Amongst a plethora of new product announcements from Audio-Technica, two groups of new products stand out: first, a pair of new active noise cancelling ‘phones (the ATH-ANC33is and ATH-ANC29) and second, a quartet of new audiophile-series headphones.
The new ANC models come in two distinctly different formats: in-ear (the ATH-ANC33is, which claims up to 90% noise noise-cancellation) and on-ear (the ATH-ANC29, which claims up to 87% noise-cancellation). Both models claim to offer a healthy measure of musicality and performance-minded sound quality in conjunction with their active noise cancellation features.
Music lovers, however, will likely be drawn to A-T’s four new audiophile-series models, which again come in two forms: first, the closed-back ATH-A500X, and second the open back ATH-AD900x, ATH-AD700x, and ATH-AD500x. Common wisdom holds that open-back ‘phones typically offer a more open and transparent sound, and to a certain extent A-T’s new open-back models follow this pattern, though in a broader sense the intent behind these models seems to be to give listeners a generous taste of upper-end sound quality at a mid-fi price.
In turn, common wisdom holds that closed back ‘phones typically offer better noise isolation with punchy and extended bass, but sometimes at the expense of a more “closed in” sound. Here, though, the closed-back ATH-A500x may prove the surprise of the bunch, in that it delivers the expected noise isolation and bass power and grip we want while also serving up an unexpectedly clear and open sound (especially so in light of the ATH-A500x’s modest price).
Both the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro and T90 headphones debuted at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2012, but it was great to hear them again at CES and—in the case of the T90 in particular—to take time to compare the T90 to the firm’s flagship T1 Tesla.
The Custom One Pro might be considered a “lifestyle” headphone, but one that places a much higher premium on sound quality and on visual personalization features than most others of its genre. One of the most distinctive features of the Custom One Pro is a “sound slider” system that presents mechanical “slide switches” on the bottom of each ear cup, where the switches either open or close a series of vent ports that directly affect the voicing of the headphone. As you can see from the images provided, the Custom One Pro can be configured in a variety of visual styles to suit the owners’ tastes.
The T90 was one of our favourite discoveries from this year’s CES show, in that listening comparisons between the T90 and the T1 Tesla showed just how much of the sonic goodness of its big brother the new mid-priced T90 is able to capture. In truth, the sibling relationship is readily apparent, so that the T90 perhaps should be considered as a “T1 Junior”, but at about half the price of the flagship model. Based on a preliminary listen, we thing the T90 may well turn out to be one of the best mid-priced headphones on the market.