One of our favorite headphone brands in the market, Audio-Technica, has continued their impressive takeover of the audiophile gear world. We saw a brand new ATH-M70x studio headphones appearance at the NAMM show, and to pair alongside them is their twin, the R70x, holding it down as the flagship models of their popular headphone lineup. When I first heard A-T was making another open-back headphone, I was super excited because I’ve been using their M50’s since they came out. They’ve been focusing on merely closed-back studio headphones and smart device earbuds lately, so their re-entrance into the reference world is intriguing. Their builds and overall sound quality match some of the most popularly marketed headphones out there, and since I mix my own music, I needed to see what these were about. Let’s take a look at the all-new Audio-Technica R70x Open-Back Headphones and see what it has to offer.
Main features\specs of the ATH-R70x headphones
- Open-back design
- Weight: 7.5 ounces (without cables)
- Driver: 45 mm
- Frequency response: 5 to 40 kHz
- Sensitivity: 99 dB
- Impedance: 470 Ohms
- Dual-sided detachable cable
- 3D wing support system
- Pure alloy magnetic circuitry
- High-efficiency magnets
- Carbon composite resin
- Honeycomb-mesh housings
- Earpads: Breathable fabric
- Comes with carrying pouch
Design and features
When we’re talking open-design headphones, you need to have a particular use in mind. As opposed to closed-back headphones being pretty suitable for most activities, open-back are here specifically for mixing and mastering music. However, you’re more than welcome to use them for everyday listening as well. You’ll just have to keep in mind that they’re open in order to allow some sound to escape the ear cups. If you’re on a bus, at the gym or merely anywhere else in public, the people around you will hear what you’re listening to unless the volume is lowered significantly.
So if you’re playing that new Taylor Swift album and you want to be incognito, this isn’t the pair for you! Or if you want them to hear that NWA album on full blast, be our guest as well.
The reason open-back headphones are preferred for mixing and mastering (hence the reference label) is because it prevents sound build-up from accruing during your mixing endeavors. We learned this in Sound On Sound’s mixing with headphones article; you need an accurate, true sound, and closed-back headphones at times have sound build-up (typically the lower frequencies) since they’re made to isolate sound and not allow any piece of noise to exit the headphones (otherwise it’ll get picked up by the microphone and dampen the overall track recording). I’ve even heard fellow musicians swear by using only studio monitors for mixing and staying away from headphones completely. But that’s not our place to say what’s right or wrong and comes down to personal preference.
Lastly, the cables are not only dual-sided but are interchangeable as well (hence the x at the end of the model name), and dual-sided at that. That’s never a bad thing in our opinion.
At first notice of the specs, the drivers are up there in terms of being the standard 45 mm. But what’s most impressive of the ATH-R70x is the extremely wide frequency range; from 5 Hz to nearly 40 kHz will give you clear lows, mids and highs for mixing effectively. When we tried them on and listened to a few songs, the quality was very clear and sounded great; no extra compression or bass boosts like a lot of other popular ‘studio headphones’ out there. Granted we had time constraints and the room was a bit noisy, if you’re an audiophile reading this with a skeptical attitude, “but what about the sound quality!”, our answer is that it is good. A pretty thick sound and no spikes really found in any of the frequencies for that matter (although I have a human ear, not a computer frequency graph). It’s always hard to portray sound quality in words for somebody who hasn’t put their ears to the test of the model yet, but we are quite happy with how they’re sounding (we’d hope so with the price).
If you are indeed planning on using these to their fullest potential, you may have noticed the whopping impedance in the specs list. You’ll definitely need a headphone amp to power the pair of cans up, so keep that in mind when figuring out your budget and whether you still need one or not. We’re not too sure why A-T decided to up the impedance by this much, but hey, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Comfort and build
Their 3D wing support system was seen in their popular gaming headphones, and the benefit to this is merely comfort and reduction of long-use pain (especially if you’re mixing, time flies by and before you know it it’s 2AM, right?). It’s a bit difference in terms of a stereotypical headband, but we approve. It also helps with the weight — without cables, these things weigh in at around 8 ounces. I personally love lightweight headphones as sometimes I forget they’re even on. It’s self-adjusting as well, giving us a great custom fit.
The ATH-R70x ear pads are of a velour make, so these things are super comfortable and soft. Very nice feeling on my ears and I’d say they’re a bit more comfortable than the M70x I tried on that day as well. You also get that aluminum honeycomb mesh to help with that open-air and natural sound.
The verdict on the ATH-R70x headphones
These are definitely up there in terms of quality — I mean, look at the price. If you want some other options that may be a bit more affordable, read our best headphones for mixing and mastering article. These rival some of the AKG and Beyerdynamic models that have had years of reviews to back up their quality. These could include the DT-880 or the K712‘s. The only complaint we’d have with the ATH-R70x is their lack of case studies in terms of long-term use, so we can’t comment on their longevity just yet (we were only able to give them a go at the trade show and jotted these thoughts down). We still think they’ll be competing with the other heavy-hitting open-back pairs — only time will tell.
With that being said, if you do grab these, you won’t be disappointed whatsoever. Clear audio quality, interchangeable cables, a convenient wing system to adjust the headphones your head, a wide frequency range, and solid metal build all-around. They’re a legit competitor in the mixing and mastering world. The Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Open-Back Headphones are of high-quality and worth the money if you have it.