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Over-Ear item created by Kees, May 7, 2010
Pros - Truly breathtaking mids, beautiful appearance, great carrying case
Cons - All but req. a SS amp., non-detachable cables, split headbands are all but useless, pads are too thin, awkwardly shaped "V" frame, comfort needs work
There’s a popular saving that the best is always saved for last. Well for this one I really like the saying that patience is a virtue, for I’ve hit delay after delay with getting this review underway and it’s finally time for me to get it written and provide my opinion of the well known and current flagship (at the time of writing this review) of the Audio-Technica brand. I couldn’t be more grateful to the good friend of mine who allowed me to take part in this review period and for being patient with me during my fire academy. Sir, you know who you are and both business and personal, you are a true friend and one I wholeheartedly mean when I say, an honor to have.
But with the pleasantries and excessive delays aside, please allow me to now give my opinions and thoughts during my time with the Audio-Technica ATH-W5000 Raffinato or “Refined” in Italian.
Spoiler: A little about me
A little about me
I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.
I'm a 26 year old firefighter, for the City of Concord, North Carolina as well as the U.S. Army North Carolina National Guard. The cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.
My interests/hobbies are power lifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.
Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.
My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.
Spoiler: Equipment used
Equipment used at least some point during the review
-Schiit Lyr 2
-w/ matched '68 Amperex Orange Globe 6DJ8 tubes
-iFi iCAN Pro
-SPL Phonitor e
-PS Audio DirectLink III w/ Cullen Stage 4 mod
-Schiit Bifrost 4490
-Playing Tidal Hifi, Pandora, YouTube, and various lossless FLAC etc... music
-Luxury & Precision L3
-iFi Nano iUSB3.0
I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.
The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.
The Opening Experience
Spoiler: Why I feel so strongly about the unboxing
Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience
Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.
As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’
This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this products introduced itself shall we?
Now, I’m not going to for a second to even imply that I had any hope towards receiving a worthwhile unboxing experience from the ATH-W5000. Why? Because every previous model that I’ve received from Audio-Technica (minus the A550Z) was big disappointment. But, I must give each individual product the benefit of the doubt for who knows, maybe they’ll show their flagship product some love.
So the product itself doesn’t come in a traditional cardboard box but instead the W-5000 comes in a suitcase looking carryer complete with a handle and all, now the front of the carrying case does have a nice aluminum name plate with the Audio-Technica name and logo printed on it. So, cool, so far this is leaps and bounds better than their previous offerings (albeit admittedly strange) but we’ve yet to open the packaging, for all I know it could just be another cheap plastic headphone holder. NOPE! Audio-Technica really pulled all the stops for their W-5000 flagship. When you open the container of the ATH-W5000 you’re greeted with a truly premium presentation of royal red either satin or silk that covers both the lid and the bottom half with the headphones themselves being contained in a cutout in the foam underneath the smooth material. What more, that cable is also held inside of a felt case that admittedly I don’t think has any function other than to look nice, but I still personally enjoy the extra thought that went into this products presentation. Something else, you know how I’m always preaching how I wish the companies would put their technical information etc...well, Audio-Technica did that with these for there’s no writing at all anywhere on the carrying case. They really want you to put on the ATH-W5000 and let it speak for itself.
Audio-Technica continued their premium offerings to the build quality of the ATH-W5000. The majority of the W-5000 is made of a lightweight aluminum, including their so well known wing support system. The only plastic parts that I can tell are that of the still useless split headband, I really wish that the springs that hold them up was also strong enough to hold the headphones themselves up, that’d be splendid. The most notable part of this headphone (at least to me) is their striped ebony wood cups that is not just a beautiful visual touch they’ve added to their headphone but one that adds a nice warmth to them as well (to be discussed in more detail in the sound section). The pads are made out of firm leather that’s filled with foam but they’re much smaller than that of the younger ATH-W1000Z. They do still share the angled shape of them which helps the drivers point directly towards your ears, granted the angles themselves are also angled so these really are practically pointed at your ears vs to the sides. The cables are, unfortunately, still the same, cheap feeling, non-detachable cable as their other models; but they do have a really nice aluminum covered termination though.
This is another area that I’ve been rather disappointed in with Audio-Technica thus far. Now, their ATH-W1000Z’s with their really thick pads I will say got a pass from me for they weren’t too bad, quite the opposite in fact, but the ATH-W5000’s don’t share the same thick padding. Getting back on track, starting with the clamping force; the clamping force on the W-5000’s like their other models I’ve no complaints about. Their wing support system, though goofy looking (IMO), does a splendid job at providing the perfect amount of force against my head. But then it’s quickly ruined by the useless split headbands and thin earpads. This not only puts all the weight of this product on my ears but it puts a lot of the pressure of the cups as well. To their credit, they’re not the heaviest headphones I’ve tried but they aren’t the lightest either, so this construction definitely needs some work.
