Pros: Nicely judged tonal balance
Cons: Needs some TLC, not a rugged portable
I might not have gotten these if I had'nt heard them. I was milling around the best buy and put on a few cans. I thought these were the best sounding cans Best Buy had on their wall- portable or otherwise. It was not even that close. Maybe not the ideal comparing circumstance but the ESW9's really impressed me. They had some other AT models, AKG, Pioneer, Bose and B&W for sampling- not sure the models. When they arrived I found The ESW9's work very well with a Sony Walkman. That is mainly the reason I got them. The sound is refined, maybe a touch warm but still nicely clear and detailed. If there's one thing these phones have it is tonal balance, to me the balance is very good for this type of headphone. There is no major exaggeration anywhere. Most importantly, natural instrument timbre is retained, everything is just scaled down a bit. I got a sense that while dynamics might be reigned in compared to a full size can, everything still felt right. That's quite a trick AT! This is now my headphone of choice for walkman. With an easy to drive nature and a 102 db sensitivity, they live up to their "portable" designation. Volume level and sound quality is superb on my portable device. They also do very well with a headphone amp, but usually I break out my full size cans for that, but I tell you I was'nt jumping up to get my other cans out- so the AT's are also up to scratch for dedicated home use. The ESW9's indicate there is something to be said for the acoustic properties of wood ear piece. Like my review says- I just about got these by coincidence- I was'nt really looking but fell for the sound of the ESW9's.
I could see people maybe having some comfort issues with these. Build is adequate but they may need some TLC, particularly the wood parts. Probably not for "field use". The build and sound are well in line with the street price but not the list price IMO. Great Isolation from outside noise was not really expected from an "on ear" can and I got about what I expected, the ESW9's are only fair in that area, you certainly won't get the isolation of a full size closed back. Wearing: They are average comfort for me, I notice a little discomfort after awhile, maybe 3 hours, but I rarely listen that long. The street price on these is worth it IMO. All in all a fine choice in the "portable" category. One final note: the box says "made in Japan". I know these days many cans including AT's own are China made, and in fact all the other models I pulled off the shelf were, but this one appears to be an exception. I mention that mainly for people who, perhaps like myself, might not ever get an image from back in the day out of their head- of Audio-Technica as a top Japanese company that was, and all these years later, sometimes still actually made there too. Recommended.