The release of a new Audio-Technica product is usually greeted with a satisfied grin. And so it was in 2016 when the Japanese manufacturer launched its then-latest set of premium wired headphones, the ATH-A1000Z. These high-fidelity, closed-back headphones earned positive reviews from the press and the public alike, with most people agreeing they looked, felt and sounded great.
Seven years is quite a long time when it comes to technology, though, which prompts the question: Are the ATH-A1000Z still worth buying in 2023? After all, they’re not that much cheaper than they were when they first appeared. To find out, I've put them through their paces, measuring how they stack up when it comes to sound quality, design and comfort. I've also given a couple of alternative suggestions at the end of the review.
Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z review: Design
One thing that most people agreed on when these over-ear headphones were launched was how stylish they looked – and I think they still cut the mustard. Hand-assembled in Japan, their distinctive design – red aluminium housings, along with "enhanced 3D wing support" where the headband would normally be – looks as modern now as it did then.
Thankfully, the aluminium housings are on the lighter side ensuring that the overall weight of these headphones is limited to a modest 265g – without the cable. That, combined with their self-adjusting wing support and soft pleather ear pads, means the Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z feel lovely and comfortable, even during longer listening sessions. Despite their light weight, there’s a pleasing sturdiness about these headphones, too – and while there’s no reason why you’d want to throw them against the wall, I reckon they’d remain intact if you did.
Speaking of those ear pads, they’re ergonomically designed for improved sound isolation. While they won’t completely shut out your surroundings like a pair of top-quality active noise cancelling headphones would, they do enhance the level of immersion, while delivering deeper, more satisfying bass.
Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z review: Features
Since these aren’t Bluetooth headphones, there’s no range or battery life to talk about in this review. The Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z are good old-fashioned wired headphones, and in the absence of the those features, Audio-Technica has channelled its energy into making them sound as good as possible.
The headphones come equipped with Audio-Technica’s 53mm drivers, while their lightweight yet rigid magnesium baffles are intended to reduce unwanted vibration. The headphones also boast what the Japanese firm describes as a “double air damping structure”. This is meant to facilitate an extended frequency range, resulting in deeper bass – but I'll put that to the test in the next section.
Another way in which Audio-Technica has sought to improve the sound quality of these headphones is by including a dual-sided, four-core cable. Containing independent ground wires for left and right channels, this is designed for audiophile listening.
Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z review: Sound
That double air damping structure obviously works, as these headphones deliver rich and detailed bottom. Listening to Manic Street Preachers’ La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh), I found the song’s bassy groove deeply rewarding, and found myself shaking our hips while drying the dishes.
The mid-ranges also rose to the occasion, the vocals and power chords being presented with glorious verve. I did notice the smallest amount of distortion on one or two instruments, but that was only because I was really listening out for it. I doubt that it’ll spoil your listening pleasure.
Finally, the high end, and this is arguably where the Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z headphones excel the most. Switching to an Adele song, I was instantly taken by the smoothness and clarity of her voice. Meanwhile, orchestral sections sounded deliciously delicate, like a violinist had magically floated out of the speakers and into my room.
The overall result was very impressive; nuanced, spacious, and with more than enough oomph to get the heart pumping. Throw in the comfort, build quality and modern design, and you have a pair of headphones that are still well worth buying in 2023.
Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z review: Alternatives
I can’t recommend the Sony WH-1000XM5 enough if you're looking for a pair of wireless headphones. Number one on our list of the best headphones for music, these Sony headphones are an excellent all-round package, offering superb sound quality, top-drawer noise cancelling and 30 hours of battery life. They’re cheaper than the Audio-Technica headphones, too.
If you want wired but the Audio-Technica headphones don’t do it for you, maybe take a look at the Beyerdynamic Amiron. The manufacturer claims that these tethered headphones offer an “authentic concert experience” at home – and listening to their exquisitely detailed sound, it’s hard to disagree.
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