Impressions from a balanced W5000 visit!I had the balanced ATH-W5000 for a multi-day visit!Image taken from the APS website-- Not sure if these are Asr's as the Y-to-ear cup seemed shorter in his
Asr was very kind to let me audition his APS balanced ATH-W5000 for a few days. I think his generosity is quite obvious from the frequent loaners he has here.Just a few words on the “physical” evaluation of the headphones:--
First the cable is quite solid and the job was done very cleanly. They look very professionally made. No micro-phonics or sonic artifacts. In terms of the matching of the cable to the headphone, for my specific use, I think the W5000 could benefit of a more flexible cable from the “Y” up to the ear cups. In my experience with them, the cable coming out from the ear cups would touch my shoulders. I think this is due to a combinatory effect of the long rubber stem that protrudes from the ear cups (serving as strain relief), and the stiffness of the cable. Perhaps having a more flexible cable would allow for the cable to bend early, close to the stem, and just clear any contact with my shoulders. Of course this may not be an issue if you are taller, with a longer neck, or a bigger “noggin.” This wasn’t a big deal, but it made me conscious of the headphones every time I moved my head and it also made movement a bit cumbersome.--
Second, it is the fit of these headphones: It took me a long time to get an appropriate, comfortable setting. Even after that, I they felt a bit unsecure on my head and the upper part of the ear pads bore a looser contact point. It was my feeling as if the headband was too big for the headphones making it hard for the upper part of the ear cups to reach my head. Of course this may not be an issue with others, but it was a serious consideration in my case. I urge anyone considering these headphones to audition first if they can. The W5000 proved to be the most challenging (of all the ATH that I have heard) to get a proper fit, and I am not sure I was totally successful. I guess the ideal fitting headphone is the one you put on your head and after a while, you forget it even is there.Now on to the sonics:
To serve as point of reference for some of my impressions on the headphones: From the ATH line-up I owned in the past the W100, W2002, L3000 and currently have the W1000. Had on hand for closed balanced headphone comparison the Sony MDR-SA5000, MDR-010.
When I first listened to the W5000, the immediate thought that came to mind was that their sound was more similar to that of the ATH-W2002 than any other ATH headphone I’ve owned. So I listened more… for a few tracks and then switched to the W1000, which is the only ATH headphone I own at present time. It was readily apparent that the W5000 is a more resolving headphone. The most prominent difference compared to the W1000 is the resolution of the bass. Where the W1000 presents what appears as a single bass note, the W5000 expands in layers that are quite evidently missing on the former. The W5000 bass has more substance. The high frequencies are similarly extended as well, and in comparison, the W1000 seems to lack some extension. Having said that, I feel that the W1000 has a better midrange frequency presentation and in comparison, the W5000 sound a bit hollow in the midrange. So in terms of musicality, the W1000 makes up for what the W5000 may bring to the table in terms of higher resolution and cleaner background. Yet W5000 is considerably faster, have more impact and attack and their musical images are much improved.
My reference closed headphones, set for balanced use, are the Qualia 010. They are paired with the most transparent cable I’ve heard for this headphone to this date, the Wyvern Audio balanced cable (by Ayt999). (Other cables I’ve heard/had include the stock cable, moon audio, headphile and cardas). I find it easy to say that the 010 is a very different headphone not only in looks and fit, but in performance as well. In the big picture, the presentation of the W5000 is more of a horizontal approach, whereas the 010 give an expanded visual, with more vertical definition added to the image in comparison. In other words the 010 are one of the more “speaker-like” sounding headphones that I’ve heard. In terms of the frequency presentation the 010 have the edge as well. The bass is better defined and much, much more powerful than that of the W5000. The W5000 provided a more intimate picture in comparison, instruments closer together, first row feeling. I think comparing the 010 was useful for me as an exercise to give prospective to the W5000, but in general I’d finish by saying that these two headphones are at different ends of the spectrum both in sonics and in price points.
The other closed headphone set for balanced use I have around is the MDR-SA5000. This headphone was re-cabled for me by thrice of Rockhopper Audio. They are very musical cans. Here is where the surprise appears. The balanced W5000 and the balanced SA5000 sound very similar in my set up. The main difference is the bass in the SA5000 is less well controlled and let say, a bit boring in comparison. That is to say, the W5000 have more attack. However, I come back to the same midrange issue: The SA5000 have a better frequency representation in this area. Also, the SA5000 give a presentation such that one feels in the middle of the auditorium whereas the W5000 are more of front row feeling to the image. But of all the headphones that I heard in my system, the W5000 have more in common with the SA5000 than any of the other headphones.
In terms of comparison to other open balanced headphones I had on hand, Grado RS1 and Senn HD650. I will just add a few lines. The musicality of the RS1 is their major asset compared to the W5000. The later have much better frequency extension and instrument/performer imaging. Compared to the HD650, this is a polar of a comparison as to that of the 010, albeit for the price difference I guess. But sonically, the Zu Mobius mkII balanced HD650 are characterized by providing good sonic images and great texture. In other words, when I put the HD650 on my head, I feel the music, I savor the notes. To my ears they are several shades darker than the W5000 and lack that fine pin-point instrumental distribution that the W5000 provide. They are very different headphones.
So to sum it up, yes the balanced W5000 are clearly a better headphone than the W1000 in terms of detail retrieval and imaging. This was my main interest in having the W5000 in for a visit: the comparison from memory to my previous ATH and to my current W1000. I believe the later are one of the biggest bargains at their price point and one of the under-rated headphones. The APS ATH-W5000 are very good headphones despite my issues with the fitting. Again I would recommend an audition to anyone considering the W5000, as fitting may be a critical factor. As to what is the benefit of the balanced re-cable on the W5000? That, I can’t comment on, because this is the only pair I have had in my system, but I can safely say that these sounded great!!Thanks again Asr for giving me the chance to audition these fine headphones!The CD player I used for the listening was the Bel Canto CD2 and the amplifier was a Singlepower Maestro XLR.