I've owned a number of Audio-Technica over the ear headphones and In-Ear-Monitors (IEMs) in the past and have always appreciated their sound signatures. Naturally, I was excited to try the newest ATH ANC300 Totally Wireless Audio-Technica creation hoping they would be a cut above many of the other totally wireless IEMs I own. The following are my findings:
Case Size: The photo shows the relative size of the charging case compared to a sampling of other IEMs. It’s middle of the road, not the smallest, not the largest. It’s a bit thick, meaning that if you throw it into a pocket, it will make quite a bulge. In general, the case is well constructed, but the earbuds didn’t clunk down into their magnets with the force of the Sennheiser True Wireless Momentum 2s, though this might be due to the choice of Comply tips I made. (See below.)
Bud Size: My ear is relatively small, and I was concerned these IEMs might be uncomfortable. However, they fit well even in my small ears. I’ve returned IEMs for painful fit, but these are okay.
Tips: I immediately switched to the provided Comply tip since my ear canals are oddly shaped and silicone tips just won’t give me a seal. Imagine my dismay when the tip came off the sound tube and stuck in my ear the second time I pulled the left bud out of my ear. The supplied tips are not Comply universal fit tips that have a raised ridge to grip sound tubes; rather, it’s a simple friction fit with insufficient grip which is why it popped off in my ear. I switched to the Comply universal fit tips I already had and that solved the problem.
Active Noise Cancelation: I’ve owned/own four other IEMs with noise cancelation: the first generation Sony WF1000s, the Sony WF-1000xm3s, the Apple Air Pod Pro’s and the Sennheiser True Wireless Momentum v2s. The noise canceling of the ANC300s is truly first generation, that is, not great. My “test setup” consists of listening to the IEMs in a quiet room with a fan running. I listen with noise cancelation turned on and off while sitting in the same place with the same fan running. The noise canceling of these ANC300s is comparable to the first generation Sony WF1000s which wasn’t very significant. Noise cancelation can only be turned off from the Audio Technica app where in addition, a few variations of noise cancelation intensity can be selected based on the external environment. I prefer to turn noise cancelation on/off directly from the buds. Turning on noise cancelation introduces background white noise which is not present on the Sony WF-1000xm3s and is nearly non-existent on the Sennheiser TW v2s. The noise canceling is bested by the Sony WF1000xm3s, the Sennheiser True Wireless v2s, and the Apple Air Pros.
Sound Quality: I can overlook many other weaknesses if the sound quality is sterling. Unfortunately, the ANC300 sound, while passable, isn’t spectacular. The sound signature is fairly neutral with no particular bass or treble emphasis, which I applaud, and it’s not metallic like my Air Pod Pros were, but it’s closed in. Reverbs decay too fast, dampening the “air” and space that good IEMs reproduce, taking away atmosphere and excitement. The 3D soundstage is closed in compared to the best in class true wireless IEMs. Personally, I prefer the sound quality of the 1More Stylish True Wireless IEMs which I got on sale from Amazon for 1/3rd the price of the ANC300s.
Blue Tooth Performance: I had one drop out during multiple days of use, so not bad at all, certainly nothing like the BeoPlay E8 first generation IEMs that would drop out just turning your head left to right. I’d say it’s on par with the Sony WF-1000xm3s.
Defects: The left ear bud on my set thumps when I’m walking fast. None of the other 40 or so IEMs I own have done this. I’m not sure if there’s something loose in the bud, if there’s diaphragm flex going on, or if the bud is just hitting my ear’s concha strangely. Needless to say, I’m not happy with them and they’re going back. Now for some direct “thumb nail” comparisons.
ANC300s vs Sony WF-1000xm3s: The ANC300s list for the same price as the Sony WF1000s. The Sony WF-1000s have better battery life and have a bass emphasis which can be tailored with the Sony companion app. Overall, I like the sound quality of the WF-1000xm3s much better than the ANC300s. However, the Sony’s aren’t specified with any water resistance and the external microphone hole creates unacceptable wind turbulence noises while walking outside with them.
ANC300s vs. Sennheiser True Wireless v2: The Sennheiser’s are my favorite IEMs. They have great battery life, about 2x longer than the Audio Technica’s, are somewhat weather resistant (IPX4) vs. the ANC300s IPX2, have excellent passive isolation and an okay active noise cancelation that in concert with the native passive isolation block more environmental noise than the ANCs or Sony’s. As with the Sony’s, the sound profile can be tailored with the companion app, though the adjustments are rudimentary compared to the Sony level of control. The sound quality, the transparency and the 3D sound stage of the Sennheiser v2s are far superior to that of the ANC300s. But you'll pay for that; they cost $70 more than the ANC300s.
ANC300s vs. Apple Air Pod Pros: I was never able to get a good fit with the Apple Air Pod Pros on my strangely shaped left ear, so noise cancelation didn’t work well. I could get a good fitment if I pushed on the left bud, but was left feeling dissatisfied with what I found to be a metallic quality to the sound. The ANC300s sound much more acoustic.
ANC300s vs. Jabra Elite Active 65t’s: I use the Jabra Actives for lawn mowing. For the most part, the sound is okay, pretty average, about like that of the ANC300s. And the Jabra Elite Actives have better battery life, a much smaller case, and the best sweat/water resistance of anything I own (IP56).
If these IEMs were $150, they’d be competitive. But at $230 and with the Sony WF-1000xm3s being discounted to about $180, you can get more for your money elsewhere.