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Meet the ATH-AD900s

HATS-Front Image
HATS-Side Image

Here we see the remarkably large speaker element, with its somewhat thin padding. The padding is removable for easy cleaning and repositioning.

Speaker Image

The s are open-backed headphones, which explains the porous honeycomb of graphite-colored metal backing the cans. Also worthy of note here is that the individual ear cups are gigantic.

Back Image

The band of the s has an interesting design. We've seen it before on Audio Technica's ATH-A700s. Although it makes for a very comfortable wear, it does make you look a bit like the Great Gazoo while on your head.

Band Image

The cable of the s is a rather cumbersome 10-foot cord, well insulated and durable. Make sure you keep this one on the desk, lest you run over it with your chair or trip over it.

As you can see pictured below, the 's plug is a standard, straight plug with a metal casing and threading close to the base of the jack itself, allowing you to screw on the 1/4th inch adapter.

Plug Image

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The cord guard of the is a little on the cheap side, as it is a small bit of heat-shrunk rubber tubing that covers the point at which the cable exits the ear cup.

Cord Guards Image

Along with your brand-spanking new headphones, a 1/4th inch adapter is included in the packaging.

In the Box Image

These cans aren't really all that durable. Sure, they'll probably survive drops from the desk, or the occasional roll-over with a computer chair, but these cans were designed with a very specific use in mind. We'll give you a hint: it isn't outdoor use.

These cans look very different than what we're used to. Sure, they have an unusual band, and they're gigantic, but they aren't horrendously ugly or anything. Some people may like the way they look, or care more about comfort. It's really your call.

The s have a decent frequency response, providing a very flat response over a very wide range of frequencies. Overall, the s do a very good job at staying within our ideal limits with only minor blemishes. Specifically, they seem to have short ranges of underemphasis at 5-6kHz and 7-8.5kHz, but nothing that you'll probably notice too much.

Frequency Response Graph

Very few frequencies see any emphasis or underemphasis, so this is a fantastic frequency response.

Click here for more information on our frequency response test.

There really weren't too many issues with distortion with these cans, though they aren't distortion-free.

Distortion Graph

Click here for more information on our frequency response test.

The s seem to generally favor the right channel, though at a level that is extremely difficult for the human ear to detect (2dB).

Tracking Graph

It may not look all that great, but the shifts in channel preference here are inaudible, so both sides will sound like they're at equal volume.

Click here for more information on our frequency response test.

Remember back in the tour section when we said that these cans were designed for a very specific use? It wasn't noise attenuation. These cans block out almost no noise at all, much less than just about any other set of headphones we've ever reviewed thanks to their wide-open backs. Though this won't be a problem for those of you who are simply looking for a good set of cans to listen to at a computer or entertainment system, these headphones will not last outside, and are in fact more of a liability in terms of protecting your hearing than most other headphones.

Isolation Graph

Open-backed cans make for almost no noise attenuation at all.

Click here for more information on our isolation test.

Not surprisingly, the s leak a huge amount of sound through their open backs. Don't use these if you want to avoid waking up another person in your room late at night.

Click here for more information on our leakage test.

In our tests, the s managed to blast 115.61dB of noise before reaching the magical 3% distortion mark we use to determine maximum usable SPL. Still, we implore you: Don't listen to these or any other headphones at or near this level, ever.

Click here for more on our maximum usable volume test

One of the best things about these headphones is the fact that they are insanely comfortable. If your head is anything like ours, the s cradle your head ever so gently, and distribute their weight over a giant surface area. Still, if you get a chance, try these on before you buy them! It's the only way you'll ever really know if you'll like the fit.

Over time, the only difference we found in the comfort level of the s' wear was the fact that we sometimes forgot we had them on. Seriously, these cans are very comfy.

There is almost nothing you can do to customize your s, outside of using the 1/4th inch adapter. This may not be a problem for you, depending on your intended use, but be aware that the cans you get when you open the package are the cans you'll always have.

The cable of the is 9.6 feet long, ending in a straight 1/8th inch jack, ensconced in a rather robust metal. The jack is threaded to allow firm attachment of the 1/4th inch adapter for home entertainment systems.

These headphones were not meant to go anywhere but your desk. Seriously, their open backs leave much of their electronics somewhat exposed to the elements, so if you take them outside on even just a humid day, you risk damage. It's best to keep these inside; there's a reason they don't come with a carrying case.

Aside from being able to pull off the ear pads for wash, there really isn't a whole ton you can do to maintain your investment.

