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.
Continue to the next page…
Congrats Mike on getting your hands on the 3kANV, but for the price I would have been all over this. Works superbly with some metal and hard rock IMHO.
Thanks, Marcus. I saw your review posted about 2 months ago.
I had considered emptying the piggy bank for it at one point haha!
Lol yeah I think this is the best Audio Technica woody so far.
I believe the number of production units will be 2000 or something like that – the resell value has yet to go up though so any owners there hold firm for a few years.
Well I’m hoping that ATH would release a W7000 which would be a W5000 and W3000ANV combined. 😉
Mike, this is once again an amazing review. I really want to try out one of these one day. I enjoyed the portable ESW-9 immensely! Anywho, I must ask if the header photo can be made into a wallpaper? I love it so much!!
I will do the wallpaper as requested. 🙂
Mike, any particular amp you have tried driving the W3000ANV well? I used WA6SE and Asgard now. I have both W3000 and ESW9, love them. Share your photo as a wallpaper please.
I only got to try the W3000ANV with mostly solid state. RSA Dark Star, Burson Soloist, ALO National. I like it with the Soloist and the National. I broke the tube on my Crack so I can’t use it for this review.
Will do the wallpaper.
Mike, will you be doing a detail review on the Soloist? Do you think that is significantly better than the HA160? Also how would you compare W3000ANV with Alessandro MS-PRO
The Soloist review will come, yes. And I think it’s a significantly different amp than the HA160. Overall I think it’s a better amp than the HA-160, but some aspects the HA-160 does better.
The W3000ANV is very different than the MS-Pro. The Pro sounds like a more neutral, less colored Grado. Very lively, very open sound. The W3000ANV is much smoother and more refined, but more closed in and less lively.
I still enjoy the MS-Pro very much.
Thanks Mike for another good review. I know this is about the woody cans shoot out, but just wondering how about the 3000ANV if compared to LCD2? Maybe on the “bass” section? Or will there be a particular review on the 3000ANV?
This IS the 3000ANV review. 😉
Ah, you know that the 3000ANV can’t compete with the LCD-2’s bass.
Nico Demus Harold
Whoaaa, very nice review Mike!
I really love all of photos here!
Guys, for the wallpaper of the main image, you can download it here:
Would it be possible to get a large version of the W3000 on it’s own close up of the cup?
I think you can find that image here:
WOW! Stunning pictures! Great review too.
Could we get a wallpaper of the 5th image?
Here is the download link:
I was very torn between the WX3000/5K and the JVC DX1000. Ultimately, I went with the JVC and have been so happy with it. Even had it modded with a detachable braided cable that uses Sennheiser inputs. Now that I read your review, I am sure my will power will eventually break and I’ll end up buying the WX5000 as well ha! Thanks for the write up Mike, as always I enjoyed reading it.
You’re welcome, Mike. 🙂
Minh Duc Nguyen
I own all W1000x-W3000ANV-W5000 and arriving JVC DX-1000. I would love to give the impression
As always, wonderful photographs.
Minh Duc Nguyen
Bought one (1298th) and it sounds amazing just out from the box, I also own the 1000x too XD
Sweet! You mean the W3000ANV right?
Mike I just wanted to tip my hat to you… you helped me make some very intelligent decisions with my investment in a portable system and I could not be happier…. For three days I sat there staring at my new Alo Continental without a LOD for the iPod or a DAC to run it off the computer… It was driving me crazy. Yesterday everything finally showed up. I figured out pretty quickly that the iPod/Continental set up actually favors the Ultrasones because the iPod doesn’t generate a lot of low end, and the continental is more mid range oriented… the Pro900s being as thick and warm as they are really help bring some low end into the overall tone. And I am running the HE-400s through my desktop with the FiiO… which is one hell of a little device. The Hifiman cans are really amazing….
So now the dragon flys on… and I give chase…. Audeze? boutique cables? Grados…. where I chase the dragon to next I don’t know but it’s been a fun ride so far.
