Audiophiles are those strange creatures who will go to any lengths in pursuit of that pure sound. Some have gone so far as to rebuild their homes to create the ideal listening room.
Others take the more practical approach, and settle for a good pair of headphones.
Audio Technica launched two luxury headphones aimed squarely at audiophiles, the ATH-AWKT (Kokutan) and the ATH-AWAS (Asada Zakura). The names are a reference to the wood back used in each. The Kokutan is an ebony-like Japanese hardwood that has long been used for wind instruments and pianos, and the Asada Zakura is a Japanese Cherry wood.
In the package, the Kokutan comes in a lovely wooden box. The Zakura comes in a black hardboard box. Each contains two sets of 3-meter cables — one with a 6.3mm headphone jack and the other a balanced XLR cable. At the other end of the cables, you have Audio Technica’s special Audio Designed Detachable Coaxial connector (A2DC) which, as they claim, provides a “sound connection”. Not much else in the box, other than the mandatory manual.
The two headphones are essentially the same design. Dynamic 53mm drivers which are exceptionally accurate with audio reproduction and have a wide range. The main difference is in the materials used. Kokutan is an ebony-like wood with black stripes and, in this case, the headphones are individually finished by hand. They are exquisite in their styling and design. The pads used are sheepskin and super soft. While the headphones do look large and bulky and are even quite heavy, they are very comfortable. Sadly, my ear design is such that I cannot wear over-ear headphones for more than an hour at a time. For most people, this would not be an issue and they would find the headphones very comfortable.
So how do these cans sound? Well, the short answer is incredible. The sound is in some ways very neutral and balanced. You literally hear what was recorded. The frequency range of 5–45,000 Hz is very well reproduced on the headphones. They come shining through in every situation and every genre of music. The low frequencies are nicely demonstrated and separated when listening to jazz and deep baritone voices. Vocals, rock and pop show off the mid range without any drama. You hear every breath, every slide of the finger on the guitar with a clarity that will amaze you. The highs come to light when listening to classical music in full choral or symphonic range. Drumsticks on metal, string instruments, bells all come through very clearly. The sound stage is truly immersive and emotive. Once you put on the headphones and start listening, you just won’t realise where time has gone and how deep you are in the rabbit hole of your music.
Most amplifiers will be able to drive these headphones. At an impedance of 48 ohms, they are not very demanding. Cellphones and portable DACs might struggle though. The headphones are also rated as “hi-res” with the logo prominently on display and if you have access to hi-res recordings, you will be totally amazed at the playback. Remember, headphones take the room out of the equation. If you were to build a room and provide all the appropriate acoustic treatment and then buy a pair of speakers that sound similar to these headphones, you would be spending quite the fortune. Which brings me back to the issue of price.
The one downside of these headphones would be the price. The Kokutan sells for ₹2,75,790 and the Zakura for ₹2,09,000. When you first hear the price you do feel that it is high, but these pair of headphones would easily last you more than a decade.