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W1000 - the review of a headphone in a crowded market segment!

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
After shopping and reading for a few months (because I’m a cheap bast…! Haha) I finally decided to order the Audio Technica ATH-W1000 from AudioCubes (great shop to deal with by the way). They have been bought without a demo, based on very mixed and confusing comments from the headfier community!

The W1000 have been bought to replace my old Beyerdynamic DT511. I brought the DT511 with me to several shops. While comparing them to others, I discovered that the old Beyers were actually not as bad as I thought they were as long as I was using a good headphone amp, specially a tube one. I demoed the Grado sr325, Beyer dt660, Beyer dt880, Senn hd600, Sony 9506, Stax srs2020 and AKG k271s. All those are an improvement over my old Beyers but not necessarily by much and some, even tough an improvement, were not to my taste either comfort wise or sound wise. The photos below show you the W1000 next to the old Beyer DT511.

The W1000 comes in a regular box that is not fancy at all, unlike the Beyer DT880 which comes in a nice aluminium box. The headphone itself however is, ho, really sharp. The wooden plug is neat, the cable has a retro style fabric finish, its not plastic/vinyl. They are heavy when you take them in your hands but once on the head it doesn’t feel like that at all, probably thanks to their “wing support” design. Comfort wise, quite comfy, definitely one of the, if not the best I’ve tried. That was one of my main concerns since I don’t like the comfort of Grados, Senns feel a bit “vise-grip” tight and I even returned a pair of K271 because they touched my ears, only Beyers are fine with me.

OK, now some music listening. I used 14 different albums to try to cover a wide range of different music styles. All are original redbook CDs played on a Rotel 940AX CD changer and a Jasmine T200 tube headphone amp. On most of the CDs I have toggled back and forth with my old Beyer DT511 to give me a flavour difference. Like I said before, I had compared the DT511 to several other cans while shopping and I’ve been listening to them for a long time. Photo below is the W1000 with my Arcam CD23T player and my Jasmine T200 tube amp (sorry for the glare, I’m a really lousy photographer!).

Beth Gibbons – Out of season (electronic jazz/pop)
Bass is not quite as powerful as the Beyers but more defined and snappy. Her voice is really upfront and sounds natural. Highs have less sparkles than the Beyers but there is plenty of detail none the less. The soundstage/headstage is bit more in the head then the typical Beyer but is well defined and provides a good enjoyment. Soundstage is something that I often find lacking for me with headphones as I’m a real speaker lover, however the W1000 are not bad at all.

Diana Krall – The girl in the other room (jazz)
The bass is really nice on this CD. The piano sounds great, it’s presence is very forward. Although the Beyers feel a bit more airy, the W1000’s soundstage is much more defined and interesting, less sluggish.

Kate Price – The isle of dreaming (medieval music with a lot of sparkling highs)
On song #2 there is an acoustic guitar, ho my, so smooth, so natural. Switching to the Beyers, the guitar sounds like, ho ya, nice guitar. Switching back to the W1000, the guitar sounds like, ho ya, wowwwwwww! This CD also has a lot of sparkling highs that can be annoying on a bright can, not so on the W1000, smooth but detailed, nice!

Wild strawberries – Heroine (pop, mostly electronic instruments)
The bass is very nice on the W1000, it’s not a monster power bass but it’s tight and snappy, pretty fun. I was not expecting electronic music to sound good on the W1000 but I must say I’m positively surprised.

Rush – Different stages (progressive hard rock)
Interesting, after listening to well recorded music like Diana Krall, this CD sure doesn’t sound that great but, the W1000 sounds much less veiled and the highs are not aggressive like they are when switching to the Beyers. On the W1000 bass is missing some slam but it’s easier to listen to then the more bassy DT511. The W1000 with a bass boast EQ would probably be quite nice. The DT511 feel like they have soso bass, very veiled mids and sibilant highs!

