Audio-Technica just launched ‘auto-sterilizing’ earbuds and I 100% don’t get it

Audio-Technica TWX9 earbuds on dark background
(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

It's not the first time we've seen this kind of thing: LG's been offering bacteria-killing cases bundled with its Tone earbuds since 2020 – and I for one really enjoyed the company's newest T90 buds, but that had nothing to do with the bacteria blitzing and everything to do with the wild head-tracked Dolby Atmos. 

But it is the first time Audio-Technica has approached true wireless headphones in this way. 

Now, I'll be the first to sit up and take notice since the company's inaugural stab at the true wireless market, the ATH-SQ1TW were frankly excellent for their nominal asking fee and some of the best budget wireless earbuds I've ever heard, but do our earbuds really need a 70-second "sterilization process" each time we pop them back in the case? 

And what does it… do? Audio-Technica explains that there's a "unique deep-UV sterilization system within the charging case", and that each time your earphones are placed back into it "a 70-second sterilization process starts which eliminates bacteria and viruses from the surface. Mirrors are also used to distribute the light evenly for increased effectiveness."

OK, anyone else? 

Opinion: self-cleaning aside, I'll still buy into Audio-Technica's earbuds

Audio-Technica TWX9 earbuds on white background

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

Don't get me wrong: on sonic merit alone anything Audio-Technica does is worthy of your attention. The Japanese company has been in this game for 60 years now and it knows a thing or two about sound quality. Also (and in case I didn't stress it enough already), the firm's ATH-SQ1TW earbuds are really very good for sound quality at the level. 

However, whether or not this UV light cleaning tech is worth the extra outlay is up for debate… For some, it'll be nice to know they're putting something clean into their ear canals. For others, it'll come off as a perk they never asked for – or wanted. 

Otherwise, the ATH-TWX9 come with "advanced noise-canceling technology" plus three hear-through profiles, support for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, and 5.8mm high-resolution drivers. And since it's Audio-Technica talking (and this is the first time the company has added active noise-nixing or spatial audio solutions to its earbuds output), we're more than a little intrigued.             

Elsewhere, the claim is up to six hours of continuous playback from the buds and up to 18.5 hours of extended use with the charging case, plus an IPX4-equivalent splash-proof rating – which is good, but not excellent. For reference, the AirPods Pro 2 boast a 24-hour total playtime, as do the excellent Honor Earbuds 3 Pro

And the pricing is a little hot in my humble opinion, because the Audio-Technica ATH-TWX9 will be available to buy from November 9 2022 at Audio-Technica, priced £279.99 (which is around $325 or AU$496). 

Yes, the keen-eyed will note that Audio-Technica's newest earbuds are more expensive than the latest Pro-suffixed AirPods' $249 / £249 / AU$399 asking fee. But they do apparently come with 12 (yes, 12) different ear-tip sizes and styles. 

Will the sonic chops make them worth it? Will we watch them saunter on into our best noise-canceling earbuds buying guide, just in time for some juicy Black Friday deals to arrive on other options? Time will tell… 

Becky Scarrott
Senior Audio Staff Writer

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.