Audio-Technica’s ATH-ESW9A represents the high end of the traditional over-the-ear headphones in our test. Small and light (6 oz.) enough to be travel-friendly, they are a good option for those who aren’t happy with earbuds but want better sound quality than what cheap headphones provide.
The cups are made from African padauk (a tree — I looked it up). Inside, behind a soft leathery pad, is a 42-mm neodymium driver. A-T rates the ATH-ESW9A at 5 Hz to 35,000 Hz, which is, on paper at least, the greatest range here. Output is a claimed 103 dB.
Although you never really forget you’re wearing the 9A, it’s fairly comfortable. The perfectly round design pressed a bit on the tops of my ears, but it wasn’t annoying. Sound isolation was okay, but I could still hear the world around me quite a bit. “Gentle Moon” from Sun Kil Moon’s Ghosts of the Great Highway had a clear, open sound, though the highs seemed to get more emphasis. Bass was controlled, and there was some decent low-end extension.
Audio-Technica’s ATH-ESW9A is among the most attractive ’phones here, and its sound quality is among the best as well.
Headphones worn above by Justin Warfield of She Wants Revenge