Every once in a while, there is a product that slips past the mainstream review circuit and seemingly slips into the shadows. Here, at ChosenReview.net we are committed to choosing to review those things that appeal to us, and that may have a place in your life. Our early focus has been portable audio. It is an area that sees constant research and development, and that has a niche in the home and in travel. In 1999, the first mobile Bluetooth phone was launched by Sony Ericsson. Since that time, wireless portability of a communication and more pointedly, headphone devices has been on ongoing conquest. Much to the chagrin of audiophiles, Bluetooth has not been a boon to the world of portable audio.
With Bluetooth comes cord-cutting. A convenience that is easily understood yet hard to perfect. For dyed-in-the-wool audiophiles, Bluetooth is only now achieving some of the sonic presence that can garner serious consideration, when compared to wired solutions. See, and audiophile, will add Ferrite to their speaker wires to mitigate radio interference in their audio signals to their speakers. They will change a factory OEM cable, in lieu of a better (or at least perceived better) third -arty solution to extrapolate the most elusive audible gains from their equipment. Each incremental step a means to an end, that is truly unknown until the combinations of improvements are melded together and critically analyzed. Which is why, to this day, hardcore purists will opt for the tried and true, cumbersome cable over a wireless connection without any hesitation.
Headphones are a dime a dozen. They come as in-ear, on-ear over ear and who knows what else. But one thing remains clear today. Nothing wireless, can come to the level of purity that a wired headphone and stereo or digital audio p[layer can come. We just aren't there yet, and may not ever be. So, in the face of this reality, millions of people the world over hunt and scour the internet to hear about each and every type of music device, speaker, source and portable player they can find--in the hopes of achieving the most perfect sonic balance or pairing their purse can handle.
In that balance are things like the Sony MDR-1AM2 (reviewed here); the 1MORE Triple Driver Over Ears, BeoPlay H6 2nd Generation, Audeze SINE and others. In the midst of the foray of offerings by so many others, and at differentiation price points, comes something that begs the question: Where did you come from? Where have you been hiding? And whjy aren't you part of the bigger conversation? This is where the Audio Technica ATH-WP900 comes into the ChosenReviews wheelhouse.
When searching for a truly portable audiophile headphone, there are certain criteria that must be present. Weight, cord length, durability, and sound characteristics are just a few of the most important. As you are all aware, at our site, we like to link you back to reviews by others that we hold in high regard, so that you have a body of work and opinions that may aid you in making an informed decimation. We found the lack material on this headphone conspicuously odd to us. So, we dove in and bought them, to the tune of $700, and put them to the test. Here is what we found.
This closed-back dynamic offering from Audio Technica is quite fascinating. It is lightweight and quite premium in build quality. Unboxing the cans is is not going to make you guffaw until you see them and pick them up. The maple wood cups are sunburst finished and manufactured by a guitar manufacturer--and finished so expertly and cleanly that you could see them in the weathered, educated hands of Carlos Santana and think they were right at home. They come with two cords, including one that is 4.4mm balanced. The length is pure portable. The quality is superb. Everything about the fit and finish of these cans screams money. Quality. Is audiophile grade. Through and through. As you can see in the pics, modeled by Mrs. Blache, they are just jaw droppingly gorgreous! The headphones and yes the model too! Let's face it, Audio Technica went after something specific here. I would dare say that they achieved it in the process.
For instance, our colleagues over at Minidisc says, the ATH-WP900 is "A fantastic headphone that delivers Audio Technica's vocal magic with impressive bass punch and exceptional comfort." Whereas others find the headphones to be hyper-analytical and decidedly bright. Keep in mind, that reviews are quite subjective. Each person's ears are different. Their tastes are different. There is no way to definitively say what is right and what is wrong. Notwithstanding these realities, we exist to help sort out some 'knowns' and unknowns in pursuit of what to buy and what to avoid. It takes a lot for us to just outwardly trounce a product in consideration of the subjective nature of the process. At the same time, we have no reservation about doing so with the caveats of personal taste and bias duly stated.
Q and I found these headphones exciting. Analytical but to a fault. We found them capable, and at times quite musical, but always felt the need to EQ them. True audiophiles do not like to have to modify their sound signatures away from factory spec. When something requires adjustment, the journey becomes complicated and muddled by uncertainty. This is especially so when that need to adjust comes almost immediately. Some say these cans are not sibilant. We found them to be quite so. Some say they are not mid-range light. We would agree. We would also agree that they are upper-mid-range focused. This would square with the sibilance. Not in all cases, but definitely so in this case.
We spent hours running the ATH-WP900 through its paces. I personally spent weeks. I too came away with the same feelings. I loved their comfort. Their clamping force. Their fit and finish. I loved their cables, and their micro-details. What I could not shed was their etch. It was clearly present to me and turned out to be something from which I wanted to shy away. That, in the end, is what resulted in them being sent back to where they came from. I couldn't square their impeccable good looks with their often unruly manner. They were neither reference nor warm. They were not tame nor were they what I would consider musical. These headphones were purely upper-mid and treble forward. They had more bass impact than for which anyone else gave them credit. Were it not for the distinctively present upward arc of treble and upper-mids, I could have easily seen myself nesting in with these as my go-to portable cans with my present reference DAP (the HiBy R6 Pro). Honestly, it was hard to part with these headphones. Partly because nothing I have heard can quite compare to them, and because it was something that did not embody the prototypical Audi Technica sound motif. These folks are quite different. They will appeal to people who are not chimerical headphone buyers. The Bose and Beats folks needn't concern themselves with these. People who listen to classical and opera should absolutely give these a go. But if classic Jazz, vocals, Country and R& B are your fortes, you may want to dig in a different tool box. This one is a bit sharp!
Currently selling for around $650 dollars st various online retailers.
Check out varying opinions at these locations: