Open-back headphones are increasingly becoming a go-to choice for many professionals. The natural airiness and high level of accuracy are ideal for detailed audio work. In this review, we check out one of the very best open-back options available today. The Audio-Technica ATH-R70x.
Before we take a deeper dive into these headphones let me start by saying these are an amazing set of reference headphones. Below are the quick hits. Read on for more info.
The Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is the flagship open-back model in the Audio-Technica lineup. I’ve had the chance to review a lot of their headphones and I’m rarely disappointed. But these headphones exceeded even my high expectations.
The sound profile of the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is absolutely superb. Stunningly accurate and highly transparent.
For serious work, these are a joy to behold. But equally great for casual listening. If you love detail, you’ll love these headphones.
The ATH-R70x features a broad frequency range.
These offer a wide frequency range of 5Hz – 40kHz. As you can see these reach high and the result is a super crisp and refined top end. Potentially a little too crisp. But for hearing the smallest of details these won’t let you down.
The mid-range is also a show-stopper. The definition is present across the full range from lower to upper mids.
Vocals translate with delicate finesse. Instrumental components have life and body. But none of this is superficial or fake. If the original recording is poor these will expose those weaknesses. Fantastic for mixing and mastering.
The low-end was also better than I expected from an open-back pair of headphones. Yes, you don’t get that rumbly boom that comes with closed-backs. But for serious work you don’t want that anyway. Instead what you have is accurate and relatively punchy delivery. More than enough to make informed assessments.
Balance and neutrality are fantastic across the vast majority of the range. A few quibbles in the top end but nothing that is anywhere near a dealbreaker.
As you would expect the open-back design provides a generous and open soundstage.
These are professional headphones that live up to their price and marketing. If you want excellent performance these are easily one of the very best choices in this price range.
Another hallmark of quality reference headphones is a high comfort level. And once again the ATH-R70x puts in an impressive showing.
Instantly the unique headband design will catch the eye. But it isn’t there just for show. The spring-loaded “3D Wing Support” system provides just enough resistance to adhere to your head. But not too much where you’ll feel these dig into your head.
The ATH-R70x features a unique yet comfortable headband design.
It is a tricky balance to get right. But here it is near perfection. Secure yet ultra-comfortable. The choice of padding for these two sections is also just right.
Moving beyond the unique headband the ATH-R70x also features fabric ear padding. I’m equally in love and perplexed with these.
When it comes to comfort these are amazing. Soft, breathable and they provide an excellent head feel. But the fabric is prone to gathering dust, hair, and other pieces of fluff. You’ll have to occasionally give these a go-over to keep them looking sharp. It’s a small complaint but worth mentioning.
The only other point worth mentioning is the size of the earcups. They do lean on the smaller side. If you happen to have larger ears you may find it not exactly a clean fit. But for most people, they offer just the right amount of space for a circumaural fit.
Uncomfortable headphones can rapidly pull you out of focus. If you want to avoid that and spend hours in the studio the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is an excellent choice.
The appearance of the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is certainly unique. Whether you like it or not will likely come down to personal preference.
I quite like the look of the 3D wing support headband coupled with the connecting rail. It catches the eye and is a welcome change from the swath of generic-looking headphones that dominate the market.
The ATH-R70x is lightweight but also well-constructed.
Beyond appearance, there is another notable design decision. The cable system. Left and right ear connections can be annoying if you are not paying attention. And the lack of clear and discernible indications as to which ear cup is left and right doesn’t help.
But there is some clever technology at play here that alleviates that. The detachable cable is signal-independent. This means the headphones themselves will separate the signal accordingly. This ensures correct stereo orientation every time. The cable itself also locks into place.
These headphones also sport a very high impedance rating of 470 ohms. You’ll need a headphone amp or at least an audio interface with some built-in amplification.
These are not the greatest choice for your phone or laptop. Yes, they will still work but you definitely won’t be getting the most out of them. But considering these belong in a studio setting it isn’t surprising.
