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4.5 out of 5 stars
Audio Technica ATHESW9A Portable Wooden Headphones
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74 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2009
Okay let me lend my 2 cents about these cans- my main points:

1. Yes, worth the money

2. No significant downside

3. Comfortable

4. Look great

5. Sounds like 250 bucks

On my first point: Once you pull the trigger on these cans, you can be assured you haven't been suckered by inflated reviews. I've tried all its contenders and you simply must pay more to meet its match. If you have a good ear and aren't mislead by the Bose and dr. dre bass subterfuge, you will appreciate every moment these are on your head. If you're worried about sound leakage-don't be. I've had people plug these babies into their iphones at max and there is hardly a peep from them. If you want noise cancellation buy the Bose, but you'll be getting inferior sound. And let me add to that- just placing these over your ears significantly deadens the ambient noise,and with the music on- it won't matter.

Downsides? Ideally, I'd like these to fit completely over the ears, however once you've worn them for a while its not an issue. Another downside I can see is the wood housing succumbing to someone sitting on them. ( get a hard case )

Comfort: Light, and the cushions are just perfect for long durations. Careful, you might fall asleep!

Looks: Wood cans- classy. Not overly large or rediculous looking.

The sound: This is why you're buying them! When you get these delivered, make sure you have a comfortable chair and plenty of music. Let me give you a warning about break in- it sounds like geek gibberish but its not. As I've listened, I've noticed a far deeper tone develope and low frequencies resonating more pleasantly, basically the 'mud/distortion' you think you hear at first actually does disappear.

If you're spending this kind of money, you obviously have quality music to listen to. Great songs that take these around the whole range of frequencies: Beneath Alrischa (DaVinci code soundtrack) -why mention it- the song contains some frequencies so low I was feeling as well as hearing the song. Also 'mad world' donnie darko.

Another mention. Pay 20 bucks for a cheapo headphone amp, I'm using the E5 Fiio- its chinsey but puts that extra bump my iphone doesn't provide without blasting my eardrums.

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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2011
This review of the Audio Technica ATH-ESW 9A headphones is essentially a sequel to my reviews of three other headphones: the Audio Technica ATH M50S, the Grado Prestige SR 225 and the Ultrasone Pro 550S (see my reviews there). I acquired the ATH-ESW 9s after I returned the Ultrasones to the dealer for reasons described in my review. Here is the same preamble I used in my other reviews, with a slight modification because the ATH-ESW 9 are now also part of the picture: This was quite an experience, and I'd like to share my findings, though without doing a side-by-side comparison of the four `phones for various reasons, first and foremost because their individual characteristics are too different for a rigid evaluation on statistical points. If you are curious about my impressions of the others, please see my respective reviews. And if you really twist my arm, I'll say as much: the ATH M50S and the Grado Prestige SR 225 are clear front-runners, perhaps nose-by-nose, the ATH-ESW 9 edging in for maybe the first place, with the Ultrasones not even coming in as a distant fourth. I have praised the ATH M50S and the Grado elsewhere, and I'll focus now on the ATH-ESW 9. The phones are quite beautiful to look at and extremely comfortable on my head right out of the box: light, airy, but a good fit on the ears. Alas, they come with a short (48'') little split cord ending in a mini plug. For those who are into serious stationary audio/video, an extension cord with a regular plug conversion will be necessary. This will set you back $17.59. Regardless, the `phones themselves are so outstanding that I consider them priceless. They sounded already very good right out of the box, as any decent headphones should. Don't be mislead by the breaking-in time. It is mandatory, but if your new `phones sound downright miserable right out of the box, no amount of breaking in will make them glorious. After a break-in period of ca. 50 hours continuous running, I tested them with a variety of classical (orchestral and choral/vocal) music. They have the deep bass (try the beginning of Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra), they sparkle and sing in the treble, all midranges are vivid and present. As opposed to the Sennheisers - always polite and reserved - they have the punch and immediacy I want. Transparency is outstanding. I don't hesitate to put them next to my trusted Beyer 880s and Denon AH-D 5000s, and this is the best compliment I can pay to new `phones. For those of us who do most of their listening with `phones (e.g. given for the sake of domestic peace), a new pair of splendid headphones is actually an additional stereo system, as they all sound different - and much cheaper than my infrequently used high-end components and speakers.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2010
The Look: 5/5
Let's judge this book by it's cover. First words that come to mind when I look at these are retro/classical beauty. The cups are made out of real African Paduak tree, the ear pads are made out of lambskin leather which is unique since this leather is not as soft as the leather used in other high end headphones making it feel more authentic and look customish. The headband seems to be constructed in metal, because the headphones are stretchable, I should know because I stretched them out to about 4" apart so that it doesn't put as much pressure on my ears, it is covered in leather(different from the ear pads' leather) with black on the bottom/sides and brown over the top which also adds to its retro look. Over all, hands down the best looking headphones in it's price range.

