Audio Nirvana From Japan

A high-resolving flagship thatsounds supremelysmooth andbalanced.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

A high-resolving flagship thatsounds supremelysmooth andbalanced. 

My Reading Room

Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000

The past couple of years have shown us that audiophiles are not shy about splashing thousands of dollars on flagship headphones as long as they like what they hear. And brands, like Audeze, Focal, and Sennheiser have responded by pouring resources into research and development to come up with superlative headphones.

The latest in the class of money-no-object headphone comes from the Land of the Rising Sun. I’m referring to Audio-Technica’s new ATH-ADX5000. These are the company’s newest flagship headphones and each piece is individually handassembled in Tokyo, Japan, and comes in a hard carrying case with a satin-lined interior. They have an openback design and feature newly developed drivers, and their construction is characterized by premium and ultra-light materials.

In terms of aesthetics, the ATH-ADX5000 is best described as utilitarian. Unlike rival headphones which typically have fancy wood finishes or elaborate headband, the ATH-ADX5000 seemed to have been built with a strict adherence to the mantra of form follows function. The headband is two pieces of magnesium lined with Alcantara, and the headband uses a friction-based adjustment that elegant and effective. The arms and ear cups themselves are also magnesium, which helps keep weight down and improves weighing comfort.

Indeed, the ATH-ADX5000 is incredibly comfortable to wear. A big reason why is because the headphone only weighs 270g, which is remarkable for a full-size flagship-class headphone. Coupled with the soft and cushy Alcantara ear pads, you will hardly feel the ATH-ADX5000 on your head. My only gripe is that ear pads are shallow and I find it distracting that my ears could feel the fabric that covers the drivers.

The drivers are 58mm large, which is the largest yet of any Audio-Technica headphone. Each has a tungsten-coated diaphragm and a permendur magnetic circuit. The former improves transient response while the latter gives greater control over the drivers’ movements. They have a fairly high impedance of 420 ohms, which necessitates the use of a headphone amplifier to get the best out of them.

Each driver is also mounted directly into the baffle so that they form a single indivisible unit. This is called Core Mount Technology and AudioTechnica claims that it reduces distortion and unwanted vibration. 

The end results are quite impressive. AudioTechnica headphones have a reputation for sounding lean and bright, but the ATH-ADX5000’s sound can best be described as balanced and coherent. Contrary to popular belief, the bass response of the ATH-ADX5000 is adequate. They are not bass shy and can deliver the goods when called for. But if I were to nitpick, it could do with a little more extension, tightness, and oomph.

The ATH-ADX5000, however, excels in other areas. The mid-range, for example, is intimate, clear, present, and very smooth. This makes the ATH-X5000 wonderful for vocals. Likewise, the treble is slightly accentuated, but also very smooth, well-extended, and tame, with only a slight suggestion of peakiness that I noticed on some electronica and dance tracks.

Soundstage is adequate, but not impressively wide. And I can’t help but think if it could be improved if the ATH-ADX5000 had thicker ear pads. On the other hand, imaging is exemplary and I could easily pick out the position of instruments in well-recorded tracks.

Since we are on the subject of well-recorded tracks, it is important to note that the ATH-ADX5000 is unforgiving when it comes to poorly recorded music. On badly mixed or engineered tracks, the ATH-ADX5000 is ruthless in revealing its flaws and can sound tonally imbalanced and limp. The ATH-ADX5000 demands that you feed it with material that is worthy of its stature as Audio-Technica’s numero uno headphone.

That said, if you treat it with respect and feed it with good quality music and power it with a good high voltage amplifier, what you end up with is one of the best headphone listening experiences in the world. Overall, the ATH-ADX5000 is a highly commendable and musical effort from AudioTechnica that shows that they have what it takes to tango with the world’s best.

My Reading Room
The stock cable terminates in a
6.35mm jack and is long and heavy,
but soft and pliant.
The stock cable terminates in a 6.35mm jack and is long and heavy, but soft and pliant.
The driver is built directly into the
baffle to reduce distortion and
undesirable vibration.
The driver is built directly into the baffle to reduce distortion and undesirable vibration.
The headphone comes with a
luxurious satin-lined hard carrying
The headphone comes with a luxurious satin-lined hard carrying case.
58mm dynamic driver
420 ohms
270g without cables

By Kenny Yeo Pictures AUDIO TECHNICA