Audio Technica A1000X and W1000X

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Audio Technica has two different line ups for their high end closed-back headphones. The W-series seems to be the more popular one, but we don’t quite hear about the A-series models that often. These closed headphones have always had that unique smooth and refined sound that you can’t get with the other brands. In some ways, it’s like the ESW-series, though the sound on the full size models are much more clearer, more refined, and obviously bigger sounding. You don’t quite get this sound with the open-back AD series either, as the closed headphones are still smoother and almost zero grain levels.

Along with the smooth sound, the sound signatures are also very relaxed, making them ideal for slow-paced music. The sound has that weightless quality to it, in one hand it adds an ethereal quality but on the other hand, bass impact is almost always nonexistent. So, it’s definitely a give and take. For the majority of people, the lack of bass impact would make the sound quite hard to get used to so this is not the headphone for everybody. However, I do know that there are people who would enjoy the weightless yet highly refined sound of these Audio Technicas simply because they offer a sound that you can’t get anywhere else.

The W1000X

Between the two models reviewed here, the W1000X has always been the more popular one, and I’ve actually done a review of this right after it came out some two years ago. One reason, undeniably, is the quality of the wood finish. I don’t think you can find a wood finish anywhere else as nice as what you get on the W1000X. The texture of the wood and the quality of the clear coat matches the best finish on expensive violins. It looks just as phenomenal in real life as it is on the photographs.

Another reason for the popularity of the W1000X is most probably on the frequency tuning, most notably on the bass but also the treble is. The W1000X bass has been said to be the best bass you can find on the Audio Technica W-series. And compared to the A-series, the W1000X likewise gives you more bass quantity, more bass body, and it does sound good on the ears. However I did make a comment about the signature of these Audio Technicas lacking bass impact, and the W1000X likewise fits in to that generalization. Although you get more bass with the W1000X, the impact is still fairly weak (probably due the same driver design), and even though the pads are thicker than the A1000X and isolates better, it’s still a fairly light clamp and the result is you don’t get a convincing presentation of the lower bass spectrum. It’s full bodied on the lower mids to the mid bass, but not enough impact and low bass. I think that while casual listeners would enjoy the rich sound of the W1000X, more discerning audiophile types would find the bass execution to be lacking substance.

In addition to the fuller bass, the W1000X also has an upper treble boost that help to push out instrument details. Again, I would expect the effect to work well with casual listeners, but not so much on the discerning ears. And in all, though the W1000X has a more likable “pop” tuning with its fuller bass and the more present treble, it’s probably not going to be popular for the critical listeners.

The A1000X

The A1000X receives a “monitor” label on its bronze colored aluminum cup, and that actually may hint at the sound signature that you’ll get out of this headphone. Clearly flatter and more linear than the  W1000X, the A1000X would appeal to the listeners who wants a pure uncolored sound. In a way it reminds me of the linear sound of the Stax SR-202 lambda, as well as the cult Sony MDR-CD900ST monitoring headphone. Just pure flat and linear from top to bottom. The A1000X sounds very refined compared to the average monitoring headphones, and again it has that sound that you only get with Audio Technica’s full size, closed back headphones (and some of their flagship IEMs like the CK-100 and CKW-1000). Being closed back, it still sounds more closed than say a Stax Lambda, but that extra refinement I get with the Audio Technica keeps it competitive even next to the Stax. Besides, the A1000X is far smoother, is still more linear, and has a wider frequency extension than any headphones in the Stax Lambda line up. And just for the record, the A1000X sounds more spacious and more airy than the W1000X.

A high end monitoring sound is probably an appropriate label for the A1000X. It’s not quite flagship level, but if you’ve been a fan of the Beyer DT880 line up and the AKG K701, you should definitely check out the A1000X. It doesn’t push out details in the music as extreme as the DT880, but on the other hand is not as dry as the Beyer and is smoother on the ears. It’s also not as spacious as the K701, but the sound image is more coherent and the timbre more accurate than the AKG, despite being closed-back. The A1000X is a specialized closed-back headphone, but Audio Technica has executed this one pretty well, and if you’ve always been fan of a linear and airy sound, then you should check out the A1000X.

