Pros: Clarity in mid-high range - Soundstage - Natural sound - Low bass helps positional audio in gaming
Cons: Impact in almost any genre is very small - Low bass is massively recessed (though not muddy) - Relaxed sound cuts intensity in some music
I can only fix what mistakes I know, so constructive criticism is not only welcomed, but encouraged.
All testing audio is in lossless FLAC format running through Foobar2000 with the wasapi plugin, through a Xonar DX on the Hi-Fi setting (What else?)
In this review I wanted to address a broader spectrum of music than i usually see on reviews of these headphones, as well as comfort and build quality.
This is one of the main reasons I decided to pick these up. I was apprehensive about the reviews on amazon saying you need a "pumpkin head" for them to fit correctly, but wow, I was glad I went for it. I would call my head around average, and they are simply the most comfortable headphones i have ever used. The '3D Wing Design' that audio technica uses works wonders, putting the small amount of pressure they exhibit balanced out over a wide area on the sides of the head, where it start sloping downward. The earcups are oversized, and leads to my ears not having to touch anything. On my M50s (Which, if you do not know, are monitor headphones, with very pronounced bass, and good clear mid-high range), the tops of my ears slightly support the headphones after awhile, which can lead to perpetual readjusting. For me, the issue of ears touching the driver (which is angled slightly) is non existent, and from what I can tell, your ears would need to protrude quite a fair amount to become an issue. I did however have a smaller sized gal come over to try these on, and the wings simply did not do anything to hold the headphones on her head.
While I know paying $90 isn't going to net you a premium product, I was surprised at the cheapness of the plastic used. Every time the ear cups swivel, there is a fairly distinctive creaking noise made. This becomes a problem is you want to move around with them, as, unless your gait is very stable, you will notice it. I can forgive the plastic to some extent, as it results in a lighter headphone, but i wish they would have paid more attention to this issue. The magnesium (purple part) of the earcups, on the other hand, feel very solid, without flex, and do exude quality. Although most pictures of them look purple/violet, i would call it a dark shade of pink in direct light, from almost light source.
Mars, Bringer of War - Gustav Holst
One of the staples of epic classical music, i thought this would be a good place to test the response of both extremes of volume, and of clarity. The beginning of this piece is very percussive, with string players using their bows to bounce off of their strings. Immediately, what grabbed my attention was how bouncy it actually sounded. On my M50s, the sound was more akin to common percussion, impactful and brief. I felt these gave a more prolonged degradation to the note that was sorely missed with my M50s. Next, what I found was another the AD700s strong suits is brass. And when I say strong, I mean tremendous. It was less blaring than on my M50s, but that doesn't mean it was less powerful. In fact, the clarity imparted to them gave the whole piece a more majestic bearing than the M50s. Balancing was done much more naturally, with the mids and highs dominating, and the bass doing exactly what it should in classical, provide a base to build chords upon. One thing i did miss from my M50s, however, was the impact of the timpani. While the trumpets benefitted from sounding recessed, I feel like the percussions' impact was lost, which is disappointing in a recording of such an intense piece. Overall, this was the genre, that I thought benefitted from these headphones the most.
Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf
First off, the guitar on this recording was perfect, spot on, and all around, very faithful to the original sound, with the decay of notes occuring naturally, and the harmonics coming out clear, without being piercing. On the other side of the spectrum, the bass was dissapointing. When it has its riffs, and goes into the high-bass spectrum, its clarity was good, while sounding slightly recessed, however, once it finished, and dipped back into consistent and repeated notes, it was almost impossible to pick out, and the ad700s do not reproduce the low lows of the bass. I would have appreciated more grittiness in the singer's voice, as often times, the ad700s would smooth out the vocals and leave a purer tone. This isnt to say the grit has gone, just become recessed. This is probably a personal preference, and may vary from person to person, but I miss it. Percussion wise, it does a fair amount better than in Mars, as there are less layers to obscure it, and it plays a more integral role in the music. Impact is low, but present, and it sounds like part of the music, rather than an afterthought.
Moar Ghosts n stuff - Deadmau5
There's a reason the 'dance' setting on an EQ boosts the treble. Dance with good treble sounds awesome. And these headphones have good treble. The beginning of this piece begins with an electronic rendition of Chopin's funeral march, and i was surprised at how ambient the audio was. It genuinely sounded as if it was coming from all around me, anywhere from ten feet away, to right from my spine. A voice then kicks in, and it sounds like its whispering right into your ears, while the rest of the music maintains the ambient atmosphere. The legend of the AD700s' expansive soundstage is true! The main beat, as you would expect from dance, is thumpy, well-paced, and has an incredibly catchy treble part accompanying it. As with dance, the impact is designed to be almost overpowering, which is just what the AD700s need. Finally, I was able to get some impact into them, although not much. Bass is clear, but downplayed, giving way to the much more catchy and important melody. Comparing these to the M50s, its two completely different pieces. One bass-light, with a beautifully clear and pronounced top part, complete with all the electronic variances, and one bass-heavy, you-are-in-a-club-don't-know-what-time-it-is-don't-care-just-want-more-bass, oh and that melody is pretty cool too. Two different songs, and i believe both have their place. The bass light version is actually as engaging and compelling as the bass heavy version.
Fight Fire with Fire - Metallica
The beginning of this piece is almost mocking the baroque era of classical music, and I have to say it does a good job. The guitars are suitably light and airy, intensity is held at bay, and the small distortion effects complement the baroque style rather than come through as metal already. However, as soon as the drums kicked in, i knew this was an inferior experience to my M50s. They seemed light and out of place, the bass guitar was doing its best to push out notes, but couldn't seem to break out from underneath its higher pitched brother. As this is metal, the guitar ends up playing low riffs a fair amount of the time, and the AD700s just couldn't keep up. Everything seemed laid back in a style very uncharacteristic of metal, and had me wanting to just switch back to my M50s immediately. This was the worst genre I for these cans I found, everything just seemed far too calm, rather than the intensity that should have been present.
Battlefield Bad Company 2
This is probably the part that will interest most of you, as the AD700s are touted as the best gaming headphones for under $250. First off, yes, I am using a Xonar DX, and yes, I am aware of the driver problems. I do my best to mitigate those using Bluto from Head-Fi's Xonar configuration (slightly tweaked by me) and it has made a large difference. So, with these new setting at hand, I dove into a game of squad deathmatch (on our OCN server no less). Walking around, footsteps sounded like they were coming from the same place as my M50s, right next to me. I was really disappointing, until I stopped walking for a second, and heard a pair of footsteps 10 feet behind me. I had never heard anything like that before, so I pulled out my shotgun, crouched in a corner, and three seconds later, an enemy ran right in, and i shot him. The sense of soundstage was a massively welcome addition. While the bass response meant that explosions no longer shook my head, the sound of bullets rushing inches away from your head was a very worthy tradeoff. While the Xonar does have trouble with pinpoint audio accuracy, I was able to get a much better sense of where my enemies were, and even, after some training, what kind of gun they were using. This allowed my to prepare for each situation with much more foresight and did result in a noticeable increase in K/D Ratio. Some review sites have called the AD700s not as fun to play with as a bassier headphone, but I have to say the opposite. The sense of immersiveness these headphones impart was far more important to me than hearing stuff blow up.