AD2000 Vs. ESW10JPN review Equipments used: ATH-AD2000 with ~500hrs of use ATH-ESW10JPN with ~200hrs of use Gilmore Lite w/DPS Keces DA-151 Dell XPS M1210 (FLAC, foobar2000, Asio4All) iAudio X5L (FLAC) Build Quality, Fit and Design: ESW10, as we know, have wooden-lacquered cups with leather/leatherette pads (which I believe are same as ESW9s) It’s surrounded by plastic enclosures surrounding the cup and hinges etc. I’m slightly worried that plastic parts holding up the cups might be little brittle, but it seems okay for now. Headband is imitated leather with soft pads – quite comfortable actually. Pictures really don’t do any justice on how beautiful these wooden cups are. Very reflective and fingerprint-prone, but nevertheless, stunning. Wires are thin and very soft, and very rubbery – which is expected in portable headphones. As for the fit, it has a bit of a clamp, but not overwhelmingly so. Quite comfortable for 2-3 hours of listening. My horrible picture: Yaluen's pictures, which are considerably better: AD2000, too is beautiful in a way made with aluminum, magnesium and palstic and it’s well constructed and fairly solid. Nothing awe inspiring though. Now, let’s take a listen, shall we? Bass: deep, fast, and big amount of bass on ESW10. As for amount, ESW10 has more bass quantity than AD2000 does. As for extension, ESW10 is very strong until 35hz or so, then we see a small roll-off – which is fine since most my music (Classical, rock, prog-rock) doesn’t extend that deep, save for pipe organs and contrabassoons. As for quality of bass, ESW10 lags slightly behind AD2000, which is very, very impressive. Timpani drums had considerable weight to it, with impact that mimics good slap on the ear (in a good way). As for String’s low notes (Bass, Cello, and harp) had good sensation of vibration to it, with almost perfect length of decay (I thought AD2000’s decay was little too short for those instruments) present. Brass (Tuba, Trombone, French Horn)’s lower notes had good presence to it, without being muddy or protruding into midrange. Compared to AD2K, ESW10 had very, very slightly slower bass – and is apparent in faster and heavier classical with multiple instruments – I wouldn’t say it’s a bloat, but speed in bass section is slower in ESW10 than AD2000. It was, however, much faster bass response than most of other headphones though (i.e. underamped HD650, non-markl modded D2000) In bass drums used in rock, ESW10 was very snappy and alive and did not show any slowness in any of my test tracks. It was only with fast, heavy classical that ESW10 seemed little hesitant (I.e when cello, contrabassoon, bass, timpani were all playing at the same time). Midrange: Here’s where the fun really begins. Male Vocals: Rich in texture, very full. Roger Daltrey’s voice just stood out, without recessing other parts. Slightly forward and able to convey emotions very well – typical AT mids. Each word was good weight to it, and that primal scream on ‘Won’t get fooled again’ is well presented as it should be – primal. A good example of “YEAHHHHHHHGHHHGHHHHHGHHH!!!!”. Fun stuff. Clapton’s voice also sounded very involving and realistic as well with no obvious faults yet to be found. Kurt Cobain’s distinctive voice also sounded realistic – another example of very emotional voice portrayed by these cans. Still fairly forward and engaging type of presentation here as well. Robert plant’s smooth scream-ish voice sounds great – good balance among high and lower notes in “Since I’ve been loving you”. Once again, ****! This man has pipes! Female Vocals: Clean. That’s the first impression I got from listen to Sarah Mclachlan – very extended without hint of congestion in the presentation. I was listening to her mirrorball performance, and while she does make very small mistakes in singing, it doesn’t stand out like a ugly pimple (as in DT880, for example) Very smooth and rather surprisingly detailed. Sumi Jo’s voice on performance of Ave Maria by Caccini sends chills to my spine. With ESW10, it made my eyes water. On some headphones, this track can sound honky and congested. Not this one. Just clean extension and loads of emotion. My other favorite Sumi Jo performance is Die Zauberflöte, or Magic Flute by Mozart. She really tests the limits of her voice (and my tear duct) with his performance. More of the same – great extension, transition, and timbre separation. Perhaps even better than AD2000s on this regard. Lastly, Norah Jone’s playful voice is presented well here. IMO, AD2000 does better job on her voice though. While Norah Jones had little bit of laid-back type of voice, I’ve felt that each note on ESW10 was little too emphasized here. Not surprisingly, ESW10 are very involving pair of cans, perhaps even more than AD2000s. I figure that I’m nitpicking here, as they do have wonderful presentation still – AD2K just does it little better Guitar: Whether it was screeching guitar from Jimi Hendrix or soft strumming from Clapton, ESW10 handled it quite well. While not as colored as some of Grado’s offerings, both electric and acoustic guitars were presented in appropriate manner, as electric guitar were more aggressive (not grado 325i aggressive, but impressive still) while being rather transparent for maintaining a good tone for different types of guitars. Acoustic guitars showed great amount of detail, especially with well-recorded albums (MTV unplugged Clapton/Alice in Chains/Nirvana). Texture of plucking the strings are well presented here as well. IMO, I prefer AD2K’s presentation of acoustic guitars, while some of heavier electric guitars were better presented on ESW10s. Piano: Listening to Chopin’s Etude op.10, Polonaise No.6, Nocturne No.2 – very silky smooth, perhaps even better than airy presentation of AD2000s in piano solos. With lower notes, there was substancial weight to each key played. Highs keys were quite perky as well – AD2000 imo, had slightly artificial feel to it, perhaps due to its airiness. Strings: