The ADTH-AD700s can be seen as bigger brothers to the ATH-AD500s we looked at in the mid-range test. Think of them as a more refined version, even though I prefer the colour scheme of the cheaper pair over the gold and purple tones favoured here. The basic construction is identical, with two large but lightweight plastic and aluminium honeycomb structures containing the drivers, connecting to AT's 3D-Wing support, where two pads rest on your head while the ‘phones are held in place by high-tension wire springs encased in rubber.
As with the AD500s, it's an extremely comfortable arrangement, though you should be warned that the AD700s I had on test were prone to slipping off my head if I tried to do anything remotely active in them (e.g. filling the dishwasher or emptying the bins). It's best to wear them sitting down, where you can chill out and get lost in sound.
The construction is again extremely good, with durable plastic and a tough rubber sleeve protecting the connection between the left-hand earcup and the chunky 3m long cable. This terminates in a solid-feeling metal plug with a 3.5mm mini-jack connector, though a 1/4in screw-on adaptor is supplied.
In terms of output, the AD700s sit somewhere between the Sennheisers and the AKGs. They're much, much easier to drive than the latter and have a warmer, less clinical tone, but the soundstage is wider and there's more high-end clarity than you get with the HD595s - though we're not really talking about huge degrees. The AD700s still can't match the Sennheiser or Grado cans when it comes to all out rock, but they coped well with tracks from Massive Attack, Justin Timberlake and Justice, and shone with the small-group jazz of Miles Davis's All Blues and Talk Talk's Desire, where they had most of the AKG's detail but a slightly warmer, richer tone.
The AD700s also do well with intimate, acoustic music, and handled the vocal harmonies of the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss track with grace and power. And if the AKGs have the edge when it comes to classical, the Audio-Technicas did a very fine job with the Wagner, and are easily the more versatile set of cans overall. Given the affordable price, I'd have to say that were I spending my own money on one pair of headphones to fit all types of music, these would probably be my choice.
The Grados perform better when it comes to rock, but generally speaking the AD700s are the strongest all-rounders on test.