Audio Technica ATH-TWX9 Review: 360 Reality Audio, UV Disinfection & More!
These are Audio Technica’s new flagship earbuds, and they actually sound very, very good while also coming with features like UV disinfection, support for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, very decent ANC and more. We have the Audio Technica ATH-TWX9 with us today, and despite how saturated this market has become, I think these deserve consideration.
So, let’s talk design first. The case is relatively big in my opinion, I tended to put this into a bag rather than my pocket, but there’s a nice taper to the case which does make it look more pleasing. On the front, there are five LEDs that glow green when charging the case and earbuds as well as blue to indicate the battery level of the earbuds. The LEDs glow white if the case isn’t being charged but the earbuds are and white is also the colour used to indicate the battery level of the case. The LEDs also glow purple in an outward pattern as an indicator that the UV sanitising LEDs inside are active. There’s a logo on the lid that looks like it might be a button, but it’s just a logo. On the back, you get the USB-C port, although there’s also wireless charging here at the bottom of the case.
The case itself is nice to touch, but because most of the case is made with this grippy rubber material, it does result in the case getting quite dirty with dust and debris sticking to the case after a while.
Moving on to the earbuds, it’s a stemmed design and the earbuds do sit quite snugly in the ear. Unfortunately, they are a bit big, and I do find my ears hurting slightly after wearing them for about five hours straight. But that’s about when the earbuds start warning me about low battery anyway, so I just end up taking a break at that point.
Inside the box, you get a plethora of ear tips, XS, S, M and L, and for each size, you even get three lengths of ear tips so you can choose the one that suits your ear shape and depth best. I liked the M-size long ear tips most, so that’s the one I used.
There is both a touch control sensitive area as well as a multifunction physical button on each earbud, and the controls are a bit convoluted. For the multifunction button on the left side, a press raises the volume and a double press lowers the volume. A triple press here toggles the hear-through feature, where your music’s volume is lowered drastically and transparency is turned on. It doesn’t seem to auto-turn off after a while, so you’ll have to manually turn it off. On the right side, a press controls play/pause while a double press skips tracks forwards and a triple press skips tracks backwards. Now, on to touch controls. A double tap on the left earbud toggles between ANC on, off and transparency. A tap and hold here activates the ANC customiser. On the right side, a double tap does nothing while a tap and hold pulls up the voice assistant. Honestly, it’s a little hard to figure out these controls with no help, so I recommend looking at the manual beforehand.
There’s the AT Connect app you’ll want to download, it shows the battery levels for the earbuds, which codec is in use, and there are EQ presets and a customisable five-bar EQ as well. There’s also the option to toggle stuff like in-ear detection, simple touch control customisation and all that, so yes, worth the download. Inside, there are also different profiles for ANC, and with a quick test, I did try both the Plane setting as well as the ANC customiser, and I actually found that the Plane setting felt like it cancelled out just a touch more noise, so yes.
As for ANC, it’s actually quite good. Not better than the Sony WF-1000XM4 or the AirPods Pro Gen 2, but it cancelled out a big chunk of the engine rumble and during regular commutes, it’s perfectly fine too. I did notice a bit of noise introduced when on buses with vibrations though, with the ANC turned on. It’s the same issue I encountered with the Creative Outlier Air V3, although it only happened once or twice so it wasn’t such a big problem. Still something for Audio Technica to work on for the next iteration though.
Connectivity-wise, these are running on Bluetooth 5.2 which isn’t the newest, but it does support multipoint as well as SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive. Additionally, it also supports Snapdragon Sound, so if you have a compatible device, you can get 10Hz to 47,000Hz at 92kHz sampling.
Battery life is okay, you get six hours in the earbuds and an additional 18.5 hours in the case, and their estimate is pretty decent I think, with the earbuds lasting around 5 hours and 15 minutes during my testing with ANC turned on constantly.
The earbuds are IPX4 water resistant, although that applies only to them and not the case as well.
Mic quality is okay, not the best and if you’re in a noisy environment, the earbuds don’t reject the noise quite as well.
As for sound quality, it’s very nice, and I did get a chance to test this out with a friend’s Tidal subscription for that 360 Reality Audio, and yes, if you get some good tracks, it does sound very nice. For people who want 360 Reality Audio but don’t want to get a pair of Sony earbuds, the TWX9 are some of the few non-Sony earbuds out there that supports it. Without 360 Reality Audio though, it’s still pretty good.
The bass is thumpy with good detail, although if I’m EQing it, I’d certainly boost this area a bit. There’s just a bit of sub-bass lacking here I think.
The mids are pretty natural, but I feel there’s a dip here that also benefits from a bit of EQing. Vocals are slightly forward, although this does become a bit more prominent after EQ.
The treble is the best part of these earbuds straight out of the box. There’s sparkle and a good amount of energy and detail. I’d reckon this is the area that requires the least amount of EQing, although for people who like brighter treble like me, you can boost the top end a touch as well.
Soundstage-wise, it’s relatively open and wide, as far as true wireless earbuds are concerned at least. It’s accurate and layering is pretty decent. Overall, I’d say the sound is quite natural
Pricing & Conclusion
At S$398 or US$299.99, it’s definitely in the premium segment, but it has some nice features like effective ANC, UV sanitisation and the sound signature is balanced enough to allow for EQ tweaking, which is great and highly recommended to get a bit more kick out of your music.