Genesis - Nursery crime remastered (progressive 70’s rock)
This recording is better then the preceding Rush, and the W1000 feels much less thin then the Beyers. Electric guitars and Peter Gabriel’s voice are very forward. I’d like to listen to this with a cross-feed option because there are many full left or full right sounds and it seems to hurt the soundstage definition. Switching to the Beyers, hum, this is definitely not their cup of tea. They feel cold, very recessed in the mids, specially compared to the way it sounded on the W1000.

Tool – Undertow (“progressive” metal)
On slow passages in the music, the W1000 offer amazing and smooth details, full and detailed bass, wow, very surprised by this. Hard/fast passages feel a bit thinner but the highs are not aggressive. The DT511 are again recessed in the mids, they have as much details on slow passages but not as engaging.

Limpkin Park - Meteora (“rap” metal)
Well slow passages when the singer basically “raps” sound quite good on the W1000. However, hard and fast passages of Limpkin Park sounds not bad at all on the Beyers, the only problem is the high are ssssibilant. It seems like the having the “shouting” of the singer being brought a bit farther puts less strain on your hearing. So overall on this the W1000 sound ok but I’m sure a can like the DT880 would shine much more considering how the old DT511 sound.

Jesse Cook – Gravity (acoustic guitar)
Acoustic guitar sounds, ho so nice, probably equal or at least very close to what I heard from the Grado 325. The bass on this is full, snappy and engaging, very very nice. In terms of soundstage, the Beyers have a large and airy one on this album unfortunately the acoustic guitar does not sound as natural and the bass sounds muddy and boomy, not snappy and engaging like the W1000.

Patricia Barber – A fourth night in France (Jazz)
Piano sounds natural and the bass is again not boomy compared to the Beyers. Soundstage is nice on the Beyers but mids are veiled and do not sound as natural. The W1000 are a much more natural and balanced can.

Tracy Chapman - A new beginning
Ho boy do this CD sound good on the W1000. Bass is full, tight and « thundering », boom boom boom. Well on this CD the old Beyers are completely annihilated. Their bass sound muddy and the voice of Tracy is recessed. The W1000 and Tracy, a good match!

Tori Amos - From the choir girl hotel
Isn’t Tori a ssssssssibilant singer! Well the W1000 manage to tame her ssssss but not the Beyers. Too bad because Tori’s voice doesn’t sound that bad on the Beyers however the sibilance is really unbearable. A lot of detail on the W1000, I can ear the piano’s pedals being pushed on.

Louis Armstrong – What a wonderful world
Louis’s voice is something on the W1000. He’s got some “tremolo” in his voice that come out nice, clear and detailed on the W1000. The sax and trumpets on some songs sounds real good. I suspect a cross-feed option could be interesting because some instruments feel a little too much on one side or the other. The soundstage is way large and very well detailed on this album. Very nice, the W1000 shine with this type of music.

Ray Charles – Anthology
Like with Louis, Ray and his ladies are giving me goose bumps, hummmmm, really nice.

Are these cans worthy of a high-end source? What happens when using a lesser quality source? Well I used the Rotel 940AX to listen to the above music because I wanted to have a source of similar quality to the ones I used when I demoed the other cans at audio shops. The Rotel is relatively old but strangely enough, it is quite a good CD player because I tried it against many newer players and in the less than $1000 market, some are better but not that much. So for fun I decided that this review would be more complete if I added some comments on the W1000 performance with a more “high end” source and a more “low end source.

I started by plugging the Jasmine tube amp to my “relatively” better Arcam CD23T CD player. The sound is definitely more refined and more detailed, very sweet. It is a good notch above the sound quality I was getting using the Rotel player. All the nice qualities demonstrated by the W1000 with the Rotel player are amplified, sometimes just a bit and on some music passages, a lot.

Let’s downgrade now. The Jasmine T200 has a USB fed DAC so I hooked it up to my portable PC. Now the difference is a bit shocking compared to the Arcam CD23T. The Arcam gives the W1000 a real sweet, smooth, detailed and natural sound. The portable PC reading redbook CDs through the USB DAC also a good performance but with noticeably less detail and the whole experience is less engaging, feels kind of cold!

