When it comes to high-end headphones, the product has to deliver on design, features, comfort and performance. It goes without saying that the same criteria are what we will be judging the Audio Technica ATH-W3000ANV on. The question then arises does the headphone do enough to justify its S$1688 cost?
With regards to design, Audio Technica delivers on the promise of a premium feel even if you discount the hard case which is sold separately. The fact that there are only 2000 units of the ATH-W3000ANV worldwide adds tremendously to the exclusivity of the product. Audio Technica has also stated that there will be no other production run for this model. Usage of Hokkaido Asada cherry hardwood finished with Echizen lacquer make these headphones a reflection of the legacy and tradition of Audio Technica. They also ensure that the design of the product is sufficiently high-end.
Though the design is excellent in terms of aesthetics, it falters when it comes to comfort. We found the fit to be 'clampy' and also experienced pinching due to the small, shallow size of the ear-cups. It is a shame because the Spanish lambskin cushioning is supple and soft. Seeing that high-end headphones are intended to be used for extended durations, the inadequate comfort quotient is a bit off-putting.
The ATH-W3000ANV also features noise isolation. While it is an admirable effort on Audio Technica’s part to increase the value proposition of the product, we find it kind of redundant. If you can afford headphones which cost close to S$2000 we assume you also have a quiet, comfortable listening room set up to use them in. That being said, the 'passive noise canceling' feature would come in a tad handy if you intend to use the headphones on flights. However since the product is pretty sizable, has a 6.35mm connector and a 40 Ohm impedance, we don’t think pairing it up with portable music players for your commute is a smart idea - even if it means carrying your own headphone amplifier.
Performance is an area where the Audio Technica ATH-W3000ANV impresses. The natural bright and sharp characteristics of the cherry hardwood used for the construction of the ear-cups color the audio reproduction. This helps the headphones perform admirably on tracks such as Hotel California and Sail On Soothsayer as detailed in our previous page. Excellent transient response and attention to detail does justice to the subtle nuances of the tracks. However we found that the warmth levels were slightly below optimal.
If you ask us, the performance aspects of the ATH-W3000ANV alone do not justify the S$1688 that Audio Technica is asking you to fork out. For close to half that price, you can procure a set of the Beyerdynamic T90 which actually outperforms this product (in our opinion). It is our suspicion that a good portion of the asking price is paid for the right to own the product thanks to its exclusivity and high grade construction. Owners of the Audio Technica ATH-W3000ANV can proudly claim their headphones to be one out of the only 2000 produced units. But if you are an audiophile without deep pockets, perhaps you should give a chance to the rest of the contenders in this field first.