I've been eager to get my mitts on Audio-Technica's newest LDAC-enhanced earbuds since their CES reveal a week ago – and as luck would have it, I now have a set.
I don't mean to brag; I mean to tell you that even at this early stage I really (really) like the separation, detail, oomph and clarity you get here. Also noteworthy are the excellent fit, feature set and the impossible-to-ignore planet-friendly packaging – but look at me getting ahead of myself. All of this and more, coming up!
As we mentioned when the ATH-TWX7 were unveiled at CES 2024 (before promptly adding them to our best audio tech at CES roundup), their suitability for a place in our best true wireless earbuds guide hangs on their ability to deliver hi-res audio streaming via Sony's LDAC support (for better-than-CD-quality audio at up to 24-bit/96kHz, or so the billing goes), along with an asking price of just $199 / £190 / (around AU$299).
So can they deliver the goods for less than we're used to? Early signs point to yes, folks. And that is not a statement I make lightly.
The new Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 earbuds inherit the same drivers from their older siblings, the flagship ATH-TWX9, which have garnered largely positive reviews but come with a price tag of $299 / £279 (around AU$460) – that's right, they're the ones with the niche 70-second auto-sterilizing system.
Here, that is gone and I don't miss it. And despite coming in at a hundred dollars cheaper that the top-tier pair, the build here feels anything but cheap.
If the design team was given the task of really leaning into the notion of a plastic-free future, it couldn't have done a better job. The packaging screams eco-conscious, including a fabric pouch, crisp (presumably recycled) paper envelopes for the eight-strong selection of ear tips – four in 'standard', and four in 'soft' with a little memory foam ring under the neck – and honestly, the charging case is one of the most winsome designs I've held. Imagine futuristic expensive luggage, shrunk down to the size of a tactile matchbox, with strong magnets that snap it shut. That.
My sample's finish is called 'rich white', and I do feel quite rich slipping them into my ears, frankly, although you can get them in 'ash black' or 'stone grey' if you prefer. For me, the SS soft ear tips work a treat. The driver housings are teardrop-shaped, well-weighted, secure, and won't budge, however hard I rock out to Mudvayne al-desko.
The likeable A-T Connect companion apps for Android and iOS also play very nicely with both my iPhone 12 and my Sony Xperia 1 IV, staying paired to each source to prove that Audio Technica isn't fibbing about the multipoint connectivity either.
This is not to be taken as a full review. The digital hybrid noise cancelation with both hear-through and talk-through functions has not been put thoroughly through its paces, nor have the twin micro-electromechanical beamforming mics designed to deliver clear calls, with optional noise reduction for busier spaces.
Whether or not the battery life claim is legit, at a promised 6.5 hours and rising to 20 hours including the charging case, is also to be confirmed at this stage, and I reserve judgement on whether the low latency mode for gaming does the business just yet, because I haven't tested it.
What I have tested is the LDAC audio support. And I love it.
LDAC's where it's at
It shouldn't come as a surprise to discover great sound here; A-T's stylish and affordable ATH-SQ1TW earbuds proved beyond doubt that the heritage stylus and turntable firm is very good at delivering excellent true wireless earbuds for not a lot of money. But those didn't boast LDAC or hi-res wireless audio on the spec sheet, and these do – and I'm grateful.
Of course, simply because a product can support a specific flavor of better-quality audio, it's not an open goal for great sound. But for me, the separation and layered presentation of strings and vocal in Rod Stewart's You're The Star (a lossless file) is enough to know they've passed the sound-per-pound test. Guns N' Roses' It's So Easy comes through with zeal and emotion as Slash's axe screams and wails above Axl Rose's prowling, angry vocal. Across the course of my initial few hours of listening, the ATH-TWX7 haven't failed to impress. Fleetwood Mac's The Chain is every bit as pensive and foreboding as it should be, with the picked chords of the intro placed precisely behind my left temporal lobe in a cohesive, spacious and musical mix as the track builds – and then of course changes dramatically to something very different. These earbuds don't care; they want it all.
In addition to removing ambient audio via their noise-nixing tech, the Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7 earbuds can actually pipe a selection of ambient sounds to your ears too, in a bid to further mask extraneous noise and help you focus: think 'ocean', 'tranquility' (which sounds like I should be in a spa, enjoying a treatment) or even 'pink noise'. Look, you didn't ask for them, but it's nice to try them out for no extra cost and no music streaming service subscription, no?
Will they cruise straight into our best noise-cancelling earbuds guide? You'll have to wait for the full review, but it's coming soon.
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.