CES 2015: Audio Technica Hi-Res Headphones and AT-H5050H Headphone Amplifier

CES2015_AudioTechnica_Photo_HiResLogoThis year's CES press release promised 3 new headphones from Audio-Technica sporting the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Japan Audio Society (JAS) High-Resolution Audio certification logo. What does that mean exactly?

From the CEA press release here:

Arlington, VA - 12/18/2014 - The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Japan Audio Society (JAS) today announced a new partnership to help promote and support the marketplace growth of High-Resolution Audio (Hi-Res Audio or HRA) devices and content. Specifically, the organizations have agreed to make the HRA logo, developed and administered by JAS, available for use by CEA members. CEA also has agreed to utilize and promote the logo to its members and consumers.

The Hi-Res Audio logo, which currently is only available for use by JAS members, will be offered to CEA member companies via a licensing agreement with JAS for use in product promotion, advertising and merchandising efforts. In support, CEA will promote the HRA logo at the 2015 International CES, produced by CEA, and throughout the coming year. CEA and logo licensees agree to follow the HRA product guidelines and performance requirements, as specified by JAS.

Not being quite sure what that means, I did a little searching around and stumbled on this table in a couple of places. Most notably in the "Learn More" link on Sony's Hi-Res audio page.

CES2015_AudioTechnica_Photo_HiResDef

Well, it doesn't say anything about headphones, so I'm not sure what it really means, but I did have a chat with the PR folks about getting samples. We'll see.

The three new cans introduced were:

  1. ATH-W1000Z ($699) - A full-sized, sealed headphone of traditional Audio Technica "3D wing" design featuring: teak ear-capsules; D.A.D.S. (Double Air Damping System) housing structure; 53mm drivers; bobbin-wound OFC-7N voice coils; and magnesium frames and baffles. (Product page here.)
  2. ATH-MSR7BK ($249) - Looking rather like a Sony MRDR-1R, the new Audio Technica ATH-MSR7BK sports: 45mm drivers; multi-layer air damping technology comprised of a layered aluminum/magnesium housing and triple-vent system; carry case; and three cables (1.2m plain; 3m plain; 1.2m w/mic and remote).(Product page here.)
  3. ATH-CKR10 ($389) - Last of the hi-res units is an in-ear product that uses two 13mm dynamic drivers apparently facing each other and being driven in phase to produce the side-firing audio signal that Audio Technica terms a "Dual Phase Push-Pull" configuration. (Product page here.)

But before I managed to think about auditioning these new cans I was completely distracted by the up coming AT-HA5050H (expected ~$6000) headphone amplifier. This time Audio Technica did without the wood panels seen on previous AT amps, and went with an all brushed aluminum finish. However, the flowery script labeling, analog meters, and rotary switches continue to give this amp a sweet, old school look similar to other AT amps.

The HA5050H is a hybrid amp using a 6922 tube in the gain stage and discrete component solid-state output. Only unbalanced outputs are available, but two rows of four headphone jacks allow for two headphones to be connected simultaneously, and plugged into jacks with output impedances of 0.1, 33, 82, and 120 Ohm output impedance. Quite unusual. The amp includes a DAC section capable of native DSD decoding.

Very little information is available on the web, but I did find this recent and surprisingly thorough review on Head-Fi of a pre-production unit.

Video

Click here if you can't see the video.

COMMENTS
forkboy1965's picture

You weren't kidding... for a moment I thought you had the wrong link up. They look quite a bit like Sony's.

But after the initial confusion I realized it's probably really hard to do anything particularly radical in terms of design with headphones. The overall design is really quite limited to what it can be.

I feel better now.

drm870's picture

...word over at Head-Fi generally is that the ATH-CKR10's less expensive brother, the CKR9, may be the better earphone.