Audio Technica’s HQ office is actually not that far away from my house; I’ve been there a few times in the past and have gawked at the facility innards.  A good friend of mine recommended I try to invest time into reviewing the newly released ATH W1000z, due to the fact that I adore the rare ATH W3000ANV so very much.  Fans of the older W-series should feel right at home with this new model.

The Gear

Sources: Oppo HA-1, Red Wine AK120, Calyx M, Fiio X1, Sony A17, Alienware 13

Headphones: ATH W1000z/3000ANV/ESW9LTD, Fostex TH600, Focal Classic, JH16, Ultrasone Edition 8

Amps: Oppo HA-1, RSA SR71B, Pathos Aurium, Centrance Mini M8

The Fit and Finish

Eyebrows will be raised, ears will perk up and wallets will be drained.  If you are wondering, those gorgeous wooden cups are made of a thick cut of Teak.  I don’t know much about wood rarity, only to the extent the Internet tells me on a quick sweep of the topic, but it seems Teak is quite rare and highly sought after as a building material for ultra, high-end string instruments.  As Audio Technica claims on their website, the W1000z does indeed offer a warm tilt to its sound signature.  Having never heard a Teak woodie headphone before, I can only assume the warmth in coloration is to be expected when this type of wood is selected.  This yummy tonal hues has never been a problem with this company in the past, they get musicality and have always been the go to “house sound” for those interested in tasty, gently colored sound signatures.  Most, if not all of their higher end headphones offer the same general sound type and are wonderfully delicious in tone.  Without going overboard and saturating the headphone with warmth, most wooden cup headphones tend to serve up this type of a presentation.  To date, their W3000ANV and ESW911JPN are headphones that I consider the most musical, the most fun, most well-tuned and generally unforgettable in sound type in their respected price tiers.  Thankfully, the W1000z fits snugly in between these models and offers really satisfying levels of warmth on the low end.

The Wood

Like their newly released ATH ESW9LTD, their new portable woodie, Audio Technica has given their larger W1000z a hefty glaze job.  The headphone is supremely reflective with a candy-like visual appeal, much more so than the previous models in the W-series.  Much like Lawton’s custom woodies, Audio Technica’s woodies almost always force me to restrain myself from trying to nibble on them.   Thank the audio deities that I am not a sleep walker, I could easily imagine myself waking up in the middle of the night and walking over to where I keep most of my headphones on display, picking up the W1000z and chewing on it for a bit.  In all seriousness, the lacquer finish and heft of the cut of wood is very high end and I don’t have a problem stating that Fostex’s TH900 Japanese Birch cups are an inferior product compared to this cheaper ATH W1000z.   Audio Technica always does a fine job with their wood working, they deserve commendation for always shelling out something lustrous and visually appealing.  Audio Technica doesn’t produce an ugly woody headphone, every single one of them shout high class stylization to the utmost degrees.

3

The Headband

There really is no getting around it…the W-series headphones have always been very large in design.  Audio Technica sticks to their guns with design implementation and it is extremely rare for them to tangent to a design that is noticeably dissimilar to the previous models.  I am not okay with this, there were serious fit issues with the last generation of W-series headphones and they’ve not listened to anyone’s complaints.  It feels like it is just about time for the company to take a gander at the problems their W-series has and form a new design for the next generation.  Sadly, Audio Technica has completely ignored the woes of their customers who have purchased or used the W3000ANV, W5000 and the original W1000 of old.  They’ve opted for a rehash of the basic design with no improvement or alterations.  A big problem with the W-series was that the headband is just not designed for a human head; it was designed with a very odd fit that almost nobody I am aware of was happy with.

This is a rare case where more clamping force is required if you want to continue to keep this type of a wire laden headband that also offers poor seal.  This was always a severe problem.  The angle of approach is too much of a classic half circle, not much else needs to be said about it.  As a result of this type of an angle, the pads end up pinching the area just below your ears and on the top of your neck.  Bestowing a large percent of the clamping force to these sensitive areas is just about the worst thing you can do when it comes to design.  The area of the pads above your ears seals poorly, the bottom portion of the pads seal much better.  The result is a mixed bag of results that leaves me extremely upset.  It is impossible for me to achieve a satisfying, comfortable experience and I continually readjust the headphone in attempt to find a position I am okay with.  So far, I’ve failed in that endeavor.

