I’ve had these for a while now and I’ve been holding out on writing this because first of all I wanted to put some hours on them, wearing the drivers out a bit, a process commonly called burning in. Secondly, I was waiting to get a headphone amplifier, which would let me get the best out of these headphones. Now that both things have happened, let’s get on with the review.
I’ll start off with the sound because that’s what most people care about. Despite their audiophile credentials, the AD700 has a fairly colored sound, but it’s the exact opposite of what you usually find in mainstream headphones. Usually you find bass heavy sound with recessed mids and highs but the AD700 is nothing like that.
Let me just put this out there right now, the bass on the AD700 is disappointing. No, I wasn’t expecting gut wrenching, ear canal cleansing bass from them anyway; I’m well aware of how audiophile headphones present bass. The emphasis is more on letting you hear the instruments that produce the bass rather than just create a meaningless thump, to create accurate, articulate low-frequency sounds, nothing more, nothing less.
But the bass on the AD700 is not accurate. It’s quite simply, less. And this is my problem with it. I understand and prefer an accurate bass response but I don’t like this less-bass business. It just means I’m hearing less than what is actually there in the recording, which I find more offensive than pumped up bass.
To describe it, I would say it is very tight. You feel the diaphragm of the drums in the music are suddenly being stretched tighter than usual, restricting their movement. Like hitting a table with the thin edge of a wooden ruler, the bass produced by the AD700 lacks sufficient body. It comes and goes quickly, without letting you revel in its presence.
Moving on to other frequencies, the mid-range is colored. The upper mid-range is nuanced, which gives the sound an airier feel, especially when put together with the exaggerated high end. Yes, the treble is hot, with a bit too much sparkle. On some recordings it sounds fantastic, on other, sibilant.
And that’s my other problem with the AD700; it’s too genre dependent. Stuff like trance, hip-hop, techno, any kind of electronic music and even pop lack the soul, which comes from their inherent bass response. But play some classical music or even rock and the AD700 really shines. Listening to a high-quality recording of a violin, for example, will give you goose bumps. Listen to Skrillex and you will feel your ears are being raped. But that just might be his music and not the headphones.
The widely acclaimed soundstage is always there in full force, engulfing you with its three dimensionality. It’s why these headphones are so popular with gamers. That’s one of the reasons I bought them too because I love a big, wide sound. And it doesn’t get bigger or wider than the AD700. Not at this price point. But the games also have big bass, which the AD700 cannot produce.
The design is another good thing about the AD700. To me they look great, even with that color combination. The unique floating wing design means they adapt to the size of your head automatically without manually having to set the headband length. I do however find them not clamping tight enough, even on my fairly large noggin. They are comfortable though, but you won’t quite forget they are there.
Sound isolation is practically zero. You can hear everything around you and everyone hears what you listen to. That’s just how open-back design works.
I think that’s about it. They cost Rs. 5,999 on Pristine Note ($120), so they’re not quite cheap. Unless you like the kind of sound I described above, don’t go for these. Go for something a bit more versatile, like the Sennheiser HD 518.