Our first impressions of Audio Technica's A500 were that they were at the opposite end of the headphone spectrum to the AD300's we reviewed earlier. After a more thorough listening session however, we discovered the 500s shared many of the same exquisite characteristics that made the 300s so good, but with a different sound suited to a different style of music.
- Great bass, punchy sound, solid differentiation
- Ears can get hot
One of the best value for money pairs of headphones around. With a sub $200 street price in many places, these are definitely worth looking out for if you are looking for something in the mid range.
The A500s are a closed headphone, as indicated by the model name (AD stands for an open model), and this automatically lends them a very different sound to that of the 300s. First and foremost, the soundstage is quite a bit narrower, although we were still very impressed with it, beating out many open models from other companies. Soundstage is a term used to describe the three dimensional feeling of the music, the placement of individual instruments etc, which is often the thing missing from cheaper models and it really makes a noticeable difference to your listening experience
The other big difference the design has is on the bass; the enclosed cups are much more prone to reverb, creating boomier sound. This is aided by the fact that the A500's have quite quick natural bass, and an all-round punchy feeling. The sound is much livelier than that presented by the AD300s, suitable for fast paced, loud rock, or electronica/techno/dance.
This does not mean the bass is overpowering. In a lot of cheaper models you will find massive bass that blends with the other components of the music completely removing any sort of differentiation. The A500s suffer no such problems, with brilliant separation between sounds. The mid and upper ranges were not quite as detailed as we have heard in more expensive models, but for the price they were extremely good.
Audio Technica's closed headphone range come with Pleather cups, which are quite comfortable. They have won prizes for their headphone design in the past, and this model follows that trend. It sports two over-the-head pads, with a larger plastic strap connecting the two cups. The strap feels a little flimsy, but then again, if you're throwing your headphones off the tops of buildings and using them in situations where they could get damaged then you probably shouldn't spend several hundred dollars on them.
The cups completely envelope the ears, which some people will find comfortable, but with the warm summer months hitting in full force many will notice their ears getting hot after long listening sessions. We also felt a little excess pressure on the sides of our heads after removing the headphones, although it was quite minor, and didn't detract from our listening. With such a massive design, they are best suited to being used at home, so don't buy these expecting something you can just shove in your pocket.
Also remember a closed headphone design lends itself to a much more isolated sound, so they are more suited to a quiet environment where sound leakage may be a concern. The downside to this is that you may also find yourself missing important background noises, the phone ringing, that bus coming towards you, etc. Out of all of the Audio Technica models we've looked at these offered the best isolation.
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