Audio-Technica's been making audio equipment for almost 60 years. In that time, it's earned a reputation for making great, no-nonsense headphones. Its newest true wireless earbuds, the ATH-ANC300TW, play to the company's strengths: they're straightforward and sound incredible. But they're also simple to a fault, failing to offer high-tech features I've come to expect in premium true wireless sets — and that makes the prospect of spending $230 on them dubious.
|Sound||Among the best-sounding true wireless buds I've used.|
|Noise canceling||Very good for earbuds.|
|Comfort||Despite the earbuds' considerable size, I never found comfort to be an issue.|
|Battery life||Up to four and a half hours on a charge is unimpressive.|
|App||Opaque and not very useful.|
|Extra features||There aren't many.|
|Price||$230 is a lot to pay for earbuds, especially ones so simple.|
Design, hardware, what's in the box
Being noise-canceling earbuds, the ATH-ANC300TW aren't particularly sleek. They're on the large side and stick pretty far out of your ear — although, thanks to the way their weight is balanced, they don't feel obtrusive or like they're liable to fall out. Audio-Technica's trademark A logo is stamped on the outside of each bud, along with a physical button for media control. Both the earbuds and their case are cast partially in a really nice cobalt blue color — similar to the finish on the Pixel Slate (although here it's plastic).
The case is a hair over two inches square and about an inch and a quarter thick at its midpoint — which is on the chunkier side for an earbud charging case, but still well within the realm of pocketability. It's got a flip top held shut with a magnet, three charging lights to indicate the battery status of the earbuds inside, and a USB-C port for charging.
Along with the buds, Audio-Technica throws in the standard three additional sets of silicone ear tips and USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable, plus a set of Comply foam tips. While they're not super expensive on their own, folks love their Comply tips, and its nice of Audio-Technica to include a pair here. More earbud manufacturers should do this.
Sound quality, features, and battery life
True to the Audio-Technica legacy, the ATH-ANC300TW can go toe-to-toe with just about any other pair of Bluetooth earbuds on sound quality. Sound from these buds is spacious and accurate, with good instrument separation and minimal compression. Bass lovers will probably find the low-end a bit lacking, though — and there's nothing to do about that, because Audio-Technica's app doesn't have any EQ settings.
Even aside from the lack of EQ options, the app isn't very good. It's got options to change the control scheme between presets, manually choose your audio codec (aptX is supported here; I just left the setting on Automatic), and adjust noise canceling. You can turn noise canceling off altogether, turn on a hear-through mode to let in some ambient noise, or choose from three levels of ANC: "Airplane," "On The Go," or "Office/Study." Why Audio-Technica labels the different levels of noise cancellation this way is beyond me.
That ANC is impressive, though. It successfully tunes out the hum of air conditioning or the rumble of a stereo in the next room, and it's appreciably better at dampening high-frequency sounds than the Sony WF-SP800N I reviewed last month. There is a slight whooshing sound when ANC is active, like distant wind or running water. I don't love that, but it's not uncommon in noise-canceling earbuds.
Tested in my home, the ATH-ANC300TW seemed up to par with most true wireless earbuds when it comes to call quality — that is to say, not great, but your coworkers won't hate you if you have to use them for a conference call.
The ATH-ANC300TW are IPX2 water resistant, which is probably enough to stop sweat from ruining them, and you can listen to either bud while the other rests in its charging case — not a feature I often use myself, but a popular one with true wireless enthusiasts. As far as bells and whistles, though, that's about all you'll get. There's no fast pairing, no Assistant integration, no in-ear detection, no wireless charging. If you don't care about any of those things, that's not going to matter to you, but it doesn't change the fact that competing products offer them while this one doesn't.
Battery life is another sore spot at just four and a half hours on a charge with noise canceling on. ANC is a big battery drain, but these are also big earbuds, and they should really be able to fit cells that can keep up. Sony offers noise-canceling earbuds that last nine hours — and they're 30 bucks less expensive. The charging case does hold enough juice to power an additional 13 and a half hours of playback, though, which helps.
Should you buy them?
Maybe. In the ATH-ANC300TW, Audio-Technica did what it does best: made a pair of great-sounding, no-frills headphones. But true wireless earbuds aren't the same as wired over-ear headsets. There's a certain techy flourish expected of high-end products in this category, and the ATH-ANC300TW just don't have it. There are plenty of earbuds that sound almost as good and do more, and most of them cost less than these.
If all you want is a portable way to listen to your favorite albums in high quality and you're willing to pay for that, these could well be for you. The ATH-ANC300TW are a good mobile substitute for larger, high-quality headphones. But as general-purpose earbuds for regular people, their value is questionable.
Sound quality is your top priority. The ATH-ANC300TW sound great, and their noise canceling works very well.
Don't buy if:
You expect long battery life or convenience features like in-ear detection or wireless charging.