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[Review] Audio-Technica ATH-EW9

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I purchased these for my wife two years ago. She's always liked the warm sound of my ATH-A9X, so for portable use I got her the ATH-EW9, which reportedly has a very sweet, warm mid-range.

 

Materials & Craftsmanship

The packaging is the same as other high-end Audio Technica clip-ons, which is to say I find them elegant and classy.

The headphones themselves are simply gorgeous. The Hokkaido cherry wood housing are perfectly finished and the 35mm stereo plug is elegantly shaped and endowed with the letter "ATH-EW9 JAPAN" printed in gold.

 

The included accessories aren't as luxurious as the headphones themselves, which was a little bit of a let-down. The carrying pouch is the same one that used by the lower-end models (EM7, EM9d, EM700, etc.), and the netting used on the inside is a bit on the rough side - I worry about it scratching the delicate wood housing (though so far it seems to have been fine).

 

The included extension cable is also the same one used by lower-end models - I wouldn't complain about it if the EW9 used the same kind of 35mm plug as on the other units, but they don't. As the result, the contrast in aesthetics is rather stark when the EW9 is plugged into the extension cable.

 

Comfort

All Audio-Technica clip-on headphones are extremely comfortable in my opinion. They use a very unique type of earclip that's self-adjusting and doesn't put pressure on the ears, and the earpads are very thick and plush. I often forget that I am wearing them.

 

Sound Quality

I actually have several gripes about the way the EW9 sounds, especially considering its price (about $200 retail, I think) as AT's flagship clip-on. It has a very thick and sweet mid-range, which is fine for those who likes this type of signature. However, I find the overall tonality to be peaky and problematic, particularly in the lower-treble region (seems to have a peak somewhere in the 4-8KHz region). There may possibly be some ringing issue, since the EW9 uses a closed-back design. In comparison, its cheaper cousin the EM9d (which I own, and much prefer) uses aluminum housing that's fully open-backed, and does not exhibit this symptom (the drivers on the two units are the same).

 

Treble: The treble extension should technically be the same as the EM9d, but subjectively it doesn't feel as good due to the mid-range being so dominant. The aforementioned lower-treble issue sometimes exhibits itself as sibilance, and other times as overly energetic "screechyness" (in string instruments for example). For vocals, this headphone is great - but instrument timbre simply isn't as natural as the EM9d.

 

Mid-Range: The mid-range is thick, warm, and very forward. Old-school AT fans may like this quality.

 

Bass: The bass has decent tightness and extension, though like the EM9d it is on the light side quantitatively.

 

Sound Stage: The sound stage on the EW9 sounds less open and more congested relative to the EM9d, both due to the treble issue and the closed-back design.

 

Conclusion

The ATH-EW9 is a very beautiful clip-on that's well-suited for certain types of music. But its high price and the uneven tonality limits its versatility - if you can find its cheaper cousin, the EM9d, I personally recommend going for that instead.


Edited by Bagheera - 12/5/15 at 7:58pm
post #2 of 6
Nice review. I used to be rather obsessed to Audio-Technica clip-ons ( I had EM-9d, EW-9 and a black EM-700, I left them back home in my country though). Good to see someone who still appreciates the clip-ons; sadly they are a dying art nowadays.
post #3 of 6
Interesting never thought I would see someone mention these. Have you try amping them? I heard they need an amp to sound its best and gives better bass.

Nice review by the way.
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deadlovestory View Post

Nice review. I used to be rather obsessed to Audio-Technica clip-ons ( I had EM-9d, EW-9 and a black EM-700, I left them back home in my country though). Good to see someone who still appreciates the clip-ons; sadly they are a dying art nowadays.

They are still very popular in Asia. :) Which is why AT is still making them.  I understand why it's a niche market, though - they are not as small and convenient as in-ear type headphones and the sound quality can't compete with full-sized cans - and in terms of isolation (which is a big factor for portables), it's easily bested by either one. It's in a strange middle-ground and most people just won't go for them.

 

Personally I like the clip-ons because they are far more comfortable than in-ear types; and the lack of isolation is actually a plus in certain situations (for example, I can actually pause the music and carry a conversation with someone without taking off the headphones xD)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by soundeffect View Post

Interesting never thought I would see someone mention these. Have you try amping them? I heard they need an amp to sound its best and gives better bass.

Nice review by the way.

They've been mentioned a few times here from what I can see. :) Very old threads, though.

 

Yes I do have a headphone amp (I didn't bother mention it because it's a model by a Taiwanese company that nobody here would have heard of anyway - it's called the "My Audio X-02"), but the clip-ons, being portables, are fairly easy to drive and personally I haven't really noticed any difference when I amp them. Could just be I need a better amp, though. :)

post #5 of 6

I have recently acquired a pair of these to use instead of IEMs (which give me problems with impacted cerumen, especially in the hot, damp climate of Shanghai), when I need something which looks discreet (HD25s don't - they make you look like a cameraman or DJ).

 

So far, I have been extremely impressed by these cans' transparency and soundstage, and by their general "openness". In fact, they seem to give a healthy dose of the traditional AT "flavour". They are not all-rounders - I have found the bass to sound a little thin and anaemic for large scale orchestral works (they work a treat for opera, though!), and the treble can be a little harsh and peaky at times. This peakiness is receding with increasing burn-in.

 

They appear to have one major weak point though - the extension cable! I have tried using them without, and the sound really opened up, as if a veil had been removed. Unfortunately, though, the cable is too short to be used conveniently. Consequently, I am looking for a high-quality, lightweight extension cable to replace the rubbish which AT supplied. Does anyone have any suggestions? At the moment, I am considering asking Toxic Cables to make me a 2m unsleeved 3.5mm Viablue plug to 3.5mm Viablue socket cable. I am not sure whether to go for copper, SPC or silver, though. On balance, SPC seems to be the best compromise.

post #6 of 6

Its refreshing to read an audio technica review now and then bigsmile_face.gif. This sure does bring me back many years when budget was tight and I was deciding to go for either the EW9 and EM7/d. Great looking clip-ons, but my conclusion had remained solid that better value and sound quality could be had in the evil competition (guess who) tongue.gif
 

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