Price: 5/5
Speaking of price, these retail for $[...], that is not what the rating above covers, I rate the price based ont eh $[...]I paid from here. There are no headphones this stylish with this built and sound quality for this kind of money, period.

Sound: 5/5
Like I siad this may be subjective, I've met people who prefer muffled highs and mids so I've come to a conclusion that what is defined by high end sound quality isn't for everyone. With that said, separation in lows, mids, and highs is something I look for, and it is definitely present here, certainly better balanced than most $500/below headphones(let's not forget these are only $[...]). Highs are quite nicely adjusted, crisp but not overly hissy, although not recommended listening at very high volumes because crisp highs will fatigue the ear in extended listening sessions. Mids are clear, so clear that it makes even 128kbps mp3s sound better than before. Lows are very well present, punchy bass and pretty deep where necessary, it is a bit laid back, not in the sense that it isn't there but that it doesn't hit you in the face like the Beats By Dr. Dre do for instance, I prefer that because lows push air into your ear which has nowhere to go but push onto your eardrum, the more air the more likely to damage your ears. It still is the best bass response I've seen from any other headphones in these price ranges, especially on-ear headphones, because they have smaller drivers, but then again these are a bit larger than most on-ear headphones and housing 42 mm neodymium drivers. Over all I couldn't be happier with the sound, it really does make a difference, hell it even makes songs I don't normally favor sound so good I like them better than before.

Fit: 4/5
When I said perfect a few paragraphs above I really meant as good as I've been able to find. Like I noted these are a bit larger than most on-ear headphones, they even cover all of my ears, the ear pads even decline inward so less is pushing on my ears. The first time I used them I did start to feel pain after about 2 hours, I've since been able to extend that time to 4-5 hours by stretching them out, even more I've played around with they way I fit them on to make them almost painless. So not perfect but a freaking great improvement over the wear-for-half-hour-feel-pain alternatives.

Portability: 3/5
Double sided undetachable cord, it brakes, you're screwed. Soft case + full bag don't go together too well, although I give the headphones credit for a durable design. Not big issues since I take care of my expensive toys, and I don't travel that much. However, these things could have been improved...

Conclusion: 4.4/5
I'm very happy with my choice, and you could officially consider me an Audio-Technica fan. Not perfect, but what is, after a long search I've managed to come as close to that word as I could for myself. So definitely worth the money it's going for right now, even more if the price goes down further. Enjoy the pics I uploaded to the 'customer images'.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2011
This headphone is amazing!
I had Audio-Technica ATH M50 for over one year now.
I freaking loved my Audio-Technica ATH M50, it sounds great and built quality was simply amazing.
So I decided, if I am going to upgrade my headphone why not go get another Audio-Technica headphone?
Since Audio-Technica ATH M50 has such good reviews all over the net I was worried about buying another headphone around $200.
I thought in order to get better sound quality than ATH M50, I would have to pay at least $300.
However, I did a lot of research and people were saying ATH-ESW9A is amazing headphone, how it is definitely worth the price.
When I first got my ATH-ESW9A I was amazed by how light it was. Compare to ATH M50, it was very light sometimes when I listen to ATH M50 for over hours my neck was starting to get stiff because ATH M50 dose weight quite a bit. However I no longer have to worry about that problem anymore since ATH-ESW9A is very light.
Also I saw comments about people complaining comfort of this headphone; I just don't get what kind of ears they have.... How can you NOT feel comfortable with this headphone? The pads are really soft they just sit on your ears without pressing it like some other headphones do.
Lastly, most important thing is sound quality.
I just want to give two thumbs up on this. They sound fantastic!!. Listening to this headphone just makes me smile, it sound really sweet and since mid is boost a bit the vocals sound very clear and bass is also very good! Compare to ATH M50 there are a lot more bass but it doesn't sound muddy or boomy like other cheap headphones do.
I would definitely go for this headphone!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2011
There is little I can say that hasn't been said about these:

They are awesome little, lightweight, closed-back headphones designed for some serious listening.

