Audio Technica ATH-A2000Z Sealed Around-Ear Headphones

Audio Technica ATH-A2000Z ($649)
I've got to admit I'm not a big fan of the Audio Technica line of headphones with the 3D Wing Support System headband. My previous experience is that they tend to be far too bright and lacking bass response for me, and the headband just never fits right; I've found it very difficult to get a seal. I've also had horrendous problems getting them to seal properly on my measurement head. Well, something must have changed because the A2000Z fit's my head, and my measurement head, quite well...and this headphone is one of the best sounding AT 3D Wing headphones I've heard to date.

Styling, Build Quality, and Comfort
The ATH-A2000Z is a sealed, around-ear headphone. It's most striking features are the large Titanium capsule covers and 3D Wing Support System headband. It's a rather odd combination to my eyes, I much prefer the wooden versions esthetically. The finish on the metal looks like they couldn't decide whether to polish it or grain it, resulting in something that looks half finished to me. It's also very easily scratched. Other than the Titanium covers and headband arches, the remaining materials are all synthetic.

The round pleather earpads have large round openings (52mm dia) with a soft grade of foam underneath—though it doesn't quite feel quite like memory foam to me. The combination of very light weight (294gr), light caliper pressure, and the 3D wings, that do indeed distribute weight over a fairly large portion of your head, make this a surprisingly comfortable wearing experience.

The 3 meter cable is permanently attached to the ear capsules and is terminated in a 3.5mm TRS plug with integrated, screw-on, 1/4" adapter. AT claims this is OFC 6-nines cable, which has separate ground connections on either side all the way to the plug. No carry case is included.

I think Audio Technica kind of missed the boat in a few places here. A headphone at this price should have connectorized cables so users can replace them at will. And I think some sort of protective carry case should be included. In the end, this just doesn't look or feel like a $650 headphone to me.

Sound Quality
Here's the good news: I think the A2000Z is the best tonally balanced Audio Technica headphone I've heard to date. I experienced it as mildly U-shaped with slightly emphasized bass and treble. The lows are a 5dB mid-bass hump centered around 80Hz or so, which lacks some extension downward but blends nicely into the mids without intrusion at the top end of the range. The bass quality is quite good, giving good thump and texture, but has a slightly attention grabbing character that measurements hint is likely some distortion or phase shift.

Midrange balance and evenness seemed pretty good to me. Vocal balance was really good; the relationship with the bass was excellent. The only problem is the transition into the treble and the treble quality in general.

In terms of treble tonal balance I find them in relatively good shape, though a tad sharp at 4kHz. More problematically is the significantly grainy sound that is distracting and tends to draw my attention to the treble. Many will mistake this graininess for good detail because the tonal level remains correct and it's not inordinately fatiguing. But the detail isn't faithful. Cymbals loose some of their natural character with an overlay of artificial "tsst tsst" sounds. My guess is there's some undamped mechanical resonances in this headphone in the Titanium shell and magnesium driver assembly.

Dynamics are fairly good; imaging lacks depth and specificity and resides fully within the head.

If you've read me right so far, you'll understand I felt these fairly neutral in balance, but also said they are somewhat U-shaped with slightly exaggerated bass and treble. This exaggeration comes not from too much amplitude, but rather flaws that draw attention to themselves—the treble problem is quite a bit more attention grabbing than the bass issue which is mild.

What the...!?
You might be wondering, "Why the heck is he writing this review if he's not going to recommend these headphones!?" It boils down to this: The ATH-A2000Z is the best sounding Audio Technica 3D wing series headphone I've heard to date. When I wrote my evaluation of headphone manufacturers, I said this in my thoughts on Audio Technica:

AT's high-end products always seem a bit bright to me, and frankly I'm getting a bit tired of their "3D Wing Support" headband system that has never delivered a truly comfortable and secure fit on my head.

Should Audio Technica continue in the direction they seem to be going with the ATH-A2000Z I may have to eat my words. If they can get a grip on what appears to be the mechanical resonances in this headphone (see measurement section), they just might breath new life into this line of headphones.

Summary
This is the best Audio Technica 3D Wing series headphone I've heard to date. Previous models I've tested always seem to be very bass light, and difficult to get a good fit on the head. The A2000Z seems to have quite good tonal balance and fits more comfortable than I remember with other models in the family.

Unfortunately, the treble is a bit sharp, but more problematically grainy sounding. Fortunately, the tonal level remains correct and it's not inordinately fatiguing. The bass draws a just a bit too much attention to itself, likely due to some distortion and/or phase shift, but is otherwise pretty dran good for an AT headphone.

At $649, with marginal sound quality, lacking replaceable cables, and no carry case, I really can't recommend this headphone. However, those who do like AT 3D-wing series cans should definitely give them a listen.

