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Audio-Technica ATH-WS1100iS Review

MSR7 in Disguise

Audio-Technica is a well-known Japanese audio peripherals manufacturer. They offer some of the best sounding audio equipment at lower prices than some of the higher tier brands.

One of their most celebrated headphones is the MSR7 audio monitoring headphones. These headphones have an extremely accurate frequency response and simply sound delicious.

With the horrifically named ATH-WS1100iS, we find a pair of headphones that bear a striking resemblance to the MSR7, but at a much lower price. They’ve also slapped the phrase “Solid Bass” on the front of the box.

Let’s see what these headphones are all about in our in-depth Audio-Technica ATH-WS1100iS Review…

Audio-Technica ATH-WS1100iS
Our rating:4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

Design

Design-wise the headphones look similar to the MSR7 headphones, but there are many little differences upon inspection.

The custom 53mm driver that AT put in here required them to create a new set of earcups and earpads, which is where we find the first difference. The earpads on here are made from double-layered foam, wrapped up in leatherette. They are super comfy and feel great even after hours of work.

The earcups are quite large as well, giving your ears enough space between the drivers to fully experience the excellent soundstage. They are made of a mix of aluminum and plastic and feel very durable.

The headband remains the same as the MSR7, with a decent amount of padding and adjustment mechanisms.

Sturdy and strong…

These might look like closed-back headphones, but AT has placed air holes strategically all around the headphones to allow for air to enter and sound to go out. This enhances the excellent soundstage mentioned before. Unfortunately, it also means that sound will be leaking a lot, and there is very little isolation.

The sturdy and stiff build means there is also less creaking than the MSR7, great for people who are very sensitive to headphone creaking.

AT also includes a large leather bag, although we doubt it is real by any means. The headphones can fold flat and slide easily into the bag.

How Do They Sound?

Audio-Technica ATH-WS1100iS


With the large phrase “Solid Bass” on the box, some might mistake these as bass-forward headphones, but you’d be mistaken.

Some of the bass-heavy headphones, like Sony’s XB950BT, have a massive amount of decay, making the bass sound large, but overpowering most of the mix. Audio-Technica masterfully uses some acoustic magic to give the bass some extra presence without the usual downsides.

This avoids the bass ever sounding flabby or loose but results in a tight, prominent bass that will make any audiophile smile.

Crystal clear…

The mid-range frequencies are well balanced with clear vocals, bright guitars, and beautifully accentuated pianos.

The high-end frequencies aren’t as loud as on the MSR7, but they are still loud enough to keep their clarity. Audio-Technica has always made headphones for audiophiles looking for clear and unaltered sound profiles, and the WS1100iS is no different.

Limited isolation…

These don’t look like open-back headphones, but as we mentioned before, AT has added holes all around the headset to create the same sound output and soundstage as open-back headphones. However, this makes the headphones leak quite a bit.

Therefore, they are not great for office use, unless you want the whole office to listen to your music with you. The same can be said for use at night next to your significant other.

Versatile uses…

The soundstage is amazing, all things considered. The large 53mm drivers create a great 3D effect that makes any genre of music sound great. It is also great for gamers who want a decent amount of spatial awareness, especially for first-person shooters.

That said, if you want to use these for audio production in a home studio, these are definitely worth it if you are on a tighter budget. Depending on where you pick these up, the price usually hovers around $200.

The microphone on the headset is fairly decent. We used it to call a few co-workers and family members and had no one complain about audio quality. That said, these won’t replace any real microphones like condenser or dynamic microphones.

Connectivity


These are wired headphones, so there is no wireless connectivity whatsoever.

Included with the headset is a metered cable that measures 1.2 meters. This cable has a built-in in-line remote with a single button. Both ends of the cable have tips, which means you can easily swap it out for a longer cable if you prefer.

Who Are They For?

These headphones, like most AT headphones, are best for audiophiles. These can be picked up around the $200 mark, so they aren’t cheap. If you want a great pair of headphones for audio monitoring, but still want a bit of extra bass for casual listening, these will suffice. Perfect for bedroom artists.

If you don’t like the lack of isolation and prefer a headset that has active noise canceling for use at work, then you can easily pick up a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3’s around the same price. These might not offer a neutral sound profile, but they sound excellent and offer the best ANC at the price.

If portability is what you want, a pair of earbuds might be better suited. There are many great earbuds on the market for each purpose. If you want gym earbuds, Sony’s new SP800N sport excellent ANC with an IP55 rating.

If you want the best sounding earbuds, Grato’s GT220 earbuds are the best sounding earbuds money can buy.

Audio-Technica ATH-WS1100iS Review Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excellent sound.
  • Wide soundstage.
  • Great build quality.

Cons

  • No noise isolation.
  • Bulky design.

Looking for Something Else?

Finding the right headphones has never been easier. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones Under $200, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones with Microphone, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, and the Best Lightweight Headphones you can buy in 2021.

Also, take a look at our reviews of the Best PC Gaming Headsets, the Best Earbuds Under $100, the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $200, the Best Gaming Headset, and the Best Sound Quality Earbuds currently on the market.

Audio-Technica ATH-WS1100iS Review Round-Up

The ATH-WS1100iS might be a mouthful to say but impresses with a great sound profile, excellent build quality, and fit.

Audio-Technica ATH-WS1100iS


This headset is great for bedroom artists who might just be starting out or are on a tighter budget. The lack of isolation might make these less office-friendly, but the wide soundstage provided makes it the perfect partner for mixing or playing first-person shooters.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what is what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear hear and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

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