Audio Technica ATH-WP900 Review

Audio Technica ATH-WP900

Amplification and source pairing

Thankfully for us would-be desert-island goers, the WP900 is a breeze to drive at 38 ohms impedance and 100dB/mW sensitivity. It will happily get to very loud sound pressure levels from a low-powered single-ended source and actually acquits itself reasonably well from your garden-variety smartphone or laptop headphone jack. The WP900 will create fans playing averagely-recorded music from an average source, but feed it with some great music plus a dedicated source/amplifier and the WP900 is genuinely a revelation.

Audio Technica ATH-WP900

Astell&Kern SR25

The newest of the Astell&Kern ‘A&norma’ range, the AK25 easily gets the WP900’s generous bass wide and truly awake at ‘75’ on the volume pot, or exactly halfway out of the AK25’s 3.5mm single-ended jack. By contrast, powering the WP900 using the balanced output of the AK25’s 2.5mm output via the Effect Audio 4.4mm Pentaconn adapter only requires ‘60’ volume increments to reach the same sound pressure level. The WP900 likes the switch over to balanced, with tighter, more structured electric bass notes in Ryan Adam’s ‘Doomsday’. The WP900’s already impressive diffuse soundstage widens up a fraction when fed from the AK25’s balanced output. Astell&Kern’s most affordable and most diminutive DAP is also their most portable offering, taking up a pocket-full of space at most. Seeing as it also makes for a terrific sonic pairing with the WP900, this combination gets my wholehearted ‘tick’ of approval for those looking for a practical and strong-performing portable pairing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Astell&Kern SE200

Stepping-up to the new SE200 from the ‘A&futura’ range with the WP900 is a pleasant upgrade in every regard. While the SE200 comes with a substantial price increase over the SR25 ($1,799 USD vs $699 USD), it rewards the listener by eking-out a silkier, more linear response right across the frequency band, and a more ethereal, better-separated soundstage with a more ‘analogue’ sense of note decay when using the SE200’s AK4499 output section. It’s certainly a whole heap more in terms of asking price when added to the WP900’s $650, but the desert island inhabitant with the SE200 + WP900 combo is in for an incredible listening experience indeed. 

Audio Technica ATH-WP900

Chord Mojo

The venerable Mojo has pretty much been the portable DAC/amp reference since it hit the market five years ago, and with good reason – the bespoke FPGA-equipped Mojo sounds superb with everything from sensitive IEMs to high-impedance full-size headphones. The Mojo is single-ended only but easily gets the WP900 up to comfortable listening levels without breaking so much as a sweat. Coming off the back of listening to the WP900 with the SE200, Outkast’s ‘Roses’ immediately sounds more intimate, buttery and somewhat less incisive than the scalpel-like presentation of the Astell&Kern. It’s a terrifically enjoyable pairing, and anyone looking to add a fraction of warmth to the WP900’s voicing would be well-served here. 

Questyle CMA Twelve

Questyle CMA Twelve

Despite the ‘P’ in WP900 standing for ‘Portable’, what’s impressed me most about the ATH-WP900 is just how versatile and competent it is using as a dedicated hifi pair of headphones in a desktop setting. Despite the rather short supplied cables, the WP900’s classy presentation and technical abilities mean that it can go toe-to-toe with some of the best close-backs in the business. With this being the case (and you know, due to the whole global pandemic thing) I did spend most of my listening time with the WP900 at my desk powered by Questyle’s flagship CMA Twelve DAC/amp, which I’m currently putting through its paces for review. Using the CMA Twelve’s 4.4mm output, the WP900 performed brilliantly, and then some. Hooking-up my Nakamichi MB-8 CD-player to the optical-input on the CMA Twelve, I fed the WP900 a little bit of Nine Inch Nails from their 2005 record, ‘With Teeth’. Guest drummer Dave Grohl’s tasty intro solo on track #8 ‘Only’ reveals just how quick the WP900 can sound when paired with the right source. There’s not a hint of sloppiness nor flab here – just some tight, hard-hitting industrial rock.

Audio Technica ATH-WP900

Conclusions

I won’t beat around the bush: Audio Technica has knocked it out of the park with the new ATH-WP900. It’s exciting and engaging enough to hook and reel-in casual listeners while providing a rewarding tone and technical abilities to tickle even the most rusted-on Audiophile’s fancy. The ATH-WP900’s smaller size and portable designation are far from a compromise – it’s a first-rate pair of closed-back hifi cans with far more use-cases than it’s bulkier and more expensive brethren. If I were to choose between the ATH-WP900 and the ATH-AWAS or ATH-AWKT, I’d take the WP900 in an absolute heartbeat. Form-factor and comfort-wise it’s far less fussy, and sonically it’s one of the most tastefully-implemented v-shape signatures I can recall hearing. The ATH-WP900 is an unreserved recommendation for desert island dwellers and urban castaways alike. In fact, I think so highly of them that I’ve actually gone and bought a pair for myself after sending back this review pair back to Audio Technica. To the recommended Buy list it goes!