4

The Fit

The headphone is plenty light at 320g and those pads are supremely comfortable, but offering so much plushness and give in those leather earpads only makes things worse with regard to improper seal and the need to keep the headphone in place.  Moving your head even slightly causes the headphone to apply more pressure to that area just below your ears, yet also shakes around too much with a slight nod or sneeze.  Summed up, the wiring in the headband not only makes you look like a satellite dish, but also causes some pain and discomfort due to improper angles that parallel actual human heads.  I desperately want Audio Technica to stop using these designs.  Instead, maybe rehash the ESW portable series headbands into these larger headphones.  Scale up the size of the headband but keep them identical in visual styling, nobody has fit issues with the ESW-series…but pretty much everyone has gripes with the W-series that uses the Flying Wing and wiring rail system in the headband.

Those wooden cups are large enough; we don’t need the headband to be that large and cumbersome as well.  Fostex and Denon did it right and their models are much more comfortable and form fitting than Audio Technica’s designs in their larger headphones.  Time to get with the times; nobody wants to look like a satellite dish these days.   I also found it odd that the designers opted to use velour fabric for the understand of the flying wing system that rests on your head, but the earpads are a supple leatherette…weird contrast happening there and it sure does feel yucky on my shaved head.  People with hair up yonder will not feel it, but those who keep two day stubble should know that fabric hats, beanies and velour type materials in headbands or earpads don’t mesh with short hair.  You get a constant grinding sensation that is extremely unappealing; let’s stick with all leather next time, shall we?

Pro Tip

If you find yourself interested in buying the headphone and end up with a similar distaste for the W1000z’s fit issues, try using a large rubber band to force the wire headband closer together.  It will help with seal and comfort, lessening the likelihood of the pads poking the upper part of your neck just under your ears and leaving marks over that area.  Gently pushing the wire framing above the flying wing system results in a proper seal and increased sound quality.  It turns the headphone into something unrecognizable by comparison to just letting the headphone sit on your head normally and listening to it without pressure applied.  Audio Technica really did a great job with the W1000z, but it is absolutely bottlenecked by this horrid wire frame headband that is improperly setup.  If it doesn’t conform to your head, you won’t get a good seal.  If you don’t get a good seal, the headphone sounds wonky.  The only way to fix this is to get creative and find a way to apply a little more pressure and cause the upper end of the earcups to press against your noggin’ a little harder.  The lower end of the pads don’t have that problem, so making the upper half press a little closer to the side of your head results in actually being able to hear what the headphone is capable of.

 

Page 2: Sound Impressions

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About The Author

Senior Reviewer

Self Proclaimed Musicality Guru, Photographer, Audiophile and part time Ninja. I started my audio journey back in 96' and haven't looked back. My ultimate goal in this life is to experience as many Hifi rigs as possible...because I am an audio addict.

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  • 24bit

    I caught some slack based on what a user said on head fi about this review. I failed blind testing between this model and the ath w3000z. But, that doesn’t mean that they are identical headphones, so lets not take it that way, shall we? The W1000z treble isn’t as potent as the 3000anv but in most normal applications you won’t really be able to tell the differences between them. For all intensive purposes, ATH DID DESIGN the W1000z to offer the same basic setup and sound as the 3000anv. There are subtle differences, most noticeable in the treble between the two but it is not significant. Depending on the track, the 3000z may sound brighter, the W1000z might sound a bit less so. Most of the time they sound the same to me.

  • rich

    Thank you for the excellent review of the ATH1000z.

    I spent more than 30 years into component HFi . Manage to buy the huge multi speakers McInstosh speakers system and driven by Gamut 300S (US$50K). Enjoy this system a lot.

    Recently I started to go into headphones, headphone amp with or without DAC. I can listen to music during night hours without disturbing my sleeping family members.

