Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000 – Kinetic Clarity

0

Presentation

The ADX5000 is an exuberant, articulate-sounding headphone. Projection is front-and-centre here; delivered straight to you with little-to-no embellishments whatsoever. This tonality comes from an prominent emphasis on the mid-treble. An 8kHz peak results in transients that are swift, forwardly and direct. Vocalists sound as if their lips were inches away from your ear; smacking, breathing and all. And, the headphone’s centre-mids are pushed back as well. As a result, you get an airy, spacious sound with instruments that are vibrant and forward-sounding. But, it is at the cost of your wetter touches being slightly pulled back. This is not a timbre for all, but it is ideal if you tend to prefer cleanliness, neutrality and attack.

Spatially, the ADX5000 performs admirably. Its soundstage certainly is on the more intimate side; almost like a near-field pair of speakers. But, the imaging precision within it is superb. Despite the ADX5000’s larger instruments, you get strong stereo separation, as well as a defined centre image. In tracks with panned guitars or drums, like Led Zeppelin’s For Your Life or Dave Weckl, Chris Coleman and Jay Oliver’s Higher Ground, respectively, this is what really sells the effect. When it comes to background blackness and stability, the ADX5000 falls a tad short, due to the gap between its bright, energetic transients and its laid-back overtones. Regardless, as a precise, unexaggerated studio piece, it still functions wonderfully.

Bass

While, as you probably would’ve guessed, the ADX5000 aren’t basshead cans by any means, the depth it does have down low is exceptional. Dennis Chambers’ kick drum on Liz on Opie is gorgeously thump-y, and so is the one on Mark Lettieri’s Blockheads. The ADX5000’s bass extends wonderfully as well, allowing its physicality, solidity and vividness to really drive it forward. Crucially, that power comes paired with excellent resolution and texture too. Returning to Liz and Opie, Victor Wooten’s bass solo just past the 4-minute mark sounds nasty; perhaps, the best I’ve ever heard it sound yet. So, despite the ADX5000’s bright tonality, it never really comes across anaemic or artificial, because of the bass’s marvellous quality.

Thankfully, in timbre, this bass impresses as well. There’s a meatiness to it that imparts roundedness and weight. Unlike other, similarly-toned headphones, the ADX5000’s low-end is three-dimensional and fleshed-out. But, like a transparent, studio-esque monitor should, how much warmth it imparts onto the image is ultimately decided by the chain. You’ll hear a warm, fat bass response with the two tracks I mentioned above. But, switch to – say – The Script’s Moon Boots or Prep’s Cheapest Flight, and you might find a response that’s more neutral. The same goes for amp pairings, as we’ll discuss later in Synergy. But, in sheer quality alone, the ADX5000’s bass stands regardless of source: Powerful, physical and resolving.

Midrange

The ADX5000’s midrange is open-sounding, articulate and transparent, especially along the higher octaves. Again, vocals and instruments alike are positioned quite close, and they have strong, vibrant projection as well. Horns, woodwinds and female vocals in particular sound incredibly punchy. But, this presence doesn’t apply to all instruments. As mentioned in Presentation, the ADX5000 has a dip around 1-3kHz, which pushes deeper sounds further back. Michael Bublé on Me and Mrs. Jones comes off rather dry with little vividness or dynamic range. Even certain types of female vocals can suffer from this dip if they happen to be chesty or raspy; lacking that fundamental weight required to bridge the low- and high-ends.

But, while this tonality may not particularly inspire coziness, butteriness or warmth, it is ideal if what you’re after is clarity and texture. This is a midrange that’s wonderful at resolving the tiniest of nuances in the busiest of passages, because of the speed and authority it constantly possesses. Despite their larger stature and forwardly presence, instruments on the ADX5000 pop in and vanish on a dime, allowing them to layer over each other with effortless definition and finesse. The upper-mids especially have excellent resolution; solid-sounding with both depth and air. So, as long as you don’t mind a little less gruffness, you’ll find a midrange that’s airy, pristine and lightning-quick, yet elegantly rounded and vibrant too.