Coming in at just 0.46 lbs. (210 grams) these headphones are exceptionally lightweight. This may lead you to believe that these are fragile. And while they don’t portray heft they are well-constructed.
Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t suggest you be rough with these. A decent fall or careless placement in a bag when traveling could spell disaster.
The honeycomb mesh is high-quality but the central panel is prone to scratches.
When you look at the details you can see that component quality is high. The 45mm drivers with rare earth neodymium magnets are expertly tuned. Likewise, the aluminum honeycomb mesh is well executed.
The only complaint here is the section with the Audio-Technica logo. For some reason, this is rather prone to scratches. Not something I expect from headphones in this price bracket.
As mentioned already the headband padding and ear padding are also excellent. Replacement pads are available but it would have been nice to see a spare set included.
Despite the ultra-lightweight profile, the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is a dependable pair of studio headphones. As long as you treat them with care.
It’s a little hard to judge these. Premium open-back headphones can run into the thousands price-wise. And yes they can be more refined than these. But there is a certain level of diminishing returns when it comes to headphones. Is a nominal improvement in audio performance worth that much extra money? Only you can decide.
The ATH-R70x comes with a pouch.
For where these sit in the market I feel these offer excellent value for money. There is something quite unique and appealing about the ATH-R70x. Great sound and excellent comfort without the eye-watering price that some high-end options sport.
If anything it would have been great to have a spare cable or spare earpads. But even without these extras, the ATH-R70x is worth the price.
Audio-Technica headphones tend to gather favorable reviews with ease. And that is the case with the ATH-R70x. These are popular headphones backed up by glowing reviews. Both from working professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Are Open Back Headphones Better For Mixing?
This is a contentious topic as every professional will have a preference. But an increasing amount of people are opting to use open-back headphones for mixing. And there are a few key reasons for this.
The main reason people opt for open-back headphones is because of the increased comfort levels. Open-back headphones allow your ears to breathe. This means you can spend more time in the studio.
Open-backed headphones like the ATH-R70x can be a great option for studio work.
Also, the airy response and high degree of neutrality are great for accurate mixing. You can make confident decisions and analyze music efficiently.
Open-back headphones are also great for casual listening. This is another reason some professionals opt for them. They have a great pair for serious work but they can also kick back and listen to their favorite music in its purest form.
But all this comes with one caveat. You need a quiet environment. Open-back headphones let sound in and also bleed sound. If you have a noisy fan it will be audible. Likewise, if you have other people in the studio or your home. Plus the sound bleed might be annoying to people around you.
Choosing the right headphones for mixing does come down to some personal preference. If you do have a noise-free environment and spend long hours in the studio open-back headphones are a great choice.
In the search for a neutral and pleasant listening experience, it is hard to look past open-back options. Below are some other enticing headphones worth exploring.
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X Review
If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the ATH-R70x the DT 900 Pro X is a great option. Fantastic sound and build quality at a reasonable price.
- Broad and spacious soundstage with high accuracy.
- Super plush earpads that are ultra-comfortable.
- The top-end does lean a little bright.
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X
Shure SRH1840 Review
Stepping up in price is the Shure SRH1840. A premium option that delivers in the sound department. A great choice for serious studio work.
- High precision across the full frequency range. A good choice for analytical work.
- Excellent build quality and fully replaceable parts.
- A lot more expensive than the ATH-R70x.
Sennheiser HD 800 S Review
If budget is not a concern the HD 800 S from Sennheiser is a premium open-back choice. These are top-of-the-line headphones that offer superb sound.
- Ultra detailed sound profile with both neutrality and depth.
- Comfortable fit that is ideal for long sessions in the studio.
- These premium headphones come with a very high price tag.
Sennheiser HD 800 S
Should You Buy?
The Audio-Technica ATH-R70x is a fantastic pair of open-back headphones. In its price range, it is an easy recommendation.
The superb sound profile brings life and clarity to music. Perfect for enjoying your favorite artists. But these are also neutral and transparent enough to be a functional workhorse set for serious studio work. Plus the unique and comfortable headband adds to the appeal. One of the best open-back headphones you can buy today.