Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1 Gaming Headset Review
A truly premium option for gamers
The Insides That Count
The Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1 over-ears (MSRP $299) are that rare breed of open-backed gaming headset, meaning they perform with certain eccentricities that differentiate them from both traditional gaming headsets and open-backed audiophile headphones. You won't find a flat frequency response here, for example, and you also don't get the same isolation performance—quieting of surrounding ambient noise—as you would with a closed-back headset. Overall, the ATH-ADG1 over-ears fulfill a single niche role, but they do an excellent job of it.
Like many gaming headsets, the ATH-ADG1 over-ears don't present a traditional soundscape. We discovered this during lab tests, where we feed the headset a frequency sweep that reveals how the headset responds to each frequency across the audible spectrum. Our software then produces data that tells us the manner in which a product reproduces that frequency sweep.
Testing revealed that these Audio-Technicas play sub-bass sounds more quietly than bass tones, allocating even emphasis from about 100Hz until the midrange at 1kHz. This means that bass noises are easy to hear, and receive plenty of audible room to breathe. After 1kHz, emphasis raises slightly, and then takes a strong dip between 2.5kHz and 7kHz—upper mid-range sounds like character dialogue.
The highest noises—like a laser rifle discharging or a hero's cry of triumph—are given a good deal of emphasis compared to the upper mid-range. Sounds between 8kHz and 10kHz stand out prominently amongst the din of noise. This makes certain subtle elements easier to hear, but can also cause aural discomfort at times.
Channel tracking refers to the balance in volume between a headset's left and right speakers. Ideally, we want to see the entire frequency range played at the same volume from both the left and right ear cups. The ATH-ADG1 over-ears perform stoutly in this regard, swaying at most by about 5 dB in either direction, an aberration that's inaudible to all but the most expert of ears.
Isolation refers to how much ambient noise a set of headphones naturally blocks. Because they're open-backed headphones, the ATH-ADG1 over-ears block practically no ambient noise—everything passes right through in either direction, meaning they also leak about 20 dB of sound, which is a ton. This is a performance aspect that's to be expected from open-backed headphones, but it's still something that interested consumers should keep in mind depending on how/where they plan to use this product.
Our distortion test measures for audible clipping and unwanted noise within a frequency signal. While most headphones test with a little bit of distortion in the sub-bass range, that range is close to inaudible for human beings. We consider less than 3% THD (total harmonic distortion) within the bass, mid, high-mid, and high frequencies to be an ideal result.
The ATH-ADG1 over-ears tested with a fairly high degree of distortion within the sub-bass range, at times peaking around 20-40% at the lowest pitches. Fortunately the distortion tapers off as the frequencies approach the more audible bass range, and stay at a minimum throughout the rest of the spectrum. Testing also revealed that these Audio-Technicas can hit a whopping 126 dB before distortion totals rise above 3%, and that's way louder than you ever need to be listening to anything.
Impulse response refers to how long a sound takes to decay after initially sounding. Similarly to the frequency response test, we check a headset's impulse response by running a frequency sweep and measuring (with science!) how long the sound takes to decay. The ATH-ADG1 over-ears performed optimally here, with no sounds lasting longer than 5ms—an ideal result.
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