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When it comes to finding a solid pair of headphones, the choices can be completely overwhelming. Having to choose among in-ear, around-ear, or on-ear, wireless or wired, open-backed or closed-backed, and active or passive noise-canceling are just the first few choices to make when selecting the optimal pair of headphones.

The list gets more complex the further one goes, however, with auditory factors such as a headphone’s favoritism towards highs, mids, or lows, its soundstage, comfort levels, the amount of power needed to drive them, and much more. Each of these depends on the listener’s preferences and their specific use cases, which can also vary widely, from playing video games down to listening to specific genres of music.

The focus for the moment, however, is on Audio-Technica’s ATH-AD500X, the starter in the line of AD series headphones. Coming in around $65, these headphones offer exceptional quality and versatility for the price and are a particularly great pair for anyone just getting started with audiophile headphones. Gamers will also appreciate the ATH-AD500X for their great soundstage and accurate positioning, and I personally use my AD500X primarily for gaming, despite having a $200 gaming headset lying in my desk drawer.

Headphones Exterior

As for hardware details and specifications, ATH-AD500X come with large, 53mm drivers placed in open-air cans that wrap around the ear with plenty of room to spare. Aesthetically, they leave something to be desired, as the bulkiness of these headphones means you probably won’t sport them in public unless you just have that much self-confidence. The permanently-attached cable is sturdy enough, tipped with a gold-plated 3.5mm plug, and comes with a separate ¼ inch adapter for more niche uses such as an amplifier, but with 48 ohms of impedance, users should be fine to power these headphones with a normal 3.5mm port in most situations.

With basic specs out of the way, the AD500X headphones are light (235g), stay cool, and definitely comfortable enough to wear for many hours at a time. Featuring “self-adjusting 3D Wing Support Housing” per Audio-Technica marketing, the backbone of the headband doesn’t rest on the wearer’s head at all. Instead, two cushioned “wings” extend from either headphone cup to gently rest on the listener’s cranium. This does, in fact, make for a comfortable, albeit somewhat loose, fit that’s great for long sessions at a desk, as long as your head-bobbing doesn’t get too intense. Sadly, this design doesn’t allow for any resizing, but they are definitely one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones I’ve tried, as many have too tight a clamp for my large skull.

Audio-Technica Audio

In terms of sound quality, these headphones most definitely exceed the audio fidelity of many more expensive options. You’ll get better audio out of these than Beats or Bose, although certainly less bass than the former and less fashion or style than either. To my ear, the sound signature of these headphones is tuned to be just warm enough to provide a pleasant sound without turning up the bass to annoying levels. Anyone accustomed to thumping bass will definitely notice a lack thereof at first, but eventually, the sound signature becomes normal, even pleasant, and the overdone bass from other headphones will begin to sound muddy and sometimes downright distasteful.

The ATH-AD500X are open-air headphones, a design which replaces the commonly seen solid back with an open, mesh exterior that allows air to pass through from the outside, providing the benefit of fuller sound but the downside of less isolation and more sound leakage, which means anyone nearby will be able to hear virtually everything you’re hearing and you’ll be able to hear them as well. This isn’t so much the case with AD500X headphones, as they have the lowest amount of sound leak of any open headphones I’ve tried. Either the volume will have to be nearly uncomfortable levels or someone will have to be quite close to hear the audio coming through these headphones. The other disadvantage to this design is a lack of sound isolation, meaning noises from your surroundings won’t be dampened due to the lack of seal. Moderate audio volume, however, blocks out the majority of household sounds for me, and I actually appreciate the balance of still being aware of my surroundings while not being distracted by a conversation in the next room.

I said that my primary use for the ATH-AD500X is at my gaming PC, and that’s because the positioning of these headphones is near best-in-class, especially at this price point, thanks to Audio-Technica’s AD series soundstage. Hearing enemy footsteps and gunshots accurately is vital to gaining an advantage in many popular video games, and these headphones do a great job of delivering that performance.

ATH-AD500X Conclusion

Overall, Audio-Technica has built a solid pair of headphones for an exceptionally reasonable price. Certainly, models higher up the AD series ladder, such as an ATH-AD900X or ATH-AD1000X, will have advantages over the inexpensive ATH-AD500X, but even the lowest tier of this lineup has massive value to offer for newcomers and enthusiasts alike. It’s hard to nitpick a $65 pair of headphones for much, but based on the design and drivers of much more high-end pairs, Audio-Technica’s ATH-AD500X beat out the much pricier competition, and they’re most certainly a pair of headphones that I recommend.

Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X Audiophile Open-Air Headphones*
Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X Audiophile Open-Air Headphones
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