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.
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?
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.
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