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Mini-Review: Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9 and Denon AH-D2000

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Intro

A short review for a very specific purpose, below follows my mini review comparison of the Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9 and Denon AH-D2000, as some requested via PM when they saw my recent FS ad.

Equipment Used

- Power cord: Signal Cable Silver Resolution Reference
- Digital source: Plinius CD-101 (CDP)
- RCA interconnects: Silver Audio Appassionata
- Amplifier: HeadAmp AE-2
- Comparison headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-ES7 & ATH-AD2000; AKG K701 re-cabled w/ SAA Equinox

- Also my Asus Z71V laptop computer with HeadRoom 2006 Total Bithead (USB DAC/amp) and Practical Devices XM5 (USB DAC/amp). Files in FLAC, playback with Foobar 0.9.5.1, output over ASIO4ALL V2.

Evaluation CDs

A Fine Frenzy - One Cell In The Sea
Alison Krauss & Union Station - So Long So Wrong
Orbital - The Altogether (Disc 1)
Porcupine Tree - Deadwing
The Crystal Method - Community Service II
The Prodigy - The Fat of the Land

ATH-ESW9 - Sound

Relative to Audio-Technica's ES7, I found the ESW9 to be the darker headphone. Not that I would call it "dark" per se, only in comparison. It had a noticeable mid-range focus, even more than the ES7. However, where I find the ES7 to have focus on the upper mids, the ESW9 had focus on the lower mids.

The ES7 has a slight tendency to sound plinky on piano whereas the ESW9 doesn't suffer from this. Piano conveyed more tonal weight on the ESW9. Instruments tend to sound quite full and often heavy on it.

I also found the ESW9 to have a more forward, more intimate overall presentation compared to the ES7, which sounds a bit more distant. In different ways, each has a small quality of AT's AD2000 - I found the ESW9 closer to the AD2K's lower mid-range (along with a vocal forwardness which the AD2K also exhibits), while I found the ES7 closer to the AD2K's soundstage.

I won't pigeon-hole either headphone into any specific genres. I liked them with the above-listed CDs, though I did prefer the ES7 more on electronica, as it sounded less bottom-heavy. While there are plenty of people who like bottom-heavy headphones, I'm not one of them, and I absolutely dislike an overload of messy bass. The ES7 provided less boom yet was almost as satisfying as the ESW9.

However, despite the slightly more bassy sound of the ESW9 that was admittedly more fun, I couldn't get past its general bloat. The bass was borderline uncontrolled with an unpleasant thickness that reminded me of AT's FC7. The soundstage also seemed a bit stuffy and forward - not open enough, and way too close for my liking. In terms of soundstage only, I might go so far as to call the ESW9 a darkened Grado.

Both AT models have their own sonic quirks so I highly suggest auditioning before purchasing, or buying used on the FS forums for minimal loss.

ATH-ESW9 - Build & Isolation

The ESW9 has a nice look with its cherry wood drivers and leather-lined headband. Relatively light-weight, it can be transported just about anywhere. The earcups do fold flat which is nice but it doesn't fold up. I found it uncomfortable though, relative to the ES7. The supra-aural exertion force is about 1.5x that of the ES7, with a definite clamping feeling.

I found isolation very useful in my office environment at work. Nearby co-workers reported not being able to hear anything, while I could still hear important sounds like phone calls and loud conversations (if a bit muffled). I'm not really sure if these would be useful on public transit, but they might be.

AH-D2000 - Sound

This headphone was an ear-opener - for a closed headphone. If I could make a remote comparison to an open headphone, it would be the K701. Very good mid-range clarity overall, similar in line to what the K701 does. No muffling or cloudiness or veils at work in this headphone, it's just clear-sounding. Bass went nice and deep, though it certainly wasn't that amazing. It wasn't as triumphantly fast & hard-hitting as the AD2K's bass, but neither was it slow either. I found it merely acceptable - a fine bass response that worked well enough for electronica but not really spectacular in any one way.

However, the biggest setback for me from this headphone was a slow attack. It reminded me of my former Beyerdynamic DT880. It just couldn't separate fast notes cleanly, it was a noticeable step back from the K701 and especially the AT AD2K. At first it was annoying and then it just became frustrating. The fast banjo action on AKUS' "Little Liza Jones" was at least 33% neutered (if not more) by this headphone.

While there was also decent extension on the treble, there wasn't a whole lot of sparkle. In combination with the slow attack there was just too little transient information that took away too much zing and snap for my liking.

AH-D2000 - Build & Isolation

One look at this headphone tells you it's been carefully made. The size makes it suitable only in home applications, but despite that, it has an overall very solid, machined feel. While not as rugged as AT's AD2000 (which has a lot more metal material and less plastic), the Denon feels hefty on its own, though it does leave you feeling as if you could break it if you really wanted to. For a home-based headphone though, very good solid construction overall, and its overall contemporary aesthetic makes it really nice to look at too.

