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. To the recommended Buy list it goes!

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Matty's a musician, music-fan, and 'gear-phile' from Sydney, Australia. Outside of his day-job in creative advertising, Matty enjoys live music, lawn bowls, craft beer, and spending far too much money collecting vinyl.

    8 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 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!

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