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Flagship Audio Technica headphones ATH-R70x, ATH-M70x Examined

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In this tutorial, I'll explain the options available with the latest high quality Audio Technica headphones and why you might want to consider them as part of your audio set-up.

I listened to the following headphones:

  • Audio Technica ATH-R70x Professional Open-Back Reference Headphones
  • Audio Technica ATH-M70x Professional Monitor Headphones
R70x box
The R70x in the box

The interesting aspect of test is that the new 70-series aims for the most expensive pro usage and quality. These headphones appeared in mid-2015 and I had a keen interest to try them out since I came to like the brand when I tried the M50x headpones last year.

The R70x is recommended for mixing and mastering, while the M70x is recommended for studio recording and tracking, where isolation is more important.

The Looks

The manufacturer has employed a good combination of metal and plastic. The outer big strap of the R70x and the web of the driver are fabricated from metal, whilst the M70x has more plastic strengthened with metal.

R70x outside
R70x outside the box

Both have gold-plated plugs and converter plugs. The R70x is supplied with a velvet bag, and the M70x is supplied with a zip fastener hardcase for storing.

The R70x has a custom cable, where it is possible to swap the left and right side of the subcables. The subcables have mini-jacks that can be locked with a turn.

Sound

The sound is ultra detailed, quick, rich and dynamic. The air and depth of the space is outstanding. These are the best headphones I have ever listened to.

Prior to these I'd read a lot about the Sennheiser HD600, but that was so dry and low with the bass, that I didn't like it them.

The sound of the R70x and M70x, by contrast, is very similar, with maybe 1-2% difference in the mids and highs.

Open Backed vs. Closed

In quiet environment, such as a room, it's better to choose the open backed, because it provides a more natural sound and airy vibe that is comfortable in use for longer sessions without fatigue compared to the closed ones.

R70x cables
The R70x with the cables plugged in

For travelling I'd choose the closed M70x. Fortunately the open backed version doesn't have much leakage despite its openness. This surprised me, but in a very positive way.

Summary

Pros:

  • Detailed frequency spectrum and dynamics
  • Open backed version is ultra lightweight
  • Good construction and materials
  • R70x can be used with a Steinberg UR22 or with a smartphone without external amp
  • Great sound from both pairs of headphones

Cons

  • none

Both are great cans that deliver the high quality that I expected in the price range $300-$350.

I'd expected the R70x to be similar to the HD600 with which I was not previously impressed. The R70x, fortunately, impressed so much that I went out and bought a pair the following day.

I'll use the R70x for all aspects of music making, be it composing, sound design, mixing and mastering with monitor speakers.

Good to notice that the company designed and manufactured the products in Japan, so the quality is top notch.

Alternatives

A couple of years ago I conducted another test where I listened to the Sennheiser HD600 and the Beyerdynamic DT880. I liked the latter very much; the HD600 sounded very flat and dry, without bass. 

I understand that the HD650 is an improvement in that regard, but I didn't have the opportunity to test them.

  • AKG K7xx series
  • Beyerdynamic DT880
  • Sennheiser HD650
  • Sennheiser HD600

Playlist

I chose a range of music, for listening to and testing the headphones, including acoustic and electronic pieces with high and low dynamics.

These were selected:

  • Noisia - Collider
  • Noisia & Amon Tobin - Sunhammer VIP
  • Noisia - Split The Atom
  • Noisia - Motion Blur
  • deadmau5 - Strobe (Dimension Remix)
  • Daft Punk - Get Lucky
  • Diana Krall - Frim Fram Sauce
  • Ellie Goulding - Love Me Like You Do
  • Adele - Skyfall
  • Sam Smith - Writing's On The Wall
  • London Grammar - Hey Now (Tensnake Remix)
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