Music and Amplifier Pairings

Both Audio Technicas is not so friendly with bad recordings, however. And since the pace is quite slow, they’re the type of headphones you listen for relaxing, with relaxing music. Perhaps some moderately paced Jazz, Vocals, and Classical strings would still do, but definitely nothing faster.

With low impedance and high sensitivity, these headphones are very easy to drive. However they are pretty resolving, so I would try to pair them with mid-level amps at least. Something like the WooAudio WA6 or the Graham Slee Solo SRGII. With portables, only use the very best like the ALO Continental or the Triad Audio L3.

End Words

Both headphones are definitely special, but at the same time they are quite segmented. I would recommend them mostly for slow-paced music, but nothing aggressive like Rock or Electronica. Their genre compatibility is pretty limited, but they do sound more refined than the typical mid-fi dynamic headphones like the typical K701/DT880/HD650 trio.

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  • Robert Pettersson Almkvist

    Interesting write-up. As a previous W1000X owner, I agree that there’s a definite midbass-presence but that it lacks impact somewhat. Have you listened to the W3000ANV? I feel that it fills in some of the missing gaps that the W1000X left, like better impact and bass extension while keeping the midrange intact and further refining the treble detail and clarity without making them too aggresive. A review comparison between the W1000X, W5000 and W3000ANV by you would be a very interesting read!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes, a W1K-3K-5K review would be kickass. :D

      • http://www.facebook.com/donunus Don Vittorio Sierra

        A full on ART series comparison from a500 up to the highest models of the A series would also be really cool Mike. I don’t think anyone on the web has ever done one. I’ve seen a bunch of AD series comparisons but no one has ever compared the a500, a700, a900, a1000 and others for instance other than saying that one is simply better than the other or what not.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Trying to kill me, Don?

          ;)

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/3O6L2ZFDVHPQVVEX6LODLJWEMQ Francis Anthony

            You’ve gotta admit thou, it would be beyond awesome if you were to do that :D

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Well if we can get the goods, there is no reason I wouldn’t do it. ;)

              I can try calling Audio Technica and ask them if we can borrow the entire A-series line up. ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/donunus Don Vittorio Sierra

            hahaha well I’m just saying that it would be the first A series shootout I’ve seen online if you do one. It doesn’t have to be longer than one or two pages :D

          • yelodoggy yd

            Well, could be good timing as AT have released the A series with X after the model number, eg ATH-A900X. Really looking forward to read some reviews on the new ‘X’ lineup.

  • Fakhri GenericMav

    i just tried W5k yesterday, and surprising, its quite bright, well, at least brighter than i expected. havent tried the W1000x yet though

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      yes the W5K is supposed to be bright and bass-light. 

  • Anonymous

    Incredible pictures! they are out of my radar:D

  • TheOneInYellow

    Nice review, with ridiculously sexy pictures (I think I may have a fetish for headphones… :/ ).
    Just one problem, there is a typo in your review:

    “…(and some of their flagship IEMs like the
    CK-100 and CKW-1000).”

    I think you meant ATH-CK10 and ATH-CK100 respectively. ;)

    I really, really, REALLY want the ATH-W3000ANV 50th Anniversary L.E. headphones (supposedly only 2000 pairs in the world), which comes with what looks like three ear cups, paired with the  AT-HA5000ANV amplifier (also rare with 2500 units :O); both were designed for each other. But I digress, there is no way I can afford either of them, so I must suffice with my AKG K701’s/UE TF10’s/JDS Labs c421 (and possibly a new amp). :(

    Please, please try and see if you can get both pieces of audio awesomeness and review them! We would love you more! Actually, that’s not possible, we already love you, so…erm…yeah…. >_>

