The Audio Technica ATH-DSR9BT caught my attention because the Pure Digital Drive technology that goes into it. It simplifies the chain of processing that audio signals go through and seems like a sensible way to progress in terms of audio fidelity. Additionally, it doesn’t require me to purchase DACs/Amps outside of my source.
In addition to that, I wanted headphones that represent the highs more faithfully because all my previous headphones roll off the highs and create what I feel is a dull sound. It came down to a choice between Grado, Beyerdynamic, and Audio-Technica, and I preferred the design of the Audio-Technica over the other two especially because the M-40x and MSR-7 were well done.
- »Clean audio quality with great secondary characteristics (imaging, transient response, soundstage in particular)
- »Relatively good battery life (drains to ~40% over 12 hour days for me)
- »Durable headband
- »Stylish in a relatively subdued manner
- »Overall build construction could be better
- »Controls are a bit strange and require acclimation
- »Don’t isolate enough sound to really help in noisy environments
- »No option to use passively due to the technology.
- »Doesn’t scale or integrate with existing audio equipment.
- »The mic gain is too low. It could be either the awkward placement or just bad tuning.
I’m coming to these from the V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless (CF2W), and these are relatively a step down from those. There’s creaking and rattling coming from the plastic slider buttons and the headband, which is annoying when I play softer music. I have since stopped noticing it as much after much active usage.
It’s still a miss though, and I’m on the lookout for any kind of build failure that may indicate poor quality control, but so far it’s been just a minor annoyance.
While the outside of the headphone may feel too plasticky for my taste, the inner components seem to be quality as they survived almost as much bending as I subjected both my V-Moda cans to.
I have heard complaints about the mic, so I gave it a try to see if I had the same problem. It seems that my particular unit doesn’t have this same issue when using it with a smartphone, so I have nothing bad to report on that front. It is apparently not good at reducing ambient noise though, so there’s something to consider.
These are relatively good stock. There is enough room to fit most ears comfortably. I noticed a little chafing after a while, and it was starting to irritate me at the end of the day. Thankfully, these earpads are easy to swap out.
The Brainwavz earpads that I replaced with provides a huge amount of real estate for my ears, making these leagues ahead of any over-ears from V-Moda (not that big a hurdle) and sufficient for continuous use over almost half a day for me.
The headband is too straight as is, which makes a hotspot at the top of the head. I had to bent the headband until the center was curving over my head. Less of the headband is touching my head now and it mitigated the hotspot problem.
Not much over here – just a hard carry case and a thick USB 2.0 to micro-USB cable. A note about the cable: It’s really annoying that the micro USB port is recessed into the left driver housing. I have tested the port with different data USB cables and they all work, you just need to either find one that is narrow enough to fit or cut away enough rubber to force a fit.
Like most Audio Technica headphones, the driver housings swivel, so that’s nice. However, they are still uncomfortable to have around my neck, and since they don’t compact down like the CF2W does, I’m kind of stuck with them like that. I have these on for most of my day anyway so it’s not a big issue to me, but it is a mobility factor to take note.
I haven’t had problems with the connectivity beyond the first day. Plugging into my computer took a while as Windows had to look around to find the drivers, but once it installed the proper drivers it functions fine. Bluetooth pairing is quick and relatively good at operational distance. From what I see, it can’t handle multiple connections or anything fancy like that, but I don’t have any need to do things like that, so no loss to me.
Now, I have heard various cans that are considered neutral in passing over the last 2 years (HD600, STAX L300, ATH-M50x, etc), but not for long enough to really acclimate to what those sound like, so my impression of what these sound like might be incorrectly framed at the moment.
Listening closely, I’m surprised to hear what sounds like a slightly V-shaped response curve from these. Given that these are in AT’s Sound Reality line, I was expecting an FR curve closer to neutral than what I’m hearing.
The low end is slightly elevated above neutral up to ~270 Hz, at which point it dips sharply (valleying out at around 320 Hz) before rising back up to normal at 340 Hz.
The mid range seems relatively normal, although I am noticing some recession in the vocal ranges.
The treble has no roll-off, so we’re in for the full experience here. I hear relatively small but noticeable peaks throughout the treble range (notably at ~8kHz). This all comes together into a headphone that is quite bright in character without leaving the low end behind, and yet it somehow manages to not be sibilant in most cases (Metalheads, look elsewhere. These do not render distorted guitars in very pleasant ways if the mastering doesn’t specifically reduce those frequencies).
The big dip at 330 Hz doesn’t seem to detrimentally effect music to me, in fact, I tried dipping that range on an equalizer with my other cans, and it noticeably improved the sound of those too. Interesting.
The clarity in the sound is extraordinary for wireless cans. I hear much more detail and clarity with these than I do with my wired cans (M-100, CF2W, HE-400S, M-40x) which very much surprised me.
The soundstage is wide without being obnoxiously spacious, the imaging seems accurate to me when listening to electronic music. I have heard the sound described as a hollow kind of sound, which I suppose is understandable considering, but I prefer this kind of sound to what I perceive as a bloated low midrange present in most other cans I listen to.
Overall, I really like the sound signature of these. It’s not exactly neutral, but since I’m not an audio professional I’m not looking for something like that.
The ATH-DSR9BT is not very good at attenuating noise. I can hear cars passing and people talking while playing music at a moderate volume, which is a problem if you want to shut out the world and live in the music, but it’s not so bad that it’s unusable in my opinion.
Audio Technica is on to something with these headphones. If they can tighten up the build quality, flatten out the V curve a bit, and improve the portability, I think these headphones would be close to perfect.