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The first album to slip into the player was electronica by way of Björk’s latest. Volta offers catchy beefed-up beats by producer Timbaland and in many cuts features a brass band. This drew on clear W1000X virtues. The 'phone maintained control over the potent bass and musical timing due to high impulse fidelity. With many systems the fat bass washes out into congealed carpet padding. The Audio-Technica also managed to convey the energetic brasses without defaulting into disco sound overpowered by pumping beats.

I’d hoped/expected this since good impulse response and a slight treble emphasis belong to the typical voicing tricks of this brand. Where the W1000X went farther was adding to a more natural presentation in two ways. Unlike certain sealed A-Series models by the same company, nearly all W-Series models manage to avoid artificial colorations to sound more authentic and organic. The W1000X simply added more powerful mids for superior gravitas on instruments and voices. This is where many ATs of the past have failed me. Where female vocals always gained in liveliness due to the slightly enhanced treble brilliance, male voices lacked body to become fully incarnate.


Perfect confirmation would be operatic. I reached for Solti’s Tannhäuser. Little in the repertoire challenges the tenor with this breadth of variability. The first act demands that Heinrich prove equal to the bitchy Venus. Without sufficient cojones the only thing impressive are the female peaks. The W1000X allowed the pairing equality. Even the brachial encounters with the male Pilgrim’s Choir had impressive dynamic staying power. At the end of the second act—the singers’ competition/war in the Wartburg—soloists and choir juxtapose Heinrich. The Japanese painted the pompous Wagnerian-type scenes very well. Here headphones with smaller diaphragms often run out of steam to compromise the vocal power of a chorus whose massive head count remains believable only with sufficient SPL. The W1000X maintained proper weightiness.


The third act asks the heroic tenor for excessive pathos and the voyage to Rome challenges the singer’s tonal palette. Now this wasn’t the W1000X’s greatest forté. While its greater (for the brand) midband power went a way to support male voices, this design retains the older emphasis in the lows and highs. More midrange-centric headphones like AKG’s 501 are most astute with such vocal inflections. Where the AKG is effortless, the W1000X required real attention though no nuance was swallowed t still have me fully appreciate the artistic caliber of Rene Kollo in this performance.


Proving satisfying on classics, the next challenge for the Grandioso became BluesRock, particularly the last studio effort by the American Ben Harper with his Relentless7 band as White Lies for Dark Times. This material is characterized by an earthy thick midband to which singer Ben Harper becomes a quite clear but less sonorous counterpoint. Admittedly this became quite the torture test for the Japanese headphones given their still slightly light vocal range. Usually I’d prefer other designs here. A perfect partner for me would be the darker Sennheiser HD650. Yet Whites Lies didn’t disappoint. Separation of individual instruments was splendid without dissecting the performance. Ben Harper’s voice remained lucid and nicely focused at an agreeable distance whilst the strongly panned left/right division of certain instruments was effortlessly moved to stage rear.