Launched 5 years ago, the open back AD900x headphone is smacked right in between Audio Technica’s High Fidelity series spearheaded by the new ADX5000. With all the contenders in the mid-level open-backed headphones market from the Brooklyn built Grado’s, German built Sennheiser’s to the New York based Hifiman’s. Is the Audio Technica AD900x headphone still even relevant in 2018? Let’s find out.
Packaging and Build Quality
The packaging was a simple white box with “AIR” printed on the front and opening the front flap reveals the headphones, there’s only a 6.3mm adapter included, would have loved a travel bag. The AD900x weighs 265g and made of plastic all over except for the honeycomb aluminum casing, the cable is wrapped in matte rubber and retains the initial tangle once removed from the box, it also an OFC (oxygen-free copper) cable to note. It’s fairly long which lead me to shorten it and also change the plugs to a standard gold-plated 3.5mm plug, the lone difference we would be having compared to a full stock ad900x.
The foam pads used on this are soft and not irritable to the skin for me, however it gets hot on my head after only about 2 hours of use, that’s even having my hair fresh off the barber. The weight doesn’t bother me at all and is not an issue as well as the ear-wing type support used which I’ve known to be a headache for some. Overall, packaging is downright simple, build is somewhat on the cheaper side specially if you place this beside the Meze 99 yet ample when placed beside the Grado 225e but will last you a long time with proper use. Comfort is a breakeven experience, as much as the earpads are comfortable, it is also vacuum.
Let’s clear this up fast and on point, the AD900x is clearly bright, once again, CLEARLY BRIGHT. I’ve tried to pair it with the warm sounding Sony ZX1 and the bright signature is smack present. It just doesn’t lean on the bright side, it sits and lays there.
When I stated that this set is bright, it’s just best that we get straight to the bass performance of this cans. The bass here is presented rather weak and struggles to deliver weight. The sub bass isn’t powerful and nor does the mid bass provide punch over this region.It is ample not to be honky yet it doesn’t also provide a controlled grip. I didn’t expect much on the ad900x’s bass and I got what I expected, although it didn’t disappoint, it didn’t overwhelm as well.
I first read and knew about the ad900x’s being a strong contender in the 150-200USD region and that was attributed to how well they performed in the midrange and the upper frequencies. When I first got this, I was using the cd900st as my go to cans and this sounded a tiny bit fuller on the midrange as compared to the cd900st however the detail retrieval and on the cd900st is far superior. The midrange on the ad900x also sounded less realistic and natural than the cd900st. It’s just a matter of preference on this one at least it did perform way better than the bass region.
The ad900x is borderline edgy on the higher frequencies and the polar opposite of the mellow highs which I found on the Audio Technica WS1100is which was also almost steely but since I prefer the strong emphasis on the highs, I regrettably parted away with my ws1100is over the ad900x. Take note that despite the ad900x’s borderline edgy highs, it still handles the higher frequencies excellently. I found it delicate and crisp. Absolutely a recommended can for audiophiles who adore their highs and put a premium on it over other frequencies.
Imaging and Soundstage
Being a frustrated gamer, I was looking for superb performing cans on the imaging and soundstage aspect and boy did we hit jackpot with the ad900x. Going back to the build being plastic all over just adds to the fact that this is light on the head and with the imaging on this which articulately spaces the dynamic facets of audio resulted in a great gaming performance. But you ain’t all gamers so back to audiophiles, Pink Floyd and Chris Botti did great on this, delivery was fast, had depth on each and pace was on time and definitely distinct. This one held up the marketing of Audio Technica being airy with that bold caps “AIR” on the packaging.
The ad900x is easy to drive, it sounded good even on the Oneplus 3T and did sing lightly on the Sansa clip+, on the Sony ZX1 player, it was not hard to like and a nice departure with the noticeable edgy highs you’d get when used with the Hidizs ap200. It sounded most natural on the Opus 1 but most of the time I’ve been using it with the Sony CAS-1 which gave the most compelling performance of its strengths and uplift the bass weakness it had specially when paired with the Hidizs ap200.
The ad900x is a compelling offering from Audio Technica specially those unfamiliar with their other series except the M series. I haven’t tried any of those since I didn’t have any reason to except now to finally see how the A, M, R and WS series of Audio Technica diverges. The WS series is clearly the way to go is you are after overall aesthetics and knowing how popular the M series, it’s a typical safe choice. You’d only be convinced to pick the ad900x if you’re after the best possible gaming headphone while also hitting the right boxes of your audiophile side (except the mic function). The extended highs and great midrange and overall easy drivability makes the ad900x easy to love and keep. I still have my doubts of keeping this can until I try the rivaling Grado’s on this price range (only tried the sr60e, sr80e and ps500e) but since I already half-pulled the trigger with modding this with a removable cable to roll with one’s that has the mic function, the Audio Technica ad900x just might be a keeper after all.
Note: Some tracks used during the realview are as follows;