Vs Focal Stellia
To date, the Focal closed-back flagship has been my benchmark in terms of closed-back headphone performance, and this being the case they’re extremely interesting to compare with the ATH-AWAS. Whereas the Stellia is all bombast and dynamics, the ATH-AWAS applies a more delicate, deft brush-stroke. Tonally, the Stellia has a sharper, more metallic edge to its voice and loses out to the Audio Technica’s more natural, organic tone. The Stellia certainly sounds more like a closed-back headphone and doesn’t manage to cope with cup resonance and controlling bass ‘boom’ as well as the ATH-AWAS. However, The Stellia nudges ahead of the ATH-AWAS in terms of ultimate resolution, as well as image structure and clarity – it’s a more immersive net experience.
Vs ZMF Eikon
The big ZMF dynamics sound a little wonky side-by-side with the ATH-AWAS, the linear frequency response of the Audio Technica points-out some peakiness around the 5kHz-mark in the Eikon. Sub-bass is more prominent and better-extended in the Eikon, but it feels lacking in treble energy and detail versus the ‘goldilocks’ highest octave of the ATH-AWAS, whose treble balance continually impressed me in terms of never once sounding harsh nor fatiguing, while always impressing as a superbly resolving pair of headphones.
Vs Fostex TH909
Another Japanese flagship, the TH909 is an aesthetic match for the ATH-AWAS with its incredible hand-laquered Cherry birch finish, but definitely creates a more aggressive, ‘look-at-me’ vibe with its fiery red cups. It’s a more aggressive-sounding headphone as well, with more bass quantity, a forward mid-range, and snappier treble. The TH909 is livelier, more drama-filled listen compared to the ATH-AWAS, and being open-back it naturally delivers greater staging in terms of both height and width. Fans of a more finessed tone will lean towards the Audio Technica, while those looking for a more engaging experience will probably prefer the Fostex flagship.
Vs Astell&Kern AK T5p V2
The ATH-AWAS wipes the floor with the similarly-priced portable Beyerdynamic/Astell&Kern closed-back. Tonally, the AK T5p can’t hold a candle to the Audio Technica, whose natural timbre and mid-range body make the AKT5p sound boxy and hollow.
Vs Audio Technica ATH-ADX5000
When I reviewed the ATH-ADX5000 last year I was singularly impressed with the incisive, detailed nature of the open-back flagship of the Audio Technica range. It’s a technically brilliant pair of headphones, and it also makes for an interesting headphone to complement its wooden, closed-back relative. Moving from the ATH-AWAS to the ATH-ADX5000, it’s almost shocking how much extra bite and detail there is in the ATH-ADX5000. It’s no doubt a spicey-sounding treble, and honestly probably too much for some. The ATH-AWAS sounds like a layer of silk has been layered over its top-end, by comparison, making for a smoother, less fatiguing listen.
The ATH-AWAS actually doesn’t sound that closed-back compared to the open-backed ATH-ADX5000 in terms of soundstage width, which is as much a compliment to the ATH-AWAS as it is an observation on the ATH-ADX5000’s relatively intimate staging. Both headphones offer similar levels of bass quantity, although the ATH-ADX5000’s bass is superior in terms of texture, speed, and decay. These two Audio Technic models make a terrific spiritual match for one another, offering enough difference in terms of both form-factor and voicing to consider having them to sit alongside one another in a collection.
Head over to page 4 to read more about the AWAS.