The Incisive Audio Technica ATH-MSR7

Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 ($249)
Saw these at CES with their official "Hi-Res Audio" sticker. My mind's first thought: Yeah right, like "Digital Ready" meant anything either. Turns out the label is pretty darned accurate.

The ATH-MSR7 is a circumaural, sealed headphone with a 45mm angled driver. The styling is handsome and conservative with a pretty nice mixture of materials for a headphone at this price. It does bare a striking resemblance to the Sony MDR-1R. With both in hand I'd say the Sony looks better with excellent design, and manufacturing fit and finish. But the MSR7, with it's metal capsule housings, feels a little more confidence inspiring in terms of materials.


The headband is fully covered by protein leather and is padded lightly all over, with a deeper pad where it touches the head. The padding does not appear to be memory foam however and can be a bit uncomfortable in long sessions. Clamping pressure is too high out of the box, fortunately, the headband (other than at the ends where the adjustment sliders are received) is a seemingly sturdy metal strap and can be bent around to reduce the overall clamping pressure and to conform more closely to the top of your head. (See video for bending the headband.)

Ear pad opening is on the slightly larger than average size (40mm X 60mm) and depth is ample. These headphones will fit most ears, but your ear will sometimes mildly touch a rounded ridge at the back of the ear cup, which can be a bit uncomfortable after a while. Ear pads are protein leather covered memory foam, and are removable/replaceable.

Once I got the headband shape caliper pressure dialed in, I felt the MSR7 to be a comfortable and secure fit, well suited to applications where you'll be moving around. But maybe a bit too warm and tight for those wanting a super-comfortable headphones for multi-hour listening sessions.

AudioTechnica_ATHMSR7_Photo_Colors The MSR7 comes in two colors, black (left) and gun metal (center). A third red limited edition version is available in Asia, but not currently in the U.S.

AudioTechnica_ATHMSR7_Photo_ConnectorsIncluded accessories are a bit spare, but well focussed. Three cables are included: a plain-Jane 3 meter straight cable, and two 45" cables—one plain and the other with one-button remote. Cable entry is on the left ear-piece and does have a recess around the pug opening (5.9mm dia X 2.6mm depth) but there is no locking mechanism. At the player end of the two short cables is a metal and somewhat large and clunky looking 90 degree angle connector. It does have a narrowing body and snoot before the plug to reach in through protective cases, and sports a hearty strain relief. Also included are a padded pleather drawstring bag and 1/4" to 3.5mm adapter. The headphone's only folding feature is the ear pieces rotate flat for storage in the bag.

All-in-all, I'd say this is a really nice headphone for the $249 asking price. But looks matter not if the sound isn't up to snuff. All to often I put an otherwise good headphone on the measurement head and am met with an obviously overly-colored response. Woot! I'm happy to say, this was not one of those times.

Flip the page and we'll talk about the killer sound from these cans.

Audio-Technica U.S. Inc.
1221 Commerce Dr.
Stow, OH 44224

Audioaddict's picture

I'd love to see how these compare to the Sony MDR-7520, which also offers a referance level sound quality, and some others think it's bright, albiet I do not, metal cup design with a big pad, etc etc. and it appears we like a similar sound signature. I really think you should try to get a hold of a pair of those. I would send mine in for measurements and a review if you deem them worthy. I much prefered the Sony MDR-7520 over the NAD VISO HP 50, and the other popular wall of fame closed headphones.

Jeff Y's picture

Because the NAD and these are at a similar price range, will these be replacing the NADs Tyll?
And also, could you please compare them more? I have both and I personally rather have less treble than the Audio-Technica and I like the bass and mids more on the NADs. Same story with sound-staging especially with the AK240. I felt that the AT had the AT house sound that's typically a bit bright.

Inks's picture

That Hi-Res Audio certification is something the Japan Audio Society places on products they deem worthy of it. They have a subjective listen and test the 40hz region of the headphone/iem. Seems kind of gimmicky but I guess it takes some merit to get it.

And wow, the efficiency on these headphones is probably the best I've seen for a full closed back based on your measurements.At 0.023 it's even more efficient than a lot of IEMs.

lushkin's picture

Mighty tempting to pick these up after reading your review Tyll!

Do you have the DT1350 in your possesion still? They too are considered reference level, What do you make of the MSR7 in comparison wrt overall resolution and 'see-thru' delivery?


DaveK1977's picture

I have the (pre facelift) DT1350, and I love the sound. Comfort isn't their forte, though.

lachlanlikesathing's picture

Glad to see you liked these Tyll! I've really enjoyed them so far. I do get a little bit of an issue with the headband causing a hot spot on the top of my skull and I think it can be just a bit too bright to always be used safely outside the house, but otherwise I think the MSR7 is a real champ of a headphone.

I'm looking forward to your take on the M70X, which shares some resemblance to the MSR7, but gets a bit more extreme in some dimensions!

Sketto's picture

Nice! You managed to change it LOL

Maybe's picture

There's a headphone called RP-HD10E-K from Panasonic which has the same "high-res" certifikation and a similar design to the Sony and the AT.

Diaphragm looks quite funny. Would be interesting to see how that one competes since there seems to be no reputation in the forums whatsoever.

Long time listener's picture

"I do know a good sounding slightly bright headphone when I hear it...and that's exactly what the MSR7 is. Bass is 1 or 2 dB too low in level..."

