Audio Technica has quite the habit of releasing “Limited Editions” down through the years with some hit and misses and some retaining value and others bombing.
My last LTD review was the exquisite looking flagship W3000ANV in 2012. I remember at the time stating the W3000ANV had bags of emotion, a wonderful mid-range but sounding very unique indeed in the lineup of big-name headphones around the same price mark.
A lot of audiophiles might have bought purely on its looks, even more on the looks and the sound, but some will have seen it as a future investment given its limited-edition status.
As I check on the used value right now the W3000ANV is still holding its value relatively well at around $1200 or higher on some of the big forums. So whilst not the solid investment some might have hoped it still holds ‘major currency’ among devoted audiophiles on the used market.
LTD Editions: The Wall Street Game
A few rungs down though and the limited edition ethos of ATH is still being applied but this time to their mid-range headphones and in particular the ATH-A900X LTD. The LTD version was just launched this year and sells at a local SRP of Php23,999.00 (Philippines).
A quick scan of the international markets and the price does vary quite a bit from region to region with Australia retailing from $349AU to $405AU, the UK at £389, and the US as low as $390 (plus taxes).
Now as I checked Amazon most retailers are actually shipping directly out of Japan (Marketplace) and the price merely starts at $389 with some relatively new sellers in the Marketplace but it can shoot right up to nearly $600, not including delivery or taxes.
That is quite a variation in pricing and since stocks are usually limited (hence the name right?) the likelihood of pricing becoming even more volatile in the coming months and years will only increase.
My advice is if you are getting it then get it now and buy it locally or buy it used before it disappears from retail altogether. You never know it could be a solid investment in years to come but if you import on a whim then replacement parts might be hard to come by later on as stocks dwindle.
This limited edition version is not the exact same as the ATH-900X painted red guys so you have been warned.
The ATH-A900X LTD is a familiar yet impressive looking full-sized closed headphone out of the box. I say familiar because it still follows the classic Audio Technica full-sized headphone form factor and design lines but with an added dash of panache in the form of cherry-colored anodized aluminum ear cup plates with some gold accenting on the edge of the cups.
The original A900X, though having basically the same design as the LTD edition, came in a plainer all black without the Limited Edition decal. Some will love the red, others might prefer the black. I seemed to remember having that same discussion on the MrSpeakers Alpha Dogs red or black edition a while ago with some local forum members. Opinion was, and still is, a bit divided on the preferred color.
The form factor is all Audio Technica with the patented “3D wing support” headband system that they also use on their regular Air Monitor range as well as the higher-end W-series models.
It also sports dual entry cups with a non-detachable 6N 3m cable terminated with a 3.5mm jack and a detachable quarter jack adapter. Inside the cups, ATH has also reworked the voice coils in an effort to enhance the level of clarity and produce a more natural sound over the stock A900X.
The plether ear pads, which are slightly stiffer than the older A900 version, remain in place making them identical to the current A900X pads. As with the W3000ANV and the stock A900X, the 3D wing system of late seems to be more visual than outright functionality.
The balance is there but the grip is not that tight meaning the support pressure is more on your ears and side of the head around your ears than on the top of your head.
Thankfully the A900X LTD is a not a super heavy full size closed headphone weighing in at 330g (half the weight of an LCD-XC) so the pressure on the ears was not something I would get too bothered about. It actually remained pretty steady on my head even with rapid movement.
However head shapes and sizes vary so I would check this out beforehand to see if they sit well or slide too much down. Since it is the same basically in design as the A900X stock you can try that out in your local audio store before ordering a limited edition. Whatever your fitting experience is on the A900X it should be the exact same as on the limited edition version.
Isolation was darn near perfect in terms of noise kept out and noise kept in. Background noise was really negligible during audio playback and as a spectator, with others trying out the A900X LTD I did not hear a single note escape from the cups.
This is one of the best passive isolating headphones that I have tried to date. Wear this on a commute or in the office with confidence. You might get stared down for the “Cyberman” look but they sure as heck will not have a clue what you are listening to.
Note also the limited edition comes in a flashier matching red-colored box but it is not a huge upgrade on the original A900X Art Monitor type box.
