Pros: Stylish, Build quality, Punchy bass, Clear mids and highs
Cons: Hard clamp, ear pad size is between an over-ear and on-ear style
Fresh out of the box, with 0 burn-in hours, I put their headphones on my head I immediately noticed the signature hard-clamps of an Audio-Technica and an exceptionally clarity of its sound.
Demoed on FLAC quality audio using tunes from Daft Punk (dance), Lost Fingers (jazz crossover), Best of Chesky and Audiophile tests (jazz), Sitti Navarro (live bossa), Damien Marley (reggae/hiphop crossover), Deadmau5 (house), Norah Jones (classic jazz), everything played nicely.
Value: For an asking price of $70 to $105, this is a steal. The build quality is great, signature sounds of an Audio-Technica; clear mids and highs, punchy natural sounding bass, simply like a baby-M50s
Audio Quality: Lows: The volume of bass of the WS55s is definitely more than the M50s, in terms of quality? The M50s edges them in a tiny fraction. The bass aren't accentuated like the PRO700MK2s, it is definitely more refined, natural sounding, no vibrations, the dual air chamber does its job. Mids: Unlike the M50s where the mids are recessed, the WS55s have a more forward mids, you can definitely here the vocals more (and these babies are fresh out of the box). Highs: M50s are definitely better with the highs, but the WS55s are fine. The highs rolls off politely to the next note. They aren't over-extended, nor they are piercing.
These are definitely an upgrade from the previous WS50 and WS70 models.
Design: I, an industrial designer myself is impressed with the minimalistic look of the WS55s. They are definitely stylish, but they aren't like an attention whore (like the Beats or other celebrity headphones). The WS55s are like the Mercedes Benz of headphones, beautiful, refined, and classy. While the Beats are like your typical sports car, I need attention, look at me.
The headphones themselves fold flat, but they don't fold like a shell i.e. M50s. The cups only rotate by 30 degrees that's it, but they do rotate 180 degrees sideways. Also, I would have love them more, if these had removable cables. Another thing about these cans is that the band adjustment is small and it won't fit you if you have a very large head.
Update: I'll be doing my usual disassembly and stress tests. I must say these cans are mighty impressive when it comes to durability. I don't see any structural weakness having the cans disassembled. You can flex the aluminum base, but the plastic structuring were carefully thought about. Props to Audio-Technica for a job well-done
Comfort: A step better than the M50s, the ear pad size is an issue for small and big ears. It has an irregular sized ear pads which sits on the ear, but feels like an over-ear on the tips. But, they definitely have softer cushions than the M50s. They are breathable, plush, almost comparable to the pads you find in the Beats Studio. The hard clamp is definitely a signature of Audio-Technicas mid-range lines. M50s, PRO700MK2s, PRO500MK2s, WS70s, WS50s, ES7s, they all suffer from that same clamping force which Audio-Technica argues that is used to seal the headphones.
But, since Audio-Technica have very rugged build, you can stretch them out flat or rest them into a couple of books to loosen them up.
Update: comfort improved significantly without the headband pads, since the ear pads were able to sit in your ear rather than outside of your ear.
Overall: These babies are worth the purchase, they are definitely great sounding headphones, balanced mids and highs, very clear given a punchy bass to the package. Bass lovers will love it, as well as those who listens to acoustics, classicals, or ambient sounds. They are advertised as bassy headphones, but they are definitely a well-rounder.
If not for the comfort, this is going to be definitely 5 stars. For it's versatility, value for its class this is a 4.5 stars