Audio-Technica’s ATH-PRO7X headphones are the higher-end partner to the ATH-PRO5X. Ronan Macdonald puts them to the test.
At NAMM 2018, Audio Technica launched both the ATH-PRO7X headphones and the ATH-PRO5X, alongside various other bits of DJ gear – most notably, the AT-LP1240-USB XP direct-drive turntable. Despite being the flagship in its two-strong line, the ATH-PRO7X utilizes an on-ear design, while the ‘lesser’ ATH-PRO5Xs are over-ears. That’s unusual, because over-ears traditionally cost more than on-ears, and are generally seen as sonically superior thanks to their obviously greater level of isolation. However, in this case, Audio-Technica has upped the specification of the ATH-PRO7X in other impactful areas to counter that structural differentiation. Or at least, that’s the idea…
First, at 45mm, the drivers are significantly larger than their ATH-PRO5X 40mm counterparts. This should result in improved low-end response and more volume potential. Second,
Despite their nominal categorisation as DJ headphones, the ATH-PRO7Xs are also touted as suitable for studio monitoring and listening. All-rounders, then.
Design-wise, the ATH-PRO7Xs occupy their own space in the Audio-Technica catalogue, with a comparatively minimalist appearance and physicality. The wide metal headband is oddly reminiscent of Sony’s Playstation Platinum headphones more than anything, while the plastic earcups feature faux-leather cushions and pivot slightly to accommodate variability in head/ear shape. The headband doesn’t fold, but the whole arrangement is small enough for that not to be a significant problem, and overall, the portability (weight: 200g) and solidity of the ATH-PRO7Xs are unarguably impressive. Both coiled (3m) and straight (1.2m) detachable locking cables are included, too, along with a screw-on quarter-inch adaptor and a storage pouch.
The ATH-PRO7Xs are rated at 37 ohms, so – as you’d expect for headphones claiming so much versatility – a standalone preamp certainly isn’t required. I had no problems at all feeding them from my phone and laptop, as well as a Universal Audio Apollo audio interface.
The frequency response is quoted as 5-40,000Hz, and while the higher of those two numbers is effectively meaningless to non-members of the animal kingdom, that extreme low-end extension – presumably a result of the big drivers – ensures about as much sub representation as you’re ever going to get from a pair of headphones. In terms of profile, they’re by no means neutral, but they’re not overwhelmingly coloured, either. Whether or not that writes them off as studio cans will depend on your spectral preferences – Audio-Technica’s ubiquitous ATH-m50Xs have a decidedly characterful curve, after all, and it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm. Let’s say they’re probably better suited to tracking than mixing, though.
Anyway, for Djing and listening, the ATH-PRO7Xs are a hell of a lot of fun. Transients fly at your with confidence and enthusiasm, bass accuracy is very good indeed for a set of on-ears, and while the upper mids are a bit edgy at times, that kind of adds to the excitement. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about them, is their high-volume performance. There appears to be no upper limit to how loud they can go without distorting – or, to put it in more practical terms, your eardrums will most assuredly admit defeat before they do.
Aurally, then, all is well, but as someone who doesn’t normally get on too well with on-ears in the comfort department, my main concern was actually how much time it would
take for that inevitable nagging ache to make itself known in the ol’ pinnae. Happily, I can report that it was considerably longer than I expected – a good few hours, in fact. The pivoting earcups and their luxuriously soft pads, plus the equally squishy headband padding, make all the difference, it would seem, and the reduction in heat and sweat compared to my usual over-ears was mildly revelatory.
Audio-Technica has clearly hit upon another winning formula with the ATH-PRO7Xs. DJs, especially, will love the haemorrhage-inducing volume levels and up-front sound they put out, and although I’d hesitate to recommend them purely on their studio credentials, as a secondary role, they acquit themselves well enough in that realm to just about warrant the suggestive marketing. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see these stylish, high-quality headphones becoming as frequent a sight in the DJ booth as the M50xs have in the studio live room.
The Final Word
Looking, feeling and sounding great, the ATH-PRO7Xs are easy to recommend to DJs in particular.