Audio Technica ATH-MSR7

Audio Technica ATH-MSR7I have got to stop being seduced by gorgeous headphones with great sound and a relatively cheap price.

The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 went on sale at Stereo for the month, and a hard case was offered along with it. I had already drooled over the beautiful gunmetal version, but the supposedly bright sound turned me off. But since I had time after my exams (and I needed to get my MacBook Pro fixed), I decided to pop by to have a listen.

Needless to say, I was sold.

My terrible photo-taking skills and phone camera don’t do the headphone any justice. It has a great build and aesthetics that seem very similar to the Sony MDR-1R, but is more metal than plastic which lends confidence. The extending arms feel very secure with each click, unlike my NAD VISO HP50s. But the clamping force is quite high however, and some stretching is required for comfort. The earpads are also a little stiffer than most, and less breathable. So comfort isn’t great, but it’s quite good nevertheless.

The accessories aren’t spectacular, but sufficient. Three(!) cables are provided, with two portable cables (one with a mic/remote) and a 3m home use cable. The source side plug is a little chunky, but that’s not entirely bad. The 3.5mm jack in the earcup is a little recessed, which can be problematic. A protein leather pouch is also included for storage, but that’s not going to provide much protection. The free hard case I got is far better.

The important thing is of course the sound, and boy have Audio Technica nailed this one. The bass is very punchy, with zero bloat into the midrange. There’s only the slightest bass lift to give it greater impact, but otherwise the bass is awfully clean. It definitely took me by surprise, given I had been expecting far less bass due to its supposed bright nature.

The treble is quite extended too, but crucially, I didn’t encounter any of the sibilance that others have heard. But while others have praised its slightly elevated treble levels for being pretty neutral and detailed, I found myself bowled over by the midrange and lower treble instead.

As with all Audio Technicas I’ve heard thus far, female vocals are just insanely seductive. With the MSR7, even male vocals are given a chance to shine with a neutral midrange that renders voices beautifully. The neutrality of the midrange also allows the music to breathe, and details hidden behind the warmth of other headphones pop out with the MSR7. Coupled with the punchy bass and well rendered treble that gives the MSR7 quite a bit of air, it made me rediscover my music in a big way. So much for liking warm, relaxed signatures.

It’s headphones like the MSR7 that make me question why high end audio is so costly. Law of diminishing returns, indeed.

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