Audio Technica ATH-W1000x "Grandioso"
I watch the Audio Technica high-end headphone line like a hawk. They're mostly far too bright for me, but they're so cool looking that I keep trying each time AT comes out with a new one because one of these days they'll make one I like, and I'm gonna jump on it when they do.
Now up to bat: the ATH-W1000x "Grandioso."
The Audio Technica ATH-W1000x ($699.95 MSRP - $599 Street)
At CES earlier this year, Audio Technica announce the tenth generation of it's W-Series headphone, the ATH-W1000x "Grandioso" headphone. Long before the rash of "fashion" headphones that have shown up over the past couple of years, Audio Technica has been producing very exotic and, to the eyes of many, very good looking headphones.
They've all tended to be very fast and tipped up sounding cans, but the ATH-L3000 (a limited edition headphone introduced in about 2005, affectionately know as the "Leatherhead" for its leather covered earpieces) sounded pretty darn good to me, but it was a limited edition and gone forever. So I keep my ear out. When the guys at HeadRoom told me they had a set of the new ATH-W1000x in house I scooted over for a listen. Well, they sounded good enough for deeper investigation.
Styling and Build Quality
I love the look of the Audio Technica high-end cans in general. A nicely finished wooden headphone is always appealing to me; the high-gloss finish of the American black cherry earpieces of the Grandioso's certainly qualify. Coupled with the unusual "3D Wing Support" headpads and soaring arch of the two thin but strong headbands, and the cool matching wood connector body, the W1000x is a striking and interesting design.
While the build quality is good, there's a lot of plastic here where metal might have been more appropriate for a headphone of this price. Earpads are pleather, and headpads on 3D wings are fabric over foam. Structural components are plastic with an attractive fine grain textured finish.
The drivers are quite large at 53mm, and they are mounted on a significant angle within the earcup. I've found this to be a good thing, and like that many makers are adopting an angled driver approach. Both cable and voice coil are claimed to be oxygen free copper.
As attractive as the unusual self-adjusting "3D Wing Support" head-pads are, the AT headphones of this design tend to be a little difficult to fit --- especially with small heads. Because the earpices can only swivel on their vertical axis, they will often not line up with the side of your head; often having a gap at either the top or bottom of the earpad. The solution is some significant bending around of the headband to get the angle correct for your head. (See video for further information on adjustment.)
Once adjusted properly, the headphones are very light on the head and quite comfortable. The "3D" pads self-adjust and have light tension, so while they're comfortable when in position, they're not particularly secure. No head-banging with these cans.
These are sealed headphones, but provide only modest isolation. (The Denon AH-D5000, which is a similar headphone in type and price, and a likely competitor for the W1000x, has significantly less isolation.) Given the fact that these are quite expensive and not very stable on the head, they're likely not going to be used as a portable headphone where isolation is critical. Around the home with normal noise levels (T.V., dishwasher, air conditioner) the W1000x will provide adequate isolation.
On to the sound...