At first glance, the first thing that catches the eye is the red-grained wooden case of the ear cups. It owes its striking aesthetic to the wood of the Japanese hop beech (Ostrya japonica). Also known as Asada-Zakura, this is a rare, traditional Japanese wood that is particularly noted for its outstanding durability, as well as excellent acoustic properties. Inside the earcups, unwanted resonances are suppressed due to the natural nature of the wood, thus enabling a particularly pure hi-fi sound.
The ATH-AWAS represents another milestone for Audio Technica in its tradition of headphones with wooden housings, which began in 1996. It combines natural sound and high-quality acoustics with the exceptional beauty of the precious Asada-Zakura wood, and like all of the manufacturer’s wood-cased headphones, is handcrafted at Audio-Technica’s factory in Naruse, Tokyo. Because of the choice of the natural raw material, no two models are alike but have a character all their own.
The featherweight magnesium alloy arm, combined with the leatherette ear pads and headband cover, provides the ultimate in wearing comfort with optimal isolation. Two 53mm drivers at 40 ohms ensure the right sound. The “Double Air Damping System” (D.A.D.S.) divides the housing structure into two acoustically separate chambers, which allows for increased shielding of external noise and simultaneously punchier bass response.
Sonically, the ATH-AWAS is probably best described as circumscribing. A tidy low-end allows the upper frequencies to shine and prevents instruments from getting mired, especially in multi-layered recordings such as those of orchestras or big bands. The headphones particularly shine in the detailed reproduction of acoustic instruments. Especially the reproduction of string instruments is astonishingly precise. The headphones manage to elicit the full life of jazz or classical recordings with astonishing ease, without wanting to impose a character on them.
The headphones are perfectly suited for listening to unplugged genres. However, those who prefer bass-heavy genres like hip-hop and electro would be better off with the Denon AH-D7200, for example. All in all, the ATH-AWAS from Audio-Technica is an excellent headphone that manages to convince both sonically and visually. The option of replacing the unbalanced headphone cable with a balanced version with an XLR connector makes the headphones compatible with hi-fi systems. We are not averse to this circumstance. As always, we can only add to this: Convince yourself. Especially with headphones, it is always a very subjective sense of taste.