Individually hand-assembled in Tokyo, Japan, the ATH-ADX5000 is Audio-Technica’s newest flagship open-back headphones. It takes aim at the likes of the Audeze LCD-3, Focal Clear, Sennheiser HD 800S, and ZMF Auteur. In other words, the ATH-ADX5000 is designed to go toe-to-toe with the very best in the business.
Measuring 58mm, the ATH-ADX5000 has the largest drivers yet of any Audio-Technica headphones. In addition, it has a tungsten-coated diaphragm and uses a permendur magnetic circuit. The former improves transient response while the latter gives greater control over the drivers’ movements.
To reduce unwanted vibration and distortion, the ATH-ADX5000 features Core Mount Technology. Essentially, this means that the driver is built directly into the baffle so that they form a single unit. No screws are used to secure the driver in place. According to Audio-Technica, this prevents any unwanted air pressure loss, which is required to develop hard-hitting bass. The ear cups also feature a ‘honeycomb’ design to facilitate air flow.
To ensure hours of listening comfort, ultra-light magnesium is used to build the frame and arms, and Alcantara is used to line the headband and for the ear pads.
Utilitarian is a good word to describe the design of these headphones. Unlike some other flagship-class headphones such as the Audeze LCD-3 or ZMF Auteur, the ATH-ADX5000 seems to have been built with a strict adherence to the mantra of form follows function. The ATH-ADX5000 is devoid of fancy wood finishes or elaborate hinges. The head band is two pieces of ultra-light magnesium lined with Alcantara. Likewise, the frame and arms that hold the ear cups are also magnesium. Compared to its rivals, the ATH-ADX5000 looks simple, and one might even call it sparse or dull.
Build is extremely important for a flagship pair of headphones and even though this pair has the cachet of being 'Made in Japan', I’m afraid that I have to report that my unit has a creaky headband. This is especially apparent whenever I move my jaw. I did some looking around and found that there were other reviewers who experienced the same issue.
Even so, I'm not sure that this is a widespread problem because I did not notice this when I tried the ATH-ADX5000 at the Audio-Technica booth at CES 2018. However, I was told that my unit was an early production piece and that whatever build issues would certainly be rectified in the later production pieces. My advice is to pay close attention to the headband and its components before committing to a purchase.
Apart from the minor creaking, the ATH-ADX5000 is quite comfortable to wear. Much of this is down to its weight. Thanks to its magnesium frame, it weighs a mere 270g, which is incredible for a pair of full-size flagship-class headphones. To give you an idea of how light it is, look at how it stacks up against other headphones of its class.
|Sennheiser HD 800 S||330g|
|ZMF Auteur (teak)||475g|
It also helps that the headband is lined with Alcantara and it distributes whatever little weight of the ATH-ADX5000 well. The clamping force is well judged too. It's tight enough to keep the headphones in place but not so hard to cause discomfort. One gripe I have is with the ear pads. Though they are made of Alcantara and are soft and pleasant on the skin, they are very shallow - especially for flagship-class headphones. My ears can touch the fabric covering the drivers, which I find to be a little distracting.
Yup, which is odd because headphones of these class typically have fairly thick or even angled ear pads (just look at how thick the ZMF Auteur’s ear pads are). Thicker ear pads typically help create a more spacious sound as the drivers are positioned further away from your ears, while angled ear pads help align the sound to enter your ear canals with fewer breakups. The ATH-ADX5000’s ear pads are neither thick nor angled so it will be interesting to see how this will affect its sound. If it's any consolation, they are soft, and because they are Alcantara, they feel nice on the skin.