Good to hear that you’re enjoying the trip. 🙂
Hi Mike, Thanks for the review, if u have a choice to have sennheise HD 700 or W3000ANV; which will u pick? And i would like to know why, thanks
hi, where can i buy the w3000 here in Indonesia since you mentioned getting them from audio technica indonesia, assuming they have not run out of course, and what the price would be like opposed from say buying from amazon.com or overseas retailers. thanks.
i bought new W5000 from JPN few days ago, contact me if you interested
well right now im still in the planning process for the purchase and not ready to pull the trigger just yet, also from reviews around the net it seems that the w5k does not fit the type of music i listen to. if i may ask, how did you get the w5000 to indonesia? was it through online services (proxy, etc) or did you visit japan and bought the cans there?
my friends brought me from Japan, but i dont really like the sound signature
do you have any recommended amp for W5000?
any amp recommendation for w5000??
The Burson Soloist was especially nice as it added some bottom end weight that I find the W5000 to lack.
Maybe it is a stupid question but.. how do you compare the W3000ANV to the HD650? I want a step forward (big) from the HD598.
The W3000ANV are around 1200 USD and the HD600 400 USD, so it is such a difference.
Wow factor wise, the W3000ANV is way ahead of the HD650. Its sound is crystal clean, the midrange is very special and can’t be rivaled by 99% of all the other full size headphones in the market. However the sound is still quite polarizing and not as good all rounder as the HD600/650. It would also require a much more careful selection of amps and source. I can imagine someone with a budget for several high end headphones getting the W3000ANV, but if you don’t plan to own several of these $1,200 babies, then something with a bigger genre bandwith like the HD600/650 is a better choice.
So I guess that the next step from the HD598 is the HD650, any other recommendation? L and Mike already recommended it.
L and Nick 😉
hmm… you forgot the HD700 which is just shy of $1k!
As far as I know Mike couldn’t get the final version to review yet, right? And also, isn’t there a mixed feeling around the web about it?
Some say… that there is a peak around the 6k frequency which makes them fatiguing, some say that the HD700 is unlike the traditional Sennheiser sound.
I’d play down those comments because those are honestly coming from objective based testing. To sum it up simply, it doesn’t have the bass slam of the HD650 nor the technicalities of the HD800 but it sits in between them having a very clean, clear and smooth sound. It doesn’t beat the 800 nor does it have that addictive fun slam of the 650 but it has a more conventional sound yet it mixes in a bit of both headphones to make it sound musical yet with a good level of technicalities and resolution. Moreover, the HD700 breaks the conventions of typical dynamic driver headphones.
The “mixed feelings” that people have is a result of expecting the HD700 to sound what they thought it should have sounded with the HD650 and HD800 as reference for the Sennheiser series. Another way to look at it is that the HD700 simply has a unique sound as with any other headphone.
Oh and if you ever spot reviews stating that they use benchmark DAC and benchmark gear blah blah blah… stay the hell away from them. These are the sort of people that listen to headphones through a microphone and a frequency response graph.
Note taken :).
So you actually auditioned the HD700 and you like it more than the HD650? What about scalability?
Scalability is good with the HD700.
Mike, do you still you recommend the HD650 for me? Or if I can pay for it, would be nice the HD700 as an all-rounder?
The HD700 is far more easier to drive and so it’s much more easier to understand it’s sound with not so power amps. Mike did say you can drive it out of an iPod, and yes it would be a better all rounder. Some people feel that the HD650 may be too slow and relaxed for their music. But $350 to $999 is a massive jump in cost, but it is worth it considering you don’t want to run big desktop amplifiers so you could budget less for a decent mobile one.
I think I will focus on HD650, HD700, HE400 and HE500. HE500 are very tempting although I fall short of amp for them. It seems they will have the HD650 and HD700 for audition in Dubai so I will probably ask again once they have both in stock again :D.
I’m not saying the HD700 is bad, but it’s new and despite the fact that I think it’s very nice, I still want to hear people’s take on it over the long run.
With the HD650, it’s pretty much proven that the headphone has stood the time test, so it’s a safer bet.
