“Wait a second, what is this?” For the past six years, I have been writing about music. The only reason I started documenting my favorite albums is because I was losing track of all the latest releases. Those who know me personally would admit, that I’m somewhat of a snob, and on occasion talk about headphones as much as I discuss my favorite label. Headphones, after all, are a big part of Headphone Commute. So it is with these thoughts that I arrive at my very first headphone review. It is inevitable, don’t you think? But just as I stay clear from deconstructing my favorite music, I will sway from boring you with technical analysis, specs, and charts (you can always look those up elsewhere), and simply cover my recommendations.
First up is a gorgeous set of closed-back cans from Audio-Technica. This worldwide company, with offices in US, Europe, and Asia was originally established in 1962, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku-ku, by Hideo Matsushita, and initially designed phonograph cartridges. Today, Autio-Technica’s line of products includes microphones, mixers, turntables, wireless systems, and of course, headphones. I first discovered this particular pair when I was looking for a comfortable set of closed-back headphones for work. I already owned a few pairs of supra-aurals, but for this particular environment, I didn’t want the sound leakage to disturb my co-workers, and I also did not want their chatter to leak in. My budget was around $250, and the ATH-A900 came in right around the mark.
After many hours of research, I tried them on at my local stereo store, and was convinced enough to purchase a pair right then and there. Immediately I was impressed with the sound quality, and particularly the thickness of mid and low frequencies. The A900 performed well with all of my favorite ambient, drone and modern classical pieces, giving them texture, warmness and din, but more importantly I felt the bass thump in techno, IDM, and dub! Overall they felt like a thick and snugly pillow around your head, begging you to lie down on the couch and close your eyes. They didn’t have that open-air concert-hall wide feeling of my Grados, but they are a pair of closed-backs after-all, so what did you expect?
Although the A900 are pretty bulky (I do not recommend walking around in them on the street), they are incredibly comfortable. I usually listen for hours at a time, and while some other cans begin to make me itchy, or even worse, a little damp around the ears, the A900 do not add fatigue. I had no problems driving the pair by my iPod, but I’ll be honest, they sound much better with a headphone amp. You can definitely get a super cheap amp (for around $40) at your favorite music instrument store, or you can step it up with a desktop tube headphone amp. I’ll share more of that in my follow-up reviews. Currently, the A900 are in my home studio, where they are competing with my KRK monitors for early morning and after-hours listening.
It is important to point out that this particular model has been recently discontinued (“Great job, HC, thanks for the review!”). That being said, I highly recommend you find a few places that still sell them from their stock, and get an even better deal. I’ve tried the most recent ‘upgraded’ version, the ATH-A900X, but they feel a bit plastic to the touch (perhaps because the A900 was so hefty in the first place), and that kind of turned me off. Also, do not accidentally confuse the pair with ATH-AD900. Anyway, enough rambling for my first review. I hope you enjoyed it, and more importantly, perhaps I’ve turned you on to a brand new set of cans! Drop me a line if you own a pair of Audio-Technica to share your thoughts!
Other models that I want to try: M50s, AD700, W1000x, and W5000
MSRP – $249.95 USD