In 2008, manufacturer Audio-Technica replaced its ATH-FC7 model headphones with the ATH-FC700. This fresh model offers a newly developed 40mm Neodymium driver that decreases weight and maximizes sensitivity to extend portable music player battery life. However, despite Audio-Technica’s claims otherwise, we found that the FC700 units weren’t all that comfortable, and their high frequency response may be prohibitively bright for some listeners.
Out of the Box
Then again, maybe we should say “out of the clamshell.” Which is to say that the ATH-FC700 headphones are curiously packed within a plastic clamshell casing that, to be fair, gives the set a cheaper appearance than it deserves. At first glance, you might expect to find these headphones in an end-cap display at the checkout counter of your local Wal-Mart. In truth though, the units sound much better than their packaging would have you believe.
Once you manage to crack the case, you’ll find a soft pouch and a 3-foot extension cable tucked in with the folded headphones. The headphones we reviewed here were black, but the FC700s are also available in white, red and purple.
Features and Design
While the FC700s do sport some fancy new drivers, everything else about the construction of these headphones is a “no frills” proposition. The headband is made from a hard, rather uncomfortable plastic with no padding and has a way of tangling with longer hair when adjusted on the head.
The earphones do fold up nicely into a rather tidy package, making them a good candidate for travel. However, we found that keeping the headphones unfolded was an unnecessary chore. The FC700s seem to lack a locking mechanism that would keep them in a sturdy position. While positioning them on the head, we found that they easily skewed out of shape.
The backs of the earphones are closed, which we discovered did a great job of both insulating ambient sound from the listener and prohibiting sound leakage to those not trying to listen. This is a nice feature for those who want to keep their music to themselves, rather than share it with the rest of the office, plane, train or automobile.
The padding around the ear cups appears to be Urethane over foam. While not particularly luxurious, we didn’t experience any discomfort around the ear over extended periods of use. The stereo pair of wires leading off the earphones terminates after a short 1.6 feet. The provided 3-foot extension cable proves long enough to use in most practical situation, but the connection provides little protection against excess strain, thus leaving the wires prone to breakage.
The FC700s have a lot going for them in terms of sound production. Bass response is better than you might expect. Headphones at this price range tend to have a forced bass that ends up being flabby and overwhelming. However, the FC700 headphones stay focused and punchy without knocking you over. On Maceo Parker’s Roots and Grooves, Dennis Chambers’ kick drum and the electric bass punches on the “Uptown Up” track played nicely with each other and managed to keep from getting muddy. Midrange performance was also fairly good. Marc Broussard’s haunting vocal on “Lonely Night in Georgia” from his Carencro album was set a little further back in the mix than we’re used to hearing, but there was none of the mid-bass mud that we’ve come to expect from small headphones.
High frequencies, however, were very aggressive. While it is true that appreciation of sound is a subjective beast, we feel confident in saying that these headphones are extremely bright by anyone’s standards. Though the effect varied in intensity depending on the source material, the extremely hot highs were impossible to overlook. Brass instruments, cymbals and sibilant T’s and S’s were excruciating at times. At extreme volumes, the effect was even worse.
Speaking of extreme volumes, we also noted that the FC700s were capable of being ear-damagingly loud, even when driven by the relatively low output of an iPod Touch. There’s plenty of distortion that comes with those higher listening volumes, so one is not likely to push it too far because the music just winds up sounding bad. However, we would recommend you use the volume limiter feature on your portable audio device just to avoid any accidental volume spikes into ear-bleed territory.
While the ATH-FC700 headphones from Audio-Technica do offer some benefits, let’s be realistic. Drawbacks like clumsy design and aggressive high-frequency performance are enough to give us pause when considering a recommendation. With a catalogue full of quality headphone options, buyers should consider auditioning several of Audio-Technica’a other models before making a final decision.
- Impressive Bass
- Good sound isolation
- Stylish choice of colors
- Uncomfortable headband
- Abrasive Highs