Hands-on: Audio-Technica's ATH-AD1000X 'audiophile' open-back headphones

Posted:
in iPhone
We're testing a variety of Mac- and iPhone-compatible open-back headphones, among them Audio-Technica's now more affordable ATH-AD1000X.

Audio-Technica ATH-AD1000X


The AD1000X isn't new -- in fact it dates back to 2012. At the time however it cost $599.95, putting it out of range for all but the professionals and diehard audiophiles it was aimed at. The product is still on sale in 2019, but now costs just $284.82 on Amazon, which makes it a realistic option versus other high-end headphones like the Beats Studio3 Wireless.

As a quick reminder, most headphones are closed-back. That means that their drivers and so forth are shielded, which can improve qualities like noise isolation at the expense of creating a narrower soundstage. Open-back headphones tend to have a "purer" sound with a wider stage, if at the cost of bass.

The first thing I noticed wasn't the sound, but Audio-Technica's design. The headphones are incredibly light, weighing a little over 9 ounces (265 grams). This stems not just from being open-back, but having a magnesium alloy frame -- including the cup meshes -- as well as a minimalist headrest system, in which two "wings" automatically adjust to your head.

I did have to position them just right to feel secure, but after that I could almost forget I was wearing them. That's aided by the use of suede ear pads.

Audio-Technica ATH-AD1000X


Audio is pumped through 53-millimeter drivers and custom voice coils. The result is incredible frequency response between 5 hertz and 40 kilohertz, easily more than a human can discern.

Everything was incredibly clear, whether video, game audio, or music ranging from ambient and classical to metal and power electronics. Bass is less punchy than some closed-back headphones, but still tangible.

The open-back design does indeed create a wider soundstage, and the headphones have excellent stereo separation to boot. I can easily recommend these to gamers, editors, and others who demand immersion.

There are only three potential problems with the AD1000X, all of which depend on the buyer. The first is audio bleed -- open-back headphones leak sound by default, so you're bound to call attention to yourself unless you're alone or in a busy environment.

By the same token they let outside noise in, such that I was able to have a conversation if music was low-key.

Lastly, the headphones' age shows in the use of a fixed 3.5-millimeter cable connection instead of Bluetooth. It's a thick, durable cable, but it measures nearly 10 feet and its metal connector won't work with some iPhone cases, so you're clearly meant to listen at home or in a studio. The package even ships with a quarter-inch adapter for musicians and other pros.

Accordingly, for Apple owners, I'd probably only suggest the AD1000X if you're pairing it with a Mac or iPad. It's certainly usable with an iPhone if you have an adapter, but practically speaking there are better choices.

Within these constraints the AD1000X gets a thumbs up -- just remember to buy through third-party retailers if you want what it's worth in 2019.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    MisterKitMisterKit Posts: 283member
    Not a review I would expect on an Apple centric website. 
  • Reply 2 of 17
    Couple of things.  These are great headphones.  They were a great value at $600 ← that's cheap for quality open back headphones- and they are an insane value at ~$300.  I think they are a perfect entry point for someone looking to step their listening game up to the next level.  One can test the "audiophile" waters without spending audiophile cash.  These cans are definitely targeted for home listening.  Although you don't need one, I'd seriously recommend getting a quality DAC to accompany the headphones.  It really, really makes a difference.  

    Contrary to the authors recommendation, I wouldn't buy these for gaming.  That super long, permanently attached cable will be a drag.  If you want open back for gaming ATX has the AD700X for under $100 available.  Comes with detachable 3.5mm cable.  Has no mic though.   Best bet for open back gaming is Sennheisers Game ONE.  $120.  Has everything for the gamer.   Open back gaming needs an isolated area or an understanding family.  Sound will definitely bleed out into what ever room the gamer is sitting in to play.
    ronn
  • Reply 3 of 17
    GabyGaby Posts: 71member
    These are still £461 (approx $650) in the UK on Amazon. 
  • Reply 4 of 17
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,162member
    Couple of things.  These are great headphones.  They were a great value at $600 ← that's cheap for quality open back headphones- and they are an insane value at ~$300.  I think they are a perfect entry point for someone looking to step their listening game up to the next level.  One can test the "audiophile" waters without spending audiophile cash.  These cans are definitely targeted for home listening.  Although you don't need one, I'd seriously recommend getting a quality DAC to accompany the headphones.  It really, really makes a difference.  

