Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review

These $79 wireless earbuds look and sound incredible, but they lack some key features

A pair of Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW wireless earbuds, both sitting next to their closed case
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW earbuds look funky, have a solid build, are really comfortable, and provide an immersive and incredible sound. But they lack active noise cancelation, wear detection, and other special features that several price rivals carry.


  • +

    Very comfortable

  • +

    Offbeat design and fun colors

  • +

    Excellent sound quality


  • -

    No active noise cancelation

  • -

    No wear detection

  • -

    No multipoint connectivity

  • -

    Companion app support missing

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Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Specs

Price: $79 / £49

Colors: Licorice (black), blueberry, caramel, popsicle (red/navy), cupcake (pink/brown), popcorn (white)

Battery life (rated): 7 hours, 20 hours (charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC

Size: 0.82 x 0.82 inches

Weight: 1.57 ounces

Durability: IPX4 rated

When you think of wireless earbuds, what’s the first image that pops into your head? I instantly think of Apple AirPods with the classic long stem design, so earbuds that look a bit outlandish always catch my eye. Enter the Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW — earbuds that look memorable and sound beautiful.

They are colorful, have a stellar sound quality across songs and phone calls, come with a hear-through function so you can hear ambient sounds, and they cost $79, making them wallet-friendly. But the budget earbuds market feels quite overcrowded, and to earn a spot amongst the best cheap wireless earbuds, companies can’t afford to lose points by leaving out popular features such as ANC, wear detection, and companion apps. And that’s what Audio-Technica has done.

For the complete breakdown, read our full Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Cheat sheet

  • Budget-friendly option for engaged listeners costing $79 / £49.
  • Out-of-the-ordinary colorful design that stands out in a crowd.
  • Great and consistent sound quality across songs of different genres.
  • No wear detection for automatic pausing and resuming, no active noise cancelation (ANC), no support app.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Price & availability

