Michael Piskor 2014

The ESW9-LTD Headphone by Audio Technica

Final Thoughts

Certainly, the ESW9-LTD is a good headphone, but one that once again needs a total overhaul with build materials. The treble is poor and uncharacteristic of a headphone this expensive, which wasn’t at all a surprise to me considering none of the previous models had nice treble quality. Pure texture type is great and something that goes well with the Hifi community, but this isn’t a reference headphone. With that, I think the 9-LTD falls through the cracks somewhere and it won’t become nearly as popular as the original ESW9. Lushness is important with a very lively midrange, without it the entire experience loses its appeal to my ears and sadly this new model has very little substance and lushness.

I was impressed with the spaciousness of this headphone, I think it might be the best overall staging in a on ear headphone that I’ve yet heard, I am also impressed with the sheer clarity improvements Audio Technica has made over the original ESW9. However, I am saddened by the lack of innovation and willingness to listen to their customers when it comes to those ear pads. Like Grado, Audio Technica is sticking to their guns on that front. The ear cups need to be heavier and hold a feeling of something of a higher quality, instead of the cheaper appeal they exude when you handle them, that stock cable is unacceptable as well. Overall, this is a good headphone when you throw a few of the recent portable gems off the table and compare this ESW9 to its siblings, the V-Moda and the Sennheiser on ear portables. Compared to those, this ESW9-LTD is superior in my opinion in some ways. Though, I think the Beyer DT1350 still remains the most well built of all the on ear portable headphones. Don’t expect any improvements from Audio Technica with regard to build materials, improved treble clarity or anything innovative…they simply don’t do that sort of thing.


As of just one month ago ( November of 2014 ) the bar for what constitutes a great headphone in the portable world has been raised to the stratosphere by Sony, so I cannot willingly allow myself to judge the ATH ESW9-LTD poorly when it was probably in design and production at the same time as Sony’s XB950BT. I don’t think Audio Technica was able to grab their competitors set and improve on it before the release of their ESW9-LTD in an attempt to make sure it was better than the XB950BT…sadly it isn’t. I feel like ATH would have not released the ESW9-LTD and release it if they had a chance to hear Sony’s XB950BT beforehand. My final thought on this headphone is that it is a good purchase overall with plenty of clarity improvements over the original, however it is head scratchingly odd with regard to the contrasting tone and texture types: where the tone is musical and colored, but the texture is pure, lacking a sense of lushness that was the prime selling point of the original ESW9 that was released many years ago.

Price: $400

Links: https://www.audio-technica.co.jp/atj/show_model.php?modelId=2650

Technical Specifications

Model Closed dynamic type
Driver φ42mm, bobbin winding OFC-6N voice coil, permalloy adopt magnetic circuit
Output sound pressure level 102dB / mW
Playback frequency band 5 ~ 40,000Hz
Maximum input 1,000mW
Impedance 46Ω
Mass I (except code) About 160g
Plug φ3.5mm gold-plated stereo mini (L type)
Code 1.2m
● Accessories: Porch ● Optional: exchange sleeves HP-ESW9

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