It is still a cardboard box and like the ESW11LTD I would love Audio Technica to fully embrace the Limited Edition love fest and roll out a metal, wood, or stiffened leather box just to make you feel you are getting something a bit ‘more’ special for your money. It’s a minor quibble I guess but some do look for value-add in the packaging when it comes to limited editions.
I have always found matching with some higher-end Audio Technica cans to be a more considered journey than a lot of other headphones, even ones more expensive than the ATH A900X. The W3000ANV I had tried across quite a lot of amps before settling on the Hifiman EF6, (very much a personal taste thing).
Therefore describing the tonality of this particular headphone can be a bit deceptive depending on the source and amping you are matching the A900X LTD with. There is though a core tonality of sorts that does shine through despite the amping variations I encountered during this review.
The ATH A900X LTD is basically a neutral clean sounding headphone with some top-end sparkle that can steer it to a bright sounding signature depending on your source or amping. With the right match, it can be very smooth but with the wrong match that bit of play and sparkle in the higher end of the frequency can become a bit harsh and fatiguing.
The bass on the A900X LTD is generally tight and very coherent but again it can either slam or recess depending on the amping you choose to go with it. The midsection of the A900X is clear, detailed and slightly more forward than the bass response.
The treble is very nimble and articulate and is allowed to extend and breathe effortlessly due to a fantastically open and spacious soundstage. It is really easy to forget folks that this is actually a closed and not an open headphone.
At this price, there is a lot of closed full-size headphones right now vying for your hard-earned cash and offering competing or varying audio quality.
At the lower end of the scale the SoundMagic HP100 competes admirably well with the A900X LTD but can come across as a bit less detailed and bass light compared to the A900X LTD. Also while both boast incredible sound staging qualities the A900X LTD just feels a bit more accurate and believable.
The A900X LTD is not as smooth also as my K501/500 combination, especially on the mids. However these two take a lot more power to get the right response on lower impedance or lower-powered setups.
Both usually end up sounding a touch “gimped” with a recessed bass and treble response whereas the A900X LTD is going to perform at optimal levels with much less power demanded.
The MrSpeakers Alpha Dogs is slightly pricier but offers a much weightier and gripping bass performance and the flatter response on the Dogs is much more in tune with how I like closed headphones.
However, the Dog’s planer drivers do require more power than the AD900X LTD to get that level of performance that I prefer.
The A900X LTD is also much airier and more spacious than the Shure flagship closed SRH-1540. The SRH- 1540 has an above average soundstage for a closed headphone and some actually consider it quite open-sounding.
However, the A900X LTD does edge out the 1540 for sound staging, and whilst the Shure’s treble is very clear and natural some might prefer the more strident and articulate treble on the A900X LTD when matched correctly.
Compared to the Aiaiai TMA-1 Studio Edition the A900X LTD is far more dynamic and livelier than the flatter and slightly ‘sleep-inducing’ TMA-1 Studio edition. Those still preferring a more restrained treble response will prefer the Studio.
Also, the Studio is a far more robust headphone that can be worn indoors and outdoors without anyone taking a second look (Hello Mr. ATH Cyberman!).
The A900X LTD is also more balanced than the Beyer T70P which has a far more recessed bass response without some additional focused amping. However, I still prefer the T70P’s treble which extends really well without it every being tiring or too bright.
I normally chain my T70P to a Digizoid Zo just to increase the bass response which makes it a pretty potent headphone overall.
Matching the A900X LTD was quite a revealing exercise. This headphone does respond to different amping flavors and in some cases markedly so. A summary of sorts is to look for an amp that is both clear and neutral or one that is warm with bags of musicality.
Any amplification chosen should not detract from the excellent staging qualities and imaging separation of the A900X LTD. Otherwise, it could end up sounding thin or bright sounding which would be a shame.
The Tisbury Audio amp had a bit more legroom in high gain with the A900X LTD. It’s quick but the amp’s inherently bass shy nature and superior treble response didn’t match as well with the AD900X LTD. Everything did indeed feel articulate, accurate and with excellent imaging but it also felt way too thin and peaky in the lower treble.
