HD280Pro vs. Audio-Technica ATH-W100 and ATH-A9X
Jun 27, 2002 at 10:46 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 9

j-curve

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I saw my first HD280 Pro yesterday and couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a nuisance of myself and find out why on earth so many Head-Friers recommend such bulky cans for portable use. Keys were brought. Glass cabinets were slid open. For the first time ever, "nice and polite" closed cans were plugged directly into my MZ-R909 for what would be a gruelling 8-track (classical & hip-hop) test of fidelity with extracts I have heard way too many times. I've all but given up trying to guage cans using unfamiliar material chosen by stores, which often is devoid of acoustic instruments and ends up revealing little or nothing of a headphone's sound characteristics due to lack of an identifiable reference point. With my custom track selection though, I can usually pinpoint anything objectionable (to me) in a couple of minutes.

Cutting to the chase:-

HD280Pro_normal.jpg

HD280 Pro
Yes, bulky. Yes, an awkward coily cord. Yes, an uncomfortable hinge in the centre of the headband just beneath the pleather. No, nowhere near the claimed "up to 30dB" attenuation when it comes to an environment jampacked with boomboxes, mini component systems, TVs, dolby surround demos and roaring subwoofers. But we persevere.
Surprise surprise, no booming bass - at all! This causes the treble to accentuate itself. The phone sounds bright but not harsh at all. In fact, no obvious resonance or colouration pokes out at all. The character of the sound lacks the presence of the A9X or even an Eggo, but we know that such warmth in general cannot be trusted. The HD280 is almost sterile by comparison - clinical. As far as the sound goes, my only gripe is with the bright treble. The phone has been plugged in to a muzak source but, being locked away with the crown jewels, has not been blaring 10 hours a day, 7 days a week and I get to wondering whether it has been broken in yet. Maybe not.

photo.jpg

ATH-W100
Ah, the unmistakable wooden cups - a true fashion statement for the audio connoisseur. Next to the W100 in the cabinet is a sample W2002 with one of its cups cutaway to gruesomely reveal its gorgeous internals. To look at the pads on any of these ATH's they may appear wonky but this is all part of the grand plan to plug the gaps in most circumaural designs - behind and below the ears. Audio-Technica's pads are built up around that area to maintain full contact. And the wings, let's not forget the wings! For their weight the ATH's rank with the best for comfort. However, isolation is again less than that demanded by the environment. Is there any full-size phone that can deal with this?
A moment of anxiety follows upon realisation that a 6.3mm stereo plug won't go into a 3.5mm socket. But then we're into the music and the W100's glare at me in stark treble tones. Why are Japanese phones so bright, or are these fresh out of the box too? There not being any point continuing at the expense of having my ears crisped, I do the unforgiveable and flick through the R909's menu, cutting two notches out of the treble. To my surprise this action, which often exposes any underlying colouration (see my Eggo D66 review ), leaves the W100 sounding smooth, with neither boom nor bash and no ugly protrusions. I could live with this 'phone if it mellowed out or if tone controls were legalised.

a9x.jpg

ATH-A9X
Shares the heritage of the W100 at about half the price. No compromises in comfort, and its silk-covered(?) PCOCC cable terminates in a portable-friendly 3.5mm plug. A 'phone for the action man/woman perhaps, as evidenced by its mirror finish and the mild smiley in its treble and (port assisted) bass equalisation. If analysed, mild colouration can be detected in the lower midrange but the soundstage from any of these hemispherically shaped closed ATH cans is something which can't even be approached by the swarm of contorted, boxy, compact closed cans produced by various makers - ATH's own PRO series being a particularly honky example.
 
