Audio Technica ATH-WP900 dramatically takes a scenic route from the past
Audio Technica has somehow landed on a rather unique balance with the ATH-WP900, which places this firmly in the audiophile category
If you are looking for headphones that cater to the modern fad of bass-heavy leanings, you can look away now. If you want headphones that make the music brighter than it is, you can look away now. These premium Japanese headphones are all about exuding class, neutral sound, a wide sound signature and demands your monetary investment if you are serious about music.
The Audio Technica ATH-WP900 follows through on a legacy of high-end headphones, and yet, the very wood that’s in use hasn’t been used before. And we keep coming back to how these headphones are firmly holding on to the past, on the spec sheet too.
This time, the choice is ‘maple’, and the first thing you’ll notice as you hold up the mix of leather and wood is the very fine build of these headphones. In fact, maple in audio hardware isn’t an unknown quantity – guitars and violins have had this over time, to great visual effect more than anything else. In fact, what you’ll feel and touch on the outside of each earcup are actually two layers of maple. There’s the solid maple block on top of which sits a thin layer of what’s been referred to as ‘flame-grain’ maple. They are fused together, so you’ll never feel different layers, and it is this which gives the very smooth and shiny texture to it.
Don’t look for that Bluetooth button. The Audio Technica ATH-WP900 does not have any Bluetooth or wireless connectivity. No smart assistants to invoke. No noise cancellation options. And no fiddling with a million buttons. No companion apps for settings and firmware updates. Just the good old, wired route. That’s the 3.5mm headphone connection; get an adapter for your phone if you need to. Alongside is the option of the balanced cable for use with high-res audio players and amplifiers. It is, to be fair, a pleasant feeling to be returning to using something this simple. The burden of complication has been removed, in a way.
The simple plug and play approach come with the weight of reason. The entire focus is on sound, and no matter what anyone may tell you about wireless audio streaming tech, nothing gets more stable than the wired route. Wireless standards will always have some loss of detailing, however minor that may be, something wired negates with the always available pipeline of data transfer.
It isn’t exactly a flat equalizer (EQ) tuning of the Audio Technica ATH-WP900 out of the box, which is bucking the trend with ultra-premium headphones. The slight V-shape seems to have been carefully done, to do that slight enhancement without compromising the mid frequencies at all. After all, that’s where the detailing might reside.
There is something about the Audio Technica ATH-WP900 delivery, which makes for really fun listening across genres. The Eurovision 2022 winner, Stefania by Kalush Orchestra, melds a lot in one track (pop, rap, modern hip-hop and Ukrainian folk music), comes through in the sort of sparkle than any lesser headphone just cannot reproduce. And that’s just one example. Our listening for the purposes of this review spanned trance, pop, classical rock and dance music, alongside some podcasts, and all this effort will just make it hard to go back to regular headphones after our journey with the Audio Technica ATH-WP900 review unit comes to an end. Safe to say, you’ll be making a worthy investment.
We returned to our favorites from the younger days – Linkin Park, Evanescence and Fort Minor, to name a few – and the tryst with those songs just felt very different. The Audio Technica ATH-WP900 delivers a depth that you cannot ignore, though you might notice the bass momentarily gets a bit more of the limelight than it should. These are closed-back earphones by design, and keeping that in mind, the width of soundstage is very impressive.
You would probably be wondering how these headphones handle lower quality recordings, particularly relevant if you have some old tracks. Compared with a lot of other premium headphones (these also have very large 53mm audio drivers over each ear), the ATH-WP900 seems to be much more welcoming. Even if Apple Music hasn’t given some tracks in your playlist the Lossless Audio upgrade, these headphones will not repeatedly remind you of that. Even better news for Spotify users, who still have no Hi-Res audio option on the horizon.
The takeaway is simple – Audio Technica has somehow landed on a rather unique balance with the ATH-WP900, which places this firmly in the audiophile category, but also retains an approachability in terms of the build and portability as well as the EQ tuning which isn’t completely neutral.
Reiterating our point, the V-tuning feature is very sophisticated, and in no way reminiscent of how most headphone manufacturers do it. You’ll like it, for it seems to be more about using the audio processing prowess to its advantage, and not simply bass boost. It doesn’t harm that the Audio Technica ATH-WP900 looks so good. The closed back design and a stripped-down spec sheet have their own old-world charm which many would appreciate.