Audio-Technica: Wood Makes a Difference in Headphones

Apart from looking beautiful, does making a headphone’s ear cups out of wood make a difference sonically? Audio-Technica thinks so.

The 58-year-old Ohio-based company, known for its phono cartridges, professional microphones, and headphones, showcased three new over-ear models over the weekend at CanJam NYC 2020 — all featuring earcups made of exotic wood.

The ATH-AWKT headphones (left in photo, $1,899), the second-to-top model in AT’s High Fidelity line, feature earcups made of the rare Japanese hardwood Kokutan (striped ebony). Long used for woodwind instruments and pianos, the dense wood is said to “suppress unwanted resonance to deliver clear, natural sound reproduction.”

Each earcup houses a 2-inch driver comprising a titanium flange with 6N-OFC copper voice coils and a German-made Permendur magnet. AT’s "double air damping system" (D.A.D.S.) divides the structure into two acoustic chambers to improve bass.

The magnesium alloy arms supporting the earcups are angled to ensure a good fit and tight earcup seal, and the headband and ear cushions are covered in sheep skin for comfort. The headphone cable is detachable and AT provides two 9.8.-foot cables with gold-plated connectors — one a quarter-inch stereo phone plug, the other a four-pin XLRM balanced connector.

At $1,399, the ATH-AWAS headphones (right in photo) feature earcups made of Asada Zakura (Japanese cherry wood) and 2-inch drivers featuring a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating and integrated pure-iron yoke. Like its pricier sibling, the AWAS includes two detachable cables and uses the same copper voice coils, dual acoustic chamber design, and angled arms but substitutes synthetic leather for the earpads and headband.

Designed for on-the-go listening, the ATH-WP900 headhones (middle in photo, $650) boast earcups made of the machined maple with a striking flamed maple veneer used by Japanese guitar maker Fujigen.

Like the ATH-AWAS, the WP900 uses 2-inch DLC-coated drivers but with a top-mounted PCB construction. The baffles are angled to improve airflow between the front and rear of the diaphragm and positon the earcups for comfort and sound containment.

Two detachable 3.9-foot cables are provided — one with a gold-plated 3.5mm miniplug for use with phones, the other a five-pole 4.4mm, gold-plated balanced plug for use with digital audio players and compatible headphone amplifiers.

All models use AT’s “audio designed detachable coaxial” (A2DC) jacks for a secure connection.

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