How about with no amp directly out of a Sony Minidisk player. Well, no problem getting decent volume which is a bit more problematic with the DT511. Sound quality, is decent as well but not on par to even my lowest quality setup, the USB DAC of the Jasmine. The sound is thinner and there is some sibilance in the highs of some songs. So it is more “listenable“ then the Beyers inefficient and very bright cans but for pure sound quality, it’s not something I would use very often.

Bottom line, if you buy a high quality headphone like the W1000, it is worth it to have a good source. When using the Arcam, I found the switch back to the DT511 much more pronounced, the Beyers sounding very veiled. The high end source really brings the best out of the W1000 so a lower end can is really handicapped when compared directly to it. The difference was definitely not as big when using the Rotel player. However, even with the lowest quality setting (portable PC with cheap USB DAC) or a cheap CD player (the Rotel) there is still a significant difference between the W1000 and the DT511. So it is definitely worth it to have good cans even if the source is not top notch.

As you can see, I really like the W1000. The old DT511 are not able to compete but that was to be expected. I have to admit that the old Beyers were giving me a better impression when compared to the K271s or the HD600. How do the W1000 compare to the more immediate competition I have demoed. Well the following comments are based on memory, not direct a/b comparison so take it with a grain of salt. I feel the W1000 have the most similarity/signature with the K271 but, it’s more refined, fuller/better bass, mids sound way more natural and engaging, highs have more details. The HD600, I did not find very interesting so to my taste, the W1000 is much nicer. However, I would say the HD600 are probably not that far from the W1000, they are just not the same signature at all. The DT880, well those I liked pretty much. If I had both I’m pretty sure I would use the DT880 for some CDs and the W1000 for others.

Overall, I think the W1000 are up there with the DT880, HD600 and probably the HD650. I would say the K271 is inferior in all aspects to the W1000 but has a signature that is more similar to the W1000 than the DT880 or HD600. What surprised me was that I was expecting the W1000 to be a “jazz only” can and it is not so. Yes, jazz sounds very good on it, but electronic type music is also quite interesting. I don’t think I would recommend the W1000 if someone listens mostly to fast and loud metal, for that they did not shine very much. I would prefer the Beyer signature for this type of music. For well recorded progressive rock, the W1000 are also very nice. Acoustic and vocal music, well, you can’t go wrong with the W1000, they sing! Finally, the Stax srs-2020, is a bit different animal. I love its sound specially for jazz but totally dislike its “plastic creaking” build quality and the bass is not a strong point. Plus it’s not convenient at all with its proprietary amp that you have to use.

I’m very happy with my decision to buy the W1000. Comfort is very good and that was important for me. They provide better isolation than open cans, that’s something I was looking for as well. They are very easy to drive so I can use them at home with my nice tube amp but they also sound good straight out of a portable source. Finally, overall sound quality is very competitive in its price point so what else can I ask for. If the sound signature of the W1000 is to your taste, I think these cans offer quite a package in the under $500 market. If I had to choose only one headphone out of the ones I tried with no other criteria than sound quality, “maaaaay be” I would have gone for the DT880 but as soon as I add convenience (closed and efficient) as the second criteria then the W1000 wins easily.

I hope these comments help other headfiers understand a little more this very interesting headphone. As far as I’m concerned, the bad comments I read about it here on head-fi are in a sense unjustified. At the same time, the “overly positive” comments I had read about it on the 6moons review are also kind of exaggerated. I think this headphone is very well positioned price wise versus its competition and if you happen to like its sound signature, then it is a very fine headphone to buy.

Below is a ranking by certain criteria’s and based on my taste. I will not rank the Sony 9506, Grado sr325 and Beyer DT660 because they were not to my taste so I did not test them long enough and it would not be a fair call. Even tough there is some price difference between the models below, I don’t find it significant enough to take it in consideration.

