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Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 review:The lowest-priced (true) high-resolution headphone

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The Good The Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 offers impressive audio quality, is sturdily built, should fit most people comfortably, and comes with three cables, including one that has an inline remote/microphone for cell-phone use.

The Bad A little heavy; not quite as comfortable as some competing models'; abundance of clarity reveals harshness or distortion in recordings.

The Bottom Line The Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 is a great-sounding headphone with the one caveat that its sonic detail is so impressive that it brings out both the best and worst in any given source material.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 9
  • Value 8

Audio-Technica's ATH-M50 and subsequent ATH-M50x have long been among the best sounding headphones for the money with a price tag of around $150 online. And while the company has plenty of other headphones in its line, it hasn't had a killer step-up model to go up against popular "premium" closed-back over-ear headphones in the $250-$300 range.

The ATH-MSR7 may just be that headphone. Priced at $250 (£199, AU $349) and available in a few different color options, it features rich, highly detailed sound, is well-built, should fit most people comfortably and comes with three cables, including one that has an inline remote/microphone for cell-phone use.

The ATH-MSR7 comes in black and a few other colors. Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

The ATH-MSR7 shares some familial resemblance with the ATH-M50x, but it's a sleeker-looking headphone and has more plushly padded earcups. In terms of competing products, its design is in the same vein as Sony's MDR-1R and MDR-1A, but those two models are lighter and more comfortable to wear over long sessions. The ATH-MSR7 weighs 290 grams, while the MSR-1A weighs 225 grams.

The ATH-50x has a detachable cord and comes with additional cords of varying lengths. However, staying true to its studio monitor roots, it doesn't come with a cord that has an integrated remote and microphone, whereas the ATH-MSR7 does. You also get two standard straight cables 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) and 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length.

Additionally, the headphones come with simple black protective vinyl carrying bag that's similar to the one that ships with the ATH-50x. It's nothing fancy, but it serves its purpose.

What you get in the box. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

There's a lot of energy and life to the sound of the ATH-MSR7. It's the sort of sound that gets strong reactions from listeners. There's a lot of clarity, so you feel a strong connection to the music, but it's also the kind of headphone that's not shy about revealing harshness or distortion in recordings.

The best recordings benefit from the ATH-MSR7's vivid character, so with bluesman Doug MacLeod's new "Exactly Like This" album sounded utterly live and the ATH-MSR7 could do no wrong. After we listened for a half an hour we started to feel that the ATH-MSR7's earpads' pressure was a little too high. As we said, it's not as comfortable a headphone as Sony's MDR-1R, which has softer, more laid-back highs and fuller lows.

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