However sometimes being safe is not always exciting, and I can imagine that it would be far more exciting to pull the plug on a brand new HD700 than a HD650.
Personally, haven’t got the time to audition it since it came out : Not many stores have it around for auditioning either. I think Mike has a production version of the HD700 to tell you about that, I recall he was messing with it on the Crack. Although I haven’t tried it, I think the impressions of the guys on head-fi and several other audio reviews tell you enough. It simply sits between the 650 and 800. Whether one would like it or not completely depends on the synergy of the music. Since you listen to pop more the less resolving 650 would be more forgiving than the 700. But at the same time, the 700 has a superior soundstage imaging and clarity. It all boils down to your music, individual opinions of others that “like” it with their own music are always subjective.
Mike claims that J-Pop doesn’t sound miserable with the 700 but even I’m not sure as we both know that bright sounding J-Pop + high clarity and treble peak = ear implosion. Opinions will always differ.
Scalability wise, I think Mike should be able to comment on that.
I did listen to the final version just today. It was the prototype version sound + more bass and less treble peak. Pretty much what I suggested on the review (not saying they did those changes based on my recommendations, but those were the things I said needed some changes).
Like what Nick said, it’s very clean, clear and smooth not like the typical dynamic driver. No addictive fun slam of the 650 nor the technicalities of the 800.
I’d still take it over the 800 unless you have a $3000 tube amp to drive the 800 with. The HD650, I can’t seem to get away from its bass and no other headphones offer that kind of a bass currently.
But if you’re looking for wow factor, the 700 is very high, and with a wider genre bandwith than the ATH W3000ANV too.
The thing is, and this goes for anything (headphones, music, cars, special effects, husbands and wives) the wow factor will eventually go away as you get used to it. What makes the “traditional” sennheiser sound so popular is that it is so musical and non-fatiguing that it becomes the sound that you want to live with. Wow factor only goes so far.
Mike, when you mention polarizing sound. What effect does this have with the listener?
Polarizing as in some people would love it very much, others would not.
Could you be able to compare W3000ANV to the Denon AH D700 or even better to the AH D7000 mod – Lawton Audio LA7000 ?
Denon D7000 to the W3000ANV, I think the Denon is mostly better. Wider sound, smoother tonality top to bottom, very smooth and spacious. The W3000ANV has a smaller soundstage with a more caved in sound, more mid bass but a sharp roll off on the low bass.
The Lawton audio, I havent heard it so I cannot comment.
Great review, Mike (as usual, I should add :-).
I have the W3000 and the W1000X (and the W1000), although not the W5000 (yet :-). You convinced me I should get the W5000. 🙂
I’ll explain: They all sound awesome to me, but the “best” depends on the amplification I put on. With my matrix mini, the W1000 is all so awesome. With the Aune T1 + Integra 50.1, the W3000 shines. With my shanling ph300, the W1000X just melts me. I can only wonder what the W5000 will do… given that I find the right amplification. 🙂
So, if you still remember and it is not too much work, could you tell the amplification you used in this review.
Ugh, thanks for the compliments Walfredo. Did I not mention the amps I used? It’s been a while now and I’m not so sure I can remember the set up.
have you ever used the wa5 for w5000?
Thanks for the great review!, among w3000anv(w5000) and Beyer T5p, Which one is more suitable for classical music? Such as symphonies and viloin concerto
I think the W3000ANV. By the way why only those three?
Yap! I narrow the list to closed headphone only to avoid interferance to other family members.
I been listened to HD800 and like the sound signiture, but its open one
I was read that the Audio-tech cans are good at vocals, esp. Female but not very good at concerto, is it true to W3000anv?
I also plan to listen Ultrasone Sig.Pro
Further advise will be highly appreciated!!
Closed headphones, the TH900 is exceptional. I gave it a super rating above the HD800 these days.
Possibly the best closed out there right now.
The Ultrasone, ugh I thought it wasn’t worth anywhere near the asking price.