    Contrary to the authors recommendation, I wouldn't buy these for gaming.  That super long, permanently attached cable will be a drag.  If you want open back for gaming ATX has the AD700X for under $100 available.  Comes with detachable 3.5mm cable.  Has no mic though.   Best bet for open back gaming is Sennheisers Game ONE.  $120.  Has everything for the gamer.   Open back gaming needs an isolated area or an understanding family.  Sound will definitely bleed out into what ever room the gamer is sitting in to play.
    Thanks for answering the question I was about to ask regarding using a DAC with these headphones. 
  • Reply 5 of 17
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,850member
    I would think the whole point of headphones is to avoid disturbing others, or to stop yourself being disturbed.if open backed headphones result in audio bleed then they sort of defeat the purpose. 

    I understand and they have better sound, but really, a set of Kef loudspeakers (choose your preferred audiophile set up here) would do much better. Maybe not at this price though.
  • Reply 6 of 17
    entropys said:
    I would think the whole point of headphones is to avoid disturbing others, or to stop yourself being disturbed.if open backed headphones result in audio bleed then they sort of defeat the purpose. 

    I understand and they have better sound, but really, a set of Kef loudspeakers (choose your preferred audiophile set up here) would do much better. Maybe not at this price though.
    You're missing the point of open back headphones.  Open back headphones are desired for their natural soundstage.  They are great for critical listening in a personal environment.  Open backs aren't your typical headset choice in a shared environment.   I listen to mine in my office with the door closed.  A set of loudspeakers serve a different purpose than headphones and shouldn't be compared.  Open backs might bleed some sound into the environment.  Loudspeakers play sound into the environment.  Big difference. 

    Basically you want to be alone in a quiet space with open back headphones because, while they bleed some sound out, they also allow outside sound in.  That openness is a blessing when it enhances the soundstage.  It's a curse if you're in an evironment where outside noise is coming through.  They really aren't meant for that type of environment.
    tenchi211wozwoz
  • Reply 7 of 17
    rcfarcfa Posts: 780member
    entropys said:
    I would think the whole point of headphones is to avoid disturbing others, or to stop yourself being disturbed.if open backed headphones result in audio bleed then they sort of defeat the purpose. 


    All depends whom you don’t want to disturb. When you blast orchestra music at 2am on open back headphones, it may be a bad idea if someone is sleeping next to you, but it won’t wake up someone in the next room, or the floor above or below, nor will the cops show up with a noise citation.
    Try doing that on a sufficiently powered audiophile stereo...
    wozwoz
  • Reply 8 of 17
    rcfarcfa Posts: 780member
    entropys said:
    I would think the whole point of headphones is to avoid disturbing others, or to stop yourself being disturbed.if open backed headphones result in audio bleed then they sort of defeat the purpose. 


    All depends whom you don’t want to disturb. When you blast orchestra music at 2am on open back headphones, it may be a bad idea if someone is sleeping next to you, but it won’t wake up someone in the next room, or the floor above or below, nor will the cops show up with a noise citation.
    Try doing that on a sufficiently powered audiophile stereo...
  • Reply 9 of 17
    rcfarcfa Posts: 780member
    Lastly, the headphones' age shows in the use of a fixed 3.5-millimeter cable connection instead of Bluetooth.

    Dumbest thing I read in a review in a while.

    sort of like: They use SACD instead of MP3...

    People who have no clue about audio gear should not be writing reviews: ALL BT audio uses lossy compression and is thus inherently non-audiophile.

    Also, true audiophile DACs have much higher power requirements than the batteries in a set of headphones that’s still comfortable to wear, could handle.

    Unless you have headphones using a proprietary streaming protocol with a build in DAC, wireless and audiophile don’t go together.
    orthorimwozwoz
  • Reply 10 of 17
    orthorimorthorim Posts: 158member
    rcfa said:
    Lastly, the headphones' age shows in the use of a fixed 3.5-millimeter cable connection instead of Bluetooth.

    Dumbest thing I read in a review in a while.
    Lol I was going to say that. BT on an audiophile headphone is a bit like throwing pearls before swines... you don't need a high end headphone if you're gonna scramble the entire sound through BT compression. I assume that a lot of the absolute garbage sound of most BT headphones has to do with the DAC used as much as it does with the compression. Not sure which has the bigger impact. But I know those headphones I have that can do both - 3.5mm cable or BT - sound leaps and bounds better with the cable. And cable headphones generally sound much better, even the cheap iPhone headphones sound better than Airpods.... (I have both with me as airpods have other advantages)
    wozwoz
  • Reply 11 of 17
    TheTurntableFactoryTheTurntableFactory Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Please stop writing half hearted reviews of products you don’t fully understand. It reflects poorly on yourself and wastes your readers time. 
  • Reply 12 of 17
    wozwozwozwoz Posts: 238member
    Lastly, the headphones' age shows in the use of a fixed 3.5-millimeter cable connection instead of Bluetooth.


