Audio Technica ATH-ES55 review

Best portable on-ear headphone up to £100, Awards 2010. Comfortable and great-sounding, you can't ask for more from  portable on-ears Tested at £90

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Best portable on-ear headphone up to £100, Awards 2010. Comfortable and great-sounding, you can't ask for more from portable on-ears


  • +

    Subtly stylish

  • +

    open sound for a closed-back design

  • +

    detailed, balanced and dynamic character


  • -

    No remote control unit ot microphone

  • -

    the protective case... well... isn't

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

People often assume that headphones will sound great straight from the box. This isn’t true. They nearly always sound better once they’ve had a day’s-worth of constant running, and these Audio-Technicas are no exception.

Straight from the box they’re rather compressed and a bit bright, but once run-in they sound superb. In fact, for a closed-back design, their presentation is impressively open and natural, so you can have a more open-air-style sound even when cramped up on a sweaty train.

Subtly classy design appeals
You’ll be proud to wear these on your commute, too: eschewing the brashness of the likes of Skullcandy and WeSC and the overt trendiness of Beats by Dre, the ES55s come across as subtly classy.

They’re nicely made, too, with a headband that’s stronger and more rigid than its thin design might suggest, and a snazzy, solid aluminium housing for the drivers.

In fact, the only part of the design that’s not solid is the ‘protective’ pouch that you can store the headphones in once folded – surely a more substantial case would be much better for a pair of headphones that are clearly designed with portability in mind.

Open, transparent and detailed

But when your only real complaint about a pair of cans is in relation to the pouch used for carrying them, you know you’re onto a winner.

On top of the aforementioned openness, the ES55s also prove to be very transparent and detailed, reproducing Nick Cave’s terrifically analogue soundtrack to The Road in true, honest style.

The soundstage is balanced and even, and dynamics are excellent, both in terms
of the low-level nuances and epic shifts.

As with the Beyerdynamic T 50 p, a remote and mic would be handy, but for £100 you simply can’t buy on-ears that sound better than this.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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