The bass, while being pacy and tight, also felt a bit too anemic to do the cans any justice with all but the most bass shy genres. The A900X LTD ended up just being too bright for my taste with this match.
The Oppo had an easier time driving the A900X LTD than the CA-1 and the right away the match seem far more convincing and with a lot more PRaT.
The Oppo immediately beefed up the A900X LTD giving it a much richer sound in comparison to the Tisbury Audio and softened the treble response sparkle just enough for it to sound a lot more natural without losing any sense of speed, soundstage or accuracy.
The low end also felt a bit more weighted and substantial than the CA-1 on EDM with a much more noticeable detail and better coherence.
Schiit Magni (with Modi)
The Magni is fuller and warmer than the CA-1 but not as controlled and grain-free as the HA-1. The bass and mids are richer and thicker but the treble loses a bit of control and clarity and on the odd occasion, a hint of sibilance slips in, more so than the higher end HA-1.
The Magni and A900X LTD match though had a much more musical response and better PraT than the CA-1 and Just Audio combination. Powerwise the Magni had zero issues driving the ATH A900X LTD in combination with the Modi DAC. Volume topped out at around 11am on the pot and I would not recommend anything higher.
Yup, it’s here and it’s a decent match with enough power to drive the A900X LTD. The resolution is not quite there compared to the desktop combinations but that warmer musical tonality of the X1 soothes the more strident A900X LTD top end making it an altogether more relaxing experience.
Stacking the FiiO E11k with the X1 produced a more dynamic and fuller response from the ATH900X LTD and still kept the top end relatively smooth and musical. I actually really enjoyed this budget setup with the A900X LTD.
Now, this is more like it with a much smoother and warmer response than the previous matches. It is a bit more reminiscent of the Oppo HA-1 but with a lusher midrange and zero hot treble play presently.
The treble suddenly sounds a lot more relaxed and natural also and the bass is much weightier than I expected. With the bass gain switch flipped up, there is an added presence in the mid-bass but it doesn’t dominate or feel unnatural.
If anything this is my favorite match out of both the desktop and portable setups. A really non-fatiguing setup, highly musical without losing any of the core attributes such as the airy spacious soundstage.
This pairing didn’t quite have the same rich lush sound as the DuoAmp, veering more towards neutral but the main USP of using the Theorem is that wonderful elevation in clarity and control over amps such as the DuoAmp.
The 720 is supremely tight with the A900X LTD and whilst not as thick sounding as the DuoAmp it really got that treble singing very sweetly indeed without a hint of sharpness or unwanted peakiness. If you want something more revealing, dynamic, and precise then the 720 is the way to go for the A900X LTD.
The ATH A900X LTD is an incredibly competent and likable closed-back headphone. That soundstage and isolation are way above par for a closed headphone sounding almost dead silent from the outside. Anyone who digs the house sound of the Air Monitor series is going to dig this headphone.
However, if you mess with the matching a bit it does bring some nice and not so nice variations in the response from rich and smooth to thin, sharp, and peaky in the top end. Matching is the keyword for me with the A900X LTD.
This headphone suits warm sources and amps such as the HA-1 or Theorem 720 which tend to be more revealing but can really get to grips with the top end of the A900X and keep everything really smooth and coherent.
Being a limited Edition it is hard to tell if this will go up or down in value. Wear and Tear and future trends are hard to foresee in the used sales market as well as post-sales support being a little harder to find year after year.
Some mid-fi headphones can be very volatile in pricing indeed. Just one look at Amazon on ‘any given Sunday’ and you will find what was once $300 is now $150 then back up to $300 the following week. It is a gamble but its a very solid headphone to take a gamble on.
Audio Technica ATH-A900X LTD Specifications
Driver Diameter 53 mm, OFC-6N bobbin-wound voice coil
Maximum Input Power 2,000mW
Frequency Response 5 – 40,000 Hz
Sensitivity 101 dB/mW
Impedance 42 ohms
Connector Gold-plating stereo mini-plug
Accessories Included Detachable 1/4″ (6.3mm) adaptor