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This is the 35th in a series of reviews dedicated to the concept of 32Ohm Audio as embodied by the store of that name in downtown Portland/Oregon and described here - Ed.

This review first appeared in the February 2011 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Audio-Technica ATH-W1000X in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Audio-Technica - Ed.

Reviewer: Sebastian Eilzer
Source: Sony SCD-XB790, Musical Fidelity X-DACv3 with PSU
Headphones: AKG 501, Sennheiser HD650, Sennheiser HD800, Beyerdynamic DT880, Beyerdynamic T1, AKG 701, Denon D7000
Headphone amps: Headamp GS-1 w/DACT, Musical Fidelity X-CANv3 modified with PSU, Meier Audio Corda HeadFive, Corda Swing
Review component retail: €748

Evolutions on the wooden path: Japanese manufacturer Audio-Technica’s wooden series has a tradition that began in 1996 with the W10VTG. 1999 saw the W100 successor. This was shortly followed by the W1000. Also within this series were regular sightings of limited edition models cheek to cheek with the standard offerings. Since 2005 the W1000 was accompanied by the top model W5000 whose very particular voicing and physical fit deemed problematic by many users put it somewhat in the shadows. After a long absence on new introductions the successor to the W1000 is now here. It's called the ATH-W1000X nicknamed Grandioso.

External changes are few. The angular core of the wooden cups is pleasantly rounded and texturally ennobled by many layers of high-gloss lacquer. The company's extensive experience with wooden housings really communicates. Fit & finish of the Japanese Asada Cherry wood are immaculate. Depending on how light falls on the lacquer, color hues shift. Looking closer certain improvements become obvious. For one the banded construction now is of magnesium alloy which improves tactile contact and damping. The plug housing duplicates the wood of the ear cups. Only the paper-box packaging with plastic insert seems a bit déclassé given this price league.

Audio-Technica’s wing support system ubiquitous in all their larger models has been revisited too. Unlike the full-contact head bands used elsewhere this concept floats the headphones on the skull on two separately sprung lateral ‘wings’. This has several advantages. The crown of the skull encounters no weight which many find unpleasant over time. And, the customized fitting with the multi-axis adaptable contact patches is more flexible than any other design I’m familiar with. Spring tension is perfectly tuned to headphone mass to create a comfortable fit for any user without requiring manual adjustments. Where earlier models with this system were more limited since their wings moved in only one direction, the concept has since matured to at least in my eyes be the most comfortable system for headphones extant. The ear cushions here are clad in quality leatherette which further enhances wear comfort.

Of late many headphone makers have vocally embraced bigger and bigger transducers. Audio-Technica has relied for years on a 53mm unit and the W1000X gets the latest version thereof. In conjunction with the sealed cup this sets up the so-called ‘double damping’ system said to minimize colorations from resonance. Here I must add that despite being a closed design, the W1000X like similar efforts elsewhere isolates far from completely to instead increase wear comfort and sonic control.

Amongst cognoscenti the W(ood)-Series by Audio-Technica has long since gained a specific reputation. At least outside Japan very few acquire a model from this series as their only headphone. On one hand this could be due to lacking familiarity with the brand or limited domestic availability. On the other hand it’s equally true that the voicing is quite specific. Nearly all of the firm’s bigger models carry a particular house sound which not everyone agrees with. On top of that, each wooden model is specific again which has certain collectors acquire more than one or all of them. I’ve owned various ones and over the years heard most. The problem remained. While each excited me in specific areas, none was a fully convincing all’rounder. Each exhibited certain details which soon registered negatively enough to interfere. Hence my curiosity over the W1000X was primed. Would it maintain all the previous virtues of the W-Series whilst transcending their prior weaknesses?

To show my hand early, though the W1000X isn’t flawless, its voicing is clearly the most ‘europeanized’ of all AT woodies. To me it becomes the most exciting of the bunch. Why and where weaknesses remain shall be covered in what follows.