Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT Review
Offering remarkable sound quality that’s unfortunately at the mercy of the elements.
Audio-Technica’s ATH-DSR9BT headphones are positioned at the premium end of the Japanese manufacturer’s wireless over-ear line, targeting serious audiophiles with a serious price tag. But are they worth it?
What we like about the ATH-DSR9BT headphones
- Brilliant audio quality at home
- Well-balanced sound to suit practically all genres
- Good wireless connectivity
ATH-DSR9BT Sound Quality
In an ideal environment (read: quiet), Audio Technica’s ATH-DSR9BT headphones are a revelation. They’ll make you want to put on a favourite record – one you’ve worn into dust through decades of play – and listen intently as though it’s the first time all over again.
They’re the type of headphones that will make you notice a twinkly background guitar part you didn’t the first hundred times; you’ll hear the thump of the bassist’s fingers colliding with the strings, the grit of a vocalist straining to hit a huge note, the decaying rattle of each snare pulse. It’s the stuff hardcore music buffs and audiophiles lose sleep over with excitement.
I went back to Smashing Pumpkin’s 1995 classic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and was genuinely awed by the power of the performances and how many subtleties I’d failed to notice before; it felt like sitting in the studio listening as parts were first recorded. I’m not exaggerating when I say it gave me chills.
For the audio nerds
ATH-DSR9BT Sound Profile
The sound profile is nicely tuned for rock, classical, hip-hop and heavy metal, with defined but not overly boomy bass (if you really want to feel your low-end, you might want to look elsewhere). High and mid-range tones like cymbals and guitar parts are clear and powerful without feeling shrill or painful. And vocals are given a welcome boost, even on records with notoriously buried singing like Kyuss’ Welcome To Sky Valley.
If an album is well mixed and mastered, it’ll almost certainly sound fantastic through the DSR9BTs. I can’t believe I’m saying this but even St. Anger almost sounds good. Almost.
Bluetooth connectivity works well. Initial set up is quick and painless, and I had very little trouble connecting to new phones or computers. Occasionally, though, when a previously connected device was nearby, I’d need to reboot and move away from it in order to connect to pair to a new device, but that’s a minor, one-time hassle.
Audio-Technica DSR7BT Price
- JB HI-FI: $599
- Harvey Norman: $596
- Amazon: $700
The not so good
What the ATH-DSR9BT headphones could do better
- Sound quality in noisy environments
- Fiddly controls
- Not super comfy
In noisier environments, the sound quality is a different story. The DSR9’s don’t have any active noise cancelling, and the construction of the earpads seems to allow more external noise to bleed through than is ideal. Even compared with other headsets that don’t have noise cancelling, like my go-to Audio-Technica ATH-M50s, sound quality is unduly at the mercy of environmental factors.
I was taken aback by just how much the quality drops when the headphones need to compete with external noise. They’re fine when walking suburban streets and dealing with the odd passing car, but at my gym, where dance music gets pumped through the PA, the sound profile went from clear, crisp and powerful to tinny and unrefined. Similarly, on a recent flight, the constant low background hum of the jet engines drowned out a significant chunk of the mid-range warmth, leaving me with a lot of cymbals and vocals and not much else.
If you do a lot of travelling or work in loud spaces, your money might be better spent elsewhere, especially at this price point.
Comfort and Controls
Firm plastic ear cups are connected via a metal headband. I found the padding on both the cups and the band a little on the firm side. They’re not uncomfortable, but they’re not the sort of headphones you can leave on for 10 hours and blissfully forget about. They do feel robust, solid and unlikely to break, though, which is always reassuring.
Volume control is handled by a slider located on the left ear cup within easy reach. However, pausing and playing is done by a “tap controller” section of the left ear cup – it’s not a button, more like a phone’s fingerprint reader without the actual fingerprint reader. I found it unreliable and slow to respond; I’d often tap it a few times before it worked, causing the tune to start and stop repeatedly after a delay. You’re better off using your phone directly.
ATH-DSR9BT battery life
Battery life is rated at 15 hours, which won’t get you across to the UK on a long-haul flight from Australia, and is generally on the lower-end of over-ear headphones nowadays. If you’re using them at home though, as I’d recommend given their other qualities, this isn’t much of an issue. Charging is done through an included proprietary cable that sits neatly within the included hard travel case.
Are Audio Technica’s ATH-DSR9BT headphones any good?
This headset will suit a very specific type of person: those that value audio quality at the expense of all else. If you live and breath music, and want to listen to your favourite songs with renewed clarity, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for wireless headphones for the house or a quiet office environment, you’ll struggle to find a better sounding set of cans.
But be warned, that remarkable sound quality is at the mercy of the elements – even compared with other non-noise-cancelling headsets, audio quality declines fairly dramatically in noisy environments.