Similar design, but sexier
Seeing the new cans for the first time is an interesting experience, because in most ways, they're very similar to their predecessors, the ATH-AD900s; they have the same large driver housings, a similar honeycomb-like mesh back, and the same radical-looking band design. Even the spec sheet is almost identical. Of course, since they still have open backs, there will always be the durability concerns inherent to such design.
What is different about the newer ATH-AD900xs are the drivers. While they're very similar in size to their predecessors, their 53mm copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils are a sight to behold, and the driver itself is shinier and more slick-looking through the slightly more-open backs of the new cans. Leading out of the left ear cup is a 10 foot oxygen-free cable that terminates in an 1/8-inch plug that's threaded to receive a 1/4-inch adapter for older systems.
Finally, following the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," Audio-Technica has brought back its 3D Wing Support Housing that automatically adjusts to the user's noggin. Combine that with the massively wide ear pads, and you've got yourself one seriously comfortable set of over-ears.
Features & Performance
No tests yet, but we're familiar with many of the features we see here
While we haven't been able to run these headphones through our rigid testing regimen, we feel reasonably confident that these ATH-AD900xs were released with an aim to emulate their predecessor's success. Even the press release was not forthcoming with major differences, so it's entirely possible that this is a re-brand with some minor refinement tweaks.
From the older ATH-AD900s, the ATH-AD900xs carry over the same cranium support, the same size drivers, a similar mesh back, and even the same 10-foot cable and threaded plug/adapter assembly. Really, this entire line of headphones isn't that different from previous iterations, but that's a great thing if you're looking for a set of at-the-computer cans: former models fit the bill very well. Why rock the boat?
A largely iterative release
Overall, it looks as though Audio-Technica is aiming to keep its flagship line of open-backed headphones rolling with an iterative upgrade in the guts and specs department, all the while maintaining what made these headphones great for the price point. No matter how you slice it, at the very least, these are comfortable, well-designed headphones. If it turns out that they fall flat in performance, don't you worry: we'll be there to report on it.
At first glance, it seems as if expanding the line of premium open-backed headphones at a mid-range to entry-level price is Audio-Technica's attempt at clawing a bit more market share in the audiophile category, but we'll see (the company is notoriously fickle). Because no performance points have been discovered or tested yet, we cannot objectively paint a solid picture as to how well or how poorly they perform.
Be sure to stay on the lookout in the coming months as these become available to the 2013 market.
Earlier this morning, Audio-Technica showcased its new line of open-backed, audiophile-oriented, over-ear headphones at CES. While we haven't hurled the new cans through our inordinately brutal testing yet, we can report that they retain many of the same great features employed by their predecessors.