Another note that REALLY off puts me is the angle of them. What I mean by this is that yes, the pads themselves are angled (as is the drivers themselves) but the headphones themselves have a very prominent “V” shape angle to them which I found rather uncomfortable and rather hurt the seal. This became even worse on someone with a smaller head, such as my wife. So though I’m able to wear these for an extended duration, it’s not a very pleasurable duration. I kinda more or less tolerate the fit more than anything. And I’m sorry, but a headphone that MSRP’s for $1200, I shouldn’t have to “tolerate” its comfort; even for the $6-800 range that these can be found shopping around for, I rather think could be drastically improved on.
I strongly recommend you read the preamble to this section, I’ve never had to write one before but it explains a very interesting characteristic of this headphone that I believe to be important. Unfortunately I even find it to be a boring read but an important one I feel nonetheless.
Ya know. This headphone has been one of the most difficult headphones I’ve ever reviewed, no I take that back, for it still is. These headphones seriously need to be added to the picky headphone list. When I first glanced over the specs. I was like ‘alright cool, pretty efficient headphone. 40ohm impedance with a 102 sensitivity, my phone could drive these so my Lyr 2 should do wonders with it’. Well, yeah, it powered the Raffinato very well. But perhaps this is the first example that I’ve ever had of a headphone really not pairing well with an amp. because I rather wasn’t fond of these headphones through the Lyr 2. At first I didn’t even realize this because it wasn’t until I was able to review the SPL Audio Phonitor e amp that I was able to see how much of a difference it could make. Now I’m going to round a little here, but I figured that the Phonitor e was pushing more Watts so was controlling the drivers better, but nope, the Lyr 2 is pushing 5W through the W-5000 vs the Phonitor e’s 2.8W.
Now make no mistake, I’m merely an audio enthusiast, I only have vague understanding of the inner workings of an amp. at best so what did I do for this problem? I put it in the ‘it is what it is’ box and listened to it A LOT through the SPL Phonitor e because it sounded so, darned, good through that amp. Fast forward to me writing this with my Schiit Lyr 2 sold and off being enjoyed by its proud new owner I’m left with my starting setup, the Aune X1s. So I’m just sitting here listening to the ATH-W5000’s through this amp/dac combi pushing 1W and I’m left bewildered by how good it sounds. And that’s when it hits me, what this headphone needs to be at its best is a SOLID STATE amp.! For some reason, and it may just very well be my ears, but the ATH-W5000 just doesn’t sound good with tube amps. I even recall (literally as I’m writing this) I remember thinking the same when I went to a little audio meet a while ago and tried it on some others much higher end tube amps. I still wasn’t too impressed with this headphone as I was with the Phonitor e.
So this headphone is not only picky with its source, it needs it to be a solid state in order to show off what it can do. So great, I’ve a headphone with an attitude. Also, please note that “Your Miles May Vary” and you may truly love the sound of these through a tube amp. But during my very extended time with them I found that they performed, again at least to me, MUCH better on a solid state amp.
While listening to music through the Audio-Technica ATH-W5000 I can certainly see why this headphone is as acclaimed as it is, for it most certainly has some great potential when played through the right gear. Once you get by the awkward comfort of them they possess a wonderful ability to just sing to the listener. The W-5000’s do many things well and imaging is most certainly one of them. Vocals come through so beautifully clear that I’m able to perfectly visualize the artist and hear each time they take a breath between notes. Guitars, or rather most all string instruments, sound incredibly realistic. This, this right here is what I imagined a wooden back headphone sounding. The natural warmth that is present in these headphone are remarkable which makes it all the more interesting why they dislike tubes so much.
The soundstage is also a very nice and intimate one. And by intimate I don’t mean in your face and invasive, oh no. This soundstage is very welcoming, enveloping and private. I can also add that the instrumental separation is quite impressive for a closed back headphone. Right now I’m listening to the song “Daft Punk” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Pentatonix and I am easily able to differentiate between the vocalists, even when they’re all singing together. Even more they don’t sound like they’re overlapping each other they sound like individual people singing harmony together; hmm kinda like an acapella band should, what a concept.
Overall the Audio-Technica holds a very warm and mid forward sound that is, with the right gear, very enjoyable to listen and relax or even critically listen to. But let me discuss its individual aspects a little bit so that hopefully I can better portray my thoughts and opinions of them.
