Review: Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT, ATH-AR3BT and ATH-AR5BT

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test audio-technica ath-ar5bt, ar3bt, s200bt

This week we?re reviewing the Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT, Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT and Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT, three entry-level Bluetooth headphones from Audio-Technica.

Bluetooth and NFC

The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT headphones are equipped with a wireless Class 2 Bluetooth 4.1 controller with a maximum range of 33 ft (10 m). An integrated microphone is present for voice calls, and music is transmitted using the SBC codec (basic). As the ATH-S200BT is 100% Bluetooth, it lacks a headphone connector and thus cannot be connected to the headphone output of a DAP.

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The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT Bluetooth headphones.

The Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT and Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT headphones are equipped with the same Bluetooth controller and additionally feature an NFC controller for one-touch pairing with an NFC-compatible smartphone. They also handle the SBC, AAC and aptX codecs.

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The Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT Bluetooth headphones.
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The Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT Bluetooth headphones.

Design

The Audio Technica ATH-S200BT, Audio Technica ATH-AR3BT and Audio Technica ATH-AR5BT are mainly composed of plastic, although their headbands are made of steel reinforced with plastic housing. While plastic predominates, all three models proved adequately shock resistant over the course of several weeks of use. Whether stowed away in a backpack or a glove compartment, or taken out for a walk or a run on the beach, none of the three Audio-Technica headphones showed signs of weakness.

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The headband of the Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT headphones.
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The headband of the Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT headphones.
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The headband of the Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT headphones.

User experience

Of the three models we tested, the Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT is the only one which isn’t foldable. However, its ear cups can be turned and it can thus be stored flat. Its control buttons are found on the right ear cup (power, volume, accept call), whereas these buttons are distributed between each ear cup for the Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT and Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT.

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The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT?s controls are found on the headphones? right ear cup.
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The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT?s ear cups may be turned in order to store the headphones flat.

The Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT and ATH-AR5BT headphones are equipped with a 3.5 mm input to connect a DAP or portable headphone amplifier, for example.

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The Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT headphones are foldable.
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The Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT?s controls are distributed between its two ear cups.
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The Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT headphones are foldable.
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The Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT headphones are fitted with a spring-loaded control button. The button returns to the center position as soon as it?s released.

Each model has a micro USB port and a cable for charging.

Test conditions and listening impressions

We used both the SBC and aptX audio codecs without noticing any apparent difference. Over the course of several weeks of use, the battery never ran out of charge at the end of a long day of listening. Each model takes about 5 hours to charge, and we charged them every other day. We also listened to the ATH-AR3BT and ATH-AR5BT using their line input, without hearing any difference.

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The Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT, ATH-AR5BT and ATH-S200BT headphones.

Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT

The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT headphones offer an enjoyable sense of balance, from their generous energy in the lows to their restraint in the mids and highs. The restitution is not completely free of coloration, but the listening experience doesn’t grow tiring, and this is a real advantage. The soundstage is noticeably wide, yet not particularly deep. The wearing comfort is satisfactory for a pair of on-ear headphones with round ear cups, which by nature put pressure on the listener?s ears. The ATH-S200BT is very light and ensures a secure fit.

Lows: generous extension for a model in this price range
Mids: slightly set back, not tiring
Highs: set back yet perceptible
Soundstage: wide but only moderately deep

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When the Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT headphones are powered on, they will automatically search for a Bluetooth source if one hasn’t already been paired.

Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT

The restitution offered by the Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT headphones is imbued with a noticeable coloration from the upper bass register to the lower midrange. As these are the most audible parts of the audio spectrum, the neutrality of the sound message is inevitably compromised, yet vocals are brought to the forefront. For voice calling, this type of balance has real value. For music playback, it?s more questionable. Watching a movie or TV series with the ATH-AR3BT is, overall, a satisfying experience. The passive noise cancellation isn’t stellar, and since ambient noise isn’t entirely blocked out, the restitution can sometimes take a hit. The wearing experience is an arguable factor, as the earpads? foam cushions put a lot of pressure on our ears and even pressed them against our head. Since the headphones are light, they proved comfortable enough in the long run.

Lows: satisfying around 100 Hz, but unconvincing below this point
Mids: the accent placed on the lower midrange makes voices clear, albeit with a noticeable coloration
Highs: limited extension, sharp at high volume
Soundstage: oppressing at high volume

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The Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT headphones put a noticeable emphasis on the midbass.

Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT

Compared to the ATH-AR3BT, the restitution offered by the ATH-AR5BT is more uniform and clearer. Considerably less emphasis is placed on the midbass and upper bass, while the upper mids and highs are more perceptible. The soundstage is more spacious, which is also a result of the greater distance between the drivers and the ear (the earpads are fitted with thicker foam). The upper mids are brought forward, giving the impression of a clearer message at low volume. Voice calls are clear and intelligible. At high volume, the restitution is sometimes sharp and unorganized. While the ATH-AR5BT offers better passive noise isolation than the ATH-AR3BT, it?s still nothing extraordinary. The wearing comfort is excellent: light with soft foam, an average amount of pressure, and a secure fit.

Lows: sufficiently balanced but lacking punch
Mids: an emphasis on the upper mids is appealing at first, but tiring in the long run
Highs: smooth for the most part
Soundstage: relatively spacious and wide, adequately deep

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The Audio-Technica ATH-5BT headphones are particularly comfortable.

The Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT compared to?

Sennheiser HD 4.40BT Wireless: the Sennheiser headphones offer superior passive noise isolation and a better signal-to-noise ratio. The balance of the 4.40BT is more neutral, and the layout of the soundstage is more sophisticated.

Plantronics Backbeat Pro +: the Plantronics defends its title as the reference in its category. Its lively, powerful and remarkably balanced restitution, in addition to its passive and active noise cancellation, make it a champion. That being said, the Audio-Technica ATH-AR5BT offers superior wearing comfort thanks to its lightweight design.

Conclusion

Of the Audio Technica ATH-S200BT, Audio Technica ATH-AR3BT and Audio Technica ATH-AR5BT headphones, we preferred the compact ATH-S200BT. It?s too bad that it doesn’t offer the same wearing comfort as the ATH-AR5BT, since its conventional approach to audio restitution makes it suitable for voice calls and occasionally listening to music or film soundtracks. Lightweight and durable, all three models are convenient solutions for on-the-go listening.   

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