    I bought 2 pairs of Audio Techinca W3000 which is Audio Technica 50 years anniversary model. Why 2 sets ? Maybe to use as a back up or perhaps as an investment as historically excellent limited edition headphones appreciates in value. I left my spare set unopened. It is so darn good sounding and very musical. Amazing vocals especially for female vocals . Good base texture. Clear highs without sibilance. Also bought the lovely W3000 anv’s leather case lined with red silk inner casing.

    I compared the W3000anv to my STAX SR 009 driven by special amp- the Blue Hawai. I am surprised how similar they sound. It is my opinion that someone at AuduioTechnica must have intentionally voiced the W3000 anv to sound like the Stax. To be fair, the STAX costs many times more than the Audio Technica. But in reality it is marginally better in my and my group of headphones friends’ opinions. Which headphone will I keep if stranded in an island like Robinson Cruso ? A hard choice. I would like to take either one. But I may just take the STAX.

    I burnt in the W1000Z for 6 months with various burn in cd. I then compared this to the W3000anv. It is a good headphone and I understand that many wish very much that the W1000z will sounds alike to the W3000anv. I am sorry to burst your bubble and hope. No the W3000anv don’t sounds like the W1000z. In every aspect the W3000anv is way better. A better and deeper lows. The bass has a rich texture. The mids of the W3000 anv are their strong point. It is amazing how musical are the mids.

    However, if one never heard the W3000anv, listening to the W1000z will be a good musical experience. Comparison will show up the difference. Human memory of sound is flawed. To compare the W3000anv with the W1000z must have both headphones present and driven by the same amp/dac. A > B > A is my method and construct. Those who claim that they sound almost alike don’t have both headphones at hand.

    A little secret but of course known to many. The quality of the source music is very important. Some novice reviewers judge the headphones at and but in reality they unknowingly evaluated the music rather than the phones. Given a sate of art recording of labels like Sheifield Lab, Tearac, RR recordings etc, the comparison of headphones will be more accurate.

    • 24bit

      I agree, the 3000anv is a little better in quality and much better in musical tone, but I thought both of them shared a similar setup and general sound signature. Thanks for the kind words!

  • rich

    With reference to my earlier post, I apologise for my somewhat strong views of the AudioTechnica W3000anv versus their relatively new ATH 1000Z. My objective was to dispel the myth some people have that the ATH1000z is a clone of the W3000anv. That these 2 headphones sounds alike appeared in many websites for example on Headfi.org which is supposed to be the epicenter of all things headphones. However here in Japan where I worked the very passionate headphones community is clear that the W3000anv is better than the1000z and is not a clone.

    Readers who commented on this website whether positive or negative is healthy and will generate increased readership. Divergent views are part of any hobbies. It is in discussions that we readers can learn from others. These views are not Biblical truths or caste in stone.

    Make no mistake that the W1000Z is a very good headphone. I bought the headphones after careful listening in Toyko. There the shop keepers are very service and customers orientated. One can practically spend the whole day in the store auditioning and is very unlikely “be pushed” out of the store by the owners.

    So readers you can go ahead to pick the ATH1000z. This is a beautiful headphone with teak ear cups lacquered by skilled Japanese craft men and gives a very musical sound for the money. I bet you will not experience buyer’s remorse. I know that the Chiel Editor of Audio Stream a very credible US magazine, uses the W1000x ( not the newer W1000z which replaces the W1000x ) as one of his headphones to test the various gears sent to him.

    p.s. I am a Chinese Singaporean who studied at the University of Adelaide and University of Syndey from 1965 to 1970 for my undergraduate and post graduate studies. Australians are friendly people. They made my stay there very pleasant. Thank you.

  • Norbert

    Very nice review, but having a substantially large head I have never had more comfortable headphones than my Audio Technica ATH A900 – which have pretty much the same headband. I currently have NAD VISO HP50 which sounds great, but wearing them is literally painful after a while. I am thinking about upgrading. Having seen your impressing collection, which headphones would you consider bassy and the largest? I was thinking about JVC DX700, but haven’t seen them them in the real life.Thanks 😉

    • 24bit

      I reviewed the DX1000 in the past and the DX700 is a little different. I don’t think either are as good as the Nighthawk from Audioquest. I highly recommend the Nighthawk, its got a ton of good quality bass and excellent comfort! I’ll be reviewing that soon.