Jun 28, 2002 at 3:35 AM Post #2 of 9

millerdog

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Nice review j-curve, thanks.
When I was looking for closed cans, I looked hard at the Senns and Beyerdynamics. I got the ATH A9X instead.
I wonder if you could be more specific about comparing the W100s and A9X? I am afraid I have upgrade fever.
Also, any chance you can audition the A10s? I don't think anyone has reviewed the open AT cans yet.
thanks,
md
 
Jun 28, 2002 at 6:11 AM Post #3 of 9

TimSchirmer

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I must say...these audio-technica's are quite nice looking. If their headphones are anywhere as good as their cartridges...i'd go for them. Then again...I enjoy my deutsch headphones too much
very_evil_smiley.gif
 
Jun 28, 2002 at 12:58 PM Post #4 of 9

Tomcat

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I feel like a broken record by now, but here it goes: The wooden ATs change dramatically during break-in. Their bass extension increases and their treble mellows during hundreds of hours. Any harshness will disappear, and it’s even possible that they’ll continue to improve indefinitely. My W100 went from far too bright with zero bass extension in the beginning to very smooth and enjoyable at 100 hours to extremely mellow and effortless with rich and deep bass at 400+ hours.

And there’s no telling whether the other headphones have had sufficient break-in either.
How did you put it, j-curve: “Glass cabinets were slid open, for the first time ever.” Or something like that.
wink.gif
 
Jun 28, 2002 at 1:29 PM Post #5 of 9

millerdog

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Tomcat, off post, but how do you guys get Audio Technicas and we in the US don't(well now we can get them, though it's not exactly importing)? Is it some strange marketing plan? Are you smuggling them in? lol... Are they coming in via the Marco Polo trade route?
Just curious,
md
 
Jun 28, 2002 at 3:51 PM Post #6 of 9

Tomcat

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AT doesn't seem eager to market their wooden headphones outside of Japan, and as far as I know, no European distributor of AT products carries them. Germans aren't that lucky. Well, in soccer, they are - playing clearly worse than the US team and still reaching the World Cup final, if that isn't luck...

I got my W100 through Vincent Chan in Singapore who is the director of AT marketing in South-East Asia. He isn't a retailer. Mark Rael found this contact and got his W2002 through it. In the meantime, I have met Mr. Chan personally. He is very kind and helpful (and has had a lot to say about AT's microphone develpoments for pro audio). I guess he'd still ship wooden AT headphones to incurable audiophiles on an individual basis. But since audiocubes appeared, I guess I'd order there. Mr. Chan's prices are closer to list than street prices and, as I said, he isn't excatly in the consumer audio retail business.
 
Jun 28, 2002 at 9:57 PM Post #7 of 9

j-curve

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Yes, ATH certainly deserves awards for its styling. I could see Judge Dredd with the A9X. And the W100 wouldn't look out of place in a real judge's rooms with a few cigars and brandy balloons lying around the place.

I should have mentioned that the A9X I tested was off the muzak rack, not from the glass cabinet, so it is safe to assume that it was fully broken in. Even so, I needed one notch of treble cut to be comfortable with the A9X.

Millerdog, I think the choice between the W100 and the A9X would have a lot to do with your musical preference. If you don't listen to a lot of classical or acoustic ensemble music then you may never notice the mild cloudiness in the midrange of the A9X. Do you have any complaints with your A9X's right now? Other than that, since the W100 I heard obviously had not been run in and in view of Tomcat's comments, the A9X must be a brighter phone. With its porting it also has a bass boost compared to the W100. For me, the choice is obvious but your ears and music may suit your current phones better. Try to get an audition of the W100 and don't forget to take your own source material.
 
Jun 29, 2002 at 8:58 AM Post #9 of 9

Magicthyse

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I'm glad I seem to have made the right choice this time (curse you , you Switzerland-like HD280 lovers...)!

Amazing, bearing in mind the choice was made mainly on looks and the impressiveness of the website diagrams(well, I did look at the specs and the looked OK as well).

Let's hope it arrives before I get too old.


PS: How I was sold the Grado SR225.

Shop: "You will not find better for general listening at home."
Me: "But they look like ***!"
Shop: "Put it this way, they sound as good as they look ***."
Me: "Wow, gimme one!"

 

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