I won't use these to mix audio, they are neither robust enough, nor do they give a flat balanced sound. They are designed for listening enjoyment. The wood gives a nice warm balance to most tracks, and it works well for most styles of music except for those relying primarily on a heavy rhythm base rather than a tonal base. (Hip-Hop, Thugg Rap, D&B, club music, etc)

The luxurious lambskin pads are very comfortable, and after 4 hours of straight listening while in the airport they still felt great!

They do become a bit awkward for traveling since they don't fold up. They do however fold flat so you could pack it in your suitcase or something for travel. I ended up making a padded carry case for them. They do tend to drain more power from my mobile devices than a pair of ear-buds, but the audio quality more than makes up for it. With a standard 1/8th jack, it works well with all MP3 players and other computer headphone plug-ins. It works best with AAC, Vorbis, FLAC, and other lossless music codecs.

*If you are looking for something to listen to high-quality lossless, and are wanting a medium price-range headphone, these are the ones for you!*

**If you have a larger head, you might want to skip these since they seem like they are built for those of us with medium to smaller heads and ears.**

***If your music is MP3 and under 160kbs, you might want to look for something cheaper since it doesn't matter how great the headphones may be, they can't improve the initial quality of your music.***
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2011
I tested this headset alongside some of the best headsets in my collection at this price range. Note, there may be better sounding headsets for your mp3 player at higher price ranges especially ones in the Grado line which can be powered by your mp3 player quite nicely even without an amp.

Denon AHD2000 - this is a great headset with a large sound stage. The ESW9 has a much more immediate sound stage. While sound clarity is good in both headsets, the ESW9 wins with less bass. The D2000 has almost too much bass but this works much better with pop/hip hop music. The D2000 is also too big and the cable is too long for portability.

Grado SR60 - cable is too long and is open-back design so there is no privacy. Sound stage is expansive and one of signatures of Grado sound. The sound quality is ok but not as good as the ESW9.

AKG K271 - requires an amp. MP3 player will not be able to power this bad boy. But this is one of the most neutral sounding headset you can get.

B&W P5 - this used to be the clear winner, but the sound quality of the ESW9 blows the P5 out of the water. The P5 is more neutral sounding but its somewhat muffled sound quality loses some of the points here. At an astounding $300 sticker price, it is a no-brainer which headset is better.

The ESW9 is also the most comfortable headset out of the above mentioned ones. It is also very light and therefore makes it even more comfortable than the hefty D2000. The build quality is very good and quite elegant. The cups are made of a special wood which gives it a unique sound quality. This is the first headset that actually spells out "Left" and "Right", printed beautifully in a script font. At $200, it is probably the most affordable audiophile headset you can get that does not require an amp.

Unfortunately, it does fall short in the portability department and is similar to the P5 in that it is not foldable. I was almost ready to use this as a replacement for my current portable listening headset, the AKG K81DJ but for now, the K81DJ is still the best portable headset because it can be folded.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2011
Always buy these from Amazon (Beach Camera) because fake ESW9s are rampant in unofficial sales. Don't say you weren't warned!

I just got these because I'm tired of IEMs for portable use, and I must say I'm very impressed. I do love the sound of Audio Technica's woodie cans (my main pair at home is the ATH-W100) and these sound very similar but in a smaller package. They are surprisingly sturdy and of high quality all around. I really like the lambskin earpads and headband--these are way more comfortable than Grados or any DJ/monitor style.

What you should expect from the sound: a little rolled off the top, slightly forward but incredibly sweet and euphonic mids, and tight bass that reaches deep (it's not particularly punchy, but it can be with the right amp). Do not buy these if you love a sizzling treble or boomy bass. But rest assured, these phones are very musical, meaning they make most everything sound good with that euphonic midrange. Classical, rock, electronic, even hip-hop. It may not be the best at some of these genres, but it's very good at all of them. Soundstage is one area where it suffers compared to full-size circumaural phones, but still better than IEMs and definitely better than Senn HD25s or comparable Grados. And yes, they're easy to drive so they sound good straight out of an iPod (they won't be at their best, but they are very forgiving of poor recordings and players).

