“Audio-Technica has created the best challenger for the Sony WF-1000XM3 that we have seen so far.”
Outstanding sound quality
Excellent noise cancellation
The Sony WF-1000XM3 has long been the undisputed champion of the real wireless earphone arena. Competitors struggle to achieve the couple’s incredible sound quality and active noise cancellation at a comparable price. After this review, the Sony buds will be able to keep the crown, but man, Audio-Technica was nearing the throne.
Audio-Technica’s new true wireless earphones, the ATH-ANC300TW, along with the Technics TSW EAH-AZ70W, are one of the most direct competitors of the WF-1000XM3. With an identical MSRP of $ 230 (though the Sonys are now often found for less) and many similar functions, the 300TW aimed directly at the king. Here’s why they just missed the mark, but also why they’re still an excellent option.
Out of the box
The packaging in which the ATH-ANC300TW is delivered has nothing special. When you lift the lid of the white box, a protective layer of foam is inserted, under which the earphones and the rest of the accessories sit.
Nick Woodard / Digital Trends
Audio-Technica offers the usual gift items – a USB-C charging cable and a lot of documentation – but exceeds the expectations with the numerous included earplugs. There are extra small, small and large silicone earplugs (they come with the medium iteration on the buds) and a pair of medium sized Comply foam tips. If you want to make sure a customer gets the right fit for their earbuds, this is an ideal way to do it.
The connection is straightforward. The pairing process begins and ends with finding the buds in your mobile device’s Bluetooth settings and establishing the connection. The ATH-ANC300TW has Bluetooth 5 technology and offers the coveted range of 30 meters. My tests of these buds at home have also confirmed this. In addition, I had no connection failure the week I used these buds.
The ATH-ANC300TW are built almost deceptively. When I initially pulled them out of their charging case, I thought that under no circumstances would they stick out of my ears. But I get that when I judge a book by its cover.
The curved body of the ATH-ANC300TW offers you a compact, comfortable fit, even though you are looking for the opposite. I found them sufficiently safe so that I could run a handful of runs without them falling out. There are far better training-oriented buds, but these will come to the fore when necessary.
Except for the Audio-Technica logo on the end cap of each bud, these earphones, which are held in an elegant black, don’t stand out aesthetically. There is a single button at the top of each bud. The action that these buttons take depends on how often you tap them. They were easy to use, especially since you can choose between a right-handed and a left-handed pattern in the associated app. We’ll dive deeper into the app later, but it was worth noting that Audio-Technica didn’t forget all of the world’s southern paws.
The charging case takes a similar approach in terms of aesthetic simplicity and is kept in a black and gray color scheme. It’s a bit bulky than I would like for pocket travel, but I wouldn’t call it an obstacle.
There is a laundry list with features that you can comb through with the ATH-ANC300TW. They are mostly exceptional, with a few tangles involved.
Nick Woodard / Digital Trends
The 300TW are weatherproof according to IPX2 to protect them from dripping water such as rain and sweat. This is better than the Sony WF-1000XM3, which has no official weather protection class. However, buds like the Google Pixel Buds 2 or the Technics TSWs mentioned above offer an IPX4 rating at a cheaper or similar price. I didn’t see any rain when I was wearing the 300TW, but as a lush sweater during training, I will ensure that it can hold through this level of sweat.
The battery life is unfortunately only average. The 300TW can last up to 4.5 hours on a single charge, adding 13.5 hours of extra power to the charging case. That would have been fine a few years ago, but we’re living in fast-paced times. The Sony WF-1000XM3 outshone these numbers a long time ago with six hours of playback and 18 additional plays. Newer products like the WF-SP800N from Sony offer a playback time of nine hours with active noise canceling activated. With the 300TW it’s a real shit, because buds that sound so good shouldn’t have such a short listening span.
Audio-Technica has included a nifty bunch of technology in these buds, and while the average owner may not be keeping an eye on them, they do help to improve the overall experience. There’s Qualcomm Clear Voice Capture (CVV) technology to support calls during a call, a low-latency feature called Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus that lets you stream without audio interruption, and SCMS-T technology that works over Bluetooth protects content transferred between compatible devices.