      • Noro Korny

        Thanks a lot for the advice! I’ll definitely read that review. I have read that DX1k and DX700 have the same driver; Surprisingly though the more expensive DX1000 has an issue with hinges breaking after some time

  • s.zorin

    The reviewer is all over the place regarding the logic. Sony Z7 and Fostex TH600 are allegedly “superior in every sense” to W1000Z but then he goes and gives reasons why they are worse than W1000Z. The same goes with W3000ANV. According to him W1000Z is as good as W3000ANV and then he complains that W1000Z has an inferior and weak treble. About this inferior treble – other reviewers report that W1000Z has pretty hot treble. The FR graph also confirms that the treble of W1000Z is sufficient. Does the reviewer have damaged hearing ?
    If he thinks that W1000Z has insufficient treble than how can he regard Sony Z7 as way superior to W1000Z ? Z7’s treble is M.I.A. [missing in action]. Z7’s 70mm driver is incapable of producing sufficient treble. Z7 are headphones with faulty design, it has only one driver. Headphones with driver which is larger than about 56mm need the second driver[tweeter] to produce treble. Z7 are a failure. As for TH600, the reviewer is comparing apples to turnips. Audio-Technicas are designed and tuned for 90% of music which means primarily vocals and acoustic instruments. Fostex are designed for bass heavy bang and thump “music”, not for vocals oriented music. They have recessed midrange with vocals sounding like they sing from behind bass and drum or even from behind the stage, the opposite to Audio-Technicas which present vocals in front of bass and drums as it should be. How can TH600 be “much better” than W1000Z for MUSIC when their midrange is screwed up and when TH600’s bass floods into what remains of midrange ? TH600 should be grouped with headhpones for ghetto type genres of music. If someone likes twisted and bass exaggerated sound signatures it is his thing, to each his own, but mixing and judging in a review contradictory sound presentations as if they were equal in value does not work.

    • 24bit

      Hi and thanks for the comment. I’ll address this point by point for you.

      1. “Sony Z7 have noticeably superior realism and stage depth prowess”

      What was meant by this is that certain staging elements are better on the Z7 or various other models mentioned. In Final thoughts, the place you picked this conflict up from, I said this: “Sony Z7 sounds superior everywhere but with regard to stage width.” So there is no conflict here. For everything but this area, it is superior. I wasn’t all over the place at all, I vividly detailed it lacked in one area compared to all others.
      2. Other reviewers are privy to their thoughts and impressions. You’ve said I may have hearing damage because I’ve heard the inferior treble on that model to be the case. You stated the measurements actually agree with me and that they are “sufficient”. Sufficient is not boosted or painful, peaky or problematic. So, I was right and you’ve confirmed it. I highly recommend YOU listen to the headphone and judge for yourself though. It seems you’ve not heard it yet, so at least try to pick it up and see where it leads you.
      3. The Z7 treble is not missing in action. The FR graphs show it to be plentiful. You’ve also no basis to say the driver isn’t capable of emitting that sound up top when it absolutely is.
      4. Fostex doesn’t tune their Headphones specifically for anything. They implement a powerful driver that responds to bass with high elevation, their headphones are V shaped and recessed, which means nothing was invested into fixing it before production. They’ve just released the x00 TH series that improved the TH600 and boosted the mids, they had to be specifically asked to tune something in a certain way, so factually you are incorrect on this subject.
      5. Your preferences for what makes a headphone superior are subjective. Just because you feel V shape equates to automatic failure of a good headphone, doesn’t make it true. A lot of people like it, and you can’t give a headphone a failing mark when you hear a recessed mid experience, especially not when everything else is really nice.
      6. I draw lines between what I feel to be objective and what I feel to be subjective. I’m being honest and true to my impressions. I’ve always written that way. It seems like your argument here is entirely based on subjectivity and what your thoughts on “how it should be” are. You said it yourself, to each his own. You aren’t following that though. But, I do thank you for the comment. -mike(24bit)

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