I was so impressed I broke down and just ordered a pair of ES10s. Those babies have 50mm drivers (vs ESW9's 42mm) -- the same size as in their full-sized headphones!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2010
This is my first review. I had to comment on these excellent headphones that I've had since February 2010. These are the most detailed and accurate headphones for this price point. The quality of sound rivals headphones that cost much more.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2011
I just have to say these headphones are actually fantastic. I know you may be searching for portable headphones and are probably looking at hd25, phiaton m400, m50s and so forth, maybe something from the ultrasone stable...but I assure you these will not disappoint. They look and sound fantastic. I compared these to a bass heavy pair (hd202) and these had extremely clean lows and sounded much better than the blotted 202s. They go really high and really low and overall the sound is really nice. Also compared them to the monster beats beats by dre, a few studio monitoring headphones and I still think these sound fantastic for all the genres I tried (and I tried everything from jazz to hip hop). The lambskin leather and wood give it a really luxurious feel and look. They hurt slightly after long use due to clamping during the first few days but they are now extremely comfortable. The sound isolation is not the best out there but these things do not leak at quite loud volume so they are suitable for the library etc. I also found them to be a lot smaller and more portable than i imagined. Umm what else. Portable amp...i don't know if you will need one because these are really easy to drive. I got a pa2v2 anyway from Gary of electric avenues (nice guy). It was difficult to determine if they sounded better with my ipod..but I use them with an amp anyway but otherwise you probably do not need it. Better headphones at this price..doubt it. Go for it. You'll love them. I am not affiliated to Audio Technica by the way ;-)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2012
Sources: iPhone4 alone, iPhone4 with PA2V2 amp using LOD, various computers using the Audioengine D1 DAC and the D1's headphone out.

First impression: Soft highs, like so many of the newer high-quality headphones these days. The treble is about 5 db lower than the Shure 1840 (a non-bright headphone) at 10 khz, and gradually rises to the same level around 2-3 khz. I used a slight boost in Foobar2000 to get close to the 1840's output, so I could compare the other qualities on a more or less equal basis. Larger amounts of EQ can introduce distortions as well as irregularities in the frequency balance, but my small test adjustment proved successful. Vocals and instruments with the ESW9A were very similar in presence and harmonic quality to the 1840, but seemed very subtly rougher, which may be an unavoidable result of trying to bring the two signatures closer for these tests. Other than that, the sound is very similar except that the ESW9A is somewhat darker and bassier. The bass is strong, yet doesn't have the kind of upper bass emphasis that colors or muddies the lower midrange.

I ran a series of tone sweeps with the ESW9A to confirm what I was hearing in these preliminary tests, and the only significant variances from flat or neutral (compared to my most neutral headphones) were a slight emphasis at 2 khz and 7 khz, and a gradual rolloff in the deep bass to approximately -3 db at 50 hz and -6 db at 30 hz. This bass response is similar to what I experienced with the new Sennheiser Momentum, except that the Momentum has looser, less well defined tones and impact at the same output level. I expected the ESW9A to have a dramatically smaller sense of space or soundstage than the Shure 1840, since the 1840 is an open model and the ESW9A is a small on-ear closed headphone. The difference was there, but not dramatic, which was quite a surprise. Compared to the Momentum, vocals seem clearer with the ESW9A, and not just because they're more forward (they are, somewhat), but it's probably the same effect as the ESW9A's tighter and better-defined bass.

My overall analysis of the ESW9A's sound: Treble: Soft, but near ideal for most users. Midrange: Excellent, should be near ideal for most users. Mid to upper bass: Excellent, but not for bassheads, not even marginally. Deep bass: Slightly less than ideal, but very good. My overall judgement of the ESW9A is that it's a headphone which can transition well between genres that like a strong yet detailed bass, such as rock or some of the house music, and also those genres that favor vocal and instrumental tone such as jazz, classical, folk, and acoustic. If you like a cooler, leaner sound like the Shure 1840, the ESW9A might not be a good match. If you like a really hard-hitting bass for gaming and other applications that benefit from a lot of physical sensation, also not a good match. For everything else I think the ESW9A is ready to play hard, because the overall sound is smooth and free of peaks and recesses, and the quality of that sound is excellent.