It’s been a while since I heard earphones that sound so good. Sure, I liked the sound of Google Pixel Buds 2 and Samsung Galaxy Buds +, but we’re talking about another class of audio quality with the ATH-ANC300TW.
Nick Woodard / Digital Trends
My favorite sounding real wireless earbuds are the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, and although the Audio-Technica buds don’t quite reach this standard, they’re on par with the great sounding WF-1000XM3 from Sony. This could be due to a combination of the 5.8mm drivers with diamond-like carbon-coated membranes for the 300TW or the collection of supported audio codecs such as aptX, AAC and SBC.
Whatever it is, it’s great. Think of one of the endless catalogs of classic riffs in music – from Led Zeppelin’s electrifying intro to the Good Times Bad Times to the dancing instrumentals of Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to The Moon – and these buds instantly make them even better. They are remarkably clear and present a masterful sound stage with a frequency response of 20-25,000 Hz. I would give the WF-1000XM3 the edge in the lower section, with the bass being the only area with the 300TW that is not that impressive. Still, the bass provided is probably more than enough for most people.
There is no EQ in the app for the 300TW, although I hardly find it a mistake. The sound quality offered here is fantastic. However, the app shows the active audio codec and allows you to navigate between them if you wish.
Active noise cancellation
I want to publicly apologize to all the neighbors who have heard me say “wow” repeatedly in the past week. As strange as it may have been to see someone say this without being asked when walking with their dogs, I promise that this is justified.
Nick Woodard / Digital Trends
The active noise cancellation integrated into the 300TW is really exceptional. Audio-Technica used hybrid noise cancellation technology. This means that there are microphones in front of and behind each driver to analyze, process, and prevent as much environmental noise as possible from affecting sound reproduction. It is a technology similar to Panasonic with the RZ-S500W or the Technics TSWs. As in these buds, the ANC does a damn good job in the 300TS.
I tested the 300TW’s ANC capabilities with everything I could throw at it – a busy street, my lawnmower, a towering John Deere tractor in my local park – and they responded admirably. The app contains three different ANC modes, but instead of the typical low / medium / high modes, they are labeled for the environments they are best suited for: Airplane, On the Go and Office / Study.
Of course, at least two of these three intended environments are not really one thing at the moment, so I couldn’t put them against real business. But I switched through each mode and everyone reacted as it was intended: Airplane mode attenuated lower frequencies, targeted street noise on the go and office / study helped in quieter situations.
Such strong active noise cancellation requires an equally effective ambient noise function. The hear-through function of the 300TW is the ideal addition with the possibility to adjust the amount of noise let in. Interestingly, ANC is the default setting for the 300TW, and the alternative is hear-through. The only way to listen without any of these settings is to disable them in the app. On the other hand, I don’t know why someone wants to do something like this.
Despite all the praise I’ve given the 300TW and its ANC capabilities, I still think Sony’s WF-1000XM3 is better with its noise cancellation. But as close as Audio-Technica is, I would be more than a little concerned if I were Sony now. And although we really liked the Technics TSW’s ability to suppress noise, the additional granularity of the situation in these buds is a huge bonus.
The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW does not have a long battery life, but it makes up for it in almost every other category. These are great earbuds, no two ways.
Are there any better alternatives?
The Sony WF-1000XM3 for $ 230 offers better battery life, better bass and better noise reduction, and all with very small margins. The Technics TSW buds have better battery life and excellent noise cancellation, but a little weaker bass performance and a higher price. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 sounds better, but costs $ 300.
How long will they last?
With their IPX2 weather resistance, the 300TW are durable in the elements and have a technology that is supported by consistent firmware updates. These buds should be designed for a long life.
Should you buy them
Yes. They may not have succeeded in taking Sony off the pitch, but Audio-Technica has managed to create one of the best challengers for the WF-1000XM3 that we saw in the ATH-ANC300TW. While Sony remains the leader on campus, it has to look carefully over its shoulder.