Audio-Technica ATH-WS55 review: Sub-$100 headphones that sound great

Performance
As I said, the bass is really punchy without being overbearing or causing the headphones to vibrate at higher volumes. And while this is labeled as a "bass" headphone -- it has 40mm drivers -- it's well-balanced with impressive detail and a sound profile that leans toward a warmer, more natural vibe. You'll get more detail and bass out of the ATH-50, which has more-refined sound, but you could say this is a good compromise between the M50 and M30, particularly for mobile users.

With their tight fit, the earcups do manage to seal out a decent amount of sound, and I thought they were pretty ideal for my commutes on the New York City subway. When faced with a lot of ambient noise, it's better to go with headphones that push out more bass because that external noise can end up muscling out lower frequencies.

The headphones have a dual-cord design. Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from comparing these headphones to the ATH-M50s, I also put them up against the Creative Aurvana Live headphones, which list for $99 but can usually be had for less. Though the Creatives don't fold flat, they're clearly more comfortable and also offer excellent sound for the money. I did think WS55s' bass had a little more punch to it, and I'd say the WS55s come out on top in terms of overall sound quality, but just by a touch. (Of course, sound quality is very much a matter of taste, so your opinion may vary from mine.)

The cord terminates in a sturdy L-shaped plug. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
The ATH-WS55s deliver excellent sound for the money, with tight, punchy bass that's matched with refined midrange and treble performance. They're not quite on par with Audio-Technica's more expensive ATH-50 headphones, but they're lighter and more suitable for mobile use.

The only strike against them is their comfort level. I wouldn't call them uncomfortable -- and naturally they'll fit some people better than others -- but their comfort rating simply doesn't match their performance. My advice would be to buy them at a place where you have the option of returning them should you not like their fit. But aside from that caveat, I can strongly recommend them.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Color Black
  • Weight 5.8 oz
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Additional Features Double Air Chamber System
  • Type headset
  • Headphones Form Factor ear-cup
  • Connector Type mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm 4-pole
About The Author

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music and The Big Exit. Both titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, and Nook e-books.