    TheOneInYellow

    ^_^

    • http://twitter.com/ahokzyasha Darmawan Hadisuryana

      the W3000ANV is just beautiful to look at

      • TheOneInYellow

        I love both, but I prefer the amp more. The wood finishes are sublime, truly excellent!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      No, that’s not a typo. The CKW1000 is the latest anniversary edition model. ;)
      The CK100 actually has been reviewed here:

      http://www.headfonia.com/300-iem-shootout/

      • TheOneInYellow

         I did NOT KNOW OF THIS!!!! :O

        My heart almost stopped, and now I am looking at everything about the ATH-CKW1000.
        Man, I hate having so little funds, really wanted a new amp or DAC/amp combo, but these companies don’t let up on releasing eargasmic stuff, do they… :((

        (P.S. I read that review before, and I use it as one of my headphone references when reading about IEM’s :D ).

  • Stefanus Kurniawan

    Good job on the picture Mike, the a1000x and w1ooox together, even though they’re not my favourite headphones is your best picture so far (just my opinion though). Can you make it hi-res and put it in the download section?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Alright, I will do that Stefanus. Gimme 24 hours.

    • http://www.facebook.com/destroysall Chris Allen

      Speaking of pictures, out of curiosity, what camera do you use to take these photos, Mike?

      • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

        Chris,
        It’s a Canon 5D Mk2.

        Cheers.

        • http://www.facebook.com/destroysall Chris Allen

           Very very nice!  :) 

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Stefanus, 
      The wallpaper file has been posted on the downloads section. 

      http://www.headfonia.com/downloads/

  • chunkyoverlord

    Can we plug this one directly to iPod or a smartphone without an amp but with a 3.5 mm adapter? Does these two sound horrible if you do this? How close they sound or resemble to the cheaper alternative Audio Technica headphones like SJ or WS series? 

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      You can, and no it’s not going to sound horrible, but most noticeably you will feel the bass areas lacking punch, among other things that can be better with a desktop set up.

      • chunkyoverlord

        Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/Pickcick Pickcick

    Hi Mike, any luck running into the ATH-W3000ANV in near future?
    Hardly wait your view on this beauty and how it compared to W1000X.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes I am definitely looking to get one of these for a review.

      • http://twitter.com/Pickcick Pickcick

        Great to hear that…!
        Ahh.. I hope it’ll be soon… hehe..
        I’m sold to W1000X especially with your views above, but yet the W3000ANV are having few praises just tickles my curiosity.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          yes the W3000ANV is the latest one out. I will try to find a unit for a review.

  • http://twitter.com/Pickcick Pickcick

    Great to hear that…!
    Ahh.. I hope it’ll be soon… hehe..
    I’m sold to W1000X especially with your views above, but yet the W3000ANV are having few praises just tickles my curiosity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Yu/517350603 Victor Yu

    Mike, will you write a review on the ATH-W3000ANV? 

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      No plans for now, Victor. Still no unit for a review.

      • http://twitter.com/telstar_tos Telstar

         Loan one, I’m sooo curious of your opinion. The W3000 took many hearts of AT fans and non-fans alike…

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          I will try to get a review unit. :)

          • http://twitter.com/Pickcick Pickcick

            Great news…!

  • http://twitter.com/Pickcick Pickcick

    Hi Mike, you said ”
    With portables, only use the very best like the ALO Continental or the Triad Audio L3.” 
    How’s the performance of W1000X if paired with JDSLabs C421?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      never tried that combo sorry. 

  • http://www.audioexcursions.com/ Austin Morrow

    Mike, any chance you could post a wallpaper up in the “Downloads” section of the close up shot of the ATH-W1000X ear cup?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Sure will do.

  • http://twitter.com/telstar_tos Telstar

    Mike, do you have some SS amp recommendation for the W1000X?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I haven’t tried the W1000X on that many different amps, really. Sorry.

      • http://twitter.com/telstar_tos Telstar

        Tthanks for reply anyway :)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chunghojeffrey.chan Chung Ho Jeffrey Chan

    Have you heard the A900X? How would you compare it to A1000X? Thanks!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I haven’t heard the A900X, but the A950 Limited. The basic sound signature is the same, just less spacious.