They will block out light noises and people chatting more than a few metres away. However, when wearing these on flights or trains, you’ll be able to hear plenty of engine noise, and will lose a lot of bass response as a result.
All the build quality issues I had with the DSR7BT are completely remedied with this release. This is a rock solid, well designed headphone, which is not only great to look at, but also comfortable.
Packed with acoustic technology, the sound of the DSR9BT is incredibly fast, with excellent treble clarity and a deep-reaching low end. The signature is very well balanced, and leans gently towards being bright.
I would recommend this headphone to anyone looking for a great looking and sounding wireless accompaniment for around the house.
For more information visit the Audio-Technica brand page.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.