Audio-Technica ATH-EW9 Headphone Reviews

Manufacturer Audio-Technica Model ATH-EW9
Headphone Type Clipons Headband Type None
Weight (g) 33 Driver Type Dynamic
Enclosure Material Wood Isolation (dB) 0
Impedance (ohms) 29 Cable Length (cm) 500
Frequency Response (Hz) 10 - 24000  
Connector 3.5mm Street Price US$142
Buy from Amazon.com  
Average reviewer scores
Bass Extension 7.0 Bass Impact 8.0
Bass Quality 8.0 Mids Quality 9.0
Highs Quality 9.0 Soundstage 9.0
Detail 9.0 Portability 8.0
Isolation 0.0 Comfort 8.0
Durability 7.0 Improvement With Amplification 8.0
Value for Money 8.0    
Overall Score 8.4 Total Reviews 1

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Reviews by our members

Review by Member gagman on 10 Feb 09  10:01
Individual review
Bass Extension7
Bass Impact8
Bass Quality8
Mids Quality9
Highs Quality9
Detail9
Comfort8
Durability7
Value8

The Audiophile’s iPod Alternative

Let me say right off the bat that this is a positive review and I love these headphones. That is not however, going to stop me from pointing out foibles and peculiarities that are unique to the Audio Technica ATH-EW9s. I have had and listened to these phones every day for the last four weeks through my iPod Touchs (32GB G1) headphone jack, and also through my Fatman iTube docking station. I work in the audio/video field professionally, and I am a recovering audiophile (I try to not read the mags and stay out of the shops!) who has had way too much high-end gear in the past, and Im still trying to cut back! So how did I come across these Japanese Cherry Wood beauties? An online products of the year page on Yahoo had the ATH-EW7s listed as an excellent pair of phones, and the link to the Audio Technica page led me to the EW9s that I bought sight unseen or heard. Not that I didnt do a Froogle search for a good price from a good seller ($142.90 Amazon), and a Goggle search so that I would know whether I had the genuine article, not the pervasive Chinese knockoffs.

Right out of the box I listened to 21 iTunes* downloads of mostly 60s, 70s and 80s pop tunes that I like for their musical value, and not their recording quality. My first impression was not good. Any good headphones need breaking in, and these ATs are no exception. They sounded somewhat better on my purist recording tracks (Take Five, Spanish Harlem etc.) but not much; they needed time to loosen up. They did, and much sooner that I thought they would. Next days listening had much less of that harsh digital edge I heard on day one, and the sound has steadily improved to where I am very happy listening to all but the worst recordings with them.

Critical and comparative listening; Since the Grado SR-60s are so well known and accessible, and I happen to own a pair, I decided to do some comparative listening between them and the Audio Technica ATH-EW9s. I was going to include the Apple ear buds in the comparison but I couldnt get past track 1, everybody knows how they sound, and that is not a compliment. Just my two ears, two pair of headphones and a dozen MP3 tracks that I like for subjective comparison.

Track 1-Spanish Harlem by Rebecca Pigeon, from Chesky Records Ultimate Demonstration CD- This recording makes everything its played on sound good. EW9s-Crystal clear instrumentation, airy vocals and crisp real sounding shaker. SR-60s- Overall good balance, but congested sounding by comparison. Track 2- 59th Street Bridge Song, Harpers Bizarre, iTunes download- EW-9s- Exceptional overall clarity and imagining on vocals, very apparent tape hiss. SR-60s- Good midrange clarity, otherwise average by comparison. Track 3- Ancient Airs and Dances, Respighi, from Mercury CD- EW9s- Horns have a satisfying bite, strings upper registers have stridency, yet smoothness to them where appropriate, and that Mercury tape hiss is quite apparent. SR-60s- Smooth, pleasant sound overall, nothing much to complain about. Track 4- Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty from United Artists CD City To City- EW9s- Very open and clear, sax solos almost shrill; the only track I had to turn volume down. SR-60s- Congested and uninvolving.

Track 5- Butterflys Day Out, Ma, OConnor, Meyer, from Sony Classical CD Appalachian Waltz- This is a virtuoso string trio (cello, violin, mandolin) that is very well recorded. EW9s- Excellent detail and very airy. SR60s- Pretty lifeless, dull sound to strings, but lower registers on Yo Yos cello have good bite and resonance. Track 6- Appalachian Spring, Aaron Copeland, Dennis Russell Davies & Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, from Pro Arte CD- EW9s-Very open and airy sound, very good detail without being edgy. SR60s- This track has a lot to offer in detail and dynamics; the SR-60s do not disappoint. They get nothing wrong, they just lack that last bit of detail that the EW9s ooze. Track 7- Do You Know The Way To San Jose- Dionne Warwick, iTunes download- EW9s-Very revealing, yet very smooth. SR-60s- Vocals veiled, bass good, and horns pretty good. Track 8- Double Barrel, Dave & Ansel Collins, iTunes download- EW9s-Balanced sound overall, bass phat but still tight. SR-60s- Bass too loose and wooly, but SR-60s sound is well suited to reggae music.