Video

Resources
Audio Technica home page and ATH-A2000Z product page.
Head-Fi reviews and thread.

COMPANY INFO
Audio-Technica U.S. Inc.
1221 Commerce Dr.
Stow, OH 44224
330-686-2600
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Revanna's picture

The girlfriend and I have recently tried both these and the A1000Z at an audio fair (HEM in Stockholm, Sweden), and she's actually enjoyed both quite a lot, which is unusual since she rarely really cares for specific qualities in headphones - now I've got the chance to pick one of these (A2000Z) up for $400, which seems like a decent price point considering they're usually 6999 SEK here after tax and markup (that being $775). The A1000Z being 3999 SEK ($443) on sale right now, usually 4999 SEK ($550).

From listening when connected to my phone, I found the A1000Z to sound a bit smoother and to have more presence in the low end, while the A2000Z felt sharper and more defined in the treble - anybody have experiences with both here?

donunus's picture

Did you also get to listen to the a1000z? Those are supposedly smoother based on a few impressions I've read here and there.

ADU's picture

Thanks for another interesting review.

Looking at the graphs (esp. FR), these look pretty rolled off in the bass for closed HPs, and also rather punchy in the treble. Reminds me a little of the M70x, which was also a bit U-shaped.

Did you ever follow up with AT on the open R70x? That appeared to have a more neutral response than either of the above.

Also, did you try EQ-ing the A2000Z?

darkswordsman17's picture

For some reason the Audio-Technica "house sound" of their closed circumaural has always been to my liking. I think its a mix of their brightness (which gives that false sense of extra details, which after hearing just the A900s, basically all Sennheiser's I had tried to that point, including HD-280/555/595/580, sounded "veiled" in comparison), and I think its due to their housing, where the closed ones bounce some reflections off the inside of the cup and it passes through the outer grille section (in the housing, the driver sits in the middle and then there's an ~1 inch wide paper or mesh grill that surrounds that). I think this could account for some of the things you're seeing. It kinda gives a false sense of extra soundstage and would agree with the person I saw (on Head-Fi I believe) that said that's likely the cause of the "romantic" sound of Audio-Technicas higher end offerings that for some people is quite pleasing.

I became quite enamored with the W5000s myself (detailed, "speedy", good bass texture and quality, sometimes very nice mids), but they just had too many flaws (that headband, lacking horizontal swivel makes fit awful which ruins the bass; wearing a hat improves the fit though) and finnicky for such a high end headphone. I dabbled in mods (Tyll did you ever hear a Fitz modded W5000?) that helped (used to post on Head-Fi, think I actually made pics of things I did), but sold them as I had to downsize (period where I was moving a lot).

I eventually ended up with a project that I was going to contact you to see if you would like to measure them and see how they sound since you started the DIY testing but had been holding off as they've been my only real full size headphone for too long. I took an A700 frame (they swivel both horizontally and vertically, which helps immensely with the fit), put W5000 drivers in them (with healthy dose of tak, I completely removed the internal plastic baffles even), W5000 earpads, then I hacked up (literally just cut with a knife and some wire cutters) some D2000 earcups (meant to be holdovers for easy access to the inside for tuning and then eventually get some nicer wood cups made), and D2000 cable (another holdover, but dual entry and was cheap). They look, well, like you'd expect, but I think they sound pretty good. Have been wanting to find out if they really do or if I'm just too into the W5000 sound as I definitely don't claim to have great objective ears (and plenty of people don't find the A-T sound appealing in general), and simply lack the experience let alone tools that people like Tyll do.

The bass has come out substantially but don't overwhelm the mids (and I think shows the A-T drivers are capable of some good bass, almost wonder if its similar driver to the L3000s, since those were lauded for their bass). To give you an idea, the difference compared to stock is about like cranking the bass on the JH Audio Angie's (I have a pair of the universals I've been using for portable, and I feel like the modded W5000s are actually pretty similar but I think they sound better, not sure if I'm crazy or not though) cable all the way up is although I feel like its better integrated and doesn't feel like a "hump" in the bass like a lot of bass boost and the Angie cable kinda does. I also did something that somewhat adjusts the mids, which helped with the occasionally "honky" sounding mids of the stock W5000s. Strings I think sound especially good (good guitar riffs and sustain often give me those good goosebumps).

Even for Audio-Technica fans, they're pretty frustrating as they have some compelling products (M50, ES7/700, ESW9 in particular; their limited edition stuff is often enticing but too many flaws to be worth the prices they ask), but often fall a bit short from being really good, and them making consistently great stuff across the range. And with how many other companies have stepped up in the past decade, they're basically relegating themselves to niches. Even their unique designs have become much less so. And the thing is, with more effort, it feels like they could have been leading the charge in the modern headphone market popularity, as in a lot of ways they kinda initiated a lot of it (the ESW9 was one of the first premium feeling portables, now there's lots of them; their limited edition models had premium looks now there's a lot more).

tony's picture

Audio Technica have quite a Fan Club built-up, even Michael Fremer the Vinyl Analog promoter made a visit to AT's offices and did a Video of the place.

