A few months ago after much reviewing and research I purchased an imported set of Audio-Technica A900 cans from Japan for the (depending on your background, high) price of $200 USD. These are an extremely well valued “mid-fi” solution that can be powered by almost any source. They are physically massive and have a fantastic sound-stage with surprisingly deep and punchy bass. From photos you might assume the blue casing is plastic, but it’s actually anodized aluminum, a pleasant surprise in our era. There are only two catches…
- The braided wire is on the left side of the cans, while all the input sources are on my right so the cable gets in my way some times.. pretty trivial and personal.
- The earpads that come with the package are unusually cheap pleather that become a distraction after a few hours use. This is the focal point of the article.
So, whats a person to do? I couldn’t return them (nothing severely flawed), nor felt like posting them on craigslist. Improvement is the only logical option! I scoured the net for various suggestions and modifications available and one that kept popping up was to -obviously- replace the original pads with better pleather, velour, or true leathers pads. Purchasing another set of pleather pads was not even an option, and velour pads apparently ruin the bass response and acoustics, so true leather it is.. specifically pads from the top-of-the-line ATH-W5000. The fit will supposedly be extremely tight because of the slightly smaller radius of the W5000 attachment ring, but it’s as good as it gets.
The ATH-W5000 is the current Audio-Technica audiophile flagship model that has an ebony wooden casing, true leather earpads, fantastic frequency response, and a ludicrous MSRP value of $1700 (though reseller average is a -mere- $750). At this time, the replacement earpads can be purchased directly from Audio-Technica’s repair depot for $76.90, shipped to Canada… much less than online resellers. This brings my total purchase price to $276.90, which could have gone to another brand of headphones, but alas, live and learn :)
After the replacement pads arrived I popped off the originals and took my sweet time massaging and rotating the new pads into place. An important thing to at this point is that the original pads are not flat but actually angled to create a better seal around the ear, this makes the endeavour a bit of a challenge.
So here you have it, completed headphones, the moment of truth…
Blah. Well, it was somewhat expected while I was looking at the new pads. The core theory was correct, the material was better and should have allowed longer usage without annoyance, but they were overshadowed by new problems. It comes down to the design difference between the pads:
The problem comes with the shape of the opening in the pads as well as the amount of padding provided. My ears are on the large side but they fit comfortably into the oval shape inside the normal A900 pads, the W5000 pads are too small and irritate my ears by keeping them in an unusual position. The W5000 pads also contain less padding and as such create an imperfect seal that removes the amazing lows the A900 provides, this is proven by pressing the headphones against the ears, the bass returns. So, I’ll be selling/returning the W5000 pads, passively on the look out for something new, but it has become a reminder that sometimes, “good enough” is good enough :)
Unrelated to all this, this will probably be the first posting on the blog, so hi, hello, welcome. I don’t like empty introductions, but enjoy useful and informative content, hopefully you do as well, which is why you’re here. I would also like to say that there is no such thing as trivial information, just some that is too granular depending on the beholder, which is why I can’t stand the taste of some tomatoes or watermelon; how’s that for a segue? :p