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Loaners: Balanced Audio-Technica ATH-W5000 & Grado HP2

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
This was an unofficial Loaner (not part of my official Loaner Program series), for my APureSound V3-balanced Audio-Technica ATH-W5000 and Grado HP1000/HP2. These two headphones were loaned out separately to two people who were subjectively selected. This thread is here to serve as a repository for reviews and/or pics.
post #2 of 8
some brief impressions of the Grado HP2 with Bal APS v.3 cable and flats, of course. i have heard the HP2 (and HP1) on several occasions, but this is my first extended audition with them. a big shout out to Asr. not many people would lend $1500 headphones to someone, but that's how he rolls.


[from aps website]

like other grados, the HP2 has a very upfront presentation. the singers/players are right there. i would say the sound stage in terms of depth - front to back - is no larger or smaller than my other grado headphones (SR325, RS1, RS2). one difference where the HP2 appears to outperform is width. the left to right presentation is far wider, which allows for much better instrument/voice separation but the overall imaging is still frustrated due to the narrow depth. this, however, is part of the grado signature sound - not including the GS1K, which in contrast with its quite large sound stage and non upfront presentation seem quite different.

there is a lot of energy (and treble energy) to these phones. the sound is a bit forceful. i would say the RS1/RS2 is warmer and although just as forward somehow slightly more laid back. the bass on the HP2 is very good. it is tight - some of the most focused bass i have heard. there is some impact to it as well. the resolution and detail is also top notch. voices sound very natural too. i think grados in general do guitar better than any other headphone and the HP2 is no exception. piano is no slouch either on these. overall, a very nice tone. in terms of fit and comfort, the all metal design does not feel heavy on my head and the fit is nice and snug. i think i could wear these headphones for a longer period of time than my other grados. the build quality is first rate as well. they feel very sturdy and look very well put together, which is important when dealing with an item at this price level.

as for possible faults, there could be a few. as mentioned, the sound is full of energy (quite forceful). the headphone's forward and assertive tendencies could wear one out after some time. also, there seems to be a touch of brightness to some of the higher frequencies. another item that could lead to listener fatigue. and the sound stage is near non existent, but that is to be expected. one complaint that is often lodged against the HP1000 is that it can sound too clinical. i'm not sure about this one. they seem far from boring. overall, i would say the sound is very pleasing - good resolution, taut bass, and with a clean (uncolored) tone. seem worth their price tag.

i hope to sometime next week compare them more closely to my woodied SR325, which is also balanced, but for now, that's it.
post #3 of 8
i posted the above in a different thread, but figured i would post it here as well. the below are recent impressions.



my general impressions of the HP2 have not changed. its strengths are clarity, L/R separation, and tight bass. percussion instruments sound great. they have good impact to them which makes them feel real. guitar (esp acoustic) has never sounded better. voices too have a nice texture to them. there is some weight to them. the flaws are a lack of sound stage and a somewhat aggressive presentation with occasional brightness. the singer seems to be sitting/standing right in front of you, which is a bit odd, but also allows you a close glimpse of everything he or she is doing. piano is not as natural sounding as guitar. lacks a certain softness to it.

i did some back and forth with my HE60. the HE60 has a relatively small soundstage, but has pretty good bass, very good detail and a nice smooth sound. no brightness and definitely not forward. i wouldn't call it laid back like the 650, it's too engaging for that, but you can easily wear them for hours w/o even realizing how much time has passed. the main difference between the two is in the presentation - the HE60 is centered and the HP2 is forward. i think this very forward presentation is what makes a grado a grado and is the thing that either draws people in or pushes them away. the bass on the HP2 is more palpable and with greater impact. there is also more nuance and texture to voices. the HE60 is not thin sounding and is very musical, but the HP2 just has slightly more texture and dynamic contrast. the thing about the HP2 is that i can't wear them for too long (one CD or two at most). everything is right there in front of you and after a while you become fatigued. that doesn't happen with the HE60.

i also compared the HP2 to my woody SR325 w/ flats. the differences were noticeable but not huge. percussion and voices sounded about the same (both excellent). piano still sounded a bit off and both are a tad on the bright side. the detail and especially separation on the HP2 are better and the HP2 has slightly more impactful bass. the HP2 is better but not by a significant margin. if you love the grado sound, then the HP2 is probably the headphone you will want to purchase. being more of a sennheiser guy, i'll be content with my 325 when i feel like having a grado experience.
post #4 of 8

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.
post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by vcoheda View Post
i also compared the HP2 to my woody SR325 w/ flats. the differences were noticeable but not huge. percussion and voices sounded about the same (both excellent). piano still sounded a bit off and both are a tad on the bright side. the detail and especially separation on the HP2 are better and the HP2 has slightly more impactful bass. the HP2 is better but not by a significant margin. if you love the grado sound, then the HP2 is probably the headphone you will want to purchase. being more of a sennheiser guy, i'll be content with my 325 when i feel like having a grado experience.
I like my woodied balanced Grado Sr225 so much that have sold my unbalanced Headphile Grado GS1000. I believe I like them more then the GS1k because of the balanced operation and they feel more direct (closer) to the ears. I was thinking about (trying to get) trying out a Grado Hp/Ps, but they are too expensive. I was the owner of a balanced Blue Dragon Ultrasone Ed. 9, I sold them a while ago because they are really uncomfortable (maybe my head is too big? ). I like my Akg's and SR225 more.
post #6 of 8
they are both so puurty.. and as expected, the sound is amazing. Thanks Asr for allowing this to happen.
post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexdemaet View Post
I like my woodied balanced Grado Sr225 so much that have sold my unbalanced Headphile Grado GS1000. I believe I like them more then the GS1k because of the balanced operation and they feel more direct (closer) to the ears. I was thinking about (trying to get) trying out a Grado Hp/Ps, but they are too expensive. I was the owner of a balanced Blue Dragon Ultrasone Ed. 9, I sold them a while ago because they are really uncomfortable (maybe my head is too big? ). I like my Akg's and SR225 more.
I reterminated my GS1000 and I bought a Grado Hp-2 (http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f44/jo...-cable-359145/). Now I am selling my balanced Grado SR225.
post #8 of 8
I received the Grado Hp-2 this morning!
I have never heard a headphone as good as the Hp-2! I wonder
how it will sound when I reterminate the cable to balanced XLR!
The sound is so natural and the bass is so tight.
Some people find the Hp-2 uncomfortable. I found out that they are wrong!
The Hp-2 (to me) is equally comfortable as the GS1000.
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