Matchability

Power

The A2000z is rated at 44 ohms and 101dB which is reasonably efficient though not overtly marketed to the portable crowd. It will generate a pleasing and reasonably faithful performance with weaker amps and smartphones but it will not perform optimally. Impressive results can be obtained with decent quality portable amps such as the P5 from iBasso, the Mojo and at a budget level the E12 from FiiO. There will be a diminution in dynamics and extension though the further down the

There will be a diminution in dynamics and extension though the further down the amping ladder you go in terms of power. Its non-detachable cable also means you cannot opt for a balanced connection instead you can only use singled ended quarter or 3.5mm jack inputs be it portable or desktop.

Tonal Pairings

The good news is that the A2000z does have reasonable scaling potential and the better (and warmer) the amping setup is the tighter and more controlled it will sound. It is not the most transparent of headphones; its tonal profile, whilst subject to potential tweaking depending on source and power will largely retain that energetic neutral to bright signature. What you are looking for in a good match with the A2000z is a tonal pairing that will bring a little bit of refinement to the energy and without losing that dynamic midrange.

DAPs

X7/AM3

70-75 on low gain, 65-70 high gain

Neutral to bright signature with a slightly harder sounding upper midrange and lower treble response but overall quite smooth and resolving. Stays relatively balanced sounding with a polite low end and a sparkling top end. Slightly less dynamic and not as forward sounding midrange performance compared to the Studio 6/NuPrime DAC-10 desktop combo suggesting the A2000z does possess a decent ability to scale with more powerful amping solutions.

Cayin i5

Low gain 40-45, high gain 35-40

Slightly smoother and warmer sound than the X7 though the lower treble can sound a little brittle at times. Lower end performance on the i5 pairing is more planted and fuller sounding. Bass fundamentals have a bit more authority and the midrange a touch more bite. The A2000z/i5 pairing treble performance is a bit more laid back sounding than the X7 though lower treble can come across as little bit more brittle sounding than the X7.

DAP Thoughts

Whilst a DAP on its own will give fairly satisfying results the A2000z does have decent scaling properties with desktop or higher powered amping. Dropping down to DAPs, even on high gain, does result in a slightly flatter less dynamic response and a midrange that doesn’t sound quite as spacious.

Portable Amping

Chord Mojo

Excellent match with the A2000z. The midrange has a slightly thicker note, really precise control right across the range and a controlled top end. Like the i5 the low end was a little fuller sounding but unlike the i5 the lower treble was smoother and more resolving.

Outside of the desktop combinations this was the most visceral sounding of the portable solutions and highly recommended for metal heads.

Bakoon HPA-01M

If not for the gain levels being too powerful for the A2000z I would have put the Bakoon ahead of the Mojo. but you do not get a dead silent performance with the pot at zero and channel imbalance is unsettlingly high.

Beyond the noise and channel control issues at low volumes, current mode output is a fantastic pairing with the upper mid and treble performance of the A2000z. The control is excellent without any loss of energy or sparkle. Mid and low-end performance doesn’t quite have the same thickness as the Mojo but it is slightly more resolving, particularly with female vocals.

Voltage mode on the Bakoon lacked the same coherence and produced a harder note with the A2000z which didn’t sound as relaxing as current mode.

iBasso P5 Falcon

Again, a very competitive pairing with the A2000z but falls behind the Mojo slightly in terms of physicality and low-end weight. I do like how the P5 keeps a lid on the energy in the upper mids and lower treble.

Mids are not quite as textured sounding as the Mojo but it does offer up excellent detail and clarity. Vocals are excellent on the P5 pairing. That slightly hard attack on some weaker sources sounds a lot smoother on the P5. Best settings are mid-gain with the bass switch flicked on.

dscf7188

Portable Amping thoughts

I think there is a palatable benefit in putting some good power into the A2000z. Dynamics and control do take a definite step up and whilst the A2000z is not the most transparent headphone I have heard it will react to the quality of the signal, particularly in midrange bite and treble control with the Mojo providing the best balance between power and tonal matching.

