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Review: Audio-technica ATH-W5000 'Raffinato'

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
Audio-technica ATH-W5000 ‘Raffinato’


Introduction
ATH-W5000 was released by audio-technica on the 2nd of December 2005. ‘Raffinato’ marks the release of the 9th generation of the W series, and the 4th non-limited production models since ATH-W1000 at the end of 2002.

At the same time, audio-technica also released a matching dedicated headphone amplifier, AT-HA5000. This is an interesting approach taken by audio-technica as similar treatment was only previously applied to limited production models, namely W2002/HA2002 and L3000/DHA3000.


The followings are specifications taken from audio-technica’s official W5000 webpage:

Type: Dynamic, Closed, Circumaural
Housing Material: Shima-kokutan
Driver Diameter: 53mm
Driver Coil Wire: OFC8N
Frequency Response: 5 - 45,000Hz
Weight: 340g (minus cable)
Impedance: 40 ohms
Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW


Build Quality
[Housing]

Raffinato’s housing is built with Shima-kokutan (ebony wood), instead of the previously used Hokkaido’s Asadazakura (with exception to W10VTG) Ebony wood is said to be heavier and denser than the cherry wood. It is safe to assume the change in acoustic properties would have a direct effect on the sound.

The W5000’s housings have a shallower, thinner, more rounded ‘saucer’ shape where as its predecessors’ bowl or half spherical shapes. The smaller profile of the housing keeps the headphone to be relatively lightweight (340g) despite heavier material.


W5000’s has similar Double Air Dampening System (D.A.D.S) built inside the housings: a feature was firstly used in ATH-W2002, and is subsequently present in W1000 and L3000.

Around the edge where the housing join on to the frame, it is shaped so there is hollowing exist between: an R10-easque feature. (Please refer to the photo below) It is said the design on Sony’s MDR-R10 were to minimise vibration to transmit between the housing and the frame, and I believe it is similar purpose audio-technica wants to achieve.


Finish of the housing is smooth with no apparent coloured paint applied to the main body; the natural dark brown/black wood grain is clearly visible with contrasting white logo, brand name, model number and name on each side. The styling is a departure from the red/gold/multicolour or natural/black combinations in the past.



[Driver]

The drivers used in the previously non-limited production W models were not specially mentioned on their respective website like their limited production relatives. However, audio-technica highlighted that Raffinato has ‘W5000 specific driver’ on its product page. (Diameter (? 53mm) and OFC8N voice coil)

When this review is written, there are three pairs of W5000 reported to have ‘rattling’ driver defect when 20 Hz test tone is played. Similar defect was also noted in the previous generation, ATH-L3000; although no clear cause of the phenomenon was identified for W5000.

[Frame & Pads]

Several features of the frame of W5000 are adapted from the current Air series, and abandoned traditional designs W series:

The wings support system is no longer only tilt on one axis (like the past W series have been), but like the Air and Art series: the patented 3D wings support system are used which tilts forward/backwards as well as sideways to provide comfort and stability.

The two support beams, which previously had plastic tubing for cover, become exposed flat tampered metal similar to the recent Air series (AD1000/2000). However some users reported of AD1000/2000 have excessive clamping force from the beams, audio-technica seems to have addressed the issue with Raffinato; appropriate pressure which could be overly loose fitting for some with smaller head.

The joint where the frame joins on to the housing is in a ‘T’ shape, rather than the past ‘Z’ shape (see photos below). The joint allows less rotation of the ear cup than the past W models.


[Cable]

W5000’s cabling design has taken a more unconventional step: It is the very first in the non-limit production W series to have dual cable entries to the housing. The cable is made of 6N-OFC+Hi-OFC, the same for W1000.

And instead of the traditional silk or cloth wrapping; Raffinato uses elastomer wrapping, a change that makes the cable easier to manage but more microphonic than the traditional materials.

The cable terminates in a 1/4” metal jack, which appears to be more rounded than L3000 and now a standard feature of the Air series. audio-technica seems to have abandoned old design using matching coloured wood to cover the jack, as it has done for the past W series.


[Accessories]

W5000 comes with a chocolate coloured plastic flight case with model number/brand nameplate and logo on the lock. Red colour silking lines the inside with padding to protect the fragile wood for storage and transport. A small drawstring bag is included for cable management.




