Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW earbuds review: An all-round performer with a sensible price and interesting design options
Wireless audio doesn’t need to be expensive, but will Audio-Technica’s latest earbuds pass muster?
⊕ Impressive total battery life
⊕ Solid sound for general all-round use
⊕ Multipairing remembers your devices
⊖ Can lack nuance at higher volumes
⊖ No noise cancelling
⊖ Not supported by Audio-Technica’s app for customisation
Audio-Technica has drawn on its long experience in pro audio to create the not-so-snappily-named ATH-SQ1TW Wireless Earbuds. At £80, they’re the company’s most affordable wireless model – less expensive than the average pair with a few compromises but plenty of strengths.
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The first thing you’ll notice is the range of vivid colour options; unusual among earbuds, which mostly tend to be black or white. Our review pair was Cupcake, a combo of pink and brown. Cupcake might be an acquired taste but there are other sweet options in Popcorn, Licorice and Caramel for those who prefer muted colours or Blueberry for those who like to make a splash. Speaking of, they’re also splash proof, though not waterproof.
The charging case is sturdy enough, albeit made of plastic rather than metal, likely to keep costs down. It draws power over USB and there’s a short USB-C to USB-A cable supplied that also matches your colour choice. A USB-C to USB-C cable would be nice to include but, again, it’s a cost issue.
The case charges in around two hours and the buds in 90 minutes, then you get six-and-a-half hours of listening on the buds, plus 13 hours from the charging case, for a total of 19.5 hours. This is fairly standard so it’s easy to forget that it’s pretty remarkable from such tiny batteries.
Make it snappy
The buds don’t have any physical buttons – more on this in a moment – so removing them from the case switches them on and makes them available for pairing, and replacing them switches them off. The case is magnetised which helps them snap into place while charging, and they have backlit L and R indicators since each bud has its own set of functions. You get four sets of ear tips from XS to L, so there should be one that suits the shape of your ears and they’re pleasingly comfortable and secure to wear.
Pairing is simple and Android Fast Pair is supported. They also support multi pairing, so devices you have previously paired are remembered without the need to re-pair. The side panel of each bud sports a touch sensor and these are how you interact with them. A read of the instruction manual is necessary at first to learn how many taps you need to do what, but it doesn’t take long to become familiar with how they work.
You can touch this
Either bud can be tapped once when removed from the case to unlock them – they are locked by default so no accidental commands are issued. Once in your ears, various tap combos can be used to change volume, stop, start and skip tracks, answer calls and activate Hear-through mode. This uses the onboard microphones to mix some of the sound around you with your audio, which is often helpful for safety reasons when listening during walking, crossing the road and so on. Despite this feature, the buds don’t have noise cancelling, which seems to be reserved for higher priced models. Voice messages play through the buds to confirm that you are switching these features on or off.
Bluetooth 5.0-equipped, Audio-Technica’s earbuds can be placed into Low Latency Mode which reduces delay when listening to time-critical audio from games or movies. It’s not clear what this changes in technical terms but it did ensure no lag when listening wirelessly to movies on our Apple TV 4K. Activating Low Latency Mode when paired with Cubasis on an iPad Pro didn’t seem to make any noticeable difference, with minimum latency staying at the 84ms level. This is definitely perceptible, though it’s not generally recommended to use any Bluetooth monitors for latency-critical recording tasks. It’s possible to use a single earbud at a time, which is a nice touch in a more affordable model like this.
The drivers are 5.8mm and the buds have a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz and a sensitivity of 100 dB/mW. Sonically, they are solid performers, with a generous bottom end and decent separation. That said, the upper mids can become a little harsh at higher volumes. Compared to higher-end models, they’re not as nuanced as we’d ideally like, but for the price they provide an enjoyable all-round listening experience.
Apple’s AirPods 3 are more advanced (though they still lack noise cancelling, that’s for the Pro model) and cost £169. Other models closer to this price point occasionally offer noise cancelling but usually do not, and battery life varies a little – the price of greater longevity often means a larger charging case, where this model is very compact. You can check out some alternatives here.
If you’re looking for an affordable and stylish way to go truly wireless, the ATH-SQ1TW are an attractive option. Ambient listening and touch control plus commendable battery life and light weight are definite positives. It’s a shame that these are not supported by Audio-Technica’s app for tweaking EQ as with AT’s other models, meaning no customisation possible. Despite that, you’re getting a decent amount of bang for your buck.
- True wireless with Bluetooth 5.0 and low latency mode
- Auto power on and off
- Fast pairing with Android
- Hear-through for ambient listening
- Touch sensitive controls
- 19.5 hours total battery life with charging case
- Omnidirectional microphones
- Splashproof design
- Dual or single-ear usability
- Six colour variations
- Contact Audio-Technica
- Buy: Amazon, Sweetwater