by Warren Chi
Pop quiz, hotshot! Your main competitor (Sony) has been reaping the rewards of a successful new lifestyle headphone as part of their hi-res audio strategy. It’s fairly balanced, with respectable detail resolution, and it’s stylish to boot. What do you do? What? Do? You? Do?
Well, if you’re Audio-Technica, you release the new ATH-MSR7 and confuse the living daylights out of people.
From the moment it was announced three months ago, the ATH-MSR7 immediately invited comparisons between itself and Sony’s MDR-1R. Why? Oh, I dunno, maybe because they look like brothas from the same mutha?
Sure, they’re not exactly the same, but they’re very close in terms of overall design. Audio-Technica then went and used the same “Hi-Res Audio” logo (a mark of the Japan Audio Society) that Sony employed previously, creating even more confusion for the casual observer. In short order, a burning question formulated in everyone’s mind: seeming so similar, just how do the ATH-MSR7 and MDR-1R differ from each other?
I could tell you about the MSR7’s True Motion 45mm drivers, or scribe about the use of multi-layer air damping technology, or even wax eloquent over the mesh acoustic resistor, but none of that is going to tell you anything meaningful. Instead, I’ll simply say this:
The ATH-MSR7 packages Audio-Technica’s house sound into a stylish and portable circumaural (over-ear) headphone.
In doing so, it stands in stark contrast to Sony’s offering. Whereas the Sony MDR-1R offers us a warm and smooth presentation, with an accentuated mid-bass, even mid-range and non-fatiguing but somewhat rolled off highs… the ATH-MSR7 presents us with Audio-Technica’s neutral-bright and w-shaped signature, which gives us impressive sub-bass, a boost in the mid-range for vocal clarity and thrilling percussion, and an airy openness at the top.
Who’s to say which is best? We’re talking about two very different acoustic philosophies here, two complimentary yet divergent approaches as to what constitutes “hi-res audio” proper. That said, if you are not a fan of the relaxed warmth and smoothness that is the MDR-1R, then you’ll want to give the ATH-MSR7 a listen for sure. Conversely, if you are treble-sensitive or sibilance-averse, then you’ll want opt for something other than the ATH-MSR7.
The ATH-MSR7 comes in three attractive finishes: black w/blue accents (shown previously); gunmetal w/red accents (shown above); and a limited-edition red w/gold accents (not shown and currently available only in Asia). Save for the limited-edition model, they’ll be available now starting in March, at a retail price of $249.95.
*If you would like to see us cover Audio-Technica’s ATH-MSR7 in greater detail at Part-Time Audiophile, please leave us a comment below to let us know.