Sound Characteristics
[Burn-in & Set up]

After acquiring all of my wood headphones via the used market, W5000 is the first pair of ATH-W that I have owned since new. Prior to writing this review, I attempted to burn-in the Raffinato with a week worth of continuous music playing. To me, the sound does change through the period, and stabilises after exceeds 100+ hour mark.

The review is based on listening to the following set-up, with music mainly in Jazz, R&B, Classical and Mandarin Pop/folk genre.

Meridian 506.16 > Ack! dAck! 1.2e > audio-technica AT-HA2002 > audio-technica ATH-W5000 ‘Raffinato’

[Characteristics]

W5000 inherits audio-technica’s house colouration: with slight emphasis on upper midrange, which in turn produces the sparkling female vocal W series is known of. However, the midrange lacks the more natural and the warmer tonality that dominates some of the ATH-Ws. Midrange is also placed further back, and deeper into the overall image and creates a gives a mild but noticeable hollowing sound.

The treble carry appropriate amount of extension and energy, no sibilance is heard during the review process. On poorly recorded material, treble becomes slightly etched and loses the smoothness.

Raffinato delivers deep, controlled and articulated bass. Although it lacks the impact and slam that is well known of in its direct predecessor, L3000; its bass resonance and presence remain satisfactory. Given the low end of frequency a more organic texture.

[Presentation]

I was struck very initially by the clarity and resolution, which W5000 possesses. With further listening sessions, I feel this presentation is contributed by a few factors:

Speed is the most apparent and outstanding feature of W5000. audio-technica’s W series were infamous for its slow attack and long decays with discrepancies between each models, but not for Raffinato. W5000 possesses the PRaT that is previously unheard of in the W series, although not to the level of quickness in the likes of Sony’s MDR-SA5000 and Qualia 010.

Raffinato has fair instrument separation creates a sense of airiness and forms a coherent image. This feature combining with a improved soundstage, that is significantly more ‘expensive’ than most of the W series (excluding L3000) gives the W5000 the incredible clarity and lightness without being overloaded with details.

My first few sessions with the W5000 led me to believe it suffers some mild midrange smearing when the music passage becomes busy. However as the review went on, this phenomenon seems to have disappeared. Intriguingly, the instrument texture was vividly palpable at one stage during the first 100 hours, but somehow managed to resolve into a finer and softer variety gradually over time.
[Overall]

Having auditioned the entire line of ATH-W series; to me, Raffinato inherits the analytic line of sound within the family. Rather than imposing euphonic characteristics and add warmth to the sound, it reproduces the music with more fidelity and has a better reflection to the front end and the source.

Comparing W5000 with its predecessors, I would place it with the likes of W1000, W2002, W10LTD and W11R, as all of them share similar characteristics in their overall signature.
Conclusion
ATH-W5000 extrudes elegance with its sound, aesthetics and packaging. To me, having owned and auditioned the entire line of audio-technica W, it represents a new concept product by audio-technica and maybe an early indication of what is to come in 2006 as audio-technica gears up for the release of their 45th anniversary statement product.


Overlunge
post #2 of 46
Great review and pictures. Many thanks Overlunge.
post #3 of 46
wow, great extensive review! makes me want to get a pair but my wallet is already reeling from the holiday season.
post #4 of 46
thanks, overlunge, for your well laid-out review.

What I find most compelling about the W5000 is that they translate even subtle changes in the upstream componentry (cabling, tuberolling, amping) into really BIG sonic differences, definitely moreso than my previous MS-2 did - by a wide margin. I think you get your money's worth with these phones. Maybe I could use this analogy here: I feel like with the W5000 I get a 24bit image of the recording whereas I used to get only a 16bit one with my MS-2. Some recordings obviously make more use of it than others.

The slightly "hollow" sound you describe is noticeable, becomes less apparent with burn-in and can be alleviated completely by careful system matching (or tuberolling if you have that option). I think it is inherent to the new housings. Maybe a MkII version should make use of a tiny bit of dampening material inside these cups to balance things out. On the upside these cups are most likely responsible for the very lively and responsive sound you get from the Raffinatos. I think these benefits outweigh the disadvantage easily.

