There are products we consider some of the best over-ear headphones, and then there are limited edition sonic works of art – which is what we have here.
Audio-Technica has been in the business of audio for 60 years now, and the Japanese hi-fi specialist is no stranger to cheap wireless over-ear propositions (see also the beautifully edgy ATH-SQ1TW true wireless earbuds) and inexpensive but talented turntables.
But the limited edition ATH-W2022 over-ear wired headphones break the mold. Just look at them.
These closed-back dynamic headphones, entirely sourced and assembled in Japan, certainly celebrate 25 years of wooden headphone craftsmanship, wouldn't you agree?
Using the Japanese maki-e lacquer technique (which uses traditional urushi lacquer, but you knew that) the Mizume (Japanese birch) headphone housings incorporate hand-painted Sakura (cherry blossom) and hou-ou phoenix designs, with mother-of-pearl on the left and right sides respectively.
But it's not all about looks! Within the exquisite housings are baffle-integrated 58mm drivers that were specially developed and optimised for the new closed-back model. Additionally, the diaphragm is comprised of a pure titanium centre dome, pressed to a thickness of 30 microns (0.03 mm), which places an emphasis on mid-high-range audio reproduction and top high-frequency response.
You get a 60th-anniversary commemorative wooden storage case with a Kiso cypress lid that’s cut to shape the irimoya styling of the headphone arms, and the newly designed magnet circuit incorporates a pole and yoke, structured from laminated pure iron plates to reduce counter-electromotive force (aka back EMF. Of course).
The ear pads and headband are made from deerskin for long-lasting durability and comfort, and you get two detachable 3m cloth-wrapped cables (with A2DC connectors at the headphones) one with a 6.3mm gold-plated stereo plug, the other with a 4-pin XLRM balanced connector.
Opinion: I'm a delicate flower too – and these should be mine
Only 100 of the Audio-Technica W2022 will be available worldwide, and each set will be numbered from 1-100 (we're not sure if you get to choose your lucky number though).
Frankly, I am a delicate flower and I want them. My high-end headphones should be a reflection of me and these cans are the closest representation I've seen yet.
Obviously, the Audio-Technica W2022 do not sit within this working-class gal's budget (only because there's a cost of living crisis on, you understand) but she can still dream, can't she? And even though I have never heard them, Audio-Technica has done enough to convince me it cares even more about the sound than it does the beautiful aesthetic…
How much are we talking here? £8,900/ €10,000, which is around AU$14,750.
There is no way to make that fee palatable in this universe, is there? So I'll just sign off. (Also, bargain!)
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.