Audio Technica's most high-end pair of headphones are the ATH-W5000, costing £700. But if you just can't run to that cost, try the ATH-W1000s -- closed-back, reference grade cans aimed for indoor use. They may be just what you're looking for and cost a comparatively meagre £400.
Solid wooden enclosures house these headphones, yet don't add the heft you might expect -- the W1000s are still fairly lightweight. Inside the cans sit luxurious earcups, which are both exceptionally soft and comfortable for long periods, particularly as they press only very gently against the skull.
In fact, the headphones on the whole offer decent comfort. They're modelled after the W5000s and as such, don't offer quite the same level of comfort as Denon's AH-D5000s, but the ergonomic and padded headband work with the comfy earcups to deliver an enjoyable fit.
A 3m oxygen-free cable comes with a 6.3mm gold-plated plug fitted as standard and is wrapped in a tough cloth. Cloth is more prone to wear and tear in time if not carefully cared for and as headphones can last years we're not fond of this quality.
Moving inside the headphones, you've got a 53mm driver backed by a neodymium magnet, responding to frequencies between 5Hz-40kHz, plus a sensitivity of 102dB and an impedance rated at 40ohms. Like the W5000s, the W1000s are not the loudest or most sensitive reference-grade headphones we've heard, but can handle a high power input of 2,000mW at 1kHz.
After giving the 'phones about 100 hours of constant playback in a cupboard, we heard the same Audio Technica voice present in the flagship W5000s -- emphasis on brightness, exceptional clarity, a tremendous sense of space and transparency, but a slightly underpowered low end.
These aren't headphones for fans of deep, booming bass lines. Instead, they offer blistering detail across the board, placing them as ideal contenders for use in a home studio or around the ears of any musician or music fan who wants to hear the finest pin drop.
We fired up Will Smith's Just The Two Of Us for some late '90s pop. From the opening bars we heard an extremely balanced sound with prominence in the funky drum tracks backed up by shimmering cymbals, ice-crisp hi-hats and beautiful bongo drums beating delicately in the far right channel. We couldn't help but get jiggy with it.
Fast forward to 2008, The Ting Tings' Hey Mickey-esque That's Not My Name was delivered with great openness for what is actually quite a mid-fi recording. Katie White's Manchester vocals were clean and bright, while those backing claps, drums and acoustic guitars were each perfectly separated. As the track builds to its final crescendo of harmonies, backing vocals, layered guitars, sound effects and distortion, the W1000s managed to keep the sound evenly balanced and uncluttered -- an excellent achievement, as there's actually a lot going on as the song concludes.
As we hinted at before, the bass presence is what's going to put some people off. Masters of drum 'n' bass, Pendulum's bass lines were clean and balanced, but that explosive low-end that causes Denon's bass-tastic AH-D5000s to shatter your skull just wasn't present -- something to keep in mind if you're a big dance and electronica fan.
Without question these are superb reference headphones and are pitched at an attractive £400 price for the serious home musician or the discerning audiophile. If you crave that extra bass presence, look towards Denon's outstanding AH-D5000s.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday