Written by Chrono
Audio Technica is, of course, a company that has been a major player in the high-fidelity audio market for decades. They offer a great variety of products at different price brackets and the categories range anywhere from lifestyle headsets and earbuds, to more audiophile and pro-oriented headphones. In this article, then, we’ll be taking a look at one of their premium, higher-end offerings–the flagship ADX5000 ($1,999).
The Amplifier/DACs used in this review were the SPL Phonitor XE (with built-in DAC), Grace Design SDAC + A90 , and the JDS Labs Element II connected via USB to my desktop computer. For the listening tests I used music from a wide variety of genres including Rock, Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Hip-Hop, and latin. I played tracks from my own FLAC library as well as from Qobuz streaming service played via Roon (exclusive mode).
Despite being packaged in a gigantic box, there isn’t much accompanying the ADX5000.
It’s a bit too large to label as portable, but you get a really nice, brown travel case that is sure to keep your precious headphones safe on-the-go. As for the included cable, it’s Audio Technica’s proprietary A2DC (Audio Designed Coaxial Cable), which measures roughly 3m and has a single-ended ¼” termination.
Given the price tag, I think that the inclusion of a shorter cable or perhaps a balanced cable would have been nice, but that’s not what I want to point out. My main concern is that the included cable is really microphonic, so if you move and the cable rubs on your clothes you will hear that. Of course, if you don’t move around much or just use them at your desk, this is no issue at all, but I know that there are those out there for whom this could quite bothersome, and since the headphone uses proprietary connectors, finding a less noisy replacement will not be easy; so, it’s just something to keep in mind.
With its industrial, professional design, the ADX5000 is admittedly not the flashiest or particularly eye-catching flagship out there. However, I sincerely appreciate the design choices made for this headphone because it makes for a practical build that is sturdy and unbelievably comfortable.
The use of magnesium for the headphone’s frame makes for a chassis that is extremely lightweight at 270g. Additionally, the use of Alcantara makes for pads that are soft on the skin and resistant to heat build up. For users with larger ears, the inner diameter of the pads might be a little bit on the smaller side and may cause contact, but overall I think that this is one of the most–if not the most–comfortable headphones I’ve personally had the opportunity to wear.
The ADX5000 is intended to be a reference-listening, high-end, personal audio headphone that creates a faithful image of your music. To this end, the ADX5000 combines its 58mm dynamic driver, tungsten diaphragm, baffle and magnetic circuit into a single unit that is set on Audio Technica’s Core Mount Technology to optimize airflow and reduce unwanted vibrations.
Alright, let’s get this out of the way: the ADX5000 is a bright headphone.
Despite the ADX5000 leaning towards the brighter side, it actually retains a bass response that is present, and that by virtue of a midbass bump at around 125hz also brings a pleasant warmth to the mix. There were a couple of things that I did notice, though, when listening to low tones on the ADX5000, with the first being that it sound to me as though there was a bit of roll-off under 50hz; not as noticeable as on the HD800S , but you definitely didn’t get as much of the subass depth and rumble as on other similarly priced headphones. Additionally, I didn’t get the feeling that the bass on the ADX5000 was particularly tight. That’s not to say that it was not clean, but it certainly didn’t have the same kind of precision and nimbleness in this region of the frequency response that its planar competitors, or even the Focal Clear do; again similar to the HD800S in this regard, but it does perform a bit better.
Due to elevated treble, the mids don’t particularly stand out on the ADX5000.Occasionally it sounded to me as though the upper midrange was ever-so-slightly too forward at around 4Khz, so if you are sensitive to that region of the mids like myself, then it’s something to maybe keep in mind. However, when focusing on just the midrange and after using EQ on the highs, I would say that for the most part is a good tuning since it’s linear throughout and doesn’t compromise the headphone’s ability to deliver organic vocal and instrument tones.
Ok, so let’s now talk about the treble, which is definitely where the ADX5000 is most interesting. As I mentioned earlier, the ADX5000 does have its focus shifted towards the upper registers, however the reason why I think that it works in this case and isn’t piercing or harsh like on headphones such as the DT1990 Pro, is that the increase in the treble is both gradual and even, without any egregious peaks that introduce uncomfortable qualities into the listening experience.
There were, however, three deviations that I did notice. The first two were at 6Khz and 10Khz, which introduced low and mid treble sibilance respectively. These two elevations had the tendency to add a slightly exaggerated bite to percussive instruments in particular, and also over-brightened vocal and instrument harmonics. Then there was a peak at around 13Khz, which introduced a fairly unnatural brilliance to that air region above 10Khz, and it could sometimes make musical passages sound a bit gleamy. Again, these rises in the treble weren’t really fatiguing, but I did think that they had a slightly negative impact on the ADX5000’s timbre.
For detail retrieval and image clarity the ADX5000 undoubtedly delivers the excellent performance that is expected from a flagship headphone and in this regard competes squarely with the other headphones in the $1,000 to $2,000 range. Throughout the entire frequency response the ADX5000 creates a clean, stable image of the music that is adept at texturing and nuancing all the different vocal and instrument tones.
When it comes to its spatial qualities, the ADX5000 again delivers excellent performance, being slightly outpaced only by the HD800S and HiFiMan Arya . For soundstage width the ADX5000 provides a spacious presentation that presents a good sense of distance and scale without sounding artificial. Additionally, its imaging is very precise, and has no issues delineating the positioning and directionality of all elements in a mix. Then, as for instrument separation and layering I think it delivers some of the best in its price range, with a great sense of depth, and spacing between the various tracks that make up passages–it allows you to easily peer into the music.
Lastly, for dynamics the ADX5000 delivers very good performance, as it has a satisfying sense of punch and slam. In this regard I think that it actually outperforms almost all of its competition with the exception of the Focal Clear. In the lows it delivers a more prominent kick and impact than the HD800S, Arya, or LCD-X are capable of offering. At the same time, its upper registers are tactile and nuanced with a proper snap and bite behind them that make for an energetic and more believable listening experience.
Out of the box, I think that the ADX5000 has a very good tonal balance that doesn’t really need much tweaking. However, I personally prefer headphones with a tonality that I would describe as being warm-neutral. So, for the EQ I made for the ADX5000, I just seek to bring the headphone’s tonality closer to my preference by warming up the treble. If you’d like to try out my EQ settings for the ADX5000, these are the settings I used:
- Low Shelf at 35hz, +3.5dB Q of 0.7
- Peak at 125hz, -3dB Q of 1
- Peak at 4000hz, -3dB Q of 3
- Peak at 6000hz, -2.6dB Q of 3
- Peak at 10000hz, -2dB Q of 2
- Peak at 13000hz, -3.5dB Q of 5
I must admit, I was quite surprised by the ADX5000. In truth, it’s because I didn’t really have any expectations for it. After all, my last experience (which was several years ago) with Audio Technica was when I tried out the ATH-M50, and I really didn’t take a liking to that headphone. However, in my time with it, the ADX5000 has certainly delivered an excellent listening experience that stands up to dynamic-driver legends like the Clear and HD800S.
I recognize that the treble-focused frequency response isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind the added brilliance, then the ADX5000 is a headphone that I believe you will find very enjoyable. In some ways I feel like it offers a balanced experience that sits between the Clear and HD800S because it doesn’t have the soundstage shortcomings of the former, but it has much better dynamics than the latter. So, overall, the ADX5000 is a headphone that will get a strong recommendation from me, and I hope that it’s one you’ll keep on your radar if you’re on the lookout for a top-tier dynamic-driver headphone.