High-octane, ultra-comfortable headphones from Japan’s leading brand

Audio-Technica’s flagship ADX5000 headphones are a knockout piece of audio engineering

Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000, £1,990
Audio-Technica ATH-ADX5000, £1,990 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

I only discovered this recently, but Audio-Technica, whose understated products I like but always thought were fairly niche, is the biggest headphone brand in Japan. Based on the high proportion of Sony headphones I see on trains and planes, I thought Sony held that title, but not so. 

These, Audio-Technica’s just-shy-of £2,000 new flagship headphones, should then – considering how audio‑obsessed Japanese hifi enthusiasts are – be quite something. They have been spending a lot of time nestling on my cranium of late and I can confirm they are indeed quite something and more. When I reviewed their nearest competitor, Sennheiser’s £1,400 HD 800s, two years ago, I was pretty knocked out by them – both the clear and natural sound and their lightness and comfort. Well, Audio-Technica’s ADX5000s are lighter, have slightly bigger drivers and sound a shade more exquisite. 

They need a powerful source, ideally a high-end amplifier, but were fine with the (still amazing) £3,300 Astell & Kern SP1000 portable I reviewed a year ago, and borrowed again to pair with these guys. It’s the comfort factor, though, that is so important. The ADX5000s weigh 270g, over half a pound in old money, but feel featherweight. Headphones at this level are not for private listening – they’re more like a pair of speakers strapped to your ears. I first tried them in my office. My daughter was 24m away working in the kitchen. Within a minute, she closed my office door. “Your music [Pink Floyd] is awful,” she sighed.

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If you’re sceptical that anything can sound quite as good as I’m suggesting and have the wherewithall, buy the A&K SP1000; buy the ADX5000 cans; and buy the £290 AT-B1XA/3.0 balanced cable from Audiotechnicashop.com to use the A&K’s ultra-high-quality balanced output. (Yes, I know you’re already £5,600 down.) 

Next, download some HD music: I’d recommend CC Coletti’s Bring it on Home in binaural from HD Tracks, The Dark Side of the Moon from the same site – and, for a harder pop sound, In Blue by The Corrs. Listen. Then tell me you’re not a believer.

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