AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-DSR9BT
£499 • From eu.audio-technica.com VERDICT
They’re expensive, but the ATH-DSR9BT put even the best wired headphones into a tangle
IN THE AUDIOPHILE world, cables are not an afterthought: true devotees often spend many thousands of pounds in pursuit of perfection. Audio Technica’s latest headphones, the ATH-DSR9BT, are keen to turn that upside down. Thanks to the wireless trickery of aptX HD and Audio Technica’s all-new Pure Digital Drive system, this is a pair of headphones that doesn’t need cables to sound stupendous.
There’s no ANC, but these are the first headphones we’ve seen that transform the digital stream of 1s and 0s into sound. While most sets use a DAC to convert the bitstream into an analogue waveform, feeding that to an amp that powers the drivers in each earpiece, the ATH-DSR9BT uses Trigence Semiconductor’s Dnote chipset to directly control its pair of large 45mm drivers. This avoids degrading the digital audio signal, resulting in less distortion and more audible detail.
Sure enough, the ATH-DSR9BT unearthed details we’d been missing on some of our favourite songs. Quiet instruments and atmospheric washes that were borderline inaudible on other headphones suddenly became distinct, and even on complex compositions, there’s enough clarity and separation that you can appreciate every individual part.
These headphones sound excellent; the bass isn’t overbearing but reaches down so low and so confidently it’s as if there’s a huge subwoofer underpinning it, and the upper registers are similarly refined. Every strand of the music is perfectly untangled: vocals hang in the air, while instruments, samples and synthesisers spread left to right and front to back, each floating in space. For closed-back headphones the sense of space and the sheer width of the soundstage is startling.
They’re comfortable, too, though not to the point you can forget you’re wearing them. The headband makes its presence felt after a few hours and the earcups can become a little sweaty in warmer conditions, but most of the time, the combination of memory foam earpieces and just the right amount of clamping force mean they stay firmly in place without pressing too hard on your head. We will say that build quality isn’t as solid and refined as we’d expect for £499; our review unit had squeaky earcup hinges and, while it wasn’t a regular occurrence, we sometimes needed to adjust the earcups manually while walking around.
The lack of ANC is also a shame, because as good as the ATH-DSR9BT sound, they can get drowned out by loud ambient noise. The exception is when the volume is cranked right up, but this obviously isn’t ideal for your ears.
Still, for listening at home, at work or away from the loudest hustle and bustle, these are truly brilliant headphones for anyone with a generous budget. If you’ve always assumed wireless convenience and uncompromising sound quality are mutually exclusive, allow the ATH-DSR9BT to prove otherwise.