It’s easy to fall in love with the sound of some new headphones, as it might bring you a different picture from your existing pair. Inevitably for me, the novelty soon wears off, and I return to my trusted cans. However, the Audix A150s had the exact opposite effect. At first, they sounded rather flat compared to my favorite ‘phones, but after a few weeks (including an intense eight-hour break-in period), I found myself reaching for them regularly.
The A150’s closed-back, over-the-ear, lightweight design is high on comfort-level without too many moving/foldable parts. Many of my favorite sounding headphones bend, twist, tilt, and then buckle into a swiveling ball of cable and plastic – doomed for breakage and inevitable exile to the spare parts bin. The only adjustable components on the A150 include a uncomplicated/standard headband sizing system and ear cups that swivel inward 90-degrees for flat storage in either a drawer (thank you) or the included protective carrying case. The Audixs also come equipped with a detachable soft nylon-covered, six-foot long1/8-inch (straight, not coiled) cable with 1/4-inch screw-in adapter.
The soft-cushion ear cups covering the A150’s 50 mm phase-coherent drivers aren’t too large, but sized just right for an over-the-ear design. They spring snugly into place without a noticeable tightness on the head over extended periods of use (ideal for those like me that wear glasses) – you almost forget they’re there. Though contrasting different models of headphones can reveal distinct characters, strengths, and weaknesses (e.g., this one is overly bright, this has more definition in the bass register, these have better midrange representation, etc.), the A150s stood out as even, balanced, and non-hyped.
Impedance is factory rated at 32 ohms, which offers a stronger playback level than many standard headphones (e.g. Sony MDR-7506 or Sennheiser HD 280 Pro) and compares well to the popular Audio-Technica ATH-M50x [Tape Op #113] – plenty of response for a laptop or smartphone if needed. All of my testing and comparisons were done with high-resolution audio through my pristine, all-analog Little Labs Monotor [#117] headphone amp. The A150’s low end response is tight and natural, without that headphone-y ooziness that can lead to bad choices. Initially, I thought the high mids were slightly lacking when compared to the seven pairs of headphones (from different manufacturers at varied price points) hanging in my mix room. But the Audix ‘phones offered a smoother, and more realistic representation of the entire frequency spectrum than all the others, matching closely with the evenness of my loudspeakers. Highlighting balance, the A150’s phase-coherent drivers are designed to deliver low, mid, and high frequencies to your ears at the same time. I don’t know if this is something I’m actively conscious of while listening, but the sound field plays more naturally and correctly with the A150s than with my other collection of headphones. Because these are so balanced, I find it easier to isolate mix elements that feel clumsy or out of place, and when referencing A150 mixes through my loudspeakers, I found that only minor adjustments were needed. Playback never seemed hyped, so I felt I was mixing to the headphone instead of fighting it. Recently, while editing voiceover for broadcast, the Audix ‘phones proved their high midrange accuracy while de-essing a voiceover – often a problematic task on headphones.
Everyone seems to be making headphones these days, which speaks not only to demand but perhaps in a broader sense, a change in how we make (and consume) music. Why not Audix? The transition from dynamic microphone and speaker design to dynamic-driver headphones is utterly explainable – many manufacturers specialize in headphones and microphones (AKG, Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, etc.). I’m not going to be trading in my nearfields for a pair of headphones anytime soon, but now that I’m mixing from a dedicated space at home, I don’t always have the option to work with loudspeakers on for a six (or more) hour stretch. Long mixing or editing days inevitably require headphones for at least part of the time, and the A150s have proven their worth as a comfortable, accurate, non-fatiguing solution for me. I’m always going to check my mixes on loudspeakers, but the amount of work I get done has definitely increased. Trust isn’t a word I would ever associate with a headphone, but Audix is getting pretty close with the A150. These cans aren’t made for lifestyle; they’re designed for work.