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dalethorn's picture
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Audio-Technica ATH ESW11LTD Stereo Headphone review

Here's my video and text review of the $700 USD limited edition ATH ESW11LTD, purchased and shipped direct from Japan: http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/forum/headphone-reviews/3148-audio-technica-ath-esw11ltd-stereo-headphone-review.html

AKG K812/K712, Beyer T1/T90 Jubilee/DT1350, v-moda M100/XS, Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza/Microstreamer DAC/amps, Portaphile Micro/PA2V2 amps.

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RE: Audio-Technica ATH ESW11LTD Stereo Headphone review

Interesting. TBH $700 sounds a bit much, but I think that's a result of the depreciation of the USD. Just think, at exchange rates before the financial crisis it woould've been somewhere around the $50 mark (assuming a rate of 105-115 yen to the dollar when the financial crisis was 1st kicking in rather than rates of 120-130 yen to the dollar in the not too distant past).

Stuff.

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RE: Audio-Technica ATH ESW11LTD Stereo Headphone review

What really fascinates me, related to your observation, is how the American dollar has fallen so far against (for example) the German mark over the past couple of decades, yet just recently I saw a Mercedes SUV being displayed at a fancy local hotel, brand new, made in Germany(!), and the price 39 thousand USD. I don't know what kinds of tricks it takes to get that price, but in the case of the ATH ESW11-Ltd, nobody is making such an effort, and if you want it, you pay full up.

AKG K812/K712, Beyer T1/T90 Jubilee/DT1350, v-moda M100/XS, Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza/Microstreamer DAC/amps, Portaphile Micro/PA2V2 amps.

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RE: Audio-Technica ATH ESW11LTD Stereo Headphone review

---------- ESW11Ltd REVIEW PART 2 ----------

When I reviewed the v-moda M100 recently, I started off with the music tracks I used in my previous reviews, then realized afterward that those tracks lacked the qualities that would make the darker-sounding M100 perform up to its full potential. So I put together a second series of music tracks that were oriented more toward modern music, and got much better results with the M100. Now with the ATH-ESW11Ltd, I started with the new music that I expected to be using from that point on, then realized after that review that the lighter-sounding ESW11 would do better with the original tracks. So here are the music tracks and comments from my older reviews as they sound with the ESW11. Note that these tracks were played using treble booster EQ.

Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled extremely well by the ESW11.

Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note for this headphone are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts won't overwhelm you since they're soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry.

Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (1966): Rarely mentioned, but one of the greatest white blues recordings ever. The loud piercing guitar sound at 0:41 into the track is a good test for distortion or other problems. Handled very well by the ESW11.

Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled well by the ESW11.

Buffalo Springfield - Kind Woman (~1968): A Richie Furay song entirely, rarely mentioned, but one of the best sounding rock ballads ever. This will sound good on most headphones, but it's a special treat with the ESW11.

Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken (early 70's): A near-perfect test for overall sound - this track will separate the best sounding headphones from the lesser quality types. Nothing specific, except that almost any deviation from perfect reproduction will stand out with this track. Sounds pretty good with the ESW11, but the guitar string tone is a little dull.

Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the ESW11 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

Def Leppard - Bringin' On The Heartbreak (1981): MTV goth/pop/metal at its best - good ambience and high energy - the better headphones will separate the details and make for a good experience. Lesser quality and the details tend to mush together. The ESW11 plays this perfectly.

J.S. Bach - E. Power Biggs Plays Bach in the Thomaskirche (~1970): Recorded on a tracker organ in East Germany, the tracks on this recording have the authentic baroque sound that Bach composed for, albeit the bellows are operated by motor today. The ESW11 plays the tones seamlessly through the upper limits of the organ, which cover nearly the full range of human hearing. Of special note are the pedal notes - tracker organs have low-pressure pipes and don't typically produce the kind of impact around 30-35 hz that modern organs do. A headphone that's lacking even a little in the low bass will sound especially bass-shy with this type of organ, but the ESW11 delivers the full experience of this music.

Jamming With Edward - It Hurts Me Too (1969): Intended originally as a test to fill studio down time and set recording levels etc., this was released a few years later for hardcore Rolling Stones fans. Although not as good technically in every aspect as the Chess studio recordings of 1964, and in spite of the non-serious vocals by Mick Jagger, this rates very high on my list of white blues recordings, and sounds absolutely delicious with the ESW11.

Jennifer Warnes - Rock You Gently (1992?): The strong deep bass percussion at the beginning of this track has been cited as a test for weakness or distortion in certain headphones. The ESW11 plays those notes with great impact and control. Having played this track many times now, I'm highly impressed with the ESW11's bass reproduction and detail throughout the track.

Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has some loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical on some headphones. The ESW11 provides fairly good reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in, for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrumental separation and detail, and while ESW11 plays them reasonably well, the tone of the horns is a little dull.

Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (~2009): Featured in The September Issue, this song has heavy overdub and will sound a bit muddy on some headphones. Sounds great with the ESW11.

Milt Jackson/Wes Montgomery - Delilah (Take 3) (1962): The vibraphone is heavily dependent on harmonics to sound right, and the ESW11 plays it well.

Pink Floyd/Dark Side of the Moon - Speak To Me (1973): Strong deep bass impacts will be heard and felt here.

Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues (1968): Dirty, gritty blues that very few white artists could match. On some headphones the vocals and guitar lack the edge and fall more-or-less flat. If you're a really good person, playing this song will probably make you feel nervous and uneasy.

Tony Bennett - I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1962): Frank Sinatra's favorite singer. Highest recommendation. With some of the best headphones, the sibilants on this recording are very strong, but they're not too bad with the ESW11.

AKG K812/K712, Beyer T1/T90 Jubilee/DT1350, v-moda M100/XS, Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza/Microstreamer DAC/amps, Portaphile Micro/PA2V2 amps.

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