Audio-Technica has made a name for itself over the years with its studio headphones, but how does the company pile up when it tackles the world of noise-canceling, true wireless earbuds? The short answer is that the ATH-ANC300TW is doing remarkably well. Still, it’s not a pair that’s suitable for everyone, especially when you consider that the price of the ATH-ANC300TW directly contradicts the existing market leader. This is our Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW Review.
1. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW Review: DesignNext Section
Considering that these are true wireless noise-canceling earbuds, they manage to be impressively compact. Although they aren’t the smallest earbuds out there, they’re certainly more discreet than competing Sony ‘earbuds’, and they don’t look too bulky. The black and grey palette doubles this discreet aesthetics, and it does look neat, although it would be good to see a different color option (or two) available for those who want that extra expression.
The ATH-ANC300TW sports little more than the Audio-Technica logo and relief circles in the way of the markings, and the case is also minimal with its two-tone black/grey design and low-contrast branding. Their moderate size and rounded interior help them sit comfortably and securely in the ear. With the medium tips that fit, we found that it took a reasonably considerable jolt of the head even to feel their presence, let alone worry about losing their excellent fit and falling off the back.
There are three other sizes of silicone earbuds in the box in case the standard earbuds don’t quite fit, along with a pair of Comply Foam earplugs that mold to your ear cavities every time you insert them. The buttons on each button are in place (in the ear) for the comfort of the ear shells, so you don’t have to push the devices further into your channels when you try to activate commands. This also means that you can adjust the earbuds or accidentally knock them without them registering unwanted key presses.
Although we’re fans of their design and placement, we’d like to see some more customizability in these buttons. By default, the right button handles the playback controls. In contrast, the left button manages noise cancellation and playback volume – turning this orientation is the only option to change these controls at the time of writing.
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW Review: Features
Speaking of noise cancellation, it is one of the essential features of this Audio-Technica in-ears, and rightly so. We haven’t encountered ANC of this caliber in true wireless in-ears other than the WF-1000XM3, where this pair barely falls behind. On the earbuds themselves, you can switch between noise cancellation or social modes. Still, you’ll have to dive into Audio-Technica’s Connect app if you simply want to disable ANC without at the same time enabling those as mentioned above mood-enhancing social mode (called Hear-Through in this case).
In the app, you will also find options for three different levels of ambient sound intensity in Hear-Through mode, along with three different modes algorithms for ANC – Airplane, On The Go, or Office/Study. We tested the last two, and they worked remarkably well in their respective conditions, although the difference was certainly nuanced. Understandably, we did not get a chance to test the Airplane ANC option because of the current global air travel conditions.
For most users, the choice between ANC or Hear-Through mode will be sufficient, but it is a pity that the option to enable neither is easily accessible outside the app. Moreover, we found a significant volume decrease (about 20-30%) when neither mode was active. While in these Audio-Technica’s the ANC is almost on par with Sony’s competition, we noticed that it suffered more than its rivals from the wind and produced unwanted noise in a light breeze.
Impressive is that the ATH-ANC300TW is somewhat robust when it comes to bad weather, with an official classification of IPX2 that ensures that they can withstand at least “dripping water such as rain and sweat.” Of course, this does not mean that they are submerged. Still, it offers more protection than no rating at all, which is the case for many of the competition, and makes them more viable as a workout and daily peaks than, for example, Sony’s WF-1000XM3.
2. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW Review: PerformanceNext Section
Compared to many other true wireless earbuds, the most striking aspect of the ATH-ANC300TW is its sound signature. While Sony (and many other manufacturers with them) usually opt for a warmer, more bass-forward sound, Audio-Technica is known for its neutrality. The flat frequency response that the brand has always defended is certainly present here. This means that you’re not necessarily blown away by any music that relies on its low end to make an impact. For music lovers who have adapted to the thumping sound produced by most other brands, this can come across as underwhelming.
In general, however, a more neutral reproduction of the source audio material will ultimately be suitable for a greater variety of genres than one that amplifies or customizes specific frequencies, so these buds will shine if your musical taste changes from time to time. The overall clarity and sense of environment produced by the knobs are also impressive, despite the small drivers (5.8mm) and the lower volume of air brought on by the in-ear form factor.
While the merits of different frequency responses in audio products is undoubtedly a matter of taste, it is one that is often tempered by the ability to adjust them via an equalizer in the corresponding app. Unfortunately, this is not possible for the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW. Hopefully, this is something that can be added in the future, as we predict that the relative lack of bass of the ANC300TW compared to the competition will be a decisive factor for many users.
The app does allow you to select the audio codec the buds to connect to – either aptX, AAC, SBC, or an automatic option that simply uses the device’s system standard. It also includes options to customize the auto power on, voice instructions, and device finder settings. It is also worth telling you that we found no problem with the Bluetooth 5.0 connection, no dropouts, or stuttering during testing, even in environments where they would otherwise occur.
3. Battery LifeNext Section
All in all, the battery life for these buttons can be more durable, but it’s decent enough. You get 4.5 hours out of the buds themselves – which is excellent considering their small size and ANC – but the charging case has only 13.5 extra hours, which we think is too little for the relatively large construction. For comparison: both the Jaybird Vista and the Sony WF-1000XM3 have 6 hours of battery life in the buds, but the former lacks ANC, and the latter has a more extensive design than the other two. However, Sony’s charging case offers an extra battery life of 18 hours and is comparable to that of the Audio-Technica.
4. Price and AvailabilityNext Section
The ATH-ANC300TW is now available and has an official price of $229 (£220 / AU$399). If that figure seems known, it is because it is identical to what Sony asked for its WF-1000XM3 in-ears at launch, Audio-Technica’s most apparent competition with these tops. It is worth keeping this in mind as we step through this review, along with the fact that the WF-1000XM3 is regularly discounted (even on Sony’s store) while, at the time of writing, the ATH-ANC300TW has not been on the market long enough to see the same treatment.
5. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW Review: ConclusionNext Section
The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW offers top-class noise cancellation and brilliant audio quality in a compact form factor. Compared to Sony’s flagship competition, they are a great alternative if you find the bass generally overwhelming and slightly more suitable for practice. Although the battery life is exceptional and the noise cancellation is excellent, neither meets Sony’s standards. With a retail price that matches that of the WF-1000XM3, we advise you to wait for a discount, but we are sure you will not be disappointed.