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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Audiophile/Pro Review!
Audio Technica
ATH-M70x/ATH-MSR7
Close-Back Headphones

Headphones for home recording and audiophile use

Brevis
Price: $299/$249
Likes: accurate audio, price
Dislikes: MSR7's long-term comfort
Wow Factor: best buy HP's from AT
More Info: AT Headphones

 by Russ Long
   Audio Technica’s recently released ATH-M70x & ATH-MSR7 closed-back headphones are beautifully designed, competitively priced and sonically optimized for high-resolution music. This makes them good options for audiophiles, recording engineers and audio enthusiasts in need of a headphone upgrade or listening option. Both models have an input impedance of 35 ohms, a 5 Hz – 40 kHz frequency response and are equipped with proprietary 45-mm drivers.
  While both offer astounding sonic performance, they were designed for two separate markets. The rugged construction, protective carry case and 90° swiveling earpieces of the M70x (street price $299) perfectly suit the rigors of the studio or touring musician/engineer. In addition to listening for pleasure, this model is perfectly suited for mixing, tracking and other monitoring tasks. The MSR7 (street price $249.95) tailors to the discriminating, music-loving listener who greatly values a product’s aesthetics in addition to comfort and sound quality.
  I’ve been a fan of the ATH-M50 since they came out in 2009. The headphones have become a staple in recording studios around the world because of their quality sound, isolation, and durability. While the ATH-M70x, Audio Technica’s new flagship M-Series headphones, visually resembles the M50x (the current M50 model), it is, sonically, a different beast; in my opinion, it’s a significant improvement over the already wonderful M50x.

ATH-M70x
  The professional-niched M70x was designed for accurate, full-range audio monitoring (hi-res), but also does an impressive job of isolating the listener from outside noise. Since they are designed for pro use, they are designed to stand up to the rigors of daily use, either in the studio or on the road, and they are intended to be comfortable for hours of continuous use as well. The robust build means that the pro and audiophile buyers will have a headphone that lasts for years.
ATH-M70X impressively balanced for the money

  Like the M50x, the M70x comes in black and silver, but the M70x’s headband end pieces and earpiece mounts are metal — as opposed to plastic. This makes for a sleeker look, and I anticipate improved durability. The headphones include a robust, flat-black neoprene case that is imprinted with the Audio Technica logo.
  I spent a significant amount of time traveling with the M70x. The case alone is a strong selling point for the headphones. Included in the case is a small, black plastic pouch that contains three, high-quality, locking headphone cables: 1.2-meter and 3-meter straight cables that terminate into 3.5-mm plugs and a 1.2-meter coiled cable that extends to 3 meters and terminates into a 3.5-mm plug that is threaded to attach to the included 3.5-mm to quarter-inch adapter. Identical to the M50x cables, all three utilize a twist-lock connection that mates with the M70x’s left earpiece, eliminating the chance of the cable falling out or accidentally getting pulled out.
  In order to identify the headphones as a professional product rather than an iPhone accessory; the headphones don’t include a cable incorporating smartphone control.

 The M70x has a completely neutral, low-end response that is controlled, musical and well defined. High-frequency reproduction is also balanced and smooth.

Original M50 users (myself included) found that the headphone ear pads and headband had a tendency to shed after a few years. I’m happy to report that both the ear pads and the headband of the M70x are replaceable. (A-T says that the ATH-M50x has improved ear pad and headphone material, compared to the older ATH-M50).
  The M70x is extremely comfortable, even more so than the M50x. This appears to be primarily due to additional headband padding. The M70x’s ear pads are the same shape and size as the M50x and to me feel the same over my ears.
  Sonically, while my M50 has a slight bass boost, this is not the case with the M70x, which to me has a completely neutral, low-end response that is controlled, musical and well defined. High-frequency reproduction is also balanced and smooth. There does seem to be a bit of brightness that comes into play when listening at louder volumes, but the headphones are extremely smooth and natural at normal monitoring levels.

ATH-MSR7
  The ATH-MSR7 has a look similar to the M70x but with an overall sleeker, attractive design; like the cool cousin. There are two color options: black and gunmetal. The pair I reviewed had the gun metal finish and they are gorgeous. Nearly every time I wore them in public, someone would ask me what kind of headphones they were. That has never happened with any other headphone I have worn. The MSR7’s ear-pad openings, at 40mm x 60mm, are slightly larger than average. The ear cups are more plushy padded than those found on the M70x which adds to their comfort.

