When the Audio Technica W3000 50th Anniversary Edition headphone was released, I know I wanted to do a review on it, but only if I can compare it to the existing W1000X and W5000 models, which many of you are already familiar with. That day has finally come, thanks to Audio Technica Indonesia, Jaben Indonesia, and my good friend Peter, who helped me to make this comparison possible.
These closed back Audio Technica woodies, everytime I listen to them, is like having Woo Audio’s WA5 amplifier plugged in (even though I’m not using one). They are just so smooth, so refined. The W1000X gets you into that smoothness for the least amount of money, but I’ve always found that there are shortcomings with the W1000X’s tuning that make it fall short to the $1K flagships. The bass, though quite fun, lacks a proper body and weight, and likewise the treble, though present in nice quantities, feels a bit too “pop” (too exaggerated, lacks a smooth extension).
Moving up from the W1000X to the W3000ANV and the W5000 will put you in a totally different league. Even though the W1000X has been a relatively popular headphone in its own right, I soon find out that comparing it to the two bigger brothers, the 1000X is so far back it’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. So perhaps this comparison will be more about the W3000ANV and the W5000, since there is no point in making detailed comparisons if the W1000X will lose on almost all aspects (except perhaps wallet-friendliness factor).
The W5000/W3000ANV vs W1000X, briefly.
I’ve had the W5000 for a week before I got the W3000ANV, and when I took the W5000 to my friend Peter who owns the W1000X I am using for this comparison, I found out that there was no competition: the W5000 totally obliterates the W1000X. Not only in the aspect of technicalities and refinement which is to be expected of, but surprisingly, also in the bass section (previously I’ve heard that the W1000X betters the W5000 in the bass). The W5000 hits with a stronger slam and a weightier body than the W1000X, it was not even a close comparison.
Likewise with the W3000ANV, it was simply a better headphone on all aspects than the W1000X really is. But once you’ve listened to the W3000ANV, there really is no going back as the W1000X sounded so much smaller and lacking weight compared to it. It’s interesting how Audio Technica was able to put so much gap between the W1000X, which I really won’t consider as a bad headphone.
A few weeks back I had one final listen comparing all three headphones together, and for one last time I concluded: there is no point comparing the W1000X to the other two.
The W3000ANV is an anniversary edition which is supposed to be limited edition, but to be honest I have no idea how many of these they will produce. Unboxing it, it’s clear that Audio Technica puts a lot of effort into making the W3000ANV truly special from the layers and layers of packaging and it does show. Even looking at the wood finish and the overall build of the W3000ANV, it easily looks as the higher end model. Not only the finish, but the W3000ANV also weighs slightly more than the W5000, making it feel like *again* like the higher end model (while I don’t know for sure where the extra weight comes from, my feeling is that its from the wood).
When I received the W3000ANV, I listened to it to on the same HRT iStreamer + RSA DarkStar set up that I’ve been listening to the W5000 on, and I said to myself “Gosh, this headphone is a lot more fun than the W5000 is). The tuning of the W3000ANV is slightly darker with a meatier lower mid and bass body and the overall sound feels more planted than the W5000’s airier sound. Though on the W1000X/W5000 comparison I was praising the W5000 for its bass, next to the W3000ANV, I just felt that the 3000 is the one I would go for when I want bass. On some recordings with inherently weak bass, the W3000ANV provides a more appropriate quantity of bass (without going basshead level) with a wider range of recordings. Without a doubt, if an all rounder is what I’m looking for, the W3000ANV is the better headphone for the task. It has the midrange body, the bass body, and the darker tonality blends better with a wider range of recordings. The darker tonality doesn’t translate into “sleepy”, on the contrary the W3000ANV is the more engaging headphone of the two.
Initally I was a bit quick to conclude that the W5000 as the technically better headphone of the two. I think the overall refinement and smoothness of the W5000 is clear, and combined with the more spacious soundstage I was quickly concluded that the W5000 is the more technically capable headphone of the two. However, at this very moment I have to say that the technical superiority may lean more toward the W3000ANV. I began to notice that the W3000ANV presents a clearer sound throughout the frequencies, while there is a slight fuzziness in the W5000, although you don’t usually associate the word “fuzzy” with the W5000, but this is like the case of the K550 vs K701. This is very evident especially in the midrange, where the W3000ANV sounded crystal clear, but not the W5000. This clarity also lends to a more lifelike and crisp timbre, and in comparison there is a tiny amount of reverb on the W5000 that messes with the accuracy of the timbre.
Most impressive in the W3000ANV’s technicality is the superior three dimensionality in the sound stage. Overall, the W5000 is more spacious, but instruments are pushed back and tend to lie on one plane. With the W3000ANV, the sound is not as wide, but you get superior soundstage depth, and instruments have a much more distinct 3D positioning. Once I noticed this, I can’t go back to the W5000 without feeling the flatter three dimensionality on it. Combined with the superior clarity, the W3000ANV presents different instruments playing in the music each with an very distinct presence.
The superior technicalities, combined with the more musical sound signature, is going to be a hard combination to beat, even for the flagship W5000 model.
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