After over 150 hrs of burn in, I hear A2kZ to have a neutral signature with a touch of mid-forward bias, and highly resolving and revealing natural tonality which is leaning more toward the brighter coloring. I would go even as far as saying these are very much of a reference quality without being flat or analytical. At 44 ohms with 101 dB/mW sensitivity you do need to push the power a little higher to bring the volume to a decent listening level and to reach the full potential of sound quality.
Starting with lows, I hear a deep extended textured sub-bass rumble. Mid-bass punch is snappy and closer to neutral level, has a good speed with a decent attack and a bit shorter decay. The bass is tight and articulate, and I actually hear sub-bass to have a little more impact in comparison to mid-bass; overall low end has an excellent control without spilling into lower mids. Lower mids are more on a leaner side, but still have enough body, and upper mids are very detailed and highly resolving without being harsh or grainy. Tonality is on a brighter side, very revealing with an excellent retrieval of details. But at the same time it never crosses sibilance threshold or becomes harsh. I would say that tonality feels natural, but not smooth organic and maybe would benefit from a touch more warmth, depending on ones preference. Here it’s more about accuracy and resolution, rather than smooth warm presentation. Treble is bright, crisp, extended, and with a great level of airiness which is impressive for a closed back design. I never found the sound to be fatigue over an extended listening period.
Soundstage has a pretty good width for a closed back full size headphones, definitely above the average. Also, a great height expansion, but depth is just average, bringing the stage closer to you which keeps it from reaching holographic level of expansion. Imaging has a very good placement of instruments and vocals, and accuracy of positioning is actually very good as well. The sound has a very good separation of instruments with a rather decent layering effect where I can hear and feel air between the layers.
All these comparisons were done using Lotoo PAW Gold as a source.
A2kZ vs T5p.2 w/alpha pads – both have a very similar soundstage with above the average width and height, though I felt T5p had a little more depth. Also, T5p has a deeper sub-bass with a little more quantity, and also mid-bass punch is stronger and overall low-end has more impact in comparison to A2kZ being closer to neutral. T5p lower mids are warmer and with more body, and upper mids are not as detailed, and sound warmer and smoother in comparison to A2kZ. A2kZ treble is more extended and has more airiness. Overall, alpha pads played a big role in shaping up T5p warmer and smoother signature, while A2kZ is more reference quality with a thinner and brighter expanded sound in comparison.
A2kZ vs EL8C – EL8C soundstage has less width but more depth. Also, EL8C sub-bass is more rolled off in comparison while A2kZ has more quantity, though mid-bass is very close in both. Lower mids are leaner in EL8C, while EL8C upper mids are as bright but also a little harsher in comparison (exhibiting some metallic sheen). Treble is very similar in comparison. With A2kZ vs EL8C, I hear A2kZ to be more refined and a little more natural in comparison, also with a better sub-bass extension.
A2kZ vs PM3 – these have very similar soundstage expansion in all 3 directions. Low end in PM3 has deeper sub-bass with more rumble and higher in quantity, and the same with mid-bass – more impact, though not as fast as A2kZ. Lower mids in PM3 are warmer and thicker, and upper mids are not as detailed and revealing. PM3 treble doesn’t extend as far as A2kZ and lacks airiness in comparison. Overall, A2kZ is more revealing, more transparent, brighter and detailed, while PM3 is smoother, warmer, with more bass and a little veiled in comparison.
A2kZ vs R70x – R70x definitely has an advantage of an open back soundstage with a better expansion in all 3 directions. Sub-bass is very similar, but R70x has more mid-bass impact though overall R70x bass is not as tight or articulate and a little slower. R70x lower mids are warmer and a little thicker and upper mids are not as bright or revealing, but still very detailed and smooth and natural. Both have well defined treble, but A2kZ is brighter and crispier.
A2000Z next to R70x and T5p 2nd gen (w/Alpha pads).
A2kZ needs a little extra power to drive them to a full potential, and they are not as forgiving when it comes to poorly recorded music.
Lotoo PAW Gold – excellent pair up, deep punchy bass, clear detailed mids, bright airy treble, excellent retrieval of details, and overall great dynamic performance.
Opus#1 – is very similar to LPG, though maybe a touch slower bass, but the rest is similar with a bright airy treble and a very resolving sound.
Opus#1 + Micro iDSD (through optical mini-toslink) – this pair up takes it to a whole new level with an even more articulate bass and surprisingly even wider soundstage expansion.
Note 4 (smartphone) – just a proof that it’s not intended for a portable use, the sound wasn’t exciting, lost its energy, got a little warmer and less detailed in comparison to above.
X7 w/AM2 – soundstage expansion is similar to LPG and Opus, sound quality is very resolving and with a great retrieval of details, definitely a reference quality performance. Sub-bass is extended but a little less rumble and overall bass feels more neutral, mids are on a leaner side, very detailed, and treble is bright crisp and airy.
X5ii – good soundstage width, great sub-bass extension and punchy mid-bass, a little more body in lower mids, though upper mids a bit more upfront and harsher/grainier. Treble is bright, crisp and airy. I like bass and treble in this pair up, while upper mids were not my favorite part.
DX80 – great soundstage expansion, deep sub-bass with a punchy mid-bass, the sound has more body and a little bit warmer, but still with an excellent resolution and great retrieval of details. The treble is crisp and airy. A very good pair up where the reference revealing signature of A2kZ balances very nicely with an expanded warmer signature of DX80.
A2000Z pair up w/LPG and w/Opus#1 + Micro iDSD (optical).
The opportunity to test ATH-A2000Z turned out to be a pleasant surprise. There is so much to like about these, from a lightweight build to a 3D wings support system (which I personally found very comfortable), and a nearly reference quality revealing crisp sound signature with a spacious, expanded, non-fatigue sound. In the past I have reviewed a number of AT headphones, both in-ear and full size models, and the term “reference” usually doesn’t come up in the description of their house sound. Here AT managed to push the envelope by making the sound brighter, more revealing, more transparent, while still keeping it non-sibilant and without a single hint of harshness. These might not suite the fans who crave a warm lush sound or those who want more bass impact since A2kZ signature is neutral and the sound is on a revealing side. The only real negative for me was non-removable cable where the stock 3.0m cord puts a brake on a portable use or a balanced wired option. Otherwise, it’s a very impressive performer at a very reasonable price!