Summary: Despite some so-so ratings on individual features, the sound is amazingly good for the price. I would rate the ESW9 sound as equal to most headphones in the $400 to $500 range, with the possible exception of soundstage, since in that respect it sounds about like its size suggests.
Summary: I f'ing love these things. They are my portables of choice. setup: Cowon A2 MP3 player (320 kbps mp3's), Earcandy mini-mini, Ray Samuels SR-71 amp, ATH-ESW9. The bass is AWESOME. so deep and powerful but the driver must weigh next to nothing because it is very accurate. So powerful that they will overwhelm your music if you like to crank the bass. However this is only just a possibility.
Summary: I purchased the Audio Technica ESW9a. These have African Paduak shells rather than the cherry of the Japanese release. The ESW9a is made in Japan.
First, these are most definitely not circumaural headphones. The pads have a slope, the outside edge of which extends to the tops and bottoms of my ears (medium size) if positioned just so. The pads to press your ears down.
Pros: Warm but still punchy tone, large soundstage, lightweight, subtle good looks, comfortable
Cons: No accessories, disappointing cable, delicate brackets, don't fold for travel
Summary: I might not have gotten these if I had'nt heard them. I was milling around the best buy and put on a few cans. I thought these were the best sounding cans Best Buy had on their wall- portable or otherwise. It was not even that close. Maybe not the ideal comparing circumstance but the ESW9's really impressed me. They had some other AT models, AKG, Pioneer, Bose and B&W for sampling- not sure the models.
Summary: So do you go with what you like or with what's best for you? I guess at the juncture at most points in my life I've gone with the former. In headphones too that has me going back to the ESW9s again and again. They are NOT my most accurate cans. Even while listening, I know I'm not hearing the whole story. But somehow, the sound of these headphones just grabs me like nothing has so far.