Fit and finish are nice, comfort is first rate, listening for hours on end no problem, although the new suspension design could use a few tweaks here and there. In principal it works well, but might spell trouble for smaller heads, as you pointed out. While I neither had the rattle nor the fit problem that others reported, I think the highly resonant housings that I am sure contribute much to the W5000's great responsiveness, are microphonic in their own right. Sometimes at very low volumes I can hear faint squeaky noises coming from the joint between metal bands, wing support and cups, which can get annoying. Maybe a drop of grease into these joints will take care of this particular problem. I haven't noticed any cable microphonics, though.

Overall, I recommend these phones to anyone who is looking for dynamic phones that portray a wide range of musical styles very very well, are fast, balanced and well extended at both ends without the need of expensive aftermarket cable tweaking, and who hav a psychological or wife acceptance problem with going over 1k US$ for a single set of cans. They are certainly not priced inexpensively, and don't provide as much bang/buck as maybe some HD-650 snatched from a cheap online source, but are phones that feel and sound as good as the best of them.

To me anyway, they mark the endpoint of a journey for a great headphone system that took more than two years to complete. Peace of mind - for now!
post #5 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by overlunge
Comparing W5000 with its predecessors, I would place it with the likes of W1000, W2002, W10LTD and W11R, as all of them share similar characteristics in their overall signature.
I've been falling in love with the sound of my W1000 lately (I got it about a month ago), feel myself turning away from the seduction of the dark side that is Sennheiser.

Can you provide a comment or two about how the W1000's sound compares with the W5000? If I were to move up to the W5000 from the W1000 (not gonna happen, but hypothetically speaking), what can I look forward to? What are the improvements?

Edit: great photos!
post #6 of 46
Very nice review Overlunge! It's very well laid out with clear descriptions and photos. Also I appreciate you placing it in the context of other AT phones which you have extensive knowledge. It's a great set of headphones, and I'm glad to have one as my entry into AT. Thanks.
post #7 of 46
Excellent review Overlunge, one of the best I have read so far.
Many thanks
post #8 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by socrates63
Can you provide a comment or two about how the W1000's sound compares with the W5000? If I were to move up to the W5000 from the W1000 (not gonna happen, but hypothetically speaking), what can I look forward to? What are the improvements?
The sound of W5000 (to me) is the refined version of W1000. It's almost feel like that audio-technica sets out to achieve a sound with W1000, but after three years, they delivered the sound in W5000.

On my system, W1000 sounds slightly grainy and the shape of soundstage almost triangular like; wider in the bottom but narrows down in the height. And the bass was a bit on the light side. W5000 sounds smoother with better extension and speed.

To me, as I have said in the conclusion, W5000 seems to restore ATH-W line as the premium product line within the audio-technica family. With a more complete approach to sound, package and presentation.

Start saving money for the end of year 45th anniversary release.


Overluge
post #9 of 46
Great review.

I don't really have anything else to add, I think everything has been covered.
post #10 of 46
Thanks Overlunge, well written and laid out. I have a pair on the way and can't wait! Well done.
post #11 of 46
Very nice review. I wish my A700s came with a case like that . They just lay on my desk or dresser to the side away from anything. I want some protection for them. My next big upgrade headphone wise will be a W1000 I think, or an AD1000.
post #12 of 46
That's pretty good. Very nice

But why not write another review in Chinese for those who can't read English.


Edison
post #13 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by overlunge

Start saving money for the end of year 45th anniversary release.


Overluge
WHAT?? is this true?? any info?? I have been eyeing up the W5000, but maybe my limited funds would be better suited for another future release. Wow I love AT. Fav headphone company by far.
post #14 of 46
Excellent review. Those are some impressive headphones.

The decision for me will be between the W1000 and the AD2000. I have a few more weeks to decide.
post #15 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by darkninja67
The decision for me will be between the W1000 and the AD2000. I have a few more weeks to decide.
... and the winner is: the AD2000's by a country mile.

Ok, back to the main topic. Thank you so much, overlunge, for taking the time to so carefully design and write this informative review. I'd love to learn more about your opinions of the various W-series headphones, most of which most of us will never have a chance to hear! It would be wonderful if you were able to do a comparative review of the entire series, but yes, I know that would be asking too much, especially after you've just finished writing this one!
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