Today I’ve got the new Audio Technica ATH-L5000 sitting on my desk, ripe for a review, and promising an impressive listening session. But at $3999, how do they sound? And can a closed back headphone even compete with open-back models at the same price?
Audio Technica ATH-L5000 Review
The Audio Technica ATH-L5000 comes in a high-line box that includes a heavy-duty leather carrying case and two 10 ft (3 m) cables – one terminating in a 1/4” stereo plug, and the other featuring a balanced XLR connection. Both cables connect to the headphone via the A2DC connection type.
Internally, the L5000 uses a 58 mm driver, as well as diamond-like carbon diaphragms. All of this sits inside housings made from sycamore wood, further covered by Connolly leather.
As a result, once you hold the ATH-L5000, you can’t help but notice the superb craftsmanship that went into this headphone. And this sensation is driven home by the fact that Audio Technica will limit production to 500 pieces, worldwide.
However, once situated on my head, it seems to disappear from my senses, as the wing-support style headband provides all comfort and no distractions. Furthermore, the deep leather padding on the earpads extends this feeling of comfort, while also isolating me from ambient noise.
Frequency Range: 5-50,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 45 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 100 dB
In terms of specs, the L5000 talks a big game, boasting a wide frequency range of 5-50,000 Hz. The 45-ohm impedance might benefit from some amplification, but won’t require anything too crazy. Lastly, that sound pressure level of 100 dB seems fair, and you should be able to get adequate volume in most scenarios.
For my listening sessions, I used the L5000 with the iFi iDSD Micro Black Label. While not as robust as some amplifiers, this unit does provide ample power for headphones up to 300 ohms. In addition, the sound via this amp is clean and uncolored, allowing the L5000’s character to shine through in all of its unadulterated glory.
The Audio Technica ATH-L5000 features an energetic, contrasting low end with strong presence and ton of accuracy. Well-engineered, this low end delivers a rich and rewarding listening experience. Despite the overwhelming sense of accuracy, the sound remains fun, and it’s hard to put this headphone down once you get listening. This impression seems furthered by a full and meaty bass. Lending necessary weight to most tracks, this same bass response seems just as accurate as the rest of the low end. Well controlled, it remains tight and articulate, but never shows up where you wouldn’t expect it to.
In the mids, instrumentation seems slightly recessed. However, vocals (particularly in the upper mids) lean a bit forward, leading to a very clean and clear presentation. There’s no compression or distortion in town, and a beautiful tonal accuracy shines through on any track. Perhaps a bit too revealing, the L5000 shows the limitations of some of my test tracks – but I’m running CD-quality ALAC files from an iPhone7.
This headphone sounds just a tad bit bright in the highs, but only where it should be, in the very highest frequencies. That being said, there’s a sea of detail here, shimmering and glistening with every tiny facet of nuance – not so much a kind of sound as a trance-like state of mind. Female vocals sound just as immaculate – velvety smooth or deliciously husky at times, but always lifelike and intoxicating.
Space and depth abound, with a three dimensional soundscape unraveling in my head like a pop-up book. With the Audio Technica L5000, you can close your eyes and enter a world of sound. Every little pluck, beat, or strum seems incredibly close and precisely tempered with an unholy level of focus. This is a soundstage so luscious and sweet you could drizzle it on pancakes (or even waffles).
The wing support headband takes a little getting used to (again), but provides a superior sense of comfort. Listening sessions can easily last for hours, as you soon forget you’re even wearing this thing.
Insanely easy to drive for a headphone at this price, the L5000 still deserves the best DAC you can throw at it. While I chose the iFi iDSD Micro Black Label (as my usual go-to DAC), one could easily pair this headphone with something more premium – and perhaps enjoy an even greater level of fidelity. (I’m not knocking iFi here, but it does seem a little criminal to run a $4000 headphone through a $600 DAC/amp. Still, the sound falls nothing short of phenomenal.)
Audio Technica advertises this headphone as being compatible with their balanced cable, but that comes included. Using this cable, you can take advantage of a cleaner, even more spacious sound. Though to be honest, the 1/4” connection sounds pretty angelic.
The Audio Technica ATH-L5000 wears like a dream and sounds better than sex. It’s a work of art as much as it is a piece of well-crafted machinery, and one that looks as good as it sounds. It blows the Sennheiser HD 820 out of the water, and it issues a serious, all-out challenge to open-back models like the Focal Utopia and the Audeze LCD-4. At $3999, this headphone won’t be affordable to all audiophiles, but those looking for the final statement in quality sound and luxurious comfort need look no further.
The only headphone that I would dare recommend in place of this might be the Final Audio D8000 – but only if you have access to a quiet listening environment where its open-back sound can remain unhindered. At $3799, this model offers a bit of improvement in soundstage, but lacks the high- and low-end extension (as well as the isolation) found in the ATH-L5000.
Retailing for $3999, the new Audio Technica ATH-L5000 delivers a sonic epiphany that abounds with detail, presence, and overall accuracy. And yet, this headphone still remains fun and engaging for any listening material, from classical to pop, rock, or hip-hop. Add in the comfortable headband and earpads and you have a headphone you won’t be able to put down. This is the kind of headphone that only comes around once every few years – so well thought out and executed that it establishes a whole new standard by which other headphones are judged.
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