Right away, I had to play around with these guys as they look the part and offer a new level of audio listening freedom. I almost had to pry these out of my editor’s hands in order to take them home; I think perhaps he wanted to use them for himself this month. If there is gear envy around the office when a new product arrives, it usually means it’s going to be good. As soon as I plugged them in with the USB cable, I got to hear it. Yes, I went straight for the wired option, and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly they were recognised by my laptop and engaged audio playback almost immediately, without the need to assign outputs or load drivers. The sound was pretty good, right off the bat. I was listening to some Brian Eno at the time, and I was able to hear every nuance from a distant chime to a deep rumbling thunder that moved across the stereo spread. They certainly delivered as a critical listening headphone, one that would be well suited to an afternoon in the leather listening chair, taking in some classic tracks and leaving the world behind. But there’s more to these cans than just a USB feed from your computer’s audio library. You needn’t be restrained to the one location with the Bluetooth connection. So, Eno got loaded up into my phone and I unplugged and paired the headphones up with the device. The result…all still there. This is why I plugged them in right away – I wanted to hear how they compared when reliant on a Bluetooth connection to transmit the sound after I had heard the wired form.
Audio-Technica have developed a special audio converter that deals with the digital signal after the Bluetooth transmission and faithfully restores it to an analogue form that is well represented by the 45mm drivers held within these headphones. The result is just like the wired sound, and doesn’t leave you cursing the Bluetooth connection all the time. You even get the ability to answer unwanted phone calls that might interrupt your listening with a simple tap of a button on the side of the cans that mutes the music and engages a compact microphone that for the life of me I could not discover. But it certainly works, so you can get the phone call out of the way and return to what you really want to be doing, and that is enjoying your music. Just tap the volume button on the side of the cans to bring it up and you’re all set.