Price (RRP): $299
Audio-Technica is a Japanese company, well known for turntables and phono cartridges, microphones and, of course, headphones. What we’re looking at are the Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW true wireless earphones. Amongst their features is active noise cancelling. And as we’ll see, it’s brilliantly effective.
Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW features
I won’t go on too much about the design. Buds are buds. The Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW ones come as usual in a case which both charges them and protects them. The buds have a rated battery life of 4.5 hours and can be recharged three times from the case, for a total of 18 hours away from power. The case has a USB Type-C connection for charging and three tiny LEDs for indicating charge level.
The case and buds together weigh 64.3 grams. Each of the buds weighs 7.2 grams. There are no wings or fins. They are supplied with four sizes of silicone tips along with one set of Comply foam tips in medium size. I used the largest size of silicone tips and found that the buds stayed firmly in my ears even though hour-long sessions in the now re-opened gym.
The Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW buds use 5.8mm drivers. Apparently they are coated with “diamond-like carbon”, although I can’t say quite what benefit that confers. In addition to the standard Bluetooth SBC codec, they support AAC (used by iPhones) and aptX (used by some Android phones) for higher quality. Audio-Technica specifies their frequency response at 20 to 25,000 hertz.
They are IPX2 rated. According to Wikipedia, that means:
Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect when the enclosure is tilted at an angle of 15° from its normal position. A total of four positions are tested within two axes.
I guess that means that they’re safe to use outdoors when it’s raining.
Controlling the Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW earphones
Each bud has a small button on its top. That means you activate it by putting your thumb on the underside of the bud and pressing down. And that makes them more comfortable than those earphones – which is most of them – where the control is pushed in towards your ear. The right side is for play/pause, answering calls and hanging up and skipping tracks forwards and backwards. The left side lets you adjust volume with double or triple presses, while a single press switches between active noise cancellation and “Hear Through” mode. That uses the built-in microphones to capture the outside sound and feed it in so you can have conversations.
That can be set to three levels in the Audio-Technica Connect app. The app can also manage noise cancellation, which I’ll discuss later. The app also manages firmware upgrades. One was available during the review period. It was a rather more elaborate process than most, but it was all over within ten minutes without any problems along the way. You can switch the functions of the control buttons between left and right buds as well. But there is no EQ function.
And the app also includes a Find-My-Buds feature.
There is no specific control to invoke Google Assistant or Siri, but of course you can just utter the relevant invocation and your assistant will come to life, pausing the music.
Listening through the Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW earphones
I found it a real pleasure to listen to music through the Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW earphones. Their tonal balance was natural and clear. There was no discomfortingly piercing treble, but good clean extension. Cymbals were precise and “ticked” properly, even through busy music. Drum kits were nicely dynamic and the kick drum thumped powerfully. But, again, appropriately, delivered at the level at which they were recorded.
The deep bass on Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go came through fully, too. And again, it wasn’t overblown. If you’re coming to these earbuds from any number of headphones which have been engineered to overdo the bass, you may take a moment to adjust to what is the right level. But when you do, you’ll soon appreciate that this is how the music should sound.
Genre didn’t really matter: jazz, acoustic pop, progressive rock, classical. It all sounded very good. On King Crimson’s song “21st Century Schizoid Man”, the characteristically forward and complex drumming was well realised. Lately I’ve been into the early albums from Marillion. Again the bass is good. It’s easy to follow the bass guitar. There seemed with the album Fugazi to be a slight upper midrange emphasis, but that apart the performance was both lovely and powerful, as appropriate.
Voices were clear. The Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW earphones were great for podcasts. Better than most, in fact, because with effective active noise cancellation, you can actually play them back at a lower level and still clearly hear what’s being said.
Active Noise Cancellation
You know, I’d just about decided that active noise cancellation in true wireless earphones was basically mickey mouse. Yes, those that claimed to have this feature did a bit of it, generally taking the edge off the noise. But I wouldn’t take them on an airplane to protect my hearing and make for a comfortable flight. I’d take proper over-hear headphones – like these ones or these ones or these ones. They really knock the noise on the head, especially the first ones.
But consider me shocked. From the first moment I screwed the Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW earbuds into my ears, I noticed that they made a real difference in everyday life. They actually had effective active noise cancellation.
How effective? My Qantas Frequent Flyer app is showing no upcoming flights … just about forevermore it seems. So time to fire up an in-flight video I took and play it back at an average of 100dB SPL C-weighted. Wow, yes, the active noise cancellation works! Yes, it works extremely well. It didn’t take the edge off the noise. It cut the noise substantially, including much of the bass roar. The flight was a turbo prop, and most of what remained was an oddly comforting thwack of the blades through the air.
As I’m typing this I have the noise cancellation switched off and Jethro Tull’s Thick as Brick playing through the earphones. I can make out the music, but it’s sounding very thin. All the bass content is inaudible underneath the noise. I can hear the higher frequencies because the buds are a nice tight fit, so they offer a decent amount of passive noise isolation.
Now I shall switch on the active noise cancellation. Nothing happens for a couple of seconds, then the noise cancellation ramps up over several seconds. Now I can hear the music almost as well as if there were no background noise. Indeed, I have to concentrate a little to make it out over the music. But I know it’s there. My abdomen is vibrating in response to the energy of the noise being pounded out by my speaker system.
By the way, that 100dB of noise is somewhat louder than what you actually experience on a plane.
And if that’s not enough, I stumbled upon an option in the app to choose different noise cancellation profiles. The default is “Airplane” but you can also choose “On The Go” or “Office/Study”. “On The Go” applied the least amount of noise cancellation while “Office/Study” somewhat more, although still less than “Airplane”. The advantage OTG would seem to be that it allows a little more environmental awareness if you’re wandering around in public. Also, as seems to be the case with most active noise reduction systems, at its highest level, there would sometimes be some noises generated by the ANC in sympathy with shocks transmitted to the earphones. Typically they’d be from heavy footsteps by me. “On The Go” mode eliminated that.
Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW Bluetooth
In my usual walk-away test, the Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW managed a solid twenty metres, regardless of my head orientation. If you do have problems, you can go into the app and force it to use SBC – my phone used aptX. With its lower bitrate it ought to be even more reliable.
There was one oddity: the microwave oven in my kitchen made the connection a little flaky. It turns out that some small amount of microwaves do actually leak, and their frequency of 2.45GHz is pretty much the same as used by Bluetooth.
But that was a minor issue. What’s most important about the Audio-Technica Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW earphones is that they sound very good, are solidly practical and have by far the best active noise cancellation I’ve found in any true wireless earphones.
And just as I was writing that paragraph, the earphones piped up and announced “Low battery”. And it turns out to be pretty much 4.5 hours since I plugged them into my ears and turned them on.
Audio-Technica’s Australia site for these earphones is here.