It’s safe to say that audiophiles have had figurative “ants in their pants” awaiting the new 2017 Audio Technica headphones. One of the headphones that’s had heads spinning for months is the Audio Technica ATH-SR9 Sound Reality Over-Ear High Resolution Headphones. When examining the specs, features and price point of the SR9 it’s clearly meant to be a big step up from the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7. But the big questions remain. How does the ATH-SR9 sound? And is it worth the price? I’ve got one of the first Audio Technica ATH-SR9’s to hit the street and I’m about to find out.
Audio Technica SR9 Headphone Review
IN THE BOX
In the box along with the ATH-SR9 over-ear headphone you’ll find a very nice carrying case along with 2 wires. Both wires implement Audio Technica’s “Audio Designed Detachable Coaxial” style connection to the headphone itself and feed to a 3.5mm (1/8″) plug. The big difference in the 2 wires is one of them has controls and microphone for smartphones and the other without. Both cables are 1.2m long (3.9′) and the cable without smartphone controls also has an optional 1/4″ adapter attached.
Also, inside the carrying case you’ll find an additional storage case for the cables. In looking at the whole package, the Audio Technica ATH-SR9 has everything you need to keep your headphone looking good and gives you flexible listening options.
Style / Design
The ATH-SR9 is a headphone that isn’t trying to be something it’s not. There’s no retro brown trim or leather headband. And there’s definitely no weird over the top design to distract from the sound. This headphone is minimal and sophisticated. The silver colored ear cup backing with the Audio Technica logo emblazoned on them exudes just the right amount of futuristic zeal. Mix that with the black ear pads and headband and the SR9 is a nice look for a new audiophile headphone.
The fit and comfort of the Audio Technica ATH-SR9 headphone is snug but smooth. From the headband to the ear pads, it sits well with just the right amount of cushioning. Fresh out of the box, this headphone holds on well but this is the case with most new headphones. In time, all my headphones become more and more comfortable with each use as they flex and get adjusted to the shape of your head. Overall the SR9 headphone but makes you feel at home like a comfy new chair.
The ATH-SR9 is built well like many of the Audio Technica headphones before it. The ATH-M50x and ATH-MSR7 both have strong reputations for great sound and durability and the Audio Technica ATH-SR9 is no different. Using a combination of durable plastic and smaller metal parts, the SR9 looks and feels like a headphone designed to stand the test of time.
The ATH-SR9 headphone features 45mm “True Motion Drivers” with bobbin-wound OFC-7N voice coils. In addition, Audio Technica has employed “Midpoint Mount Technology” in the SR9 headphone which evens out the space in front of and behind each driver to give them more freedom to move inside the housing.
Another feature Audio Technica has added to the ATH-SR9 headphone is detachable cables on each side using their custom A2DC (Audio Designed Detachable Coaxial) connectors. The design is similar to the MMCX standard for many earphones. In using this design, you ensure the left and right audio channels reach the drivers at precisely the same time rather than feeding the signal through one side and over the headband.
Everybody knows a headphone can look and feel great but it’s the sound that’s most important. The ATH-SR9 is designed to be a portable audiophile headphone with rich sound quality. The frequency range of 5Hz to 45,000Hz dares listeners to think beyond the standard 20Hz to 20kHz norm.
I’ve even been trolled by critics who stand steadfast in the idea that there’s no point in reproducing frequencies above 20kHz because they just can’t be heard… yet headphone manufacturers keep raising the stakes with higher frequency ranges that yield actual results.
The reason for this is that digital recording standards are rising. Higher sample rates and bit rates mean cleaner and more accurate recordings. And although you may not hear frequencies when played individually, you do sense them in the mix of complex waves.
The bass response of the Audio Technica ATH-SR9 headphone is quite nice. It’s clean and balanced yet capable of deep bass with certain recordings. The sub-bass frequencies of electronica and hip-hop music are solid but not overpowering. Even the most tame jazz and classical tracks have some amount of low end and the SR9 has managed to hit the sweet spot in reproducing this sound accurately. When listening to rock I found it to be more true to the mix and maybe lacked just a little of that added “oomph” I sometimes like. But it’s nothing a little equalizer didn’t fix.
When taking frequency roll call we have to make sure all the frequencies are present and the mids made it to class with time to spare. Everything from vocals, to guitars and strings come alive with detail and clarity. The SR9 is definitely a vibrant and bright sounding headphone designed to bring out detail in music that’s often missing in headphones focused on just bass.
The high frequencies are where the ATH-SR9 really makes its mark. The clarity and presence is astounding. At first I thought I might not like the amount of high-fidelity going on in this headphone but within a few minutes I fell in love with the new-found sound. From uncompressed WAV files to streaming music I found elements of tracks that tend to get lost in most headphones. I went from track to track, genre to genre and the SR9 continued to push incredible levels on the top end. There were a few songs that felt a little too bright but for the most part the ATH-SR9 was spot on.
There’s lots of great sounding headphones but there’s something special about the Audio Technica ATH-SR9. It’s comfortable, portable and costs under $450. And I really like the sophisticated look of this headphone too. The sound is balanced with a wide frequency range that reaches out to the upper and lower end of the spectrum. It’s definitely geared toward audiophiles on the go and it probably won’t be for everyone. I’ll also add that this headphone is very true to the mix and doesn’t have heavy bass unless it was mixed and mastered that way. My conclusion is this headphone will likely be a new audiophile home run.
Headphone hunters looking for something new that’s good enough for everyday use as well as home and studio reference quality listening will find the SR9 to be worth the extra money. Truth be told, the Audio Technica ATH-SR9 is one of my favorite new headphones and I might just try to hold on to it a little longer to experience more of its high-fidelity. I’m giving it the MajorHiFi Gold Award. You can find the Audio Technica ATH-SR9 headphone for the cheapest price at Audio46 using discount code “majorhifi” during checkout. They also retail for a competitive price on Amazon.
Driver Diameter 45 mm
Voice Coil OFC-7N
Frequency Response 5 – 45,000 Hz
Maximum Input Power 1,500 mW
Sensitivity 97 dB/mW
Impedance 47 ohms
Weight 270 g (9.5 oz.), without cable
Cable Detachable 1.2 m (3.9′) standard cable with A2DC connectors, detachable 1.2 m (3.9′) cable with A2DC connectors and in-line control and microphone
Connector 3.5 mm gold-plated stereo mini-plug, L-shaped
Accessories Included Hard carrying case
Type (Microphone) Condenser
Sensitivity (Microphone) -40 dB (1V/Pa at 1 kHz)
Frequency Response (Microphone) 50 – 4,000 Hz
Polar Pattern (Microphone) Omnidirectional