Audio-Technica is one of the most respected headphone manufacturers in the world, and this year it’s arriving at CES with something quite unique: a wireless headphone that doesn’t require a built-in DAC. Digital-to-analog converters are a standard part of any digital playback system; you’ll find them either inside your source device, like a smartphone, or inside the headphones themselves, as with every set of Bluetooth cans to date. But Audio-Technica’s new DSR9BT and DSR7BT have a so-called Pure Digital Drive system that means the headphones’ speakers can respond directly to a digital signal without the need for conversion. So it’s goodbye to the DAC, and hello to a simpler, more streamlined design.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact details of Audio-Technica’s new technology, but there’s a helpful hint in the fact that the company relies on a specially designed Trigence Semiconductor Dnote chipset — a version of which has already been employed in Clarion in-car audio systems. The basic premise is that as the speaker inside the headphone can read digital signals directly, that leads to greater power efficiency and "a truly accurate and natural audio reproduction," in Audio-Technica’s words.
The DSR9BT has a four-core voice coil, which distinguishes it from the slightly cheaper DSR7BT with just one voice coil. Both feature a diaphragm coated in "diamond-like carbon material," which may sound like mere fancy talk, but rigid materials like diamond are the best thing to use when trying to create speaker cones that don’t distort. You’ll find tweeters crafted out of diamond in Bugatti’s extraordinary Chiron supercar unveiled last year.
Both of Audio-Technica’s new headphone sets can handle 24-bit/48kHz music over Bluetooth (they support aptX HD, AAC, and SBC codecs) or up to 24-bit/96kHz when connected via a USB cable. They also include NFC support for a straightforward pairing setup as well as touch controls.
In addition to its newfangled wireless duo, Audio-Technica today also launches its new wired flagship in the category of portable closed-back cans: the SR9. Its closest sibling in Audio-Technica’s lineup is probably the critically acclaimed MSR7, which is still an awesome pair, though the SR9 is priced significantly higher and has souped-up specs to match. As with the wireless DSR models, the SR9 features a diaphragm coated in diamond-like carbon, and it offers a claimed frequency response range from 5Hz all the way up to 45kHz. In terms of their tuning, Audio-Technica promises a "refined, well-balanced pro-grade sound."
All three new Audio-Technica models will be available from February, at a price of £299 / €349 for the DSR7BT, £465 / €549 for the wired SR9, and £499 / €599 for the DSR9BT.