4.5/5 - (43 votes)

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Hailing from Sydney's eastern beaches, Matty runs his own beer business, 'Bowlo Draught', as well as working in creative advertising. When he's not enjoying his hifi and vinyl collection at home, he can probably be found rolling-up on the green at his beloved Bondi Bowling Club.

27 Comments

  • Reply September 14, 2020

    Rob Stivers

    I have to agree with you on this one. I’m so happy someone has finally reviewed these headphones. They first caught my eye at CES in Las Vegas back in January. I listened to every headphone I could find at that show and thought the WP900s were the best I heard by a large margin. In fact, I kept coming back to the AT booth to hear them again. Fantastic headphones and those wood cups are arrestingly beautiful in person. Great review, Matty.

    • Reply September 14, 2020

      Matty Graham

      Thanks Rob! They really do leap out and demand you take notice of them, they’re very easy to like.

      • Reply June 8, 2021

        Jo

        It’s a nice build for a portable with a light weight, albeit less robust build compared to a HD600 / DT770. It’s also very attractive and comfortable.

        But the sound… It’s not worth its asking price at 500+ USD. Especially when the R70x undercuts it by K most 150USD. The R70x is just the more agreeable listen with its neutral yet enjoyable tuning. It’s a generalist A- performer.

        The WP900 sometimes does wonders with modern music. It pulls out instruments and electronic music instruments nicely. Sometimes it’s amazing. But it constantly kills male vocals, pushing them back against the aforementioned, really nice backdrop of instrumentals.

        It’s just too polarizing a set to easily recommend, when Audio Technica has much better offerings both lower and higher in the price range.

        This is too wonky. I wished it was a baby ADX5000 or AWAS.

        • Reply June 9, 2021

          Matty Graham

          Hi Jo, the R-70x is a great headphone (and great value too) but that’s like comparing a hamburger with steak tartare – they’re completely different tunings, and designed for completely different listening circumstances. If you’re only after one pair of headphones and are happy listening at home with open back headphones, then I take your point. But, you could also view these two Audio Technicas as complementary to one another – one for home, one for away; one for a netral ‘hifi’ listening experience, one for fun and engagement.

  • Reply September 14, 2020

    Tibor

    Can one hear it so differently than other? I had the impression that these are bass light from majorhifi review:
    “The WP-900 delivers only a moderate amount of bass presence. Perhaps not enough for some. And overall, there’s little warmth in the low end. Instead, the bass profile is characterized by speed and tightness. And it’s a light and impressively clean profile.”
    and than your words: “They reach deep, and they hit hard. The WP900’s bass is ever so slightly on the bloomy side of the equation”
    I am torn apart now 😀 must try for myself, but thank you anyway, I really like them, the looks, form factor, should be good for traveling.
    Thank You!

    • Reply September 14, 2020

      Matty

      Unless they’re comparing them to Mr Beats by Professor Dre, they must have a defective unit on their hands.

  • Reply October 23, 2020

    Craig A Sands

    Anyone know an exceptional case for these, surprised with such a beautiful finish such poor cables and case, sounds amazing though

    • Reply October 27, 2020

      Matty

      A good question Craig – I’m sure there’s plenty of aftermarket options in terms of cases, although AT’s A2DC cable does make cables a trickier proposition. I think I’d be looking for a 4.4mm extension cable for general hifi use.

  • Reply October 27, 2020

    Luca

    I share the sound impressions of the fun yet slightly non technical bass, lower midrange dip, and pretty big diffuse soundstage. Treble explanation is also spot on.

    Although I hear a very slight fizzyness in the treble due to the lack of dampening, wood housing or driver itself I assume. I sometimes feel the edges could be crisper, the whole headphone has a sliiiight organic tilt. Despite the minor colder low mids. But those mids keep them very uncongested which is great.

    This review is spot on and obviously written by an experienced headphone pro. Bravo.

    • Reply October 27, 2020

      Matty

      Hi Luca, thanks for taking the time to read mate. As it turns out, I missed these so much after I sent the review pair back that I decided to actually buy them!

  • Reply November 16, 2020

    Damian

    Thanks the great review! The AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon is a bit older now but how would these compare?

    • Reply November 17, 2020

      Matty

      Thanks Damian. It’s been a while since I last heard the NightOwls, but they are most definitely a much ‘darker’ sounding pair of headphones as well as being far less portable.

  • Reply December 17, 2020

    Mike I

    Hi Matty,
    How do you compare them with the Grado’s you like also so much: GH1 and Hemp?
    Thanks again for all your excellent reviews !

