The ESW11LTD is a thing of beauty, if not precision. There are some chinks in its wooden armour. It is light, smooth, comfortable, and expensive. It is fair to consider it a wood ES10. It uses the same size drivers, the same chassis and cage. Apart from its beautiful wood cups, the only cosmetic difference is the lambskin ear pads.
They are most welcome.
The ES10 sounds and looks great, but its synthetic pads don't sweat well. After a few minutes, they grow shiny and coarse against the skin. Using the ES10 across town is practically masochistic. The new pads aren't as soft as the ESW9's are. They block more noise, however, and make more room between the ear and the ESW11's speaker, thereby creating a slightly more spacious sound than found in the ES10.
Its sound is more congested than a full-size headphone, but in some ways, more immediate. There is more pressure in the midrange than there is with the ES10 and more room. But next to a Beyerdynamic DT880, the presentation is much tighter, almost withdrawn in comparison. Midrange, specifically vocals, take centre stage, and bass, while voluble, isn't as detailed as ES10 bass is. Neither compare favourably to the DT880.
Next to Ultrasone's ED8, the world's current flagship portable headphone, the ESW11LTD has less space between instruments, but is more coherent in frequency transitions. The ESW11LTD is also more intimate sounding. Vocals tickle the ears. Bass massages them in long, deep strokes.
Shooting the ESW11LTD
When shooting amps, I often use two or more lights, but for headphones, I find one light and a good reflector highlights exactly what I want to highlight. In this case, I used a Nikon SB700 on a light stand and swivel boom. The light was softened by a dish which was positioned directly above the headphone, but angled toward a giant 180mm long reflector I constructed specifically for headphone photography.
As you can see, the ESW11LTD is very photogenic. The grain and colour of its wood are rich, its lettering crisp. After finishing the shoot, I continued, shooting for a new client. The ESW11LTD, this time, was on my head, not on a stand.
Overall, a very good-sounding, great-looking headphone. If you are coming from the ES10 and wish for a departure from the sound, you will get a bit more warmth and a bit less harshness. Both are minor sound tweaks. Mainly, you are getting comfort and beauty. If you are collector, go for it. If you just want better fit, wait till January when the ESW11LTD pads go on sale.