Treble

The ADX5000’s treble response is impeccably balanced; admirably transparent bar a distinct peak at 8kHz. This top-end as a whole has stunning body and roundedness to it, sounding clean and clear without coming across thin, wispy or one-dimensional. Hi-hats and cymbals sport excellent texture – resolved down to the overtones – so they’re never reduced to mere fizzes and crashes. Older recordings in particular – such as Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed or David Benoit’s Drive Time – sound pristine, with articulation that’s clear, yet thick and silky smooth too. Combined with wonderful extension, you get a top-end that’s effortlessly open; crystalline, textured and resolving without any signs of forced air or unnecessary flash.

Where the top-end begins to wobble is that 8kHz peak. While it crucially provides that sense of articulation and clarity, it does make the headphone rather pairing-sensitive. With modern material – like Charlie Puth’s Done For Me or Tori Kelly’s Kid I Used To Know – you’re likely to run into brittleness and (some might say) sibilance. This effect is further exaggerated by the ADX5000’s laid-back 1-3kHz range, which can create quite a gap in presence between an instrument’s articulation and its chestier fundamental frequencies. Although, again, how noticeable this is is largely dependent on the track – Tori Kelly’s Sorry Would Go A Long Way from the same album, for example, doesn’t have this issue – it is something to be wary of if your playlist is more varied. But, when paired ideally, the ADX5000’s treble is a true triumph; technically and tonally.

General Recommendations

The ADX5000 possesses a well-balanced tone, paired with a vibrant, engaging energy. While not the most versatile sig, as we’ll get into later, it does specialise in certain scenarios. Down below are three of the headphone’s most desirable traits:

A pristine, transparent, yet well-rounded response: The ADX5000 pairs its transparency with vibrant, vivid and well-textured instruments. This comes courtesy of its dynamic upper-midrange, as well as its awesome low-end. If you’re looking for a headphone that boasts studio-like cleanliness and is fun, melodic and musical too, the ADX5000 ought to be on your list.

A vividly-textured, realistically-positioned bass: Speaking of the low-end, the ADX5000 excels at bass reproduction, offering tons of texture, rumble and authority. Though it isn’t for bassheads in terms of quantity, it delivers wonderful quality and balances it against the rest of the spectrum. For resolving, guttural and refined lows, the ADX5000 is a wonderful option.

Unexaggerated, precise, studio-like imaging: The ADX5000’s soundstage isn’t necessarily expansive, but that can be a plus if what you’re after is a more unexaggerated and uncoloured look at the track. So, if you’re – say – a producer who favours imaging precision more than raw expansion, the ADX5000 may have one of the most ideal spatial presentations for you.

The ADX5000’s emphasis on transparency and precision nudges its sig towards a certain tuning some may not prefer. It isn’t a jack-of-all-trades, for example. If the traits below are high on your priority list, this headphone may not be for you:

A universally-forgiving treble: The ADX5000’s mid-treble peak brings pristine clarity to a large majority of recordings. But, it may also incite a touch of brittleness or harshness with – say – more modern pop records. So, if you tend to have a more varied playlist with a larger range of mastering styles, this is a quality worth considering if you were eyeing the ADX5000.

A warm, organically-rich lower-midrange: Though the ADX5000 is wonderfully vibrant and rich along the upper-registers, it could use a bit more presence along the fundamental frequencies down low. The headphone may miss out on the gruff, chesty, meaty qualities that male baritones require. So, the ADX5000 is less ideal if a deep, heavy sig is what you’re after.

A theatrically-spacious soundstage: The ADX5000’s accurate, near-field-style stage will certainly appeal more to those after precision, rather than immersion. While its separation and layering are top-notch, it simply does not go for the vastness that other flagship headphones tend to emphasise. If out-of-head expansion is a priority, the ADX5000 won’t be for you.

1 2 3
Share.

About Author

Church-boy by day and audio-obsessee by night, Daniel Lesmana’s world revolves around the rhythms and melodies we lovingly call: Music. When he’s not behind a console mixing live for a congregation of thousands, engineering records in a studio environment, or making noise behind a drum set, you’ll find him on his laptop analysing audio gear with fervor and glee. Now a specialist in custom IEMs, cables and full-sized headphones, he’s looking to bring his unique sensibilities - as both an enthusiast and a professional - into the reviewer’s space; a place where no man has gone before.

Leave A Reply