Audio-Technica is a well-established brand in the audiophile headphone market, making studio monitor-class cans with pure titanium backing, down to more affordable high-res audio headphones. Though we weren’t too inspired by its first stab at a gaming headset with the Audio-Technica ATH-AG1, with its weird headrest design and overall so-so sound reproduction, the newly minted ATH-AG1x headset has fixed at least one of those issues.
Audio-Technica’s AG1x is the sort of headset which screams ‘what do you mean you don’t have a dedicated soundcard?!’ when you plug it into your motherboard. This is a premium headset which deserves serious audio hardware.
If you’re set on spending $300 (£240) on a gaming headset, you owe it to yourself to ensure your PC is capable of making the most of the sonic side of games. If your motherboard doesn’t have a shielded area for its audio components (a basic indicator the manufacturer has considered the quality of audio) then it’s worth investing in either a good sound card (remember them?) or an external headphone amp, such as the Creative Sound Blaster E5.
And it’s worth putting that money into the source device: the audio the AG1x is able to deliver regularly had the hairs standing up on my arms. The detail, separation and clarity to its 53mm drivers is quite stunning and perfectly suited for the gamer with a penchant for high-resolution FLAC files too. And the broad 15-30,000Hz frequency range ably backs those drivers up.
When the sprawling, depressing wasteland of Fallout 4 or the desperate struggle for survival in XCOM 2 becomes too much, maybe it’s time to kick back with some tunes. There is a tendency for the AG1x to be a touch heavy on the low-end for optimal music listening, which does show where they have been tuned for the gaming audience rather than the muso crowd.
The ambient sound of The Witcher 3 brought Novigrad to life more than any other gaming-specific headset I’ve used.
In-game, the AG1x headset is stunning. The wide soundscape, despite the closed-back design, makes gaming immersion a slightly terrifying prospect. The bullets flying overhead and explosions rocking the foundations in BF4 made me duck in my chair, and the ambient sound of The Witcher 3 brought Novigrad to life more than any other gaming-specific headset I’ve used.
Sometime I even found myself quickly pulling the headset off during a late-night gaming session because of some in-game sound I thought was coming from the next room. To me that’s an indication not just of a nervous disposition but also of a headset that’s able to deliver a realistic, broad audio experience.
I’m now really keen to get ears-on with the open-back version—the Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1x—which could take that excellent gaming soundscape to the next level.
The ADG1x is Audio-Technica’s open-back version of the AG1x, which should sound even better (if you don’t mind the sound leakage).
So, the aural side has been improved over the now-retired AG1 headset, but what about that weird headrest? Sadly it’s still in attendance, and still feels a little wacky for my tastes. There’s no real headband to speak of. Instead the AG1x rests on the top of the head using a pair of tensed pads which press either side of the head.
It can be a comfortable design for the round of head like me, but it’s going to be a little more awkward for some. I would definitely recommend a try-before-you-buy policy on the wing design alone.
But it worked for me, and remained light and comfortable over long gaming and listening sessions, making the AG1x feel very lightweight. The fit just feels a little tenuous; while you don’t necessarily want your head to feel like it’s gripped in a vice, a certain robust skull-cuddle is more reassuring.
That strange design choice aside, the Audio-Technica ATH-AG1x is the most impressive-sounding gaming headset I’ve used. It’s even made me put down the otherwise awesome Qpad QH-1339s that I have loved so dearly…up to now.
The AG1x was just recently released and is thus hard to find online at the moment, but it’ll go for $300 (£240) when you can get your hands on a pair. We plan to update our guide to the best gaming headsets with the AG1x as our new high-end recommendation when it’s available online.