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The AKG-K1000/W100 headphone swap... Matt and Nick D's impressions

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
Matt and I each had a headphone the other wanted to hear. We decided to do a short-term swap: my AKG-K1000 for his W100.

Today, I received the W100's and unwrapped them with glee. Fact is, they are visually stunning. "Woody" indeed. Even the spindly headphone cord is enclosed in a brown nylon jacket, resembling a coily twig on the forest floor. These are gorgeous cans, no doubt about it.

I plugged them into my MG Head OTL and spun a jazzy track from "Musipal" by Wagon Christ. I switched between both headphone jacks to give the W100 every opportunity to shine.

My first thought was, "Hey, where did my f**ing bass go?!?" As has been said by others, everything sounded as if it were coming out of a telephone. Guitar licks refused to *twang* with any sense of authority. The entire presentation sounded thin and lifeless.

...but after a few minutes, things began to change for the better...

My ears slowly accepted the unique characteristics of the W100's. Listening closely to Bach's Allegro Brandenburg Concerto No.4 revealed the "polite", "musical" nature of the W100. Strings and voices were rendered with a highly appealing, intimate quality. Aside from their visual beauty, the exceptional rendering of midrange sounds is the W100's strongest asset.

Perhaps it is the closed design of the W100 that contributes to its compressed soundstage. I agree with Matt's comments of "two ear blobs". The Sennheiser 580's soundstage is large and glorious by comparison. If the soundstage of the 580 was the size of a watermelon, the W100 would be a grapefruit. Crossfeed may alleviate this issue.

I have a problem with the W100's bass. Electronica, rock, even recordings such as Enigma's MXMXC A.D. are too polite. The lower octaves simply don't have enough energy to complete the presentation. Even classical pieces incorporating organs and tympanis refuse to excite. Greater authority in the lower octaves would help these cans become a better all-around performer. This may be the reason why some recordings sound wonderful with the W100, and others... well... suck.

Slogan for the W100: Polite cans for polite music.
post #2 of 44
I assume you're using your MG Head. I don't know anything at all about that amp, but could your impressions be impedance-related? One common factor in the few negative reactions to the ATH-W100 has been that the listener connected them to a tubed amp that prefers driving high-impedance cans.

I'm not advocating for the cans -- God knows I've done that enough! But your descriptions of them being bass-light and compressing the soundstage are NOT what consistent with what I've heard from them. Just the opposite, in fact.
post #3 of 44
i agree with jml. if anything, i would say that my w100's are a little bass heavy. i don't have anything special in terms of amp or source but the only thing that i have heard with more bass was a pair of dj headphones. also, with the crossfeed on my airhead, the soundstage is bigger than any other cans i've heard.
post #4 of 44
I do not like to contradict people in their findings- and I'm not going to say that you're "wrong" in your findings - probably it was your source or very possibly your amp, but when I listen to my W100's they are VERY spacious (as in w/ soundstage) and ARE DEFINITELY bass heavy with most amps and sources, but there is a variance of the amount of bass when interchanging between sources and amps.

When you do listen to these cans w/ differerent sources and amps, the sound is definitely different. For instance, in my room, I have a mini component system (not quite audiophile calliber, but it's decent) and I find this rig when combined w/ the W100's to be bass heavy, like quite noticeably heavy. But when I listened to my Dad's close-to audiophile rig (Harman Kardon CDR20, Harman Kardon Turntable, Yamaha receiver) the bass is lighter, but still very present and definitely evident and noticeable - noticeably less bass than with the mini component system, however. This example just shows you that sources and amps really can transform some of a headphone's qualities (bass, mids, treble) to a degree you wouldn't summarily suspect.
post #5 of 44
Thread Starter 

The W100 has an impedance of 48 ohms, correct?

The MG Head OTL does NOT like low impedance headphones. Grados sound particularly horrible with this amp.

Hrm. It seems my review is being influenced by the MG Head OTL. Since Fortune is selling me his Melos, maybe I can get it fast enough to test it with the W100 headphones before Matt starts missing 'em.

