The Incisive Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 Page 2


Sound Quality
It's been a tough week around the InnerFidelity lab. I've got the Pono in and have been blind testing it against all sorts of stuff. Blind testing is a pain in the butt, and definitely not the way I like to listen...but it's got to be done. The trick with the Pono is I've got to use a roughly 30-50 Ohm relatively efficient headphone for volume matching with all the other things I'm testing it against—I'll go into why in the Pono review—and it's got to have killer resolution as blind testing Amp/DACs requires the ability to hear into the very finest details. I had started with the NAD VISO HP50, but being a bit uneven and distractingly pleasurable it didn't feel analytical enough to me for tough tests. The Focal Spirit Pro and Sennheiser Momentum seemed a little off the pace in resolution for the task. The B&W P7 and Shure SRH1540 had the high frequency resolution for the job, but the heavy bass response of both cans was a bit too excessive for close evaluation of source bass quality. I was in a bit of a bind for what cans to use.

Then I remembered the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 that I had set aside for the moment as being too bright for me. I wasn't sure I'd review it, but if it's at all close I always set the headphones aside for another try later. I brought the MSR7 to my blind test station, did these let me see into the music!

InnerFidelity readers will know I tend to prefer a slightly warm sounding headphone, but I do know a good sounding slightly bright headphone when I hear it...and that's exactly what the MSR7 is. Bass is 2 or 3 dB too low in level mid-bass, but very nicely articulated with good, but not great, extension. Mid-range response is clear and undistorted, but slightly rising in the upper-mids. I'd say the MSR7 is not overly imposing in the upper-mids but rather just somewhat up-front in its presentation. I'd say treble is fairly well on the mark, but with the slightly too low bass and emphatic upper-mids it just sounds like a very well controlled, but slightly bright, headphone.

Some folks on the forums have mentioned words like "sibilant" or "etched" in their presentation, I would pretty strongly disagree. Yes, they're a bit thin and bright—and let me emphasize "a bit"—and they can be quite intense at high listening levels, but what I'm hearing a moderate emphasis of the highs with excellent transient response. I would characterize the quality of resolution on the MSR7 as very near reference quality.

Dynamic punch is a bit hampered by the slightly thin sound, but image width, depth, and layering are quite good. When used as a portable headphone out and about, you might find them a bit piercing as you run up the volume to get above the noise. Isolation from outside noise is good, but not great with the MSR7.

As I mentioned, I used these headphones in a bunch of ongoing blind tests and they've been very reliable in delivering a very clear picture of what's going on upstream. In other words, as you use better equipment, the MSR7 will respond in kind. It's a really good headphone for evaluating things and as such would make a really fine headphone for audio pros, with the one caveat that they are a little cool of neutral.

I think these cans will satisfy a lot of audiophiles as well. Even though this signature is not to my taste, after acclimating myself I found them very satisfying and musical. I can hardly imagine how elated someone would be who's tastes do run in that direction.

The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 is handsome in an old school way and well built. They're a bit heavy though and clamping pressure is a bit high out-of-the-box, but with some careful bending of the headband a fairly comfortable fit can be had. Accessories are spare: 3 cables and a bag.

Audio quality is simply superb, but a bit tilted toward the bright side. Bass is very nicely rendered, but slightly lower in level than neutral, and the upper mid-range and low treble are slightly accentuated. Transient response is near reference quality delivering an extraordinarily articulate and resolving listening experience. If you like your sound a little on the bright side, you're going to love the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7.

To get a virtually reference level resolution headphone—albeit a little bright—for $249 is simply a fantastic value. I've really enjoyed my time with this headphone. No, it's not what I'd listen to personally for pleasure as I like things a little warmer, but for my work the MSR7 is superb. To have an extremely resolving headphone that also sounds terrific made my recent blind testing sessions a joy. There's not many headphones that can do that, and for that ability they're going up on the "Wall of Fame". I highly recommend the Audio Techinca ATH-MSR7 if you like things a little on the bright side.

Click here if you can't see the video.

Audio Technica home page and ATH-MSR7 product page.
Audio Technica promotional MSR7 video here.
Head-fi reviews here and thread here.

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