Here is another closed headphone that has been a long term crowd favorite from Audio Technica. The ESW-9 comes with a fancy wood housing, and accordingly, belongs to $200-$300 range along with the Monster Beats Studio and Beyerdynamic T50p.
Unlike the two Shures or the M-50, the ESW-9 belongs to the smaller housing size group, along with the Sennheiser HD25-1 and the Beyer T50p. I know that I’ve confused the term “portable” many times, calling the M-50 and the Shures as portables, when in reality, they belong in a desktop environment. The truth is, the EWS-9, the HD25-1, and the T50p are the true portables.
The ESW-9 is clearly designed as a music listener’s headphone. The sound is warm and very musical. There isn’t a lot of treble presence in the ESW-9, as the presentation is a more to the relaxed and mellow side. It’s fairly good for classic Rock, but definitely lacks PRaT and energy for the faster Rock and Electronica. If your music is any of the above, then you’d better cross out the ESW-9 from the list.
Having the least amount of treble among the others, the ESW-9 may sound dull and unlively for some people. But for some others, it means hours of unfatiguing music session, while scrolling through multiple genres of music. It’s a very safe player, with good midrange and bass performance, but as I’ve said earlier, it may also sound dull for people who’s used to listen to livelier sounding cans. Previously, I’ve said that the ESW-9 sounds like it has a tube amp permanently attached to its driver, and I think it’s still a fairly good description of the ESW-9.
If you’re going to evaluate the headphones on a segment by segment basis, then the M-50 actually will with better score than the more expensive ESW-9. The lack of treble on the ESW-9 alone is enough to cross out treble lovers from the list, and the fact that the M-50 has one of the most brilliant treble in this comparison sounds like a double blow to the ESW-9. Moving to the midrange, and the M-50 is just as good as the ESW-9, though in slightly different ways. The ESW-9’s mid sounds thicker, but the M-50’s is actually fuller bodied down to the low mid area. The less treble presence on the ESW-9 does make vocal sound less sibilant, and that’s an appeal in itself, but at the same time, I find the ESW-9 to lack the midrange clarity of the M-50. Moving down to the bass, and again the M-50 will score better on a table. The bass has better definition, is fuller sounding, and extends lower on the M-50.
I keep on saying that if we were evaluating on a segment per segment basis, because at the end of the day, the tube-amp sound of the ESW-9 do have a very strong appeal to a lot of people. The ESW-9 is another case when the total sum is greater than the individual parts. Undoubtedly, the mellow tube amp sound of the ESW-9 sound has a very strong appeal, especially for smooth jazz and female vocal lovers, as the lack of upper treble actually makes for a sweet coloration that works well for female vocals.