Desktop Setups

Studio 6/DAC-10/CDM

Less than 12 noon on the analog potentiometer of the Studio 6. This is a big sounding dynamic and very resolving presentation. When adequately powered the A2000z presentation is vivid, enjoyable and relatively musical.

Pairing the CDM DAC is preferable to the DAC-10 which tends to neutralize the tube timbre a bit too much making it all a bit neutral for my taste. The CDM brings in richer mids section and a slightly softer sounding top end.

Cypher Labs Sustain84

Though not quite as dynamic and detailed sounding as the Studio 6, the Sustain84 produced a more natural and laid back presentation that gelled really well with the A2000z. It was by far my favorite amp in terms of tonal matching out of all the desktop options for the A2000z.

If you are looking for a softer more subdued top end and slightly less mid-range energy then the Sustain84 is an excellent choice, especially for long listening sessions. No issues on power also with low gain allowing a bit more micro control than high gain which gets a bit too powerful too quickly for my liking.

Desktop setup thoughts

The addition of a tube setup produces a slightly more natural sound from the A2000x but it’s still fairly neutral and clean. The ESS chip DACs at times counter the more liquid sound of tubes so if you want something warmer I suggest you add a DAC with an AK or Wolfson chip such as the NuPrime DAC-9 or the ALO continental mono’s WM8741 tube DAC/Amp (high gain preferable). Both of these add a little touch of warmth and fluidity to the signal over the cooler and harder sounding ESS chip setups.

dscf7174

Select Comparisons

Beyer DT1770

Price

The DT1770 is Beyer closed studio Pro Line flagship dynamic headphone priced at 599 euros MSRP and is rated at 250 ohms and a sensitivity rating of 102dB. Mind you the street price of these now are slightly lower at around 300-400 euros making them a pretty good deal.

Form & Materials

The DT1770 comes with more accessories than the A2000z and an excellent carry case as well as sporting a single detachable cable design and including 2 cables, flat and coil, in the package. The A2000z has a similar sensitivity rating to the Beyer but a much lower impedance rating. It will jive happily on weaker amps than the DT1770 but both will also scale with the DT1770’s bass line becoming a tour de force whereas the A2000z’s midrange and upper sparkle steals the show.

Tonality

Tonally the DT1770 is tuned for mixing so the balance in its frequency response is more niche than the A2000z’s midrange focus. Of no doubt, the low end of the DT1770 is the story here with far superior extension and sub bass presence than the A2000z is capable off. On the flipside, the DT1770 upper bass/lower midrange has a big dip making it thinner more recessed sound than the full on forward and energetic detailed sound of the A2000z. Both have decent treble sparkle but the A2000Z is a bit more forward and slightly brighter sounding than the DT1770’s top end performance.

On the flipside, the DT1770 upper bass/lower midrange has a big dip making it thinner more recessed sound than the full on forward and energetic detailed sound of the A2000z. Both have decent treble sparkle but the A2000Z is a bit more forward and slightly brighter sounding than the DT1770’s top end performance.

MrSpeakers Alpha Prime

Form & Materials

Sadly, they do not make the Prime anymore at MrSpeakers with the Ether C and Ether C Flow their top dogs now but you can still grab this used for around $500 on the usual boards. The Prime is a much heavier planar tech closed headphone than the A2000z, you will feel the weight difference at over 150g more.

The nice thing about the Prime though is that weight is very evenly distributed with the Fostex outer headband and Dan’s own modded leather strap taking quite a lot of downward pressure away from the 3D molded cups. It also seals like a mutha with those huge lambskin pads. The A2000z is ok actually for sealing but can’t hold a candle to these deep and super comfortable isolating pads from MrSpeakers.

Power

The Prime is also a detachable dual entry Hirose connector cable design. It came with options for balanced and unbalanced with the balanced giving it a clear edge with powered amps such as the Mjolnir. Compared to the A2000z it needs a lot more power and current to drive adequately or else it sounds compressed and lifeless. The A2000Z will generally perform better over a wider range of weaker amps but cannot scale as well as the Prime once you throw heavy duty power at it.