Build quality: w1000 > hd600 = dt880 = k271s > srs2020

Comfort: dt880 > w1000 = srs2020 > hd600 > k271s

Headstage: dt880 = srs2020 > w1000 > hd600 = k271s

Soundstage: dt880 = srs2020 = w1000 > hd600 > k271s

Details: srs2020 > dt880 = w1000 > hd600 > k271s

Bass: w1000 = dt880 > hd600 > k271s = srs2020

Mids: srs2020 > w1000 > dt880 > k271s > hd600

Highs: srs2020 > w1000 > dt880 > hd600 > k271s

Overall sound quality: srs2020 > dt880 = w1000 > hd600 = k271s

The overall sound quality ranking is based on listening to 75% jazz music.
post #2 of 36
Looks good, the first thing I did was to print it out so that I could take my time in reading your effort. At first glance, great work and thanks; especially, for taking the time to compare various sources.
post #3 of 36
Thanks for that! Good to have a straightforward review of these cans and their strenghts highlighted. I would certainly like to try them someday to see if they are for me. Definatly one of the first cans I would try if I decided to go closed. Maybe after I get an amp and probably a new source.
post #4 of 36
Thread Starter 
I don't know what you have now but don't look at the W1000 as a "closed" can. Yes it is closed but does not offer an extreme isolation. I would say it's a "nice to have" kind of thing. You can see them more as an alternative to the DT880, HD600-650 that has its own positives and negatives. If you have a good can now though, I agree with you, amp and source are a good way to spend your money!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Averse
Thanks for that! Good to have a straightforward review of these cans and their strenghts highlighted. I would certainly like to try them someday to see if they are for me. Definatly one of the first cans I would try if I decided to go closed. Maybe after I get an amp and probably a new source.
post #5 of 36
Hi Loftprojection,

Congrads on your new ATH-Woodie, and a well written and comprehensive review. A quick question, do you find amplification made significant/considerable improvement over sound quality?

I will eventually get around to own one W1000, but their predecessors take priority at this stage...


Best of luck,
Overlunge
post #6 of 36
Thread Starter 
Well it's kind of difficult to answer your question objectively. The Sony Minidisk player is able to drive the W1000 loud enough that you don't need an amp. However, I don't think a $200 Minidisk player can compete with a $2000 dedicated redbook CD player. My opinion, and this is an opinion not a fact based test, is that if you have a great source with its own headphone out then a dedicated amp wont make much difference with the W1000. One thing that kind of "confirms" my opinion is the professional review of the W1000 done on 6moons. Yes, some might say it is biased like many magazine reviews are, however, I don't doubt very much the fact that the W1000 probably sounded as good directly out of the Eastern Electric Minimax CD player versus when he tried it with a dedicated amp. The HD650 however, just like my old Beyers, benefits greatly from a dedicated amp.

If you have a great source like a CD player or DAC that has a dedicated headphone out, then I would try out the W1000 directly into it before investing in an amp. My two CD players don't have a headphone out so I need an amp. As you can see in my signature, I have the Jasmine tube headphone amp and an Arcam home theater receiver with a headphone out. Well as far as that is concerned, the Jasmine does a much better job of driving either my W1000 or my old DT511. So if you are going to use an amp, efficient can or not, you better have a good amp that does not introduce crap while the sound is going through it!

Hope this helps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by overlunge
Hi Loftprojection,

Congrads on your new ATH-Woodie, and a well written and comprehensive review. A quick question, do you find amplification made significant/considerable improvement over sound quality?

I will eventually get around to own one W1000, but their predecessors take priority at this stage...


Best of luck,
Overlunge
post #7 of 36
Great review, thanks for putting in the effort.
The W1000 is on my short list of closed cans to get.
post #8 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Loftprojection
Well it's kind of difficult to answer your question objectively. The Sony Minidisk player is able to drive the W1000 loud enough that you don't need an amp. However, I don't think a $200 Minidisk player can compete with a $2000 dedicated redbook CD player. My opinion, and this is an opinion not a fact based test, is that if you have a great source with its own headphone out then a dedicated amp wont make much difference with the W1000. One thing that kind of "confirms" my opinion is the professional review of the W1000 done on 6moons. Yes, some might say it is biased like many magazine reviews are, however, I don't doubt very much the fact that the W1000 probably sounded as good directly out of the Eastern Electric Minimax CD player versus when he tried it with a dedicated amp. The HD650 however, just like my old Beyers, benefits greatly from a dedicated amp.

