Audio-Technica recently released its two latest wooden over-ear headphone models. In addition to their new flagship, the ATH-AWKT, the company has also created the slightly more affordable ATH-AWAS, which sells for $1399. Today, I didn’t have the energy to deal with the massive box that houses the flagship model. #Covidblues. So, I decided to start small. What can we expect from the AWAS in terms of sound and design? Let’s take a look in this Audio-Technica ATH-AWAS Review.
Testing Out Audio-Technica’s Asada Zakura Wood Headphones
IN the BOX
These headphones may be some of the most comfortable I’ve even worn of this size. Despite the hefty look of the AWAS, it feels quite light on the head. The earpads (made from synthetic leather), which offer a generous circumference, are soft and plush. At the same time, they offer a very snug fit thanks to relatively firm clamping force. And perhaps because of the wide dimensions of the headband, there was no feeling of pressure against the head. So, no problems here.
Audio-Technica has employed the rare Asada Zakura for it’s wooden cups. Zakura is a Japanese cherry wood, which is famous for its use in many high-end speakers. It’s mainly used for its delicate acoustic characteristics and minimal resonance. But it’s also quite a durable material. The ear cups have a semi-gloss finish, which is just enough shine to highlight the warm color of the wood.
The AWAS employs 53mm drivers. And with an impedance of 40 Ohms and a sensitivity of 99 dB, these cans are relatively easy to drive. For this review, I paired the AWAS with my Astell&Kern SA700, which provided just enough juice to comfortably power the headphones.
You’ll find two fabric braided A2DC cables in the box: A 3 meter cable with a 1/4 in termination, as well as a 3 meter balanced cable with a 4-pin XLRM connector. Since I was pairing with the SA700, I went with the unbalanced 1/4 inch to 3.5mm option. Note that there is no 3.5mm adapter included in the box.
This is a light bodied sound signature. And those who like plenty of meat in the low end may want to keep looking. The ATH-AWAS is far from bass-heavy. You’ll hear little warmth in your rock tracks, and pop fans may find that their tunes lack adequate punch. And certainly, if you listen to a lot of hip-hop, these cans aren’t for you. That being said, the AWAS does two things incredibly well in this range. Tightness and transparency. I’m usually a sucker for a generous bass response, but listening to funk tracks, the bass was so tight and fast, that I didn’t really care. It was a damn good time. The ATH-AWAS is also a perfect headphone for classical and jazz tracks. The character and subtleties in grain that the AWAS brings out in string instruments is stunning, and the timbre and tone feel so ultra-realistic that if I only listened to these genres, I would consider buying this headphone. But again, don’t expect a grand and majestic sounding cello. There’s little richness here.
Although you can’t call the midrange balance lopsided, I was hungry for a little more body in the low-mids. Still, the upper midrange avoided any artificial emphasis. The separation in the minds is spectacular, and combined with the relatively thin and incredibly precise delivery, acoustic guitars sound divine on these cans. Highly nuanced and natural in its presentation, the ATH-AWAS is indeed a headphone built for acoustic instruments. And if you’re a fan of folk, you’ll certainly gravitate towards this sound signature as well. Although male vocals may lack a little weight, female vocals are buoyant and glowing, and they float effortlessly through note progressions.
The AWAS avoids any uncomfortable brightness for the most part. Listening to Miles Davis’ Flamenco Sketches, the experience was relatively forgiving even as the trumpet reached treble peaks. That being said, high-frequency percussion became a little too much on some pop tracks. And theres was a touch of vocal sibilance on certain songs. But still, female vocals (and string instruments) were where the AWAS really shined in this range.
I couldn’t expect more for a closed-back headphone at this price point. On the subject of imaging, gradations along the horizontal axis felt more nuanced than they in terms of height and depth. And the same was true with respect to the spaciousness in general. More than height or depth, the sense of width felt particularly expansive. And of course, thanks to the superb level of separation, instruments felt broadly spaced out overall.
PROS and CONS
Pros: Superior clarity and ability to bring out the finest characteristics of acoustic instruments; tight and well controlled.
Cons: Lacking in bass; not for listeners like a darker, full-bodied sound signature.
The ATH-AWAS may not produce the most versatile sound signature, and those who like ample low-end and body in their mix may not be the best candidates for this headphones. That being said, the AWAS performs superbly at what it does best. Few headphones can deliver such fine-drawn detail in acoustic instruments at this price point. The remarkable level of precision lends itself beautifully to guitars and strings especially. And if you mainly listen to unplugged genres, you should definitely put the ATH-AWAS on your shortlist.
You can find these headphones for the best price here:
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