Audio-Technica ATH-A2000Z and Sennheiser HD 4.30I headphones – Review


ATH-A2000Z Art Monitor Closed-Back Dynamic Headphones
$649 U.S.

Audio-Technica’s new ATH-A2000Z Art Monitor Closed-Back Dynamic Headphones are the best sounding headphones I have ever heard. The audio presence is full-spectrum almost neutral with crisp performance at all listening levels in every genre and a slight upward sweetness, which I prefer. They are efficient and don’t need loads of power to drive them.

You can read the specs until your brain goes numb or you can open your wallet and your ears to a sonic experience that will wow you with its completeness.

Do an Internet search for the few current audiophile and technical reviews on this product, with additional photos. Other reviewers are impressed. We have some suggestions for Audio-Technica to improve future versions of these flagship headphones.

1. Provide two detachable cables of different lengths. The hard-wired audio cable is very long. It will be more convenient to have one cable for long-distance listening and one shortie cable for up close.

2. Give buyers a really nice storage case or tote bag. For this much money, we need to protect our precious headphones when they are not being used. Not everyone in our household or place of work is as careful as we are.

3. Is there a way to make the earpieces more comfortable for eyeglass wearers? The ear cups are large, round, and somewhat cushy. Over extended use they press eyeglass temple segments into my skull.

The non-adjustable wing support system is not for everyone, but it’s the least feature of concern. You look strange wearing wearing them, so get over it. Ditto for the reflective, brushed titanium earpiece covers. ATH-A2000Z are lightweight, but are not featherweight. They do have mass and bulk, as is expected with enormous ultra-premium headphone speaker drivers.

Audio passive ambient isolation is good but is not complete, although someone sitting next to you won’t hear any sound bleed at ordinary listening levels.

These headphones are a lifetime purchase for affluent and serious audio fans. You will enjoy using them for decades if you treat them carefully. The longer you listen the better they sound and the more immersive is your musical experience.

Are they worth $649? Yes, for the outstanding sound and premium build. No, for the three gentle complains listed above.

MyMac Review Rating is 8 out of 10 for super premium audiophile headphones.

External review links:



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HD 4.30I Headset Over Ear (White or Black)
$100 U.S. (Select model for your type of device on the web page)

For fifteen percent of the cost of ATH-A2000Z you can obtain Sennheiser’s new affordable and surprisingly good HD 4.30I Headset Over Ear, available in stunningly attractive white or black. The gold trim on our white evaluation headphones adds style to substance and makes heads turn as people admire me wearing them, with obvious envy.

You don’t get over six hundred dollars worth of audio excellence for one hundred dollars, but HD 4.30I Headset Over Ear are superior to their high-end competitor in many ways:

1. A just-right length of 1.4 meter (4.5 feet) tangle-proof cable.

2. Three-button inline cable controls and microphone for play/pause/forward/advance, volume up and down, plus phone/Skype/FaceTime talking.

3. Cable is detachable, with turn/clasp secure insertion into the bottom of the right earpiece.

4. Audio plug housing that is narrow enough to fit into bulky iPhone and iPad case headphone ports. This is very rare and is a huge improvement over most chubby audio plug tip plastic housings.

5. Thick and super squishy oval ear cups that are more comfortable than most other headphones and feel better longer when wearing eyeglasses.

6. Ultralight weight.

7. Fifteen degree ear cup rotation in either direction.

8. The ear units fold inward for storage in the included drawstring tote sack!

9. Thorough room sound passive isolation, again better than many others, regardless of price.

Sennheiser does a fine job with all the physical aspects, but how do they sound? I read a review that gave faint praise to the audio experience, and I think the other writer missed the point.

The bass is strong and rich, without being overpowering. You need many hours of conditioning or burn-in for the speaker drivers to ripen and produce optimum output. Once your HD 4.30I headset is ready for prime time you will forget about any mismatch or stratification between the lower and upper registers.

Enjoy your music! Playback is clear and precise. If the midrange and treble areas are somewhat recessed in a technical sense, your brain will recalibrate and you can boogie until Jeff Beck’s fingers fall off and Bob Dylan wins his second Nobel Prize. The audio pops right into your head, as it should. If you must compare HD 4.30I to other hundred dollar over-ear premium build versatile headphones, do your best to keep things in perspective.

Speaking of Dylan, listen to his crusty, tender ballad, Not Dark Yet from the CD, “Time Out of Mind,” and you’ll hear what I’m describing. The bass rolls along like an oceanic swell, with the instruments and voice sailing above in full view on a cloudless day.

Then play Soul of a Man from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s CD, “A Stranger Here,” which is focused at first in the midrange. Then a funereal bass drum kicks you gently between the ears and a scratchy percussion sound rounds it out in the white noise zone. The sound is clean enough to hear the standup bass strings vibrating between notes and the guitar slide bar easing its way up and down the neck.

Have you ever heard the beautiful version by Yo-Yo Ma and James Taylor of Hard Times Come Again No More, from the CD “The Essential James Taylor?” Here is where JT’s voice feels slightly in the background at first on HD 4.30I, but only for a moment before you become immersed in the gorgeous duet with the world’s most famous cellist and his fellow string players.

As a finale, dive deep into Mercury Blues by David Lindley and Jackson Browne on JB’s CD “Love Is Strange.” This is one of my audio gear test tracks. Don’t hurt your ears when you crank up at 1:36 to place yourself inside the first instrumental break or the longer one at 3:06. The bass is punchy and adds to the excitement of a remarkable live concert recording.

Watch the video and look through the promotional material on the company’s web site for this product, with attractive photos. Then take seriously my claim that Sennheiser’s HD 4.30I Headset Over Ear (White or Black) are high on the list of Nemo’s Best $100 Headphones.

MyMac Review Rating is 9 out of 10 for $100 headphones.

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