Audio-Technica has replaced the popular ATH-W1000 with the ATH-W5000 as one of the brand’s top-performing models of audiophile headphones. The Raffinato (Italian for Refined) as they are called are constructed using high-quality, exotic materials like striped ebony and lambskin and feature state-of-the-art magnetic circuits and 53mm drivers in order to deliver a stylish and comfortable premium audio experience. But while the Raffinato does deliver sound and style, they are rather precarious to wear and tend to sound their best when paired with other high-end audio components. As such, they’re less accessible to the more casual listener.
Out of the Box
“The box,” in this case, is a case. The rugged, grey exterior looks like it could withstand the pressures of an airline’s luggage staff with ease – even the hinges look rough and rugged. Inside, however, is plush, bright red velour that cradles the Raffinato with finesse. The classy appearance of the headphones as they rest in their case makes for an impressive display piece that any owner would be proud to show off. Additionally, we found no accessories provided with the ATH-W5000 unit.
Features and Design
The Raffinato are circumaural headphones, which means that they encompass the entire ear when worn. They feature a striking ebony earcup backing that not only looks fantastic, but should also, in theory, reduce some unwanted resonances inside the headphone. The 53mm drivers (quite large for a pair of headphones) utilize neodymium magnets and a permendur (1/2 cobalt, 1/2 iron) alloy to achieve a super-fast and accurate response. The cable for these headphones is a standard 3.0 meters in length and is terminated with a ¼” gold-plated adapter. As previously mentioned, there are no adapters or other accessories provided with the Raffinato so buyers may want to consider a high-quality extension cable and/or a ¼” to 1/8” adapter to make the headphones more versatile.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the ATH-W5000 is the use of “head paddles” in place of an adjustable, padded headband. The soft paddles are meant to rest against the head and provide maximum comfort; however, we found that depending on the width of the listener’s head, the Raffinato didn’t always fit securely, thus leaving gaps between the earcups and the listener’s ears. This is probably due to the fixed width between the earcups. Since the admittedly lightweight, magnesium alloy headband is not adjustable, the listener is not able to achieve a secure fit on their head. This presents a significant problem as no head is the same size and shape. Given that there is no guarantee that these will fit, we suggest trying a pair on before committing to a purchase.
Sonically, the Raffinato are very impressive. Though one might expect some fortuitous bass from such large headphones, the ATH-W5000s are more refined in the bass department. With premium amplification, bass is even and musical, although we found that, when connected directly to an iPod or mid-level receiver, the bass response was a tad anemic. Mid-range attributes were nothing short of stunning, however: Vocals had a very live, in-the-room presence that was extremely enjoyable. Unlike some of the Raffinato’s competition, there was no mid-bass bloat that plagued the lower range of male and female vocals. The Raffinato seem to get out of the way and reveal the true nature of the recordings we used. Treble also sounded smooth and natural, but we did note that there seemed to be an odd dip in the upper end. Aside from this slight dip, we found that the ATH-W5000 headphones were balanced, accurate, free of distortion and very revealing.
We must note that the performance of this pair of headphones does change as the earcups are successfully sealed over the listener’s ear. For some listeners, the poor fit caused the sound quality to decrease. When pressed inward and secured properly against the head though, the Raffinato sounded very good, indeed. Even so, we don’t see manually securing the headphones as very practical.
The ATH-W5000 headphones are endowed with exceptional sound characteristics and stylish, cutting-edge design which earns them recognition as some of the best-sounding headphones available today. When compared to rival headphone unit the Sennheiser HD800, in fact, we found that sonically they held up very well. Moreover, due to the closed back design, ambient noise was dramatically reduced when compared to the HD800. However, the Raffinato’s headband’s lack of adjustment to accommodate heads of differing sizes is a considerable oversight that not only affects how comfortable and secure the headphones are, but overall sound quality as well. We recommend you try a pair on before making a final decision. Provided they fit, we think that you’ll enjoy this fine pair of headphones very much, indeed.
• Clear sound with low distortion
• Sturdy build quality
• Attractive striped-ebony hardwood earcups
• Rugged, red velour-lined storage case
• Difficult to fit on your head
• Bass response is weak by some standards
• No accessories