Battle of the open-backed headphones.
Both the design of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PROs and the ATH-AD900s are very similar, as they are both open-backed, over-ear headphones. Where they differ is more in secondary characteristics, like aesthetics. Where the Beyers are rather standard in appearance, the ATH-AD900s are rather odd-looking.
The Beyerdynamics have a wonderfully flat response, and stay well within our ideal limits though they do emphasize bass frequencies ever so slightly. The ATH-AD900s on the other hand, have a mostly flat response with a couple underemphasis blemishes and no emphasized frequencies (over any of the others).
Neither set of cans had trouble with distortion, but the DT 990 PROs had very little at all.
The DT 990 PROs take this one too, as they managed to be mostly spot-on for most of the tested frequencies.
Neither of these cans were meant to remove you from the outside world, and accordingly, they don't.
We have to go with the ATH-AD900s here, as we found the band of the Beyerdynamics to dig into our skulls a bit. We have to admit, it's hard to compare to a pair of headphones that are easy to forget that they're on your head.
This one depends more on what you want out of your cans than a clear-cut result: if you want audio performance at the cost of comfort, go for the DT 990 PROs. If you want comfort more than you want a near lack of distortion altogether or god frequency response, spring for the ATH-AD900s, even if they are a little bit more costly than the DT 990 PROs.
Let's see how the ATH-AD900 stack up against another fielding by Audio Technica.
Though both the ATH-M50s and the ATH-AD900s are over-ear headphones, the ATH-M50s are closed-back cans, which have different implications in terms of durability and wear options. Though neither set of cans will win a beauty pageant, they seem to look the part of high-end headphones.
The ATH-AD900s win this one hands-down. While the ATH-M50s have a really wide range of underemphasis in their frequency response, the ATH-AD900s only have a couple short ranges of minor underemphasis. You are far more likely to notice muffled sibilance and fricatives with the ATH-M50s.
Neither set of cans had much in the way of distortion, but the ATH-M50s had less.
Neither set of headphones impress here, but the ATH-AD900s manage to maintain channel preference on either side to less than 2dB at any point, something the ATH-M50s fail to do.
Due to the fact that the ATH-M50s are closed-backed, they do manage to attenuate a lot more high-frequency sound than the ATH-AD900s, which really don't block out much of anything at all.
Both of these headphones are super-comfortable, but the ATH-AD900s manage to distribute their weight better, and your ears definitely do not get as hot inside their open backs after a long while. We'll stick with the ATH-AD900s here.
Again, there are certain clear advantages that each hold over the other: the ATH-M50s are more rugged, and capable of going more places than just "next to the computer," but the ATH-AD900s have the better audio performance and comfort level by far. You'll just have to decide what's right for you.
In-ear versus over-ear always gets ugly.
In-ears and over-ears are very, very different types of headphones, but we like to make at least one comparison with a radically different design of headphones to give you a better idea of what's out there. Aside from the obvious design differences, the MDR-EX600s are actually far more durable than the much-bigger ATH-AD900s, if you can believe it. With the ability to recable the MDR-EX600s and a very rugged carrying case, you are not likely to break them irreparably.
Here, the ATH-AD900s absolutely trounce the MDR-EX600s, as they not only have the flatter frequency response, but they stay within our ideal limits far better, with less of an underemphasis problem.
Neither set of headphones have much in the way of distortion.
The MDR-EX600s don't vary as much as the ATH-AD900s, but they are much more consistent in their channel preference.
The MDR-EX600s also attenuate much more noise than the ATH-AD900s, but that isn't really saying much. Neither set of cans blocks out the level of noise that would make them a good fit for the outdoors.
In-ear headphones are essentially as comfortable as ramming bits of plastic and rubber into a tiny orifice never meant to see penetration of any kind. Consequently, it is very hard to even entertain the thought that the MDR-EX600s might even be fairly compared to the ATH-AD900s in this regard. The fact of the matter is that the ATH-AD900s are super-comfortable, and the MDR-EX600s leave your ears feeling somewhat violated.
Like it is with most of our comparisons, this one really depends on your wants and needs. If you want your headphones to go outside with you, or you don't mind the massive tradeoff in comfort and sound quality for durability, you may want to pick up the MDR-EX600s. However, if you don't mind leaving your cans at home near the computer when you're out on the town, and you demand better audio quality and comfort from your cans, stick with the ATH-AD900s.
See how the the Sennheiser HD 25-1-IIs stack up.
Despite the obvious fact that there are several major design differences between over-ear headphones and on-ears, the Sennheisers are also closed-back cans, affording them much more portability and survivability should they be exposed to the outdoors. While the Senns certainly are stylish, there may be more than the concern of durability keeping ATH-AD900 users indoors at all times.
Both sets of cans offer relatively flat frequency repsonses, but we'll give this one to the ATH-AD900s. While the ATH-AD900s do have some very slight underemphasis problems, the Sennheisers have a much more pronounced problem with underemphasizing sibilance.
The ATH-AD900s don't have much distortion to speak of, while the HD 25-1-IIs have an odd issue in the low end.
Neither pair of headphones was perfect here, but the ATH-AD900s remained consistently under 2dB of emphasis on either channel, and the Sennheisers did not.
It's not saying much of anything at all, but the Sennheisers block out a bit more sound than the ATH-AD900s
It's very easy to forget you're wearing headphones at all while the ATH-AD900s are on your head, so we'll give them the win here.
These are two different headphones meant for two different environments; the HD 25-1-IIs can go outside, and the ATH-AD900s are meant for those chained to their desks. While each has their drawbacks, if you want pure audio quality and performance, the ATH-AD900s win this one, though the Sennheisers are a bit more durable.

Overall, the s are good performers for their price range, with the added benefit of being super-comfortable, and having a wide-open soundstage. Though they aren't the most durable headphones on the market, you should be satisfied with most of their performance points across the board, especially for the money. If you don't mind looking a bit odd with these massive cans, they are definitely a good buy.

Meet the tester

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging


A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.

See all of Chris Thomas's reviews

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