Cello provides a nice backdrop against Violins in Vivaldi’s Concerti for Cello, Strings & Basso Continuo. While Violins have very emotional tone. One problem I do see here is that harpsichord is seemingly recessed against cello and violin for some reason. It’s there, but not as prominent and balanced as in AD2000. Hmmm…. Brass: AD2000 does wonderful job of reproducing brass instruments, with right combination of richness and depth. ESW10, on the other hand, may be slightly muffled on this department in comparison – only slightly, but I preferred AD2000’s presentation here better Woodwinds: Again, airy presentation of AD2000 wins here. ESW10 does it fairly well, but flute, piccolo, and clarinet were little too thick for my taste. Saxophone, on the other hand, (I always get confused whether sax is considered brass or woodwind though) sound equally wonderful from both AD2K and ESW10, while latter having more syrupy presentation. I’m missing more than few instruments here, but I have not listened to them in depth, so this would have to do Overall, AD2K’s midrange is more airy, while having greater amount of detail and very accurate presentation of instruments. ESW10’s mid is a bit thicker – having very succulent type of presentation to it. Syrupy – describes it fairly well. Treble: I’m not aware of a single instrument that exclusively focuses on treble section (aside from piccolo perhaps) but there’s a quite a bit of difference between the two. AD2000 have very linear response, but very extended. ESW10, on the other hand, has a slight peaky treble compared to AD2K. It’s presented not in sibilant manner, but rather with a slight sparkle that keeps you excited. As for extension, my hearing probably isn’t up to the task, as I failed to detect any significant roll-off up to 17K Hz or so. Clashes of cymbals were very alive in ESW10, and while I wouldn’t say ESW10 is bright, it certainly doesn’t make it boring. Detail: AD2K has significant detail retrieval – about equaling the level of DT880s. It’s just not a detail-oriented headphone. It won’t scream out tape hiss, and cough in the crowd, but it’s there. Blended in very unobstructive manner. ESW10 is similar in this aspect. Very “fun” orientated pair of cans, while presenting good amount of details present – slightly below AD2K. AD2K on the other hand, has fantastic amount of texture in bass region compared to ESW10. Attack/Decay/PRaT: AD2K wins hands down on impact section. No doubt. It’s extremely hard-hitting bass leaves you stunned. ESW10, on the other hand, doesn’t have that much attack, but has more of a presence – perhaps due to its bass amount. For complex bass in classical music, AD2K is pretty darn hard to beat. Decay on ESW10 is slightly longer than those on AD2K, but still considerably short, especially when there is so much bass! As for transition from one note to another, AD2K was lightning-quick, perhaps only rivaled by SA5000 on this area. ESW10 doesn’t lag too far behind though, as I was able to perceive boundaries of each notes (so to speak) with pretty good accuracy on ESW10. Soundstage: AD2Ks have very wide soundstage, which is great for classical music. Vocals are generally quite close to yourself, about 3-4 rows back. It’s not as deep as some people would like, as most instruments are within 6-7 meters of the listener. Also, soundstage is not extremely tall, as music generally plays from within 2 meter floor-to-ceiling height. But instruments are extremely well placed and separated, as you can almost pinpoint to where each instruments are. Also Stereo separation is fantastic, and this helps with perceiving instrument placement. ESW10s have slightly smaller soundstage, with vocals being even closer to you than AD2Ks. Most instruments are around 4-6 meters of the listener, but depth perception is slightly better than AD2Ks in this aspect. ESW10s actually have higher floor-to-ceiling soundstage than AD2Ks, with instruments playing within 3-4 meter height differences. AD2Ks have better instrument separation and placement here, as well has having better stereo separation. Amplification: Both headphones drives well from less than stellar sources and amps, but ESW10s do reveal more faults in sources than AD2K do, due to their slight emphasis on treble. Both AD2K and ESW10s responded well with Gilmore Lite with DPS – improving in virtually all areas (especially transparency). I would love to try high-end tubes for both of these cans (Zana Deux?). I will not comment on portable amps, since I currently don’t own one . AD2000s benefitted more from amping compared to being run straight off of iAudio X5L. Conclusion: AD2000, as I mentioned in my previous review, is a keeper. Master of so many genres – classical, rock, metal, electronica, etc. Its wonderful bass response and sweet and sexy mids to keep a smile on your face makes this transcendent all-rounder. ESW10, being on same price bracket, doesn’t lag behind too far. Huge and tight bass responses, combined with juicy mids and sparkly highs makes these very balanced cans. Also, these are very, very involving cans, and ESW10 are arguably more so than AD2000s. Be careful when you’re singing them with them on. FAQs: 1) Are ESW10s worth the money? - I’m starting to think so 2) Can ESW10s replace a decent home setup? – I liked them better than well amped DT880, K701 so far and it doesn’t lag too far behind AD2000s. 3) What genres are they not suited for? - I’ll PM you when I find out 4) Do these need to be amped? - They improve with amping, but they sound wonderful without one as well. 5) Are these worth 2X the price of ESW9s? - Probably not, but who cares? You’re in high end! 6) So these are better than ESW9s in every way? - Yes, especially if you like more involving pairs of headphones than ESW9s. These make you tap your toes and you can’t be helped but to air-conduct and air-guitar and air-instrument in general. 7) Do you want to go for a nice, romantic dinner sometime? -No.