Track 9- Fool On The Hill, Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66. One of the few Beatle re-arrangements that I really like. EW9s-Vocals, cymbals, horns, strings, and drums all sound just right. SR-60s- Overall balance is good but delineation between instruments is lacking. Track 10- Spanish Harlem, Aretha Franklin from Atlantic CD. EW9s- This song sounds terrific on these phones; you cant keep still listening to this tune. When I play this song when I walk, my pace quickens, and I want to skip to the beat. SR-60s- Bass wooly, instrumentation homogenized, has none of the excitement the EW9s have; quite a contrast. Track 11- You Cant Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones, from Decca CD Let It Bleed- EW9s- Clear Vocals, shaker sounds real. SR-60s-Vocals veiled, Micks voice sounds like he drank a pint of milk, opening horn sounds like it is behind a heavy curtain. Track 12- Take 5, Dave Brubeck Quartet, from Columbia CD Time Out- CD-EW9s-Very clear and a bit too bright. SR-60s- Smoothes out the sharp edges and good overall balance of sound.

So maybe its not fair to compare a $142 headphone with a $69 pair but I did explain why I did early on. I am now at the point where I can confidently recommend the EW9s to all but the most bass hungry Rap listeners; these aint phat bass phones; more like analytical, high resolution ear monitors. The way they look: unlike anything else; just the coolest, best-looking product of its kind that I have run across. Ergonomics: very light yet extremely well made, and no band across or behind the head which I like, because I like to wear a baseball cap fairly often when I go for a walk or other casual excursions. I can wear/listen to them all day!

This brings me to the biggest drawback of the EW9s for me; hair; Ive got a lot of it, and I usually wear it pulled back in a ponytail. So for me putting on and taking off the ear bands that hold the phones to the ear is usually an exercise in hair pulling and tangling. Not an issue for most guys who wear their hair short on the sides, but ladies be forewarned. Issue # 2- The cable, while very pliable and of good quality it does requires a bit of care when placing the phones in the nice little padded soft case that AT supplies. It is also a very short lead that terminates into a very good, high quality, all metal mini-phone jack. The 1-meter extension (also supplied and needed) twists and tangles easily and is disappointing by comparison.

This leads to my request of Audio Technica: come up with a better type of storage and cable management system; these headphones are of high sound and esthetic quality, and deserve something better, case closed. Care and handling: These are not throw em in the gym bag or purse phones. As I said, they are well made and finished, but do require considerably more care than the white ear buds that come with every iPod. But thats also part of the draw of these headphones. Much is made about the driver housings that are made of Hokkaido Asada Cherry Wood, and the chocolate brown display box they come in indicates this no less than three times. I am not going to get into the whole issue of the sound characteristics of wood versus metal/plastic enclosures; suffice it to say it works for this application, end of story. The Cherry Blossom is an important symbol in Japanese culture, and the tree from which they grow no doubt holds similar prestige if these headphones are any indicator. They demand to be treated with respect and reverence. So after providing hours of listening pleasure, I carefully remove them from my ears, and polish the Hokkaido Asada Cherry Wood housings with a soft shoe mitt and a sprits of Pledge to bring out the luster of the wood grain. I then carefully wind the cables and tuck each phone into its respective pocket, and zip the case shut until I have the pleasure of listening to them again. I did say I was a recovering audiophile, so it seems I still have quite a way to go! Very highly recommended.

*Little Green Bag-George Baker Selection, Ma Belle Amie-The Tee Set, Double Barrel-Dave & Ansel Collins, Time Is Tight-Booker T. & The MGs, Midnight At The Oasis- Maria Muldaur, White Bird-Its A Beautiful Day, Hey Ya- OutKast, Arizona-Mark Lindsay, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes-Bobby Vee, I Love You Always Forever-Donna Lewis, Do You Know The Way To San Jose- Dionne Warwick, Help Yourself-Tom Jones, The Rain, The Park and Other Things- The Cowsills, 59th Street Bridge Song-Harpers Bizarre, Life In A Northern Town-The Dream Academy, Never Been Any Reason- Head East, I wonder What She’s Doing Tonight-Boyce & Hart, (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher-Jackie Wilson, Lonely Teardrops- Jackie Wilson, Every Morning-Sugar Ray, Fly- Sugar Ray.