Given this, I had two options: return the Audio Technica ATH-W3000ANV headphones to my editor as “unreviewable due to poor fit” or bend the two magnesium rods into a tight U or even a V-shape so the ear cups would make even contact both above and below my ears. Option one wasn’t going to happen without an attempt at option two. So, I began to bend the rods. Magnesium is pretty strong stuff, so I had to put some muscle into the task (finally, a legitimate audio-related reason why I work out at the gym three times a week). After a couple of tries I finally got the rods re-shaped so that the ear cups made a tight but comfortable seal around my ears. The only downsides: likely a voided warranty and a pair of earphones with a headband that makes me look like a cone-head.
After my version of an Ari Geller spoon-bend the Audio-Technica ATH-W3000ANV headphones fit like a dream. I would rate the ATH-W3000ANV right up with my Stax Pro Lambda Nova earspeakers in terms of overall long-term comfort. The ATH-W3000ANV was more comfortable than the HiFiMAN HE-300s, Sennheiser HD-600, Sennheiser HD-428, and Grado HR1 headphones. If you need or want to wear your headphones for many hours in a row the ATH-W3000ANV will make the experience as pleasant during the last hour as it was for the first.
One aspect of the ATH-W3000ANV design that was less than pleasant was determining which was the right and left ear cup. Whether a cup is a righty or lefty can be ascertained only by reading the tiny label above each ear cup. Instead of a big L or R, the words “left” and “right” are written in six-point golden CURSIVE type. And since the ATH-W3000ANVs have cables coming from both ear cups as well as identical symmetrical markings on each, the only way to tell which ear cup goes on which side of your head is by reading the labels. A larger sans serif typeface and perhaps a small red indicator dot somewhere would have made channel identification so much easier for those of us with less than 20/20 close-in vision.
Unlike some premium headphones, which use a removable or replaceable cable scheme, the ATH-W3000ANV has a permanently attached cord. The cable itself is a brown cloth-covered retro-looking affair that reminds me of ‘40’s era lamp cable. At 10 feet long, the cable worked well, allowing me relative freedom of mobility in my office. For on-the-street portable use the cable may be a bit too much of a good thing (maybe that’s what the cable bag is for), but I suspect that most ATH-W3000ANV users will be using them at home rather than in the field. At-home users will find the cable’s length and flexibility very much to their liking. The cable has some degree of microphonics for the first several inches outside the ear cups. When I squirmed I could hear the cable’s outer fabric rubbing against my shirt collar quite clearly even with music playing at low to moderate levels.
The lambskin ear pads are like little feather pillows that surround your ears. They look handmade. And sewing on a curve must be tough, especially so given that each ear pad had its own unique shape. I assume that the pads are replaceable but after examining the earphones carefully I suspect that may be an “authorized serviceperson only” task.
The floating wings on the headband are another unique Audio-Technica feature. At first I was skeptical of their merit, but once I reshaped the headband the wings supplied just the right amount of down-pressure to make the ATH-W3000ANV feel secure.
• Big, but realistic, bass.
• Smooth midrange.
• Sweet, extended high-end.
• Good imaging specificity.
• Excellent dynamic contrast.
• Smooth, suave, seductive sound.
Looking through my listening notes on the ATH-W3000ANV headphones I was surprised by how many cinematic terms I used to describe them. Terms like Technicolor, Vista-Vision, and Cinerama give a sense of the ATH-W3000ANVs breadth and tonal color. From their bottom octave to the top, the ATH-W3000ANV had a vivid yet rich harmonic character. They avoid sounding bass-heavy (although they do have a lot of bass) because the rest of their frequency range is equally well represented. The ATH-W3000ANV’s extended upper frequencies and a slight lower treble emphasis gives the overall sound a sparkle and detail that counterbalances its lower midrange warmth. And while the ATH-W3000ANV earphone is still on the warm side of neutral, it isn’t dark or murky. On the contrary, it delivers music with an ease and suavity that reminds me of a top-flight dynamic speaker. Compared to the tonal balance of the Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors or the Etymotic ER-4P earphones the ATH-W3000ANV does have several additive harmonic lumps and bumps, but that’s what gives them their unique and seductive character.