Audio-Technica is a Japanese company founded in 1962, familiar to recording studios and audiophiles for its microphones and pick-up cartridges respectively. But its other main line is making headphones. See also Group test: What are the best headphones?
The ATH-WS99 is a new addition to the company's extensive line of over 70 listed models of headphones, earphones and headsets. It's a large-driver design, styled in black plastic with polished metal details. See all audio reviews.
The headphones are described as acoustically sealed, said to minimise bass sound leakage, although they're not really a closed-back design – some midrange energy did leak out of the ‘double air chamber system', making them less suitable as a headphone to use on public transport.
Cables are fixed on both sides, leading to a 3.5mm jack plug below the chin. You can either plug in a 0.8m plain cable ending with another 3.5mm plug, or add the supplied cable with one-button remote and universal sliding volume control. No case or 1/4in adaptor are supplied.
The cups are large but not excessive, so they fitted our ears snugly without undue pressure on the pinna. Leatherette ear muffs and matching soft padding under the top of the headband made for a comfortable long-time wear, helped by relatively light clamping pressure.
Audio-Technica ATH-WS99: Sound quality
These headphones can have a light and delicate touch where required but they're also very capable of a firm and confident pulsing beat. Tonally they're quite neutral, with a slightly raised top end. But treble-end extension was clear and lucid, able to show distant tape hiss in older recordings where present without becoming annoying.
Slightly crisp sound overall that could tend toward the tinsel with wispier recordings, showing off hi-hat patterns clearly enough though.
Fast and unforced upper bass didn't especially thicken and glup up a song like others. There was an excellent sense of drive and rhythm, without forcing dynamics. Clarity was king, and they were particularly good at separating strands of complex jazz and prog rock.
We heard good spatiality but ultimately found them fractionally shut-in rather than wrapping a distant soundfield around the head.