Then again, maybe he won't mind. He'll be happily lost in the humongous, awe-inspiring soundstage of the K1000.
post #6 of 44
Nick, I forgot that your primary headphone is the K1000; and with that soundstage, the soundstage of the W100 might not compare (but then again, it' could . .).
post #7 of 44
Thread Starter 
The soundstage of the W100 was noticeably smaller than the Sennheiser 580 when coupled with the MG Head OTL.

MG Head OTL = medium to high impedance headphones only.
post #8 of 44
The ATH-W100 is nominally 48 ohms (we don't know about the curve). The consensus (if there is such a thing on this forum!) is that they sound great with the Corda HA-1 and the Ear Max Pro, both of which are designed to deal with low impedance cans. At least no owner of those amps has said -- in public -- anything other than expressions of love and adoration for the combination. And I know of several Senn HD-580 and HD-600 owners with amps who put their Senns on the market or out to pasture soon after acquiring the AT cans.

With the right amp, or a decent source sans amp, the soundstaging is phenomenal, the midrange transparency stunning, the top is crystal clear and goes out forever, etc. The Corda -- a solid state amp -- controls the bottom of the AT cans like they were made for each other (I can't wait to try the top-of-the-line Headroom amps with these cans in June, but I'm quite happy with the HA-1).
post #9 of 44


...glad to see they reached you OK.

Though your bold-faced slogan is perfect, I would have to disagree with you on the soundstage and bass thing. The bass with those things from my EMP is heavy. I mean, I have yet to hear the K1000's, but they have some heavy low bass...heavier than, say, RS-1's in the lowest octaves (where the Grado line does midbass strongly). They don't have that MDR-V6 slam, but to me, it's been strong enough to get especially noticed.

Also, I added those stupid foam pieces under my DVD-A player and the bass changed dramatically: more controlled, more defined, less flabby. Certainly a source thing, but it just goes to show you that these are sympathetic to that kind of change.

The soundstage thing: I would at least give it a ranking between grapefruit and watermelon...more like a packed-full, clear plastic bag of potatoes from the supermarket. My continued impressions are that while on most material, the soundstage stays close, where there is any sort of overt wetness in the recording, any sort of distantly-mic'ed instruments, especially if it's an instrument that the W100's like, the distance is pretty darn stunning...and that's not in a "for a closed can" kind of way.

Other than those two things, I think you've said it perfectly with the politeness thing. Aggressive music *can* be OK with them (e.g., I've listened to the first Goodie Mob [rap] record and it sounds pretty darn good...but then again, that's a pretty warm, organic recording with organic instrumentation, vocals, etc.) But, still, your slogan sums it up perfectly for me.

Will post my review when I receive the K1000's (which ought to be tommorrow or the next day).

post #10 of 44
Thread Starter 
Yes... it appears that the amp is the reason why my W100 experience was less than satisfactory. Am I the only person who has coupled it with a MG Head OTL?

Word to the wise: Don't!
post #11 of 44
Hey Nick. Nice cans!
Those headphones sure beats the pants off the 1000 in the looks department!

Two words people.

System matching.

The whole is much more important than the parts.
Especially in Hi-Fi.
post #12 of 44

Then again...

...let's really temper this with reality: many of your impressions (in fact, most) were spot on. The "some recordings suck" thing - spot on, no doubt about it. It really seems to me like production values matter with these cans, though not as much as some. The weird thing is that recordings I think will sound like **** sound good some times and recordings that I am hopeful will sound good (like Strunz & Farah "Primal Magic") sound not so good to me. I don't know what it is, they just don't make friends with certain recordings.

I've tried them with my JMT and I like them there, too. Violins have this speed and bite to them which sound more real than the EMP (other than that, the JMT can't compete, but it does have it's one aforementioned solid state advantage). So, again, they are, in my experience, very sympathetic to what you give them.

For most of the most part, though, you're on the money.

post #13 of 44
Hope you can try these with your Melos. I hope you enjoy it either way!

PS- you scared the piss out of me with your review. I have a pair on the way and I got very scared. Glad to hear that it was just an amp mis-match.
post #14 of 44
Your eyes look a little red in that pic, Nick. Are you baked?
post #15 of 44

I'd like to hear the W100...

I have a Corda HA-1.

By Thursday, I'll have a McCormack Integrated Drive, too.

*hint* *hint*
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