Or maybe 5 or 10 Db too low in level...

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Well, if you look at the bass level at 40Hz it's still 4dB higher than the dip at 500Hz, which could be considered the baseline. But you're right, I'll change the copy a bit.
Long time listener's picture

No need to change any copy...I was just expressing a personal preference. As you noted, these won't match everyone's taste. I can tell from the measurements they won't match mine, despite looking really good in some respects.

zobel's picture

I love them. Lots of good reviews too. They cost $104 @ Amazon.

Luigi's picture

But, if we forget stupid discussion about marketing, sony 7510, hd380, hd280, k545, srh940, and many other ugly headphones are sonically vastly superior to this msr7, in my opinion

BarbecueGamer's picture

Fantastic review Tyll! Say, did you receive the Momentum 2.0 yet? I've decided to wait on your review of them until I consider purchasing them.

zobel's picture

these are in improvement over the original version, especially in fit for people with larger than average ears, and the fact that they fold. I have read at head-fi that the sound is even better!
As much as Tyll liked the original, I would bet he will just love these, but I too will wait for his review before buying them

BarbecueGamer's picture

That's what I've heard as well. I just want to wait and see if Tyll likes them better than the NAD Viso HP50. He holds those in very high regard, as do I.

ginsbu's picture

I'd be very interested in how these compare to the Yamaha MT220, especially as the Yamahas seem to be going for about $100 less these days.

HugoQueiroz's picture

I know, I know it's not a valid comparison, but I really would like your opinion on the matter.
I was about to buy Bose QuietComfort 25, noise cancelling interests me and I plan to use every now and then. I would like to know how the QC 25 compares to the ATH-MSR7 on sound quality alone. Does the ATH-MSR7 is just way ahead of the QC25 or the QC25 can please the none-critic ear?

ina's picture

Tyll, can you please make a glossary in the Resources section on what different terms mean, like imaging, soundstage, dynamics, resolution, transparency, clarity, smoothness and so on?

Would you say this msr7 is a worthwhile upgrade from the Sony MDR 1R, or is there too little improvement in sound quality to spend the money?

For the Shure SRH1540, you say the sound quality falls apart a bit at higher volumes. At how many decibels does it start at? Or up to what volume does quality stay the same?

And what's a cheap, good way to burn in headphones like these on your Wall of Fame? Do you have to run them through a dedicated amp or usb amp stick like the Dragonfly, or is it just as good if you play music continuously for weeks using only your ipod?

lmk4's picture

What about reviewing the m70x?

sszorin's picture

Long time listener : "Or maybe 5 or 10 Db too low in level..."

Where did you get 5 or 10 dB from ? Looking at the graph the bass end should be lifted by 3dB and that's it - maybe 5 dB at most. A 10db gain would wreck the sound presentation of these headphones.
With a little bit of eq-ing MSR7 can be great headphones. +5dB at 500 Hz and +3dB at 90, 70, 50 and 30 Hz. Or one should get a hybrid portable amp for them. A triode can gently skim off a little bit of treble. and also add a little bit of body to the tones.

nhcguy's picture

50x, 70x and MSR7


m8o's picture

The plot and other graphs make it seem like the Yamaha Pro500 and this should sound the same. But one is on the wall of fame and the other is generally disliked (tho I like it). I gotta hear these and decide for myself.

m8o's picture

Should sound similar ... did not mean to type 'same'.

Luigi's picture

the pro 500 are the most underrated headphone in the world. But it seems that yamaha doesn’t pay reviewers so well...

Noobitynoob's picture

Hi! How do these compare to the Beyerdynamic DT 660?

physics's picture

Thanks for the interesting and informative review on these headphones. I have bought the ATH-M70X and was wondering if you had any info on when we might be able to see a good FR evaluation on these headphones. In the meantime, could I assume that the FR curve of the M70s would be sufficiently close to that of the MSR7s here that I could use that as a good approximation?

steaxauce's picture

For perspective, how do these compare in brightness to AKG's K701/K702/K712 line?

Nomad_Soul's picture

Very nice headphones. Shockingly so for the money. I sold my more expensive SRH1540s in favor of these and have no regrets whatsoever.

arenberg319's picture

Hi all,
I used to own Denon AhD1100. Now I want to buy something good for me and after doing many research it seems that MSR7 has a lot of reputation. However, I am still concerned about this headphone:
I intend to plug MSR7 directly into my Iphone6/Laptop for porability. Does it sound good enough ? Or do I need to buy an amp/and DAC ?
I am currently owning a Schiit Modi DAC (At that time I did not have enough money to buy Magni LoL). If it needs an amp, what is your recommendation for a good budget amp ? (Magni???)

arenberg319's picture

I mean, does a budget amp stacked with my Modi will improve the sq much or it's not worth ???

venki's picture

I find my MSR7 sound quality is dull and no energy. I tried with Oppo, Fiio, creative SB-E5, samsung S6 edge, all shows that flat and dull. compared to other headphones, Demo set in the other shop, the SQ seems pleasing and transparent. I even sent my headphone to service centre, nothing but measurement data which which means everything is perfectly fine according to them. But i feel like missing bunch of frequencies.
I have added the measurement data link here. Does it make sense?

Luigi's picture

The great absent, with yamaha lineup