Ever wondered what those headphone-looking things are that your favourite bands are wearing when they’re onstage? They’re called in-ear monitors, and are used to let artists hear clearly what’s being played by their musicians over the noise of the loud speakers and screaming crowd.

The Audio Technica ATH-LS70iS earphones take their cues from these earpieces, using the brands pedigree for making stage-worthy gear and translating it into an affordable and exceptional-sounding pair of in-ears. What they lack in bells and whistles, they more than make up for in sonic detail and accuracy.

Price and availability

The Audio Technica ATH-LS70iS are available now, and retail for around £150 (around $195 or AU$270). While this makes them just a bit too pricey to be considered for our best cheap headphones round-up, they sit just outside the price bracket for that competition. 

So, if you’re on the lookout for a (just about) affordable pair of earphones and are willing to stump up just that smidgen of extra cash, the audio performance offered here makes them well worth saving that little bit more for.

Design

Based on a relatively-workmanlike onstage design suited to the rigours of performance, the ATH-LS70iS aren’t incredibly exciting to look at.

With a 1.2m rubbery cable and lightweight, angular, 6g plastic-coated ear pieces, they get the job done and are subtle in design, but there is definitely a bit of function over form here. 

Likewise, the flexible-but-sturdy plastic ear hooks, designed to be bent into shape around your outer ears to your liking, get the job done with ease, but aren’t the sleekest-looking part of the earphone. It’s common sense over needless flash then, with A2DC connectors letting you swap out the detachable cabling if you desire.

The feature list is a little sparse. There’s no waterproofing here, nor active noise cancellation. Even the cable remote is bare-bones, with just a single play / pause / accept calls button on the line to interact with. You’re going to have to dig out your phone to control other aspects of playback then (though you can long press the button to activate your voice assistant of choice).

It’s all about the audio then. And, thankfully, that’s where the ATH-LS70iS earphones deliver with real aplomb.

Sound performance

With a snug fit and those flexible hooks helping to angle the ATH-LS70iS directly into your ears, it’s easy to get lost in the output of these earphones without very little disturbance from outside ambient noise – even without active noise cancellation being employed. 

That’s a joy, given the clarity of what’s delivered by the buds when fitted properly. Using an 8.8mm dual symphonic driver per ear (consisting of a main carbon-coated driver and an auxiliary sub-driver in a single unit), they sound truly gorgeous, especially at this price point. 

Balanced with a mellow, controlled bass that lets the breadth of a song shine without being overpowering, they offer great detail and clear presentation that gives each element of a track room to breathe. Given the relatively-standard 5-26,000Hz frequency range, it’s an emotive pair of in-ears.

When getting moody with Bowie’s Warszawa from his masterpiece Low album, the resonant chants and cutting synths were delivered with crispness and a wide soundstage fitting of the  sparse performance. But then dive into something warmer like Sunflower Bean’s Twentytwo and you’ve got a richness and color to wrap yourself up in. 

Fire up James Blake’s Limit to Your Love and those belly-rumbling machine-gun bass pulses bounce back without any flabbiness. Whatever you throw at them, the ATH-LS70iS are hard to fault. 

Final verdict

While their physical presentation and feature list is barebones, the same can’t be said of the Audio Technica ATH-LS70iS earphone’s sound performance. Detailed, clear and spacious, they give you a superb sense of what you’d expect the artist intended from their recordings, with a relatively neutral tuning that sees songs shine.

If you can do without mod-cons like Bluetooth and active noise cancellation, these are some of the best earphones you can get at this price point.



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