The new ESW9A seems slightly above average in weight for a small on-ear headphone, but due to the soft spongy earcups and the very spongy lining under the headband, the weight will not be noticeable. The moderate clamping force will get much more attention than the headphone's weight, but because the earcups have a wide range of rotation and those cushy earpads, the comfort level will be high. With the earcups folded flat and pulled all the way down, the ESW9A can be worn around the neck comfortably, but it's a tight fit, with the eacups less than an inch from my adam's apple. The outer face of the earcups is supposed to be some kind of exotic wood, yet it looks to me like it could easily be made of plastic, so if it really is wood I can't tell. The ESW9A does look very nice in an understated way - not a fashion/bling headphone in the modern sense, but more like the look of an old library with dark wood fixtures, with its patrons wearing cardigans and smoking tobacco pipes.

The ESW9A's cable is dual-sided, non-detachable, and terminated by a 3.5 mm plug. The wires going to the earcups are 2 mm thick, and the two sides become bonded together (but separable) about 15 inches below the earcups. Total cable length is about 4.5 feet. The ESW9A did not include a 6.35 mm adapter plug, but did include a flat plastic carry bag that I would not recommend using. Although the headphone does not look especially fragile for normal use (unless you yank the very thin cable frequently), any impacts on the thin plastic carry bag could easily damage it.

In other reviews I've done I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to other reviews and see how the ESW9A compares with each individual track.

Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled very well by the ESW9A.

Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Very good overall sound. Of special note for this headphone are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts won't overwhelm you since they're soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry.

Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (1966): Rarely mentioned, but one of the greatest white blues recordings ever. The loud piercing guitar sound at 0:41 into the track is a good test for distortion or other problems. Handled very well here.

Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the ESW9A.

Buffalo Springfield - Kind Woman (~1968): A Richie Furay song entirely, rarely mentioned, but one of the best sounding rock ballads ever. This will sound good on most headphones, but it's a special treat with the ESW9A.

Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken (early 70's): A near-perfect test for overall sound - this track will separate the best sounding headphones from the lesser quality types. Nothing specific, except that almost any deviation from perfect reproduction will stand out with this track. Sounds excellent on the ESW9A.

Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the ESW9A renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

Def Leppard - Bringin' On The Heartbreak (1981): MTV goth/pop/metal at its best - good ambience and high energy - the better headphones will separate the details and make for a good experience. Lesser quality and the details tend to mush together. The ESW9A plays this perfectly.

J.S. Bach - E. Power Biggs Plays Bach in the Thomaskirche (~1970): Recorded on a tracker organ in East Germany, the tracks on this recording have the authentic baroque sound that Bach composed for, albeit the bellows are operated by motor today. The ESW9A plays the tones seamlessly through the upper limits of the organ, which cover nearly the full range of human hearing. Of special note are the pedal notes - tracker organs have low-pressure pipes and don't typically produce the kind of impact around 30-35 hz that modern organs do. A headphone that's lacking even a little in the low bass will sound especially bass-shy with this type of organ, but the ESW9A delivers the full experience of this music.

Jamming With Edward - It Hurts Me Too (1969): Intended originally as a test to fill studio down time and set recording levels etc., this was released a few years later for hardcore Rolling Stones fans. Although not as good technically in every aspect as the Chess studio recordings of 1964, and in spite of the non-serious vocals by Mick Jagger, this rates very high on my list of white blues recordings, and sounds absolutely delicious with the ESW9A.

Jennifer Warnes - Rock You Gently (1992?): The strong deep bass percussion at the beginning of this track has been cited as a test for weakness or distortion in certain headphones. The ESW9A plays those notes with good impact and control. Having played this track a number of times now, I'm highly impressed with the ESW9A's bass reproduction and detail throughout the track.

Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has some loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical on some headphones. The ESW9A provides very good reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in, for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrumental separation and detail, and the ESW9A aces them.

Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (~2009): Featured in The September Issue, this song has heavy overdub and will sound a bit muddy on some headphones. Sounds great with the ESW9A.

Milt Jackson/Wes Montgomery - Delilah (Take 3) (1962): The vibraphone is heavily dependent on harmonics to sound right, and the ESW9A plays it superbly.

Pink Floyd/Dark Side of the Moon - Speak To Me (1973): Strong deep bass impacts will be heard and felt here.

Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues (1968): Dirty, gritty blues that very few white artists could match. On some headphones the vocals and guitar lack the edge and fall more-or-less flat. If you're a really good person, playing this song will probably make you feel nervous and uneasy.

Tony Bennett - I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1962): Frank Sinatra's favorite singer. Highest recommendation. With some of the best headphones, the sibilants on this recording are very strong, but not with the ESW9A.
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