When I was a kid there was nothing more uncool than having the kind of bulky, over-ear headphones that came with your parents’ home theatre system. My dad had a pair of Sennheisers that we maligned so much he ended up using them as little more than earmuffs when mowing the lawn. If you wanted to be as close to Luke Perry as the southeastern suburbs could handle, you had to have a set of ear-buds plugged into your Walkman, snaking their way up your school jumper so that you could listen to your Nirvana tapes as your teacher went prattling on unawares.
Fashion being fashion, popular opinion has done its usual about-face, and the youth of today proudly display their hulking great headsets, blissfully oblivious to how dweeby they look in the eyes of the early nineties. While some sport artist-endorsed brands whose focus favors visibility over sound quality, others who care about sound quality aren’t going to know what hit them when they don a pair of Audio Technica AR5BT Bluetooth ready cans.
I have long since dismissed my teenage predilection and come across to the sonic security of over-ears, especially where monitoring mixes is concerned as there is nothing that ruins either the professional or layperson listening experience faster than background spill. Even without a battery powered noise cancellation system to engage, the AR5BT’s supremely comfortable memory-foam ear pads provide an extremely quiet environment with which to close out the outside world. The 45mm drivers deliver an incredibly wide frequency response, all the way from 5 to 45,000 Hz, with a measured sense of headroom and presence. Booming kick drums resonate for ages, and there is a temperate clarity in the high-mid region that makes vocals and pianos pop without running into cymbal wash like bulls at a toreador.
For the uninitiated, the AR5BT has everything your average listener could ask for. There are playback controls mounted on the underside of the left ear, super secure Bluetooth connectivity, both Apple and Android compatibility, and to top it all off they come with a snappy, softened leather carry pouch – just enough bells and whistles to whet your appetite if being an audiophile isn’t your sole reason for existence. Charge via USB to its brim and you have an impressive 30 hours of in use battery life, and 1000 hours if the unit is on standby, which is more than you can say for other units of comparable quality.
Where headphones are concerned I can never help comparing the standard listening experience with that of high quality studio monitors. Audio Technica have done well to play into this habit; the AR5BT keeps its grubby mitts off the EQ and lets the hard work of producers and mastering engineers everywhere shine through in a considerate and powerful manner. As an extra, added bonus, they look good on your head too; their simple, sleek, gunmetal grey on black exterior is more George Clooney than Jason Priestly, which suits 2017 just fine.
Hits and Misses
As close to flat response monitors as you’ll get from Bluetooth
Dressed well and acting beyond their station
A little too much compression ducking at high volumes