Hi Mike. I own the W3000anv. I agree with that very special mids which are stunningly for female vocals and a touch slightly so for male vocals. Please give me your kind advice on the best amp to pair with this headphone. Many recommended the AT HA5000 but the anv version is US$2.5K b4 tax. Secondly, what are your thoughts on Grado PS1000 ? This headphone like all Grados seem to be very polarising. It is undoubtedly euphoric but the sound is beautiful with great bass, lush mids and crystal clear highs. Listen this next to mainstream headphones like the Sens & Beyers, the sound is so rich and the wow factor is overwhelming. I always want to ask your opinions on the above but hesitated because you must be very busy. I must apologise for taking your valuable time.
Something smooth and warm.. Violectric V200?
Thank you for the recommendations. I also admire your ability to maintain long term sustainable interest in this hobby for so many years. Do you ever get bored day in and day out eat, think, talk and write all about HPs ? I will soon take a trip to your shop when I drop over in Jakarta. I am currently station at NYC.
I thought about that as well.. when will the day come that I would get sick at all these headphones? I think the fact that I keep on getting new gear either from the store or for review samples help keep things interesting. However maintaining the interest for keeping the site going has not been easy and I’ve really struggled with that a few times.
How are we going to pass the time if Headfonia.com no longer exists?
Deciding between the Th600s and the 3000Anvs, which would be better for the likes of jpop, jrock, and a tinge of vocal heavy songs? I tried to eliminate the Th900s as they are just too premium price wise for me to consider…although it is still very tempting.
I don’t think these cans are good for jpop and j-rock stuff. More for slow acoustics, ballads, jazz, classical and such.
Jpop or Jrock, I think the Vmoda M100 (though in an entirely different price class) is one of the best at the moment.
Would you say the Fostexes are better with that genre?
I tried the M100s for a month and found it to be too recessed in the mids. I really like vocals, even among pop and other fast paced songs.
I wouldn’t say that the Fostexes are better…
Have you tried the Beyerdynamic T5p and/or the DT770 AE?
The closest to that I’ve tried is the T1? Does that count? Although I was also demoing the Hd800, which were more addicting than the T1s
Hi, I am a AT W3000anv owner. It is soooo good that I bought another set to keep (as this is a limited edition of 2,000 sets which had dried up 2 or 3 months ago. It is on Ebay for US$2,900 now or some Japanese sellers but they are asking for the sky i.e. US$3,000.
This is the best hp that I own besides the other flagships mentioned in this fine website and in Headfi. Better be modest as envy is a human trait. This AT has a very euphoric mids and overall it is very musical. Not for the genre that you want. Sorry.
Another great that I have is the Fostex TH900 which has a great bass almost near the level of the very expensive Abyss. IMO, the sound signature between this 2 HP are almost alike. Of course, the Abyss is faster and better all round in comparison but the Fostex is not put to shame.
If I were you, I would buy the W3000ANV if you can find one. But be assured most owners are unwilling to sell. Or save till u can buy the TH900. Regrets & trade in is a loss-loss scenario. Just take a deep breath & buy the TH900.
The AS team specifically recommended the W3000ANV for their new player AK120. I just bought the AS120 and the synergy with the W3K is amazing.
Hello other Rich!
Thanks for your post. It was definitely a valuable and informative piece.
I was at a Head-fi meet the other day, that had all headphones short the W3000ANV. Needless to say, at a point, and because of meet conditions, the headphones started sounding the same. The only one that did stand out was the SR-009 at the Cavalli Audio booth.
I have a friend who has 3 pairs of t he W3000ANV. Hopefully, he’ll be able to let one go to me. If not, I’d really like a demo to see how they really sound and if they match the perpetual praise they receive.
But, if I were to buy a W3000ANV, I would have to sell off the TH900 I just purchased. (made the decision after the meet :D) Is that still “recommended?”
By the way, I keep hearing how overpriced the AK120 is. Not to detract from your audio enjoyment, because it is no doubt a wonderful DAP. But I really did not feel it was worth the hefty price. I was surprised it could drive an HD800 with ease, but for more sensitive phones, it didn’t exactly have a “significant” improvement vs a simple iTouch setup. But perhaps that’s me. Maybe it’s my blessing that I cannot tell the difference between sources.