    • Reply December 18, 2020

      Matty

      They couldn’t be more different, but at the same time they’re extremely complementary of each other. The Grados have forward mids and lower treble, whilst that region takes a back-seat in the WP900. The WP900 is far bassier, and of course – it’s closed-back.

      Cheers for reading & commenting!

  • Reply March 11, 2021

    Jose

    No, Matty! This headphones are goodsgood to listening Classic Rock, pop and Metal?

  • Reply March 16, 2021

    Barry Gibb

    Great review, Matty – I read this, then pretty much everything I could find on the WP900s and eventually bought them.

    I don’t know headphones enough to go into all the lingo but what I can say is that after listening to my Oppo PM-3s fir several year, these are a revaluation! Only way I can put it is they seem fuller, more natural and boy do they make my music come alive. Thank you!

    For info, after a load of research, this case fits really well:
    Geekria UltraShell Case for Bang & Olufsen B&O BeoPlay H95, H9, H9i, H8, H8i, H7, H6, H2 Headphones, Replacement Protective Hard Shell Travel Carrying Bag with Room for Accessories https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01IZ9ZJ9Y/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_fabc_YCZ6M8JXMG4Z5NCADS7F?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

    • Reply March 16, 2021

      Barry Gibb

      ‘Revelation’ not revaluation! Thank you autocorrect 🙄

  • Reply March 21, 2021

    Vladas

    Hi, Thanks for your excellent review!
    It is possible to compare them with Beyerdynamic DT 177X GO,
    I’m at a crossroads..
    THX!

  • Reply April 23, 2021

    Shane D

    I completely agree with your review. I had the Meze 99’s for three years as my portable headphone. I loved everything about them except they didn’t scale up at home.
    They were a perfect match with my LG V30 phone or my Sony DAP though.

    I just got my 900’s yesterday and I am Very impressed. Lots of bass, but I find the mids just a tad recessed. I think these will be a great portable set and they are pairing up nicely with my desktop amps.

    • Reply April 26, 2021

      Matty Graham

      Great to hear that you’re enjoying them Shane. They’re certainly very deliberately V-shaped sonically, perhaps with a bit of EQ tinkering you might be able to up things in the instrument and vocal range slightly?

  • Reply July 24, 2021

    Tibor

    Hey, thanks mate, WP900 are here and so far soo goood. I like to opt sometimes for this engaging sound to listen to Kygo or other pop dance music. The sound is a bit thin, but that is nothing that a copper cable from ForzaAudioworks can not do 😀 And they are so light and comfortable, really love them so far 🙂
    + I am testing my Hemps with Geekria bowl pad… the grainy bass is gone… nice 🙂
    Thanks !! 😀

  • Reply July 26, 2021

    Tibor

    Hi. These are bass monsters, the thin sound is gone… but the bass is really strong. I need to tune them somehow, silver cable maybe? But now I am really interested in ATH-AWAS, less bass and more detail? Yeah, that is what I am into now. 🙂

  • Reply August 9, 2021

    Wayne

    Hi Marty, my wife has permanently borrowed my HD-600’s (which I love), and I’m currently pinching my daughters hd26 pro’s to listen to late at night. I was going to get the r70x, but by chance read your review. Now I’m tossing between the wp900($999) or the elegia($799). Your thoughts ?

    Wayne

    • Reply August 10, 2021

      Matty Graham

      Hi Wayne, they’re two very different but equally awesome headphones. The Elegia has a more neutral tuning and is a bit more isolating and ‘enveloping’. The WP900, on the other hand, is a lot more bass-y and V-shaped sounding while also being a bit less isolating. It’s definitely worth trying them both out first, if possible.

  • Reply August 19, 2021

    Wayne

    Hi Matty, thanks for the insight. I did the
    Covid thing and the wp900 arrived from minidisc. The sound signature, I can see why it’s a “v” , reminded me of the porta pro’s I used to have, just a mature version. Certainly they weigh nothing. I thought the box might have been empty ! Initial listening is having to get over the difference to the HD-600’s . Think I just need time to get adjusted.

  • Reply December 8, 2021

    Victor Yu

    Hi Marty, I bought this headphone and love it,I wonder which DAC/AMP dongle you will recommend for this?
    1. Violectric Chronos
    2. Blue Dragonfly
    3. THX Onyx
    4. Sparrow
    Let me know your thoughts
    Thanks

    • Reply December 12, 2021

      Darek

      I was listening them with Dragonfly Cobal and there is a match! They sound fantastic with this small device. I was listening with Galaxy S9 – they sound good. With Dragonfly Cobalt they sounds fantastic!

      My current headphones costs arount 99 $ – but I fell in love, and I am going to buy this Audio Technica WP900 product. Because I love music 😉

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