- The ATH-SQ1TW are the first TWS from Audio Technica, the brand behind iconic headphones like the ATH-M50X, to be released in the Indian market.
- At Rs 7,490, the ATH-SQ1TW could be seen as expensive by many, as they do not come with features like ANC and ENC.
- What, however, makes the ATH-SQ1TW special is the level of audio quality they offer, in the best Audio Technica tradition.
It has carved a formidable niche for itself in the headphone world. And now Audio-Technica (ATH) has turned its attention to the tiny audio buds that are the rage these days, totally wireless earphones (TWS). The slightly quaintly named ATH-SQ1TW are the brand’s first TWS to be released in the Indian market. At Rs 7,490, they enter the market in a very competitive zone, with TWS from the likes of Sennheiser, Sony, and a number of other brands in the reckoning. How well do they fare against these big names?
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ATH-SQ1TW Design: Cute, comfortable feels
In terms of design, the ATH-SQTW have a very cute vibe. The buds themselves are tiny and have no stems. Their shape is a little different from the usual TWS crowd as the top of the TWS is slightly square and flat, with the Audio Technica logo on them. There are small fins from just below the top of the buds, which contain the magnetic connectors to the charging points in the box. The lower part of the buds have the tips that go into the ears.
The case of the buds is a little on the large size, especially in terms of thickness, and comes with very prominent Audio Technica branding on the top. It is shaped like a cube with rounded sides and narrows a little towards the base. There are no buttons at all on the case and on the buds. The back of the case has a USB Type C port with a single LED light next to it to indicate the battery and charging status.
The buds themselves are splash-resistant, so they can be used in regular exercise and workouts. They are relatively lightweight at about 5.2 grams each, and the case itself is about 34 grams. That makes them easy enough to wear and carry around. In terms of wearing, we found the ATH-SQTW to be very comfortable (there are four sizes of tips in the package). Some might find them going too deep into their ears, but we were comfortable with them. They were stable enough, although they did suffer from the “fall out occasionally” issue that affects all TWS.
ATH-SQ1TW interface: Touch to play (you can leave your phone alone)
Connecting the ATH-SQTW to a device is as easy as opening the case and placing the buds in your ears. This will make them show up in the Bluetooth devices list on your smartphone, tablet or PC. All you have to do is select them to pair them. There is no third-party app, which is a bit of a mixed blessing – on the one hand, it keeps things simple. On the other hand, you do not get the sort of controls and equalizers you get in other TWS.
The ATH-SQTW are touch-controlled, and the fact that the top of the buds is totally flat makes it easy to carry out commands. The command system itself is a little complex, with different commands being linked to each of the two buds. A tap on the right bud will play or pause the audio, a double tap will take you to the next track, and a triple tap will take you to the previous track. Volume is controlled from the left buds, with a single tap increasing volumes and a double tap decreasing them. Holding the right bud for a few seconds activates or deactivates the transparency mode (which ATH labels ‘hear-through’), and a similar operation on the left activates or stops a low latency mode designed for gaming.
A very neat touch (pun intended) is the fact that the controls get locked automatically when you take the buds out of the case, minimizing the chances of accidentally triggering any commands when you are placing them in your ears. A tap on each bud unlocks them.
Remembering which bud to tap and how many times takes a bit of doing, but it all works smoothly enough once you get the hang of it. We love the fact that ATH has tried to give you almost total command of the TWS from the buds themselves – you rarely need to reach out for your phone or any other connected device while using them. The absence of a dedicated app, however, means that you cannot change or customize these controls.
ATH-SQ1TW sound quality: Superb sound
The ATH0-SQ1TW, however, really come into their own when you start listening to the audio on them. Audio Technica has a formidable reputation when it comes to audio quality, and the ATH-SQ1TW do not disappoint at all in this department. In fact, we would go so far as to say that they are among the best-sounding TWS in the sub-Rs 10,000 price segment. Their audio tuning makes them those super rare TWS that can work well with any kind of audio. The clarity makes them great for podcasts; there is enough sharpness for those who love jazz and classical, and there is a very gentle stress on the bass so explosions and percussion get a subtly extra rumble without compromising on clarity. They are not for bassheads, though!
The sound also appeared surprisingly spacious for a TWS, making these great for watching films with lush soundscapes (Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and so on). They are very good for gaming as well, although the low latency mode does not seem to make as much of a difference as we expected it to make. The buds also have some of the best noise isolation we have seen on a TWS – perhaps a consequence of their going a little deeper into our ears. The 5.8 mm drivers might seem to be a little small in terms of size, but they delivered excellent volume levels without distortion.
ATH-SQ1TW: Decent battery life, but limited codec support, and no ANC or ENC
There are a few issues, though. First off, the ATH-SQ1TW only support the SBC codec and have no support for aptX or even AAC. This is unlikely to affect the vast majority of users but might displease purists. Then there is the matter of ANC, which is not available on the buds, even though a number of TWS at this price point have the feature. We did not miss it, given how good the noise isolation is and how mediocre ANC tends to be in TWS at these price points, but we can see some folks having issues with this, especially as some older flagship TWS (such as the Galaxy Buds 2, and the Galaxy Buds Live) are available with ANC at lower prices. Another notable miss is ENC (environmental noise cancellation), which makes using the ATH-SQ1TW for calls in noisy conditions a bad option – mind you, in normal conditions, they handle calls very well indeed.
Battery life on the buds themselves is close to seven hours, which is very good. The case gets you two extra recharges, which is not as impressive but is handy enough for most users. A couple of recharges should get you through a busy week. There is also support for multi-pairing, so you can keep the TWS connected to two devices at the same time. Audio does not pause when you take out one of the buds, but then simply tapping on the right bud pauses audio, so we do not see that as a massive issue.
ATH-SQ1TW Review Verdict: Worth purchasing?
The ATH-SQ1TW are available at Rs 7,490. And given their limited codec support and absence of ANC, they might seem a little on the overpriced side. However, if you are chasing audio quality, these are a very good proposition and provide some of the best audio we have seen in the segment. Those wanting ANC could consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, which come with very good ANC and are available for around Rs 7,000 now. The Sennheiser CX are available for a slightly lower price (about Rs 6,500) and offer very good audio quality, albeit with a slight bass preference. Those wanting audio quality that is similar to the one on the ATH-SQ1TW can try the Lypertek PurePlay Z3, which have a slightly sharper sound and better battery life but are not the greatest for calls.
The ATH-SQ1TW are TWS for those who value sound rather than specs. They are not about fancy specs and numbers but about simple, clean sound. In best Audio Technica tradition. If you value truly wireless sound and want great-sounding TWS without getting into the five-figure zone, these are a truly good deal!
- Superb sound quality
- Good fit and design
- Good touch controls
- It is decent enough for calls
- No ANC
- No app for customization
- Supports only SBC, no aptX or AAC support
- No ENC, so calls in noisy conditions are a no-no
Ease of Use
ATH-SQ1TW Review: They are TWS for those who value sound rather than specs. They are not about fancy specs and numbers but about simple, clean sound.