I’m amazed by the clarity of the highs in the ATH-W5000. The extension is far reaching but not fatiguing so long as you don’t consistently listen to high pitched treble songs. What I mean by this is that the treble extends very high and rolls off just AFTER the treble gets to be uncomfortable. While listening to the song “Where Is My Mind” by Maxence Cyrin, her piano notes really hit home in these headphones which makes me think that on certain songs that get even higher than her (not too hard to find) and I can see this producing a rather unpleasant glare which may turn some people off.
Other than the high extension, the treble on the W5000’s are airy and detailed and full of energy. I LOVE listening to the violin through the ATH-W5000 due to this brilliant energy and the headphones ability to transfer that, check out the song “The Phoenix (not to be confused with my German Shepard)” by Lindsey Stirling to see exactly what I mean by that.
The mids, as you can likely guess from my prior notion of the vocals earlier, are lovely. The vocals are so realistic and clean that I can gather every bit of emotion that the artist I’m listening to is portraying. Song that really hit home in particular are “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Arlington” by Trace Adkins and “Human” by Rag’N’Bone Man among many many others. I personally feel that the ATH-W5000’s really shine on acoustic style music for the mids are nicely forward and the natural and warm resonance of the striped ebony wooden backs add just a sense of realism that I have to go to headphone quite a bit more expensive (or rather headphones that are in what this headphone MSRP’s for) to get this level of vocal clarity. I’ll use the song “Son Of A Bitch” by Nathaniel Rateliff to describe the body that the W5000’s. In this song they clap their hands quite a bit and you can clearly hear the flesh of each clap and the slight differences between the different hands. And though it’s not completely hand and hand, when they’re hitting the tables you can also hear the difference between that and hands, a very pleasant detail that I personally really enjoy.
I honestly don’t have a single complaint with the mids on the Audio-Technica ATH-W5000. When pair with a good SS setup, these truly sing the life of the music you’re listening to, to you. It really makes me understand the draw that these headphone have.
The heartbeat of the audio. The bass is, to me, what makes music (or whatever audio you’re listening to) sound full. It keeps everything in rhythm and allows the user to also keep pace with events but also gives the user excitement and allows them to also physically feel the presence of the music as well.
As with the ATH-W5000 the bass is very controlled and surprisingly tight for a dynamic driver headphone but also surprisingly light. For all the praise I can give this headphone in its mid range it certainly takes away from the bass because listening to bassy songs like “Party Till We Die” by DJ Timmy Trumpet or “When The Beat Drops” unsure who makes this remix, you can hear that there’s supposed to be bass in these songs, even that they’re intentionally drawn out with extra decay but threw the ATH-W5000 they certainly lose the fun that comes with party much like them. I really like artists like Five Finger Death Punch and the like but none of them really sounded too good through these headphones due to the bass lightness, so those who listen to a lot of metal, hard rock, techno etc… should, IMO, look for an alternative.
I honestly can’t help but laugh at my love-hate relationship I’ve had with these headphones. When I listen to them on good solid state gear I love them and see the beauty of them; but when through tube amps, though I personally prefer them, I just do NOT like them at all. They have so much potential but also only really shine in with certain genres of music, and it’s actually for this reason that I can never see the ATH-W5000 being a front runner headphone. Regardless of your setup, the notable dip in the midbass range downwards and the potential harshness in the treble make these too much of a niche headphone to take over more well rounded headphones. In the $1200 range that these MSRP for I just think there’s a LOT more to be desired, in the $700ish range and through the right gear, I think they make a great companion headphone. If Audio-Technica can just modify a few things here and there I honestly believe these headphone can become a frontrunner in the audio world.
Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.
Pros - great for vocals and classical
Cons - the plastic wings on headband could be made sturdier
This headphone goes for much below its MSRP.
It's something you ought to get if you listen to vocals and classical and don't want to bother other people.
These are bright and extremely detailed. Although their frequency response seems rolled off, they sound great. How come? The reason is that they are easy to drive and the areas in the FR where they are solid. They are musical, not particularly neutral, N-shaped in overall sound. For those that like that sort of thing. Works better for some genres than others.
The wooden cups are great. The cable is good but you need to be careful with it.
You will hear all the noise in the recording very clearly. But you also hear a great amount of detail you would not otherwise easily get to hear at this price point.
The design is very comfortable and they seal well. Nobody will hear you and you won't hear them.
Large size and excellent detail. No headband adjustment needed.
Pros - Natural high frequency, Exceptional midrange
Cons - No low end at all
Right have the pleasure of owning these for about 4 months.
Source: Foobar through Cambridge Audio Dacmagic
Amp: Lehman Audio Blackcube Linear
Headphones: Audio Technica ATH W 5000, Audeze LCD 2 Rev 2, Denon AH D 7100, Sennheiser HD 800 and HD 700, Beyerdynamic T1
Very well judged high frequency, not too bright but still great detail.