    I too must comment on this peculiar and ill-informed assertion. The absence of Bluetooth is NOT a reflection of 'age' - it is a reflection of a quality product. Bluetooth is an inferior lossy compressed format that, by its very design, is incompatible with any audiophile product. Bluetooth also unnecessarily radiates the person wearing it, and that hardly seems a desirable attribute for anything that sits on or next to the human brain.

    I enjoyed the rest of the review, and given the special price, and the lightness of the design, and the attractive appearance, may be interested to buy a pair.
    edited July 7
  • Reply 13 of 17
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 148member, editor
    To respond to some complaints: Yes, I am aware that if you want maximum audio quality, it's usually best to go wired. But to say you can't have audiophile equipment using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi seems misguided - there are wireless studio monitors, and in the world of speakers, just consider Devialet's gear. With Bluetooth, though, it needs a technology like AptX to preserve reasonable quality.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    dymmasdymmas Posts: 3member
    Look out everyone - here come the experts to tear down any reference to something sounding good that isn't what they consider 'audiophile' quality - which essentially means it must have wires to sound any good at all.

    If these cans were Bluetooth and used the AAC codec (rather than the inferior SBC), I would get no loss in quality if listening to Apple Music (AAC).

    A blanket statement damning Bluetooth as bad is a shrill, ill-informed putdown.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    milleronmilleron Posts: 24member
    One thing is correct, the headphones DO show their age by having cables instead of BT. They show that they're properly connected for this and any other foreseeable age. It's now 2019, and next year, in 2020, audiophile headphones will ALL still have cables instead of BT.
    macguiwozwoz
  • Reply 16 of 17
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,470member
    dymmas said:
    Look out everyone - here come the experts to tear down any reference to something sounding good that isn't what they consider 'audiophile' quality - which essentially means it must have wires to sound any good at all.

    If these cans were Bluetooth and used the AAC codec (rather than the inferior SBC), I would get no loss in quality if listening to Apple Music (AAC).

    A blanket statement damning Bluetooth as bad is a shrill, ill-informed putdown.
    Apples and oranges. BT can be very satisfying for some people, for a lot of people even. To say that BT however refined, at this juncture, is audiophile quality is ridiculous.

    It will not give a critical listener CD or ALAC quality. Under some circumstances the limitations of BT are completely acceptable. Under critical listening conditions those who deeply appreciate musical nuance employ, BT won't cut it.

    Music via BT isn't shrill by definition. Implementations vary, so it could be but that's not a given.  Labeling even excellent AAC or any codec's audio via BT as audiophile quality is ill-informed.


    milleron said:
    One thing is correct, the headphones DO show their age by having cables instead of BT. They show that they're properly connected for this and any other foreseeable age. It's now 2019, and next year, in 2020, audiophile headphones will ALL still have cables instead of BT.
    I heartily agree. There are some audiophiles who may certainly, eventually find some brand of wireless (RF/BT/WiFi) as satisfactory for listening cordlessly, under some circumstances. But for the best possible, most accurate listening, the standard will still be corded, not cordless for some time to come.

    Nobody who loves musical imaging and nuance doesn't want the freedom of movement and freedom from cord microphonics. When cordless quality equals that of corded, there will be an exodus. Given the improvements of sound quality of cellular and cordless phones, I wouldn't expect that anytime soon.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,470member

    dymmas said:
    Look out everyone - here come the experts to tear down any reference to something sounding good that isn't what they consider 'audiophile' quality - which essentially means it must have wires to sound any good at all.
    This statement is pure FUD, and based on petty but obvious bias and complete ignorance of what audiophile level quality is.

    You chose to make false statements to bolster some imagined facts– why, exactly? Was your mommy scared by a pair of Maggies? Did daddy abandon you because you didn't know the difference between THD and TMI? 

    There are idiots on both sides of the audio threshold– which I define as those who can hear it in the highest levels of sonic accuracy and those who can't. You happen to be on the Can't side  and don't understand what that means. Therefore you make blanket ill-informed statements about all people who seek a higher level of audio reproduction.

    That doesn't help your case, or anybody you're trying to convince. Can you offer any examples here that support what you said in your post in logical and factual fashion?
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