Audio Technica ATH-AWAS review

Audio Technica ATH-AWAS.

The ATH-AWAS is a new closed-back headphone from Audio Technica. Retailing for $1,399 USD, it’s hand-made from a rare Japanese Cherry Wood.

 

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Note: Audio Technica Australia kindly loaned us a sample of the ATH-AWAS for this review, which we’ll be sending back their way afterward.

Audio Technica has released not one, but two new range-topping closed-back headphones this year: the $1,899 USD ATH-AWKT which I had the opportunity to review for Headfonia readers back in April; and also its little brother – the $1,399 USD ATH-AWAS – which is what we’ll be taking a closer look at today. Whereas the ATH-AWKT’s cups were made using ‘Kokutan’, a striped Japanese Ebony wood; the ATH-AWAS is hand-finished using a Japanese Cherry wood known as ‘Asada Zakura’, which gives these headphones its signature reddish-brown hue. 

So, besides costing $500 less, how does the ATH-AWAS stack-up next to its more expensive sibling? Well, for starters, it doesn’t appear to give up much in the aesthetic stakes. Aside from the colour of their respective wood, the pair do look very much like twins and appear remarkably similar at arms-length in terms of their construction and form-factor. I will admit upfront that I do prefer the more visually striking swirls of the ATH-AWKT’s ‘Kokutan’ wood in the flesh. While still pretty great-looking, the ATH-AWAS is a little more subdued and less likely to attract stares from passers-by…not that you’ll be likely to take either headphone out in public…right?

Audio Technica ATH-AWAS.

Audio Technica ATH-AWAS.

However, a closer look at the spec sheet tells us that there are a few differences between the two Audio Technica stablemates. The ATH-AWAS uses a 53mm dynamic driver which has a nominal impedance of 40-ohms and a sensitivity of 99db/mW,  slightly different to the 48-ohm/102dB/mW driver used in the ATH-AWKT. This driver features integrated pure-iron yoke, diamond-like carbon coating, and a 6N-OFC high-purity, oxygen-free copper voice coils. Audio Technica opted for synthetic leather pads for the ATH-AWAS as opposed to the sheepskin employed in the ATH-AWKT, which presumably helps to lower the cost between models by some $500. Like the ATH-AWKT, Audio Technica thankfully includes two 3.0m cables (employing their proprietary A2DC connector) as standard with the ATH-AWAS, a 6.3mm single-ended cable plus a 4-pin XLR cable. Listeners will appreciate the inclusion of the latter cable, which is both conspicuously absent from their flagship open-back ATH-ADX5000 and also rather expensive as an after-market option. 

Returning in the ATH-AWAS is Audio Technica’s D.A.D.S. (Double Air Damping System), which divides the driver housing into two separate chambers to both aid bass reproduction, and reduce unwanted resonances and reflections that are one of the pitfalls inherent in closing-off the rear side of a headphone driver when creating a closed-back design.

Audio Technica ATH-AWAS.

Audio Technica ATH-AWAS.

I was beyond impressed with the craftsmanship of the flagship ATH-AWKT, but also experienced some points of frustration with regards to wear and comfort due to the microphonic cables and less-than-ideal seal from the earpads. In terms of sound, the ATH-AWKT dazzled with its clarity, detail and microdynamics, but it also has the potential to be slightly alienating due to its lean, monitor-like voicing that meant it wasn’t a perfect fit with all genres – particularly when more low-end is called-for. So when Audio Technica asked me if I was keen to do a follow-up review of the ATH-AWAS, naturally I jumped at the chance. I was keen to see how this interpretation of a high-end, wooden closed-back performed – not only in terms of its sonic character but also with regards to the type of emotional connection that it’s able to create with the listener. Wooden musical instruments are able to convey a certain organic feeling, and different timbers do genuinely create different timbres (zing). So with that in mind, let’s see how ‘Asada Zakura’ performs. 

Head over to page 2 to read more about the AWAS

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Hailing from Sydney's eastern beaches, Matty runs his own beer business, 'Bowlo Draught', as well as working in creative advertising. When he's not enjoying his hifi and vinyl collection at home, he can probably be found rolling-up on the green at his beloved Bondi Bowling Club.

11 Comments

  • Reply July 21, 2020

    Dylan

    Nice review. You need to add the WP900 to your reviews to complete the story.

    • Reply July 22, 2020

      Matty Graham

      I definitely plan on arranging a full review for these – I was super-impressed after a quick five-minute listen. Watch this space!

  • Reply July 22, 2020

    Gray

    Great write-up mate. Would love your take on Sony’s MDR-Z1R. I’m aware there’s a review on the site but it does not go into that much detail.

    • Reply July 22, 2020

      Matty Graham

      Cheers mate, I appreciate it. It’s been a good few years since I heard the MDR-Z1R – I had about 20 minutes listening to it on a Ragnarok V1/Yggdrasil stack. I remember being wow-ed by the build and design, and impressed by its laid-back and smooth-sounding signature. It’s actually a headphone that I’ve always wanted as a part of my personal collection, but I’ve never got around to it. Thanks for reminding me to check it out again!

  • Reply July 22, 2020

    Disha Shengale

    Thanks for the review Matty. This is one excellent pair of headphones. But I guess it’s a bit too costly at the $1899 price range and there are plenty other models that can match the quality of it.

    • Reply July 22, 2020

      Dylan

      Judging by the headphones you link to in your website, I think you might have a problematic understanding of the term “quality” unless one considers the “boAt Rockerz 400 Bluetooth Headphone with Super Extra Bass” a quality item.

  • Reply August 6, 2020

    Tibor

    I hope you will treat us with better pictures here as well. These cans are so gorgeous, it has to be something to hold them in own hands. The craftsmanship is stellar.
    I did lost a bit of interest in headfonia few years ago, but now I really enjoy it again.
    Thanks to you. Good job, great articles. You have our praise.
    Thank you
    Tibor

  • Reply September 7, 2020

    Headphone connoisseur

    I have a pair and am impressed by the organic Timbre. Something even my stax sr9 can’t replicate. Great review.

  • Reply March 2, 2021

    Josh

    Nice review and after reading a couple on the AWAS it’s a headphone on my shortlist especially after getting the AP2000ti a few months ago which has become one of my favorite headphones. These sound like they’d compliment them well since the AP2000ti is on the brighter side of neutral and these seem to be a bit warmer in tone which I like.

    Speaking about the AP2000ti that’s a headphone I think should get a review because it sounds really good with a lot of detail and surprisingly good bass. While they are on the bright side they aren’t harsh sounding to me but some female vocals can get close to being a bit much but so far haven’t crossed that line yet.

  • Reply March 19, 2021

    Dean

    I never heard about ATH-AWAS headphones type, and I’m shocked by knowing how amazing it is! thanks a lot for sharing such a unique knowledge with us, have a good day!

  • Reply June 23, 2021

    sszorin

    I can not understand why nobody has done a comparative review of ATH-AWAS and ath-W3000ANV. There just isn’t one on the whole planet-wide internet. It is very annoying because this comparison should have been made right at the time when AWAS was introduced to the reviewers and the audio-tech consumers.
    Are AWAS just a tweaked headphones version of W3000ANV ? Or, are they a further development of W3000ANV and an improvement ?
    It is clear that ATH-AWKT’s “ancestor” are ATH-W5000 and that the AWKT exhibit a substantial improvement of W5000’s sound but, is it the same with AWAS in relation to W3000ANV ?

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