I vote definitely do not buy blind at this price-range:
The AK120 is expensive. Yes. If you look at some medium and very expensive headphones in general, the technology is not that high and rather inexpensive to make.
But if you look at an iPhone, iTouch, iPad, Android devices or the AK120, the technologies that go into these are very high. Micro size very intricate components must be squeezed into these tiny boxes. Batteries are also tiny yet are expected to perform for hours.
So, seen in these perspective, these products are inexpensive.
The size of the AK120 is so tiny and the human cognition expects a bigger package. A dissonance.
The AK120 is now at the apex of the pyramid with no direct competitors. Sound wise, it is dark, warm, and grainless. I like it but yes the price is high but it can also be used as a stand alone dac using the usb to connect to the Mac Os or PC.
It can play DSD which no other players can.
Problem is how to get SACD quality downloads ?
Don’t sell your TH900. It is a dam good headphones. You made the right and best decision.
How does the AK100 compare with it? If we’re looking at pure sonics, without the other functions of the AK120. The AK100 can also be used as a standalone DAC right?
Sorry I only own the AK120 and don’t have the AK100. So I am unable to assist you on this. I remember I read somewhere but I have forgotten the source that the AK100 can also be used as a stand alone dac just like the AK120.
My acquaintances who own the AK100 are upset as the older model was out not too long ago. —and now this AK120 comes along. Maybe it is too soon to have a model change i.e. AK120 but this is now an established fact. Tech products’ life cycles are getting shorter just like cell phones. New models after 3 or 6 months for many brand name cell phones and tablets.
This planned obsolesces is unacceptable to people who must have the latest.
I think the latest firmware 2.10 makes the AK100 works as a USB DAC as well.
The AK120 has a more open, smoother sound and with a better top and low exension.
Thanks, I have the W2002 which sounds very close to the W3000ANV’s signature but with a much better bass. 😉
Thanks Mike for your inputs. I don’t even know that a
W2002 exists. Great bass huh ? Must be a collector’s item now.
Yes the mids are a bit recessed, but overall I feel that the M100 pairs very well for fast paced Jrock and Jpop. While with the wooden ATH and Fostexes, you would get a more intimate midrange but the overall presentation doesn’t really work IMO.
My preference for music tends to be having the vocalist, of whatever band, become larger than life and in your face. No matter the genre. If using this definition, would a mid forward/audio technica house sound suit me?
So far, I have a Kaede that supplies me with the micro details I need. I also have a SRS 2050 system which I found thin and lackluster while sounding grainy against the clarity the Kaedes held.
Another option would to go for a Jack of All trades phone. Because aside from the typical jpop under the category of Anisong, there are still some songs with classical and jazz influences. In this scenario, what would be a good recommendation?
Oh yes in that case the Audio Technica woody headphones would be good to check out. The TH600 is a bit more flat and not really recommended if you want a forward vocal.
You can also check out the HD800, HD700, T1, T5P for classical and jazz influenced songs.
Thanks! Looks like I’ll have another arduous task of finding a used W3000 ;).
I’m curious, what do you think is a good top end “all arounder” for both open and closed backs.
I think the LCD-3 is the best all rounder right now.
The TH900 is the best closed back but I don’t think it’s an all rounder.
Also at this level of headphones, AMPLIFICATION and SOURCE are EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Budget some additional $3-$5K for amp and source for the $1K+ headphones.
If you don’t have the budget for high quality amp and source, I’d suggest going for a $500 level headphone like the HD650, Sony Z1000, Beyer DT770 AE and find a good amp and source for those cans.
Hi team headfonia. Excuse me please. I know, this rewiev is realy old, but maybe you will can answer me. Also, if you have a some experience with mrSpeakers Ether C /no flow/. Please, do you can make some simple comparation for me, between ATH-W5000 and Ether C? What is beter or oposite. I want at this time use them with my Colorfly C4, almost. I know, both are old models, but because my budget is low, i look for some used ones, and at first, i want a make some decision. Thanks for your help, patience and kind answer. Best time…