Great for those relaxing at home and in the office, the Audio-Technica ATH-CHX7iS is a slight departure from the usual style of in-ears and earbuds. Audio-Technica have mashed the two styles in a way that reminds us of the Final Audio Piano Forte Series. These are not designed for all scenarios; on a motorbike journey for instance, enjoyment is reduced to knowing only when cymbals are being used in a recording. Of course, open-back headphones do not receive low scores for leaking sound and so the snappily named Audio-Technica ATH-CHX7iS is being viewed with a similarly open mind.
- Very comfortable
- Feel secure whilst worn
- Great open wide sound
- Case very small
- Not for noisy places
Being big in Japan, Audio-Technica have been satisfying the Japanese fetish for personal audio products for some years now and have a huge number of different models. This allows for a little experimentation in the boardroom and some interesting items for us to try.
The Audio-Technica ATH-CHX7iS comes with a handy button for smartphone functionality, and a volume control. The volume control does not communicate with the phone, it is a variable resistor only but works very well. The carry case is very small indeed; being hard it will afford some protection but the cable would need to be wound more tightly than perhaps it should. The relatively large size of the driver units doesn’t help either.
We all like something a bit different and the Audio-Technica ATH-CHX7iS is certainly that. Given that portable audio is all about blocking out the outside world, these earphones are a departure from the norm. Perhaps taking a leaf out of Final Audio’s book (their Piano Forte range is similar), Audio-Technica have seen a potential for small, open-backed models for those quieter moments out there, or for casual listening at home.
As with anything open, the surroundings make a crucial difference and with a design worn like this, people are going to expect to use them outside. Great if it’s quiet, but a bit of road noise will reduce the Audio-Technica ATH-CHX7iS to a tinny irritant by contrast.
At home though, the presentation is as comfortable as the fit and I have the impression of a halfway house between headphones and speakers; it’s like a very cheap alternative to the AKG K1000 speakerphones. Soundstage is the best feature of the Audio-Technica ATH-CHX7iS, along with the natural feel they have.
The sound is very well balanced despite the loss of bass due to the open fit – perfect for lounging around the house while still remaining alert of the surroundings. The sound is on the bright side but this may just be the added soundstage making certain details stand out more, and also the fit. By pushing the capsules gently against my ears the bass is heightened; perhaps it is the design of our ears which might lead to subtle differences here in what we each perceive.
It would be good to see more models like the Audio-Technica ATH-CHX7iS coming through; we’re in danger of becoming too conventional in the headphones world and being set in our ways. It seems that companies like Audio-Technica and Final Audio don’t want us to get too comfy and are happy to prod us towards a more inclusive attitude. And why not? The headphones concept might be 100 years old, but things are far from predictable; particularly with new technologies being developed and many new ways of using and relating to music to look forward to.
Score – 8.5/10