Absolutely sublime mids, anything from piano to acoustic guitar and obviously vocals (especially female, think enya, emilliana torrini, florence and the machine) these cans make anything in that range sound supremely natural and lifelike, great timbre, honestly among my headphones these are the best for mids.
Build Quality is excellent, the headphones are very light but the magnesium and ebony with leather pads are all very well put together and create a good headphone at this price. The case included is a nice branded hard shell case with some rather tacky looking red satin lining. The cable is pretty normal at this price, nice plug (would have been nice to have the wooden plug like the AT W1000) No complaints here.
Comfort is great for me, they are very light on the head and the AT wings work a treat for me, that said no head-banging or travel with these. I have had one or two complaints that these are too light on the head, but I like em.
Impedance is low on these and they do sound perfectly able and depending on source rather special un-amped. They wont go uber loud un-amped, but they portray a great sense of musicality.
Bass, these are not bright sounding headphones, they have excellent mid bass presence and are rather warm and easy to listen too, the problem is that there is no (zero, zip , nada) low end. Nothing, completely devoid of any skull cracking low end and that rules out a fair bit of music (Rock and Electro for instance). What mid-bass they have is textured and well defined.
Non removable cable, means you gotta be extra careful with the headphones.
Think of these like an exceptional pair of bookshelf speakers, something like the Sonus Faber Guarneri Evolution for instance. They portray detail and musicality second to none, but please don't expect any really low end though, which is a let down given the price. These are super expensive headphones (lets be honest they are a fair wad of cash) and the fact that a pair of almost any much cheaper headphones kicks them in the teeth in any department (in this case bass impact and weight) is downright shameful.
The above aside, I still find myself drawn to them and enjoy the comfort of the fit and sound. They easy to live with if you have other cans that can handle the bass side of life, but as your only pair, you will always feel like you missing something in the lower reaches.
Pros - Lightweight, feels solid, confortable; speed of attack & decay, instrument separation, 3D imaging; outstanding on acoustic instruments and vocals.
Cons - Slightly creaky frame at times; lettering wears off on the cups, but is that really a con?! More display of the beautiful striped ebony wood!
I tried a few Grado's —didn't like the Grado house sound—, a few Senn's —HD650 left a good impression—, a few lower-end AT's —I thought the AD700 were impressive for the price— and after reading Head-Fi and other audio forums for a long time, I thought the W5000 would suit me and my listening habits well.
For over three years I'd waited for a good deal on a used set sold in Europe —to avoid custom duties— and an opportunity finally came around.
Now, at first I didn't have any decent amplification to run them from, and but I could certainly fathom they were the best I'd ever heard from the headphone output of my Onkyo integrated amp or from my Sony Hi-MD Walkmans —playing PCM of course .
Only a year later with my acquisition of the iBasso DX100 Reference DAP did I truly realise the potential of these headphones, and how amazingly good they sound.
I can only imagine what they must sound like paired with a full-size dedicated high-end desktop headphone amp!
Bending of the metal headphone bands is important to get a good seal and experience how good the bass is. Those who have complained about the W5000 lacking bass just haven't dared bending them. For my feeling, the W5000 are certainly not bass-light; in fact more bass would be too much for me. They deliver just the impact and slam that is required to reproduce the music as it has been recorded.
What more can I say, I'm now in the process of acquiring my second set! I love to share with a good friend the experience of loosing oneself in exquisite sound !
• Review in progress - more after the break.
Update: I payed a visit to the Parisian AT Concept Store past weekend and got the opportunity to plug into the HA5000ANV headphone amp, and wow, it brought the W5000's another notch up, even more articulate, more authority, more bass, fantastic! :atsmile: Pure bliss, with every musical genre I tested.
Saving up for that amp, or rather the non anniversary one, I certainly am now.
Also, I fully appreciate the importance of burn-in and bending those metal bands. Between my second pair of W5000's, my first, and the one in the shop, there was a clear difference, and no doubt did my heavely used W5000's sound the best. More fluid, better bass, more musical, less harsh, everything was better.
Also, compared to the W3000ANV's, the W5000's are the better headphones if you are looking for more neutral. The bass on the W3000ANV gives the feeling of being heavier, but it is only the mid-bass that are accentuated. The W5000 extend actually lower, and are more linear overall in the low end. Not denying that the medium range sounds particular, or special, on both those woodies, and the AD2000X fare better in that respect being a tad more balanced, i.e. even more neutral, but the W5000's are definitely still AT's flagship and the best technically. Treble extension also.
The W1000X just don't compete, resolution/detail, soundstaging not as grand, and frequency bandwidth also a bit shorter. Can be less fatiguing though.