Audio Technica ATH-WS99 review

An inoffensive pair of cans that need to offer a touch more if they’re to stand out from the crowd Tested at £250

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

An inoffensive pair of cans that need to offer a little more if they’re to stand out from the crowd


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    Sound has adequate detail


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    Unremarkable design

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    Sound needs more subtlety and precision at this price

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.

Audio Technica has a good reputation when it comes to producing affordable headphones.

Move up the scale to high-end cans, though, and it can’t always translate that performance-per-pound experience.

These ATH-WS99s are functional at best.

Build quality

We have no qualms about their build or comfort. The sturdy and flexible headband grips securely, while the large, round cups fit snugly around our ears. They feel durable, too.

Next to more stylish rivals, however, these Audio Technicas look pretty ordinary. The finish lacks the premium feel we’d expect for £250, and they could be more compact.

A little more attention to detail would’ve been welcome, too. The 3.5mm cable’s in-line volume slider, for instance, is bulky and unappealing, and volume changes are too abrupt – not ideal when used with smartphones.

Sound quality

That sense of ordinariness comes across in the way the Audio Technicas sound, too. There’s a fair dose of detail and clarity, but without the engagement this price demands.

A shortage of subtlety and precision means edges of notes sound wispy and soft, and there’s not enough dynamic excitement on offer.

Adele’s usually emotional vocals sound somewhat lacklustre on Someone Like You, and the top end could do with a little more sparkle.


Overall, the ATH-WS99s are inoffensive, yet they’re largely content with just doing the job.

For £250, we think they need to offer a little more if they’re to stand out from the crowd.

MORE: Best headphones 2014

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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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