Audio-Technica has been making a mad push towards high-res music the last few years at CES this year focusing on their new ATH-DSR9BT headphones that recently launched during the show. We gave them a listen at the show and liked what we heard. It wasn’t enough to write about just yet since we were limited on our time with them and what we could test them against. However, we do happen to have this pair of ATH-SR5BT headphones that A-T sent us back with that we can brag about (and will).
The ATH-SR5BT headphones are an on-ear Bluetooth pair of headphones that was one of their major highlights in last year’s show. A small profile and lightweight solution that packs nicely, they (like their latest highlight) focus hard on hi-res as A-T tried their best at targeting the audiophile community.
Like most of today’s (nicer) Bluetooth solutions, they make use of aptX sound-improvement technology to get the most out of a BT connection with. One of the larges issues that plagued BT in the past is bandwidth and trying to get a comparable listening experience to wired. aptX aims to solve this and does a great job at doing so. These headphones are a great example of such, as both wired and wireless, they sound the same. You might have read some of our earlier reviews in years past where this wasn’t always the case. Now things are starting to change (for the better). Especially as Bluetooth 5.0 begins to roll out into the market.
These headphones support NFC (near field communication), making them quite easy to pair with your device (assuming it supports the same of course). If your device does support NFC, all you have to do is touch your device against the “N” logo on the headphones and it should begin to pair up automatically.
Don’t have anything that supports NFC? Not an issue at all, as the headphones immediately go into pair mode when you turn them on, if they don’t see anything to connect to already. We managed to get three devices to pair in under a minute (kind of a race for fun) without any complications. We’d turn them on, connect a device, disable BT on the device and restart the headphones to connect to another (and repeat).
As mentioned, we got a similar experience regardless of if we are going wired or connected via Bluetooth. This is a great boast for A-T as they seem to have done a great job so far. Another boast is phone calls because we received a phone call on one of the connected devices we were using within the first few minutes of testing. What a perfect time to test communication out! Voice wound up sounding great on both ends. We broke out the cable it comes with to test the same. It comes with a 3.5mm cable for manually connecting to a device with. There are in-line controls with microphone and we found this to sound just as good. So once again, BT scores just as well as wired.
So now that I have made that point, I am going to move back over to features and design before going into music quality. The headphones themselves are pretty light in weight, so if you’re not looking to add any weight to your bag (or other travel solution), these are great. They are minimal in design, so there isn’t any unseeded bulk. Even the padding going around the band is simple, yet still very comfortable. This is where lightweight really helps, as long term usage could cause exhaustion if the over-all weight is a little much and not enough cushion.
On one cup, you have your Bluetooth on/off switch. There is nothing else here but that. The other muff has your track and volume control as well as the 3.5mm input and a micro-USB input for charging. The control is a multi-functioning switch (and all-in-one). You can switch tracks or go back to a previous one by holding the switch one way or the other. If you just slide the switch in clicks vs holding it down, you can take your volume up and down. You can also press it down to play or pause the music as well as take calls or trigger your voice command/assist of your connected device. Real user-friendly as you’re not feeling around trying to figure out which button or switch does what.
I pointed out the micro-USB input. Inside the box, they do include cable to charge your headphones with. It is a regular USB to micro-USB cable. There is no wall adapter, so you would be using a USB port on a device such as a computer to charge them with, or a wall adapter from another device.
Beyond the two cables, the only other things you get in the box are thick instructions with multiple languages and a nice leather travel back to store them in and keep them protected when on the go.
Ad – Find the ATH-SR5BT headphones on Amazon
So how about that sound quality? I have already pointed out that they sound good wired or wireless. However, what is “good”?
I wound say that when it comes to your higher frequencies, these headphones truly shine. They are crisp and so very accurate. Are they B&W quality? No. Have we hard better within the price range? Yes. Are they horrible? No way. Mostly because they seem to compete well within their range, with only a few models that come to mind that do better. One of which is the Sennheiser Momentum headphones and the other the Puro BT-5200. What bring us to say this however aren’t the highs.
The mid-range seems to be very minimal on this model. I’d say it’s because they are small, but we have seen headphones just as small if not smaller pull off better range. It’s there for sure, but mostly in the mid-high range and not so much the mid-low. So you are missing a bit of warmth in these. Your lower range is a little missing as well, which doesn’t help.
Is there bass? Oh yes, there is for sure, but it’s not the kind of bass that will make you want to switch the track over to Metallica or watch an action-packed movie. The bass is present but not wide. It’s narrow and tight. So it heavily depends on what kind of listener you are in order to judge the quality of the bass. If narrow and tight is what you like, then the bass is nice and detailed for what it is. If wide and warm is what you prefer, then these aren’t for you. Maybe you’d prefer an over-the ear solution like Momentum, Kicker or Koss.
They aren’t terrible by any means though. Every pair of headphones has their purpose which always leads to a list of pros and cons. Let it be bass, vocals, brass or dub. It could be a variable of environmental noise or knowing if you want wireless or wired. For these, I’d say they are for those who spend a lot of time listening to vocals, classical, acoustic and so forth. Wired vs wireless isn’t a problem as these are green in both directions. They are tight and crisp, leading to details in music you prefer to hear out of a good pair of headphones.
Of course, as mentioned, these are targeted for hi-res music. So naturally during our tests of the ATH-SR5BT headphones, we used nothing but FLAC, WAV and DSD. We wanted to make sure we put this to the test. From Dire Straits to Dave Brubeck, we made sure to cover our angles. You say hi-res? Well then we will put it to the test So hi-res it is, as long as you stick to the genres we recommended. Beyond that, there may be better pair of cans for your needs.
Finally you have selection. The headphones come in three different color option to choose from. You have black, white and a navy blue/brown mix.
These are good headphones for those looking for vocals, acoustics and instrument detail. The mid-high to high range is where they shine the best with everything else coming in narrow and tight. Not the headphones you’d buy for movie watching or music with heavy bass presence. The price isn’t too bad, as you can find them for under $200 generally. I would say these would qualify as entry level headphones for hi-res listening. There are better headphones out there, but usually when you start seeking out that kind of quality, the price begins to climb (sometimes rapidly). I’d love to go with an 8/10, however I’d like to see at least a little more low-end before doing so. So it bordered, falling into 7.5.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
|Driver Diameter||45 mm|
|Frequency Response||5-40,000 Hz|
|Maximum Input Power||1,500 mW (for wired connection)|
|Battery||DC 3.7V lithium polymer battery|
|Battery Life||38 hours continuous use (1000 hours standby)|
Charging Time: Approx. 4 hours (for 0-100% charge)
|Weight||185 g (6.5 oz), without cable|
|Cable||Detachable 1.2 m (3.9′) with in-line control/microphone|
|Connector||3.5 mm (?”) stereo mini-plug, L-shaped|
|Accessories Included||1.0 m (3.3′) USB charging cable, pouch|
|Sensitivity (Microphone)||-40 dB (1V/Pa at 1 kHz)|
|Frequency Response (Microphone)||50 – 4,000 Hz|
|Polar Pattern (Microphone)||Omnidirectional|
Communication System: Bluetooth Version 4.1
Output: Bluetooth Specification Power Class 2
Maximum Communication Range: Line of sight – approx. 10 m (33′)
Compatible Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
Support Codec: SBC, aptX, AAC
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.