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Audio Technica ATH-W5000 Review

September 21, 2009 By Steve Guttenberg

First impressions of the ATH-W5000 were definitely good, but it took a while before I really heard what makes these headphones special. The longer I listened the more I liked the sound. That bodes well for the ATH-W5000's long-term satisfaction.

The ATH-W5000 is, in the company of other uber headphones, a rather unassuming design. It doesn't ooze luxury.

But if you look closer...


Audio Technica ATH-W5000


Look closer and you'll see the earcups are fabricated from gently curved, striped Ebony wood. Inside the earcups is a 53-millimeter driver with Permendur magnets that were designed exclusively for the ATH-W5000. The magnesium-alloy headband frame and earcup joint design are unique, and the headband's "3-D support wings" auto-adjust to provide a comfortable fit.

Ear cushions are covered in soft black lambskin from Spain. The slender 9-foot, oxygen-free copper cable is terminated in a 6.3-mm plug. The ATH-W5000 is built with care, but it has a studio monitor vibe, and that extends to the way it sounds. This headphone tells you everything you need to know about a recording.

It comes with a dark chocolate brown molded plastic flight case with red silk lining that protects the Ebony wood in transit. A small drawstring felt bag is provided for cable storage, and it keeps the metal plug from marring the wood finish.

The Audio Technica ATH-W5000 has 53-mm drivers with neodymium magnets and oxygen-free copper voice coils. Frequency response is a claimed 5 to 45,000 Hz, with a sensitivity of 102 dB/mW.The ATH-W5000 was the most dynamically alive headphone I've ever heard. No matter what, the sound was fast, clean and tight. Booker T. Jones (he of the legendary Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.’s) has a funky new solo record, Potato Hole.

This is the sort of music that begs to be played loud, and with the ATH-W5000 wrapped around my skull there was no reason not to cut loose. Neil Young's onboard as a sideman, and his scorching guitar leads kicked Jones' keyboard grooves up another notch. The ATH-W5000 is a dream headphone for rockers.

This headphone probably won't appeal to buyers who savor big-n-juicy bass, but the tautly controlled bass lines rolling through my reggae CDs were as supple as they come.

Where other headphones may produce more bass fullness, the ATH-W5000W defines each bass note with a crisp percussive attack. On recordings with acoustic bass you'll really get to hear each pluck!

The ATH-W5000's precise articulation really came to the fore during my home theater listening sessions. Take the Stomp Live DVD: Each “shhhh” of the players' brooms as they rhythmically swept across the stage was distinct. The headphones' soft-to-loud dynamics when the players banged on trash-cans, plastic oil drums and garbage pail lids were truly startling. Most headphones flatten dynamics to a degree, but the ATH-W5000 kicks out the jams.

Downside: The headphone can, on some recordings, take on a "canned" or overly resonant quality. That is, I was aware that all of the sound was coming from inside the headphones.


This article is part of our larger High End Headphones article. 


ATH-W5000: $1,699

CONTACT: 330.686.2600,


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