I know a House Builder that "loves" AT stuff, thinks it's the best!

Lots of people fall into outfits "True-Believe" groups, even Schiit has a active group.

Me?, I'm a Tyll group Fan Club Member!! ( since 2011 )

Nice Reporting, again.

Video works!, even that one with JA & Vivid guy who can't seem to look JA in the eye when talking.

Tony in Michigan

ADU's picture
Quote:

Me?, I'm a Tyll group Fan Club Member!!

Sign me up!

Btw, remember way back in the Focal Utopia thread, when I told you I'd try to recommend some nice YouTube vids (since I don't really have any equipment to suggest)? Well, I can't think of a better way to start than with this new track by Ailee...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7DdqPyc15g

Ailee is (imo) one of the best female R&B vocalists in Kpop (a genre I've been listening to quite a bit lately). And I think this is one of her best tunes so far. Hope you'll enjoy.

tony's picture

Wow, beautiful.

Thanks!

The gear today is quite good, I don't feel a pressing need for better.

MQA might provide us with consistant access to the "promised" Mastering level of Quality ( like this Ailee artist's work ), then top gear like Utopia will be useful.

However, I feel the need for smoothing out lesser stuff that I have in my vast library. ( even luxurious Tubes can't help early Bob Dylan but are quite helpful for 78's ).

Kpop, good find.

Tony in Michigan

ADU's picture

Glad you liked. Since you enjoyed the one by Ailee, I picked out some other down-tempo Kpop tracks for you to peruse.

Kpop is like anything else. There's some good. And also quite a bit of not-so-good. The genre has come along way since Psy's "Gangnam Style" (which is approaching 3 _Billion_ with a "B" views on YouTube) several years ago though. And most of these tracks are pretty good imo. Hopefully you'll enjoy a few as well.

I'm splittin these into two posts because there appears to be a limit to the number of links or characters allowed per post. Ailee's MV is also included for completeness.

Part 1

Ailee - "Reminiscing"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7DdqPyc15g

Amber ft. Gen Neo - "On My Own"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgKREAB2R8M

Cheetah ft. Hanhae - "Blurred Lines"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h0wFLviBAY

Eddy Kim - "The Manual"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4mH2KvzUQ0

Fei - "Fantasy"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEF1Ah8QaXw
This MV is age-restricted (due to some sexy hooping, I guess). The original MV has the best sound imo. But here's another live version that's almost as fun if you don't feel like opening a YT account. This starts a bit loud...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHBIQ3HB4uk

4Minute - "Cold Rain"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT9zbZGB2gE

Gain - "Truth or Dare"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmUwNaIEZ1g

Gavy NJ - "An Obvious Melo"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDa2gAyh8MM

HyunA - "Morning Glory"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55eGPkunMSE

HyunA - "Run & Run"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2-AZ51NoQU

Jieun - "False Hope"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw5oJ4gHg4k
This MV contains some brief imagery that may be disturbing to some viewers.

Jiyoon (aka Jenyer) - "I Do"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65I3VFecAfg
This recording will probably test some ears with its brightness. But it's a little unique in that it has a more country-ish vibe. So thought I'd include it for a bit of variety. If you're not into country or high-pitched vocals though, feel free to skip to the next Jiyoon track (which has a tamer hip-hop vibe). Jiyoon and HyunA were both part of the recently disbanded group 4Minute btw (see "Cold Rain" above).

Jiyoon ft. Jiggy Bros. - "Magnet"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EraWP4gyYCo

Ladies' Code - "Galaxy"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcgT1eq3CLM

The Legend - "Nail"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voXUihR8S70

Continued next post...

ADU's picture

Part 2

Lim Kim - "Rain"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlMXZvY-_cM

Loona/Haseul - "Let Me In"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a4BWpBJppI

Miso Kim ft. Sangji Koh - "Love U, Love U"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7_0R4bL2Dc

Reddy ft. Jay Park - "Think"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ywjmoco2xXA

Red Velvet - "Automatic"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px2Q47O0_eE
One of my favorite newer groups. Red Velvet does a mixture of different styles geared towards both younger, and older viewers/listeners. It's their R&B/hip-hop inspired tracks (like the one above, and next two below) that really knock me out though...

Red Velvet - "Cool, Hot, Sweet Love" (FMV)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJZYPPErZRA

Red Velvet - "One of These Nights"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xWiro_tS1k

Stellar - "Mask"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnROp2RyanM
Another adult-oriented group I like. Most of Stellar's recent videos are on the steamier side. These two are reasonably tame though.

