Pros: Incredibly seductive and euphonic sound, luxurious look and feel
Cons: Not the last word in comfort, small differentiation to other AT products, slightly genre-selective
I’ve always been curious about the Audio-Technica woodies, and recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the latest one, the W3000ANV, thanks to an audiophile friend in Brazil.
I’m slightly on the fence here. In terms of appearance this headphone is spectacularly pretty and luxurious. The wood is extremely tasteful but discreet, since there’s a thick layer of varnish and a burgundy paint, that seem to mask a little bit of the wood’s natural grain.
My slight reservations are towards the fact that, apart from the wooden cups and some other details – such as the pads, colours of the plastic structure and the cable cloth and the plug –, it’s pretty much identical to the A700X that I reviewed a short while ago (not here). The W3000ANV cost 10 times the A700Xs price, so I expected more distinct differences between them. I’m not sure if it’s the younger brother that’s better built than its price suggests, but I guess I’d expect some more differentiation between them – such as metal instead of plastic in some areas.
Another issue is that I found the W3000ANV a little heavy, and as the pads that act as headbands don’t offer a lot of support, the headphones end up not being very secure and falling a bit – consequently, the cups go down and the pads make more pressure on the lower part of my ears than what I’d be comfortable with. Therefore, to me, it’s not particularly comfortable. I’m aware, however, that this is a personal issue.
Regardless of those problems, there’s no denying that those headphones are quite spectacular physically. The same compliments can be made to the packaging and presentation: Audio-Technica really know how to present a TOTL product.
The first impression I got was that it sounded pretty much like I expected: it had a very sweet, euphonic and delicious presentation. That comes, of course, at the cost of neutrality. But honestly, hearing what those headphones do to my music, I keep asking myself what the hell I’d want neutrality for. It’s quite difficult to put in words the sensation that the W3000ANV gives you... it’s a really incredible sweetness, and few times have I ever heard anything like it.
Another characteristic that’s immediately evident is the ability of not having any of the downsides normally associated with closed headphones. It doesn’t have the openness and sense of breath as open backed headphones, but then I see considerable spaciousness here and there doesn’t seem to be any nasal characteristics to the mids.
The bass is sensational, and just like with the AD700X, they remind me a lot the Sony EX1000 in-ear – that’s a compliment, as I find the bass on these to be fantastic. They have strong presence, at the proportion which I would consider ideal, but in a very subtle and delicate way, without sacrificing any definition. It very competently displays texture. There’s reasonable impact as well, but it’s not that usual dry, impactful bass –the lows are slow and silky. The only issue that I have here is that there’s a discreet lack of weight and substance. However, if this is a price to pay for the euphonic nature of the bass, so be it.
Regarding the mids... they’re also an example of how to enchant. The tonal balance is very natural and correct on these, therefore in terms of presence the mids are more or less precisely where I’d want them to be given the W3000ANV’s purpose. The timbre is irreprehensible, but what really makes the difference is the irresistible nature of the mids here. Once again there’s an incredible warmth that’s extremely seductive and makes the coldest systems sound like the most euphonic ones. Really, it makes it seem as if the cables and power outlet had tubes.
And that doesn’t come at the cost of transparency and definition. It goes quite a bit beyond what “sweet and euphonic” seem to usually suggest. Obviously these Audio-Technicas don’t present the levels of resolution of something like an HD800, but I was surprised to hear how it doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing anything. And if it does, really... I wouldn’t care.
However, there’s an issue here that’s quite hard to explain, but it sounds as if it didn’t have the mass that such warmth usually suggests – like I hear, for example, with the HiFiMAN HE500s. There’s also a significant tridimensional quality to these headphones, and it appears that those two characteristics and up making the presentation a wee bit light and distance. Consequently, I see myself frequently compensating by turning up the volume. It’s not a negative thing, just a characteristic, but I’m slightly on the fence about this.
The treble is, again, fantastic. Not for being perfect – they are undoubtedly coloured –, but for being totally in harmony with the W3000ANVs general sound and also for being what I’d precisely call euphonic highs. I think, in most cases, present highs are related to coldness, but in here this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not that they’re excessive or lacking – maybe it’s sounding a bit too good to be true, but I’ll once again refer to the classic “they are where they should be”.
Here, I’m impressed with these headphone’s ability to show perfectly present and well extended treble within a sonority well into the euphonic camp without causing any harm to this characteristic. Usually, I find that the sweetest headphones have relaxed highs, but the W3000ANV goes completely against this tendency with flying colours, and therefore doesn’t bring any of the disadvantages usually associated to it – such as lack of sparkle and of definition.
Speaking of sparkle, there seems to be a small peak – generally inoffensive, but that can, on rare ocasions, present some sibilance – that was put on the best spot possible. I really can’t explain well enough, but the highs in these headphones are also mesmerizing. They don’t have perfect timbre, but they can show presence, definition and extension along with subtleness and tenderness.
The results of all this, as should be clear by now, is that the W3000ANV is not an all-rounder. It wasn’t made to play rock or electronic music – it can, well enough, but it really shows what it’s made for playing Kind of Blue in a rainy afternoon. Any instrument that depends on sweet mids will find nirvana here.
I’m completely in love with it.
I’ve made an effort to show my enthusiasm in this review, but this is not because of a lack of it – quite the opposite. This is because the last thing I wanted to do with the W3000ANV was to analyze it. The only thing I feel like doing with it is to listen to music.
Frankly, to analyze this headphone is a bit nonsense. If there’s one thing it wasn’t made for, is to be analyzed. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such euphony and musicality in a sound equipment. It constantly reminds me the reason why I’m so much into music – because, to me, it was impossible not to be completely carried away by the way it presents it.
The W3000ANV is totally irresistible and is easily the most seductive means of listening to music I’ve ever had the chance of hearing. This makes it one of the best headphones I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.