Studio headphone review: Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
Despite being best known for their legendary M50 series closed back headphones, Audio-Technica is no stranger to open back headphones. Their AD series open back headphones are well regarded by gamers for their stellar imaging and good resolution. The R70x was released together with M70x sister headphone as two premium offerings for studio engineers. We weren’t too impressed with what M70x brought to the table, so read on why this R70x might be the seventy to get!
Uncalibrated sonic performance
If you’ve ever listened to the ubiquitous M50 or the newer M50x, then you must know the ATH house sound. Well, the R70x is voiced completely differently. In place of the overbearing bass and the party animal U-curve we hear something which resembles a Sennheiser open back headphone.
Even without looking at measurements it was evident that tonally this headphone leaves all other Audio-Technica studio cans in the dust. Heck it even gives Sennheiser’s finest a run for their money. The HD600 and HD650 manage to inch away only due to a lack of suckout in 1.5 – 5kHz. Sadly, looks like ATH engineers still couldn’t escape hyping up the 6.5 – 9kHz range. Good thing it’s around +4dB at worst which is a far cry from what Beyer and AKG are doing.
Like most open back dynamic headphones the R70x won’t cut it for working with sub-bass. Uncalibrated they roll off to -6dB at 40Hz which is in line with open-back offering from other manufacturers. Without going sealed and all the compromises that brings, only planar magnetics go down deeper. Harmonic distortion is kept under 1% for most of the range and only creeps up to 4% at 20Hz when pushed to 90dB. All in all exemplary performance from ATH!
For the headband ATH employs their well proven “wings” which keep the R70x on your head fairly securely. It can’t pull off a Philips SHP9500 or Sennheiser HD800 feels-like-wearing-nothing trick, but it comes very close. The whole construction is very light and avoids creating any distinct pressure points. Earpads are velour and didn’t make our ears too hot. High marks overall for wearability!
Now for the fly in the ointment. Build quality feels well below what we’ve come to expect from a premium headphone. Note that I write “feels”, the headphone didn’t fail on us and most likely will survive the harshes of a typical studio. It’s just that the build quality for metal parts was pretty sub par – sharp edges, flaking paint from grills… Same goes for plastic, feels like chi-fi.
The cable is pretty decent, with screw-on 6.3mm adapter which seems to have become a standard these days. On the other end you have locking 2.5mm jacks which plug in each of the earpieces. We unplugged them for a better inspection only to find that they’re unlabeled. Sloppy work, ATH… Once you plug them in, do a channel check just to be sure.
If it’s not evident from the sonic impressions, we really liked what ATH has done. Just revise the build quality and you might have a winner here. As it is, the headphone is very suitable for mixing stuff which hasn’t got too much going on under 50Hz. Just keep in mind to compensate for that extra sparkle up high.
If you see this headphone in good condition second hand or on a rebate, consider grabbing it. At its current 350$ price it’s not what we’d call good value, but it’s hopefully a good sign of things to come from Audio-Technica. Combine the build of M70x with the sound of R70x and you’re golden!