Audio-Technica is one of the most respected headphone manufacturers in the world, and their ATH-DSR9BT is a $549.00 wireless apex predator that competes with the likes of Beats, Bose (which are shockingly good despite audiophile preconceptions aside), Sennheiser, and many others in the game today. Priced at $549.00, these headphones come packed with top-level, Bluetooth 4.2 performance, and Audio-Technica reports that the design keeps the signal purely digital (no DAC) thanks to its Pure Digital Drive system. The internal Qualcomm chip internally allows for aptX, aptX HD, AAC, and SBC codecs, thus you can listen to 24-bit (48 kHz) sources via these wireless cans.
The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT use proprietary 45 mm drivers with a "diamond-like carbon" coating. Audio-Technica reports a 15-hour battery life, which is somewhat low in comparison to others in the category, but for real-world use that's an awful lot of charge. Unlike, some headphones in the class, the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT have a very nifty charge meter on the side of the ear cups. Realistically, you can change them and roll for quite a long time before you need to top off the battery.
The fit and finish of the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT is second to none in their class, with very comfortable (if somewhat heavy) ear-cups. The faux leather is luxurious, and the metal work is very stylish, although somewhat understated, which I like. These headphones don't rock that fashion-forward look or a "hip-hop inspired" style like a colored Beats, but they balance that with niceties like top-of-the-line volume-up, volume-down buttons on the ear cups, as well as easy access to Bluetooth pairing access via Apple's System Preferences via a MacBook Pro or an Apple iPhone X.
I did most of my listening via a Macbook Pro. but did take them out for a few walks at what I call Baywatch Beach (where Hoff and Pam used to prance around a long time ago), thus connected to my iPhone X rocking uncompressed AIFF (CD quality) tracks.
The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT is a full over-the-ear headphone, so if you are using them at the gym or for workout purposes, some might find them just a little heavy to the ear and a bit warm over time. On an airplane, they are sublime. They may be ever-so-slightly tight on my rather large head, but they do have some good room for adjustability.
On Al Green's nifty cover of "My Girl," you can hear good space and wonderful panning that makes this track so much fun to listen to on a pair of top-level headphones. The Nth degree of resolution isn't there, but nor can the best of the best in this category deliver the utmost in resolution wirelessly. The overall timbre is engaging, and the low end doesn't suffer from that bloated, overly bassy sound that has sadly found in others in this class of wireless headphones.
On Alice in Chains' "Sickman," from the grunge-tastic album Dirt, you can hear a somewhat crowded or folded down sounding mix resolve itself nicely in ways that other $400 headphones struggle with.
The bass is strong but not too hip-hop-heavy. You don't expect grunge to be gleamingly open, but what was impressive was how these Audio-Technica headphones resolved the complex, often cacophonous breakdowns before the track's choruses.
Lesser headphones fall apart with this grungy test.
In the spirit of listening to some music that does in fact shine thanks to an absolutely wonderful recording, "The Rose Tattoo" from David Byrne's Rio Momo album is a true highlight for the ATH-DSR9BT. Openness is here in abundance. Guitars jangle. Riffs dance in the air with spicy style. David Byrne's voice presents in a gorgeous manner that is both familiar and engaging. The percussion, backup vocals, and overall accompaniment is jamming.
Click over to Page Two for High Points, Low Points, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
• Sonically, most Bluetooth headphones have a similar voicing, but the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT carves its own path. These cans are about as good as you can get overall in terms of audio performance in their class. They don't have bloated bass and are a bit more open sounding than others in their wireless class.
• These headphones are really nicely made. Their fit-and-finish is top notch and notably more luxurious than the likes of Beats and Bose. Bowers & Wilkins and Sennheiser are more in the ballpark, but I think the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT are the best of breed. Of course, at $100 more than their closest competitors, you pay for that extra panache.
• The buttons on the Audio-Technica-ATH-DSR9BT have a really solid feel when others in the class are more plasticy. The connectivity and charge indicator lights are a good addition too.
• Like every headphone in this class, the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT lack some of the shimmer of a good wired headphone, with a bit of "sucked out" midrange. Then again, does your new phone have a headphone jack? Unlikely, if it's a relatively new phone.
• The range of these headphones aren't that great in a world where pending technology like Bluetooth 5.0 promises 960 feet of connectivity and other Bluetooth 4.2 headphones can connect through walls and all over a home. I had cut outs at less than 40 feet away from my iPhone X. I could wiggle my way back into connectivity, but that's not very strong performance in terms of long range connectivity.
• I am an Apple super-user and that means USB-C connectivity and the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT--like all other headphones in their category--let you down in that you need an adaptor (USB-A female to USB-C) to charge them from a newer MacBook.
• The flippy-open hatch for the USB connector is a bit flimsy, and not as good as others in the class. Perhaps it's more waterproof, but that's not what this class of headphones is about, in my opinion.
Comparison and Competition
The Bowers & Wilkins PX represent strong competition, and they are $150 less. Sonically, they are similar in that they are both pretty reserved and accurate by the standards of this class of headphone. The Bowers & Wilkins might not be quite as nice in terms of fit and finish, but that's really nitpicking.
Sennheiser's HD1, at $400 per pair, are also a comparative force. They might sound a tiny bit better, but their main advantage is their light weight earcups that you can wear at the gym longer or rock on a flight from Los Angeles to London without fatigue.
Bose's QuietComfort 35 Series II are, at $350, a surprisingly good value. They have a very similar lightweight feel to the Sennheisers, ultra-long battery life, and the industry's best noise cancelation technology. I don't love noise cancelation until there is a teething two-year-old sitting in first class, but at that point you need what Bose can do best.
The Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT are fine wireless Bluetooth headphones. Mighty fine, indeed. They are price-leaders and they deliver in terms of fit-and-finish and sound. Sonically, they compete favorably with the best of the best in their class. If you are in the market for a luxurious, great sounding, high tech pair of top performing wireless headphones, you've got a winner on your hands with the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT.
• Visit the Audio-Technica website for more product information.
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