Audio-Technica’s classy 60th anniversary celebrations are continuing apace, with the Japanese brandtaking the wraps off what they claim to be world's first wooden wireless headphones that also boast a world-first hi-fi feature.
The company resurrected their iconic portable Sound Burger turntable and also unveiled a high-end transparent set of decks last week as part of their birthday festivities, but these ground-breaking new ATH-WB2022 cans may well be the most interesting of the three unveilings.
The limited-edition headphones have balanced stereo built-in, a feature beloved by audiophiles that up until now had only been available on high-end wired cans which would also need to be used in conjunction with a similarly balanced headphone.
Having balanced stereo means the cans have a totally separate signal path for each earcup which results in limited interference and no crosstalk.
The ATH-WB2022’s pull this off by having two ESS DAC ES9038Q2M digital-to-analogue converters built-in, with one dedicated to the left channel, and one for the right.
The headphones also support Sony's LDAC high-resolution codec, plus AAC and SBC compatibility, while onboard Multipoint support allows you to connect the ATH-WB2022’s to multiple devices over Bluetooth and seamlessly switch between them.
The striking wooden earcups meanwhile aren’t just an aesthetic one, with the solid flame maple, walnut, and mahogany material used for the housings all combining to absorb acoustic vibrations and in turn minimize distortion.
Unsurprisingly this feature set comes at something of a premium, with the ATH-WB2022 coming with a hefty $2,700 / £2,599 (about AU$4,200) price tag when they launch next year.
Analysis: ATH-WB2022’s present a big breakthrough for wireless headphones… at a big price
Anyone who has listened to music on headphones via a balanced audio setup will know how the revelatory added clarity makes it difficult to return to a regular set of cans afterwards.
A wireless set of headphones that are capable of the feature has long been the holy grail for audiophiles looking to go cord-free, but the closest we’ve come up until this point has been cans integrating a higher-quality single DAC.
Make no mistake, Audio-Technica has pulled off a major feat here, but there is a significant payoff for this sonic goodness – we could be looking at some of the best over-ear headphones available, but we'll have to test them to make sure, naturally.
Powering double DACs unsurprisingly needs plenty of juice, and despite having separate, rechargeable batteries for each channel, the ATH-WB2022's are only able to offer nine hours of playback when fully charged – a massive drop off from the likes of the 60 plus hours that the Sennhesier Momentum 4 Wireless run for.
It's likely a compromise many audio purists will nevertheless be happy to factor in for that sonic nirvana alongside that eye-watering price tag.
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Kevin Lynch is a London-born, Dublin-based writer and journalist. The author of Steve Jobs: A Biographic Portrait, Kevin is a regular feature writer for a number of tech sites and the former Technology Editor for the Daily Mirror. He has also served as editor of GuinnessWorldRecords.com and has been a member of the judging panel for the BAFTA British Academy Video Game Awards. Alongside reviewing the latest AV gear, smartphones and computers, Kevin also specialises in music tech and can often be found putting the latest DAWs, MIDI controllers and guitar modellers through their paces. Born within the sound of Bow Bells, Kevin is also a lifelong West Ham fan for his troubles.