Tonality

Tonally the Prime is organic and natural sounding compared to the cleaner brighter and busier sounding A2000z. Both cans lack a heavy-handed low end with an emphasis on a slightly quicker pace and a fullness around 100Hz. If anything, the A2000Z just has a slightly more elevated mid-bass response but it is not a huge difference. Mids on the a2000Z are more spacious sounding with a more focused attack and a higher level of detail than what the Alpha Prime can deliver.

On the flipside, the Primes midrange is richer, more natural sounding and perhaps a slightly more accurate sounding instrumental timbre. Treble is laid back, smooth though lacking in a bit extension compared to the airier brilliance of the A2000z whose treble is much more forward and snappier.

AKG K872

Form Factor & materials

AKG’s flagship closed headphone, the K872 also has a 53mm driver with a similar ballpark ohm rating of 36 ohms compared to the A2000z’s 41 ohms. It is also roughly $1000 more expensive than the A2000z which does give a certain perspective on things. Physically that flagship quality of the AKG shines through with a higher grade of finish than the A2000z though the A2000z is the more eye-catching with its big shiny titanium cups. The K872’s cable is also a detachable single entry design with a large but very useful carry case for mobility and protection.

Fit & Seal

The K872 pads are not quite as comfortable as the A2000z with the stitched edges digging in a bit more into my ears than the pliant soft cushioned man-made materials of the ATH cups but it does seal better than the A2000z. I would say overall about 25-30% better passive isolation and a much lower level of perceptible background noise.

Tonality

Tonally the AKG872 is a bit more neutral and reference sounding than the A2000z. Whilst not as energetic and attention grabbing it will come off as relatively more balanced and with the more accurate timbre. Like the A2000z it has a bit of lower treble sparkle but compared to its open sibling, the K812 it is smoother and more coherent sounding. The A2000z, on the other hand, is more forward sounding, particularly in its mids and voicing as well as the lower treble. Both stay controlled but the A2000z is the brighter of the two trebles and has a slightly fuller sounding low end.

dscf7167

Our Verdict

The A2000z is an energetic fun sounding mid-centric headphone with a bias to clarity and a top end sparkle rather than a typically warm and wooly consumer musical sound. You could argue that is a fairly typical ATH sound and certainly, there is a legacy of great mid-centric headphones from the Japanese manufacturer down through the years that pay testimony to that tonal preference.

It will certainly appeal to those who enjoy their rock and metal music more than R’n’B and EDM guys and thankfully you do not need a huge desktop setup to enjoy them. Yes, it will scale and a nice set of tubes helps bring in a healthy dose of tube warmth to offset a signature than can get bright and unforgiving if matched poorly.

At $649 though it does need a better package and accessory set. ATH have tended to skip that aspect a lot in some of their mid-fi headphone range headphones which is a shame because the build quality is pretty good and those titanium cups deserve some sort of protection long term. Perhaps someday also detachable cables will become an option also. Build wise it is sturdy though the 3D wing system may not be for everyone. The lightweight design though this time favors the 3D wing system with decent sideways clamping pressure giving it a good seal and a comfortable fit.

Technical Specifications

TypeClosed-back dynamic
Driver Diameter53 mm
Frequency Response5 – 45,000 Hz
Maximum Input Power2,000 mW
Sensitivity101 dB/mW
Impedance44 ohms
Weight294 g
Cable3.0 m (9.8′) OFC-6N dual-sided, four-core cable with elastomer sheath
Connector3.5 mm (1/8″) gold-plated stereo mini-plug
Accessory Included6.3 mm (1/4″) gold-plated stereo adapter
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

3 Responses

  1. Tibor

    Hey! It sounds like a great pair of headphones to me, I am into midrange more than other, could you compare them to some Fostex headphones? I have TH-X00. Thank you

    Reply
    • headfonics

      Sadly I have never tried the TH-X00 but if you use the search button you will find a slew of fostex modded headphones from the T50RP though these seem limited in comparison.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.