If you're looking for cheap headphones to use on the go, this review won't help you. Audio Technica's £700 ATH-W5000s are extremely high-end, closed-back, reference-grade headphones for the truly discerning audiophile.
Although it's not unusual to see reference-grade headphones push £1,000, advantages between these several-hundred-pound models can become slightly subjective in some ways, and what's an advantage to one person may be a disadvantage to another. After a 100-hour burn-in and over a week of near solid listening, what does £700 get you from Audio Technica?
You get wooden enclosures, for one thing. The W5000s are encased in a smooth ebony, providing a more natural listening environment over cheaper materials. These enclosures are mounted on sturdy brackets, connected with a flexible and lightweight metal headband. On the insides of each can sit extremely soft ear cups, above which are two padded supports that bend and flex to support the headphones on the top of your head.
This provides a pretty decent level of comfort, though we wouldn't describe them as 'snug' -- they only apply a minor amount of pressure to the sides and top of the head, and we felt the solid, padded headband of Denon'swas more sturdy and a little more comfortable, something other members of the CNET.co.uk team agreed with unanimously.
The medium-weight W5000s boast a frequency response of 5Hz-45kHz, 3m oxygen-free copper cabling with a gold-plated 6.3mm plug, impedance of 40 ohms and are sensitive to 102dB -- on paper, not the loudest or most sensitive reference-grade headphone we've heard, but we'll come to that shortly -- but they will handle power up to 2,000mW at 1kHz.
Each 53mm diaphragm is backed by a neodymium magnet, and Audio Technica has incorporated what it calls 'Double Air Damping System' -- a feature supposed to provide deep, natural bass reproduction.
Unusual then is the W5000's delicate bass presence; the subtle bass was the first thing we noticed. What's present is a tight low-end that doesn't interfere with the mid-range, giving the mids a cleaner, less heavy voice. Kick drums will pound into your skull with the power of a Chuck Norris upper cut to the jaw. This is in stark contrast with Denon's AH-D5000s that produce an beautiful, ultra-deep bass that'll shake eyes from their sockets.