Amplifier and power requirements.
At only 40-ohms impedance, and with a sensitivity of 99dB/mW, the ATH-AWAS is neither difficult to drive nor terribly amp-dependent. Listeners ought to achieve fairly consistent results from decent quality amplifiers that have sufficiently low output impedance, meaning that both solid-state and transformer-coupled tube amps are ideal.
The Chord Mojo is a great match for the ATH-AWAS, capable of driving them to ‘plenty loud’ at the double-red volume position. Kick-drum slam and dynamics on Pearl Jam’s ‘Dance of the Clairvoyants’ is visceral and fast, this track showing-off also both the imaging chops and perfectly-balanced treble of the ATH-AWAS.
Moving up to a far more desktop amplifier in the Topping A90 doesn’t quite yield night-and-day improvements, but it does present a leaner, snappier tone with a little more dynamic impact and weight.
The ATH-AWAS’ rather lovely tone is sweetened even further with the addition of some tubes into the equation, in this case with the Hagermann Tuba. Playing from its ‘LO’ impedance jack, the Tuba elicits a softer, rounder and more fulsome bassline in Pink Floyd’s ‘Young Lust’ versus the transparent window applied to it on the Topping. It made for a highly musical pairing, and I also enjoyed using vinyl as a source via the Tuba for an even more visceral, analogue experience.
Audio Technica has done a wonderful job of making a great-sounding and great-looking pair of closed-back headphones in the ATH-AWAS. They’re warm, inviting, and easy-to-love. Plus, they genuinely have the technical performance to back it up. If they were the same price as the ATH-AWKT I’d pick them in a heartbeat for both their sound quality and the bump-up in comfort. For $500 less than the ATH-AWKT, I’d do it even more quickly. Given that they play nicely with all kinds of amplifiers and have an ‘heirloom’ kinda charm to them, they make for a pretty solid all-round closed-back headphone – albeit it one that costs $1,399.
But, if you’re even shopping in the hand-made $1K+ wooden headphone category then you’re probably looking for more than simple, rational reasons to choose them. You’re probably looking based on the emotional connection they’re likely to create with you, and how they make you feel. The ATH-AWAS ‘Asada Sakura’ is probably the kind of headphone that people will buy and then hang onto for a long, long time. And that would probably make you feel happy indeed.