Stellar - "Insomnia" (Dance Practice)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utLu6tGAg4g

Taeyeon - "11:11" (Acoustic)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLJyhhNCHi0

Taeyeon - "Fine"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHXUM-6a3dU

Tiffany - "I Just Wanna Dance"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0Y3ABqK7M4

2NE1 - "Goodbye"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEkLHC7l25w
This group was hugely popular, and recently disbanded last year. This was their farewell video, and one of their best songs imo (though it lacked the group's 4th member, Minzy).

Zico - "I Am You, You Are Me"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewjucLierFc

Anyway, that's a little taste of the "softer" (and better imo) side of Kpop. : ) If you like jazzy vocals, you might also enjoy some of Mamamoo's music. Most of their tunes are a little bracing on my ears though.

I'll try to hit you up with somethin different next time we cross paths, Tony. Not sure what it might be, but hopefully somethin good.

happiness_ur's picture

perfect review

hinotori2772's picture

I recently got the ATH-A2000Z at almost half the price and I'm quite happy with it... while I find your review a bit biased you're probably right it's a bit overpriced at $650 but what other high end closed back headphone is a better choice in the price range around $500-$600 ... all the recommended closed backs I can think of are in the $1000-$2000 price range... my reference point for the moment is Sennheiser HD700 (for which again I got a good bargain from amazon.de last year - I know it's not the most loved HP around either but I like it very much) - so I'll be very happy to get a closed back that sounds as good as HD700 in terms of details and resolution... and ATH-A2000Z comes almost close enough.

From closed backs I also have Audeze SINE which are pretty damn good too (if not better in clarity and detail), of course, but ATH-A2000Z beats them with better (more open) sound stage, IMHO, and also SINE is not that comfortable being an on ear model. I got both SINE and ATH-A2000Z at roughly the same price (very lightly used in almost mint condition) I also happen to have Audio Technica ESW9LTD (closed back wooden portable) but they sound very different from ATH-A2000Z and are no match in terms of quality and resolution, I think (they're also much cheaper too)

I really like the roughly polished Titanium housing, actually... it's a good finish IMHO since any small scratches will not be quite visible... wood also looks fine, of course, but it's better to have some diversity... the firmly attached cable is frustrating at this price point but is not a deal breaker especially since the provided cable is quite nice and seems very durable... and also should not be a great effort to recable these if need be.

I bought this headphone since I need a good closed back to use in the office and at home at times the open headphones (which I prefer - Sennheiser HD700, HiFiMan HE400i) might disturb the others. I'm not willing to spend $1500 - $2000 for a Ether C or Audeze LCD-XC (I'd be willing to spend that much on a quality open back, though) so ATH-A2000Z seems like a good compromise... can someone suggest other closed back model as good as ATH-A2000Z or better but in the price range of ATH-A2000Z or lower

ADU's picture

Fwiw, I posted a similar question in another recent thread, and one suggestion (by Tony in MI, I think) was to close up a Senn 600/650. Have you considered the Oppo PM-3, or maybe the NAD VISO HP50 though? I don't know if these would sound or fit any better than what you've already got though.

EQ-ing is also an option, if you feel that the tonal balance is not quite right, or to you liking on your current HPs. An EQ is (unfortunately) an indispensable accessory with my closed and rather abrasive-sounding AKG K553s, because they have a pretty bad bright spot in the upper half of the mid-range.

Maybe the best advice I can give you is to find a pair of closed cans that are reasonably neutral, and that fit you comfortably, and then EQ them to sound how you want. Perhaps one of your current HPs would work for that, or maybe one of the others suggested above.

There are also a few more options to consider on the IF Wall of Fame...

http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/innerfidelitys-wall-fame-over-ear-s...

Also, if the SINE clamps too tight, you might try leaving it on dummy head when not in use to "break in" the headband a little faster. That seems to help some folks with the Beats Solo 2.

That's about all I can think of right now.

sszorin's picture

You saved serious money by not buying Audeze LCD-XC. These headphones have a major, major flaw which make them unlistenable. There is a distortion in the upper mids frequencies. Imagine listening to headphones and hearing constant sound of a hacksaw sawing a piece of metal added on to the sound of music.

sszorin's picture

If you bought ATH-A2000Z at half price than you got a deal of the year. There are no better closed headphones at this price, and there will not be this century and beyond. You should keep quiet and count your blessing and great luck instead of agitating for something better. If you are not happy with them I'll buy them from you for $300.

hoanggiap's picture

Thanks your posting. Your topic is very interesting, This is my link:
http://rambovietnam.vn/boc-ghe-da-o-to-346.html

welcome: bọc ghế da ô tô bền đẹp tại Hà Nội, thanks!

sszorin's picture

What are you doing here ? On this website we talk about bicycles and not about cars.

X