Recently I got my ATH-AD700 headphones. I've been FAR more excited than anyone has a right to be, waiting for these things to show up, like Christmas in August. Sweet, sweet anticipation. It was well worth the wait.
The only other headphones I have to compare these with are my Grado SR80's (which have really seen better days) and some Shure "noise-cancelling" earbuds which are nice but are not comparable to either. So I'll compare the AD700 to the SR80's. ATH-AD700's are pictured left, Grado SR80's are right.
(Note: Nowhere in this article shall I refer to anything as "cans". I reserve the right to retain some level of self-righteous, snobbish disdain for the audiophile community.)
ATH-AD700 in two words: Freaking Huge.
One cannot understate how enormous the AD700's are. I thought the SR80's were big but the AD700's make me feel like a toddler. They literally engulf your face like the hand of a giant. If you have a tiny head you might have problems even keeping them on your head.
These are the kind of headphone that completely surround your ear rather than sit on your ear. With the AD700's I could probably fit 2 or 3 more ears into the cups along with mine.
There is no way you will wear these and not look completely ridiculous to those around you.
And yet, freaking comfortable.
In spite of their size, the AD700's are very light. They seem to be made of some kind of thin plastic with aluminum grated sides and a few metal finishing bits. They barely feel like anything when you put them on. I've worn them for many hours without discomfort.
And they feel wonderful. The pads are some kind of soft comfy velour fabric. These headphones are not manually adjustable; instead there are little 3-D flaps on top that auto-adjust on springs, and they seem to help equally distribute weight around your head so it isn't all bearing down directly on your ears. The lack of a proper "band" probably contributes to keeping them light. When you put the AD700's on, and you feel everything magically shift around to fit your head, it's a freakish (yet strangely entertaining) experience. I felt like a cyborg.
By comparison, you can't forget you're wearing SR80's. They are mostly metal and thick heavy plastic and they hurt after a half hour. The cups are hard plastic and the foam pads are oddly shaped so that your ear inevitably sits directly on the poky, scratchy plastic of the drivers. From the first day I owned the SR80's there was no mistaking that they were painful, and they've gotten far worse over time. I put up with the SR80's in spite of this because they sound great.
Which brings us to...
The AD700's really do sound awesome. I had my doubts how much different they'd be from my SR80's, but there is definitely a noticeable difference.
The AD700's are very detailed compared to the SR80's. The SR80's have an overwhelming amount of bass and it drowns out the vocals on a lot of my songs. I'd never noticed until I put on the AD700's and heard the difference.
My music of choice is metal, industrial, hard rock, soft rock, a bit of techno and J-pop, and they all sound great. I don't have to screw around with the equalizer settings on my MP3 player just to be able to hear the vocals clearly, as I sometimes did with the SR80's. The AD700's are probably what people call "neutral".
When I listened to one song of a live concert on the AD700's, I actually heard a police siren in the background as a cop car apparently drove down the street outside the concert hall. I'd listened to that song probably 50 times on my SR80's, and never heard that. There were actually many times this week when I was sitting in my office at work and heard what I thought was a sound behind me, and as I looked around trying to find what was making that noise, I realized it was in the music. It's a bit unnerving.
If your main criteria is bass, the SR80's are probably better. I thought I really liked bass to the exclusion of all else, but maybe I'm getting old or maybe my tastes are changing, because the bass on the AD700's is more than good enough for me. It's definitely weaker but it's also clearer.
Anything else I can say about these is going to be even more subjective and unhelpful than what I already wrote, but I think I do prefer the sound of the AD700's over the SR80's at this point. To be clear though, both of these headphones sound amazingly good and I was very happy with my SR80's for years and years. (The AD700's also have the advantage of being shiny and new and I'm sure this skews my opinion.)
Note that these are "open" headphones, so they will leak noise. People sitting next to you will hear your music. This isn't an issue for me but it may be for some.
I won't be able to make a real comparison until I bang the AD700's around for four years in my briefcase like I did with my SR80's, but at a glance they certainly look and feel sturdy. Some of the ridiculous design flaws of the SR80's (like the ever-spinning cups that result in crimped and broken wires) are joyously absent in the AD700's. The headphone cord comes out of only one side of the headphones, which helps you not to feel like you're being strangled by two cords meeting under your chin as with the SR80's. The headphone wire itself is thinner than the SR80's but also feels more flexible and hopefully less likely to snap.
(The cord on both the SR80's is way too long, and I end up looping it and twist-tying it to avoid tripping over it or running it over in my office chair. But too long is better than too short.)
Even the box the AD700's came in was impressive. It had nice Japanese writing all over, and to open it was like unfolding origami.
I got the AD700's for less than $80, new. The MSRP is supposedly $250. I don't know if I got an insanely good deal or if the MSRP is artificially inflated, but you can still get the AD700's on Amazon for around $80 if you look around.
This is $10-20 cheaper than Grado SR80's. I don't think the price difference is significant. I think both headphones are easily worth $80-100. Are they worth $250? Er... maybe not.
ATH-AD700: I love these things. I suggest, nay, demand that you buy them. They feel and sound very good. I am glad I didn't get replacement Grado SR80's as I originally planned.
I think it is easily worth spending $100 to get a "good" pair of headphones. Even if all you listen to is a crappy MP3 player, it makes a huge difference in how much you will enjoy your music. But I also use headphones when I'm at my computer, or even when I'm gaming. For me music is essential for avoiding distractions while programming, and these headphones are excellent for that purpose (especially because of the comfort).
The only bad thing about the AD700's is how ridiculous I look wearing novelty-sized, bright purple headphones in public. Personally, I will pay the price of bearing that shame.