ATH-MSR7: a favorite for hi-res portable listening
  I found the MSR7 to be much more forgiving headphone. Great sounding recordings sound great but not so great recordings are actually passable on the MSR7 — and will likely sound better than you’ve ever heard them before.
  The headband is fully covered by protein leather and is padded all over with additional padding where the band touches the head. After three or more hours of listening, this padding becomes somewhat uncomfortable. Maybe in future versions of the headphone, AT will incorporate memory foam into the headband. Cable connectivity is on the left earpiece, which incorporates a recess around the opening (5.9mm diameter by 2.6mm depth) but with no locking mechanism.

The MSR7 has amazing high-frequency reproduction — with an exceptional transient response and impressive imaging. Bass response is smooth and natural with natural articulation. As with the M70x, there is no extra bass hype.

  The cables include 1.2-meter and 3-meter straight cables and a 1.2-meter smartphone-compatible cable with in-line controls & mic. All three cables terminate into 3.5-mm plugs. The headphones include a padded drawstring bag and a 1/4" to 3.5-mm adapter. To accommodate storage in the bag, the headphone's earpieces rotate flat.
  Though not as effective as the M70x, the MSR7 does a reasonable job of isolating the listener from outside noise, and the MSR7 has amazing high-frequency reproduction with an exceptional transient response and impressive imaging. Bass response is smooth and natural with exceptional articulation. As with the M70x, there is no extra bass hype.
  Midrange response is clear and even and the high-frequency response is stunningly good. Honestly, the MSR7 is one of the few headphone in its price range that I’ve encountered that I would consider reference quality. I would consider reference quality.
  I did the bulk of my listening through a TEAC HA-P90SD hi-res player and a Benchmark DAC-1, but I also spent ample time monitoring through an iPhone 6 and my MacBook Pro. As suspected, better-quality amplifiers yielded higher quality sound reproduction. I always preferred the sound of the HA-P90SD followed by the Benchmark DAC-1, but the iPhone and MacBook headphone amplifier had no problems reproducing good audio quality.

The audition
  After a 60-hour burn-in on both sets of headphones, I spent significant time auditioning both pairs of headphones while listening to my tried and true staple of reference material. This included Elton JohnGoodbye Yellow Brick Road, Pink FloydDark Side of the Moon, James TaylorJT, Before This World and Hourglass; Adele25, The BeatlesSgt. Pepper and Love, The Beach BoysPet Sounds, Fleetwood MacRumours, Daft Punk Random Access Memories, and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’— Paulus: Three Places of Enlightenment, Veil of Tears /Grand Concerto.
  I can’t emphasize enough how good the sonic quality is through these headphones — way above their price points. The M70x’s signature is more analytical — with an extreme amount of detail. This is the pair of headphones I’d select to use for professional work. They aren’t forgiving so you know exactly where you stand. If you are in a situation where you have to mix on headphones, the M70x won’t trick you into thinking your mix is finished before it actually is. Great sounding recordings are a pleasure to listen to on the M70x but poor sounding recordings sound bad.

The verdict
  In contrast, I found the MSR7 to be much more forgiving headphone. Great sounding recordings sound great but not so great recordings are actually passable on the MSR7 — and will likely sound better than you’ve ever heard them before. These are an ideal option for high-quality recreational listening and have quickly become my go-to headphone for hi-res on the go. 
  The Audio Technica ATH-M70x and the ATH-MSR7 both provide pristine sound reproduction, exceptional imaging and detail, and remarkable external noise reduction through the close-back design, all the while providing a comfortable listening experience. Although the ATH-M70X is a pro-marketed headphone, audiophile can easily obtain them via online resellers. Accuracy headphone buffs will be impressed by the ultra detail. But the ATH-MSR7 is a good choice as well. Especially for the on-the-go types who like their sonics real. You truly can’t go wrong with either model, and they both get the Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.
  An avid home theater and audiophile listener, Russ Long makes his living as a Nashville-based professional audio engineer, who has recorded hundreds of albums for various artists, including Grammy Award winner Sixpence None The Richer. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.

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