While the isolation on this headphone was also useful in my office environment at work, and at home too, I wouldn't rate it useful enough for anything beyond that. The circumaural earpads don't exert a lot of pressure to really create a seal that you can feel. In other words, it's very comfortable and easily wearable for many hours, without having to take it off once. I would equate sideways pressure to Beyerdynamic's DT880 which is also very comfortable, or the AKG K701, once physically broken in.

Conclusion

As I obviously sold both of these headphones, it can be induced that neither of them was for me. I found the ESW9 too suffocating and bassy, and the AH-D2000 too slow and unspectacular.

As I'll always say, audition before buying if possible.

As a final note, both headphones can be re-cabled by [AK]Zip with APureSound cables - V3 for the Denon, and the portable cable for the ESW9.
post #2 of 25
Great review! Thanks, Asr!
post #3 of 25
Very nice review. I can confirm that the ESW9 is useless on public transport. You will hear the engine and people talking too loud, and you'll get angry at them. Detail retrieval in noisy environments is hard to do, so these fall short to the best IEMs when real isolation is needed.
post #4 of 25
Nice review Asr. While I haven't heard the ESW9s, I owned the denon D2000 at one point and sold them as the sound wasn't for me. From memory, your assessment of its sound is spot on.
post #5 of 25
thanks for the post! theres were two headphones i was lookin at haha!
post #6 of 25
Excellent review, thanks.
There are a couple of things that can be done to alleviate ESW9 bottom heaviness, I wasn't big fan of it myself.
1) Headband stretching, as simple as it sounds it does help a great deal with the comfort and takes some bass away, they really got airier and more detailed after that procedure. Same procedure works wonder for D2000 as well.
2) This one I've discovered by accident. Rotating cups so they do not sit on ears in parallel but at angle, like this
front
/O\
,
increases soundstage and makes treble and upper mids more prominent, they sound less thick and quite pleasantly balanced with a greater perception of details.
post #7 of 25
Coincedently i discovered tip 2 above myself this evening. The only discomfort I had was on the upper quadrant of the outer ear due to the way the pads sit and this alleviated it.
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by mnemonix View Post
Coincedently i discovered tip 2 above myself this evening. The only discomfort I had was on the upper quadrant of the outer ear due to the way the pads sit and this alleviated it.
Yes, forgot that, that increases comfort too.
post #9 of 25
That's very helpful. Now I can knock the D2000 off my list for sure.
post #10 of 25
Thanks for the info Asr!
post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Than View Post
That's very helpful. Now I can knock the D2000 off my list for sure.
unless you mod it
post #12 of 25
Nice review Asr, thanks!
post #13 of 25

Is That True For the D5000 Also?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post

AH-D2000 - Sound

... It wasn't as triumphantly fast & hard-hitting as the AD2K's bass, but neither was it slow either. I found it merely acceptable - a fine bass response that worked well enough for electronica but not really spectacular in any one way.

However, the biggest setback for me from this headphone was a slow attack... it was a noticeable step back from the K701 and especially the AT AD2K...

While there was also decent extension on the treble, there wasn't a whole lot of sparkle. In combination with the slow attack there was just too little transient information that took away too much zing and snap for my liking.

Conclusion

... the AH-D2000 too slow and unspectacular.
May we conclude that since the sound of the D2000 is so similar to the D5000, that your observations above, would apply to it also, when compared to the AD2000?

I assume so.
post #14 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gradofan2 View Post
May we conclude that since the sound of the D2000 is so similar to the D5000, that your observations above, would apply to it also, when compared to the AD2000?

I assume so.
I haven't heard the AH-D5000. I'm not sure how logical your induction is, and I don't know what you're referencing when you say the D2000 is similar sounding to the D5000. Maybe if there's a wide consensus on that opinion, but even then I'm not sure that would help prove an equal discrepancy between the D5000 and the AD2K.
post #15 of 25
Not sure about this review, sorry. I have both, ES7 and ESW9, so I can try compare them today again, but from what I can recall ESW9 are anything but darker or bassier than ES7. What I hear is that ESW9 having more clarity, extension and deeper accurate bass, but they are suffering from tinny mids when used with iAudio X5L FLAC's >LOD> Petite, while using through DAC USB they sound much fuller. But the best part of it when I use it with Zana, tubes are great with ESW9. So, amping them right is crucial, imo. ES7 sound just right from out of anything, however good amp can make them slightly better, but not closer to ESW9, just tighter overall.
Another thing, which I hear clearly enough, is that ES7 having more upfront/punchier sound than ESW9. Logical, cos to create more refinement/extension in the sound, drivers need space and I believe ESW9 having deeper cups as well.
About one thing I can agree, ESW9 are having a lot Gradoness in their sound.
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