If you have a great source like a CD player or DAC that has a dedicated headphone out, then I would try out the W1000 directly into it before investing in an amp. My two CD players don't have a headphone out so I need an amp. As you can see in my signature, I have the Jasmine tube headphone amp and an Arcam home theater receiver with a headphone out. Well as far as that is concerned, the Jasmine does a much better job of driving either my W1000 or my old DT511. So if you are going to use an amp, efficient can or not, you better have a good amp that does not introduce crap while the sound is going through it!

Hope this helps.

Hi Loftprojection,

Thanks for answering my query, because with mine ATH-W10VTG, the amplification does improve the instrument separation, and clarity, however not a night and day difference when run through the same source: Apple Powerbook.

I was just curious about your observation, thank you, and sorry about the O/T.


Overlunge
post #9 of 36
Thread Starter 
Ok Overlunge, just for you, I did a new test with the W1000!

Got my Sony Minidisk, plugged the output to my tube amp versus directly in the W1000. There is a difference, with the tube amp, sibilance in the highs is gone but there is a slight loss of details in the highs. Other than that the differences are not significant at all.

So my guess is it probably depends on the sound card you have but somehow I'm not really surprised a dedicated amp made a difference in your sound versus the Powerbook direct. Even if the W1000 or your W10VTG are efficient cans, they still need a clean signal to produce good sound. The sound coming out of my Sony Minidisk, amped or not, is not on par with the sound of a redbook cd and a dedicated CD player.

Cheers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by overlunge
Hi Loftprojection,

Thanks for answering my query, because with mine ATH-W10VTG, the amplification does improve the instrument separation, and clarity, however not a night and day difference when run through the same source: Apple Powerbook.

I was just curious about your observation, thank you, and sorry about the O/T.


Overlunge
post #10 of 36
Thanks, Loftprojection. Bump for a good review!
post #11 of 36
So the prevailing opinion is that cleaning up the source will improve the sound more than amping from a bad/decent source?

Also, please post impression when you get the Porta Corda USB, loft. Very interested if there is anything between that amp and the w1k.
post #12 of 36
Very good review. It's interesting that you should rate the 2020 system so highly, when a lot of people on the boards don't consider it a viable dynamic headphone alternative at it's price point. But, I guess pricewise it does fit, with the SR-202 Basic selling for $279 on AC. I haven't heard the 2020 though, so I'm only going on rumors

I've been interested in the W1000 for a while (something about that look I guess ) and this makes me even more interested. I'd love to hear them at a meet.
post #13 of 36
Thread Starter 
You bet, I really look forward to getting the Porta Corda and comparing it to my Jasmine with the W1000. It will be interesting to see if there is a significant difference between a small portable amp versus a home tube amp.

Yes, you are right, at least MY prevailing opinion is that getting the best source you can afford will improve the sound more than amping specially with an efficient can like the W1000. Which does not mean however that using a totally bad amp with a great source will produce great sound! Isn't it confusing, hahaha, that's the fun of this forum, you have to spend for great cans, great amp, great source, then start again because the great cans are not great enough...

Cheers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nsuttitinagul
So the prevailing opinion is that cleaning up the source will improve the sound more than amping from a bad/decent source?

Also, please post impression when you get the Porta Corda USB, loft. Very interested if there is anything between that amp and the w1k.
post #14 of 36
Outstanding review Mario. The w1000 have been on my list for a time and now you have whipped up a lot of enthusiasm for these cans. My new plan is to stay on head-fi 24/7 and with warp speed grab the first pair that becomes available. 2-4AM always is a good time for deals, except the price will now go through the roof.

Or just give up and buy new.
post #15 of 36
Very nice review. I think w1000s are one of the most conflicted cans (in my mind) on the board. Many people who have heard the higher end AT cans (L3000 and W-100) seem to dismiss them immediately. However there is still large contingent which seem to be very happy with their w-1000s; especially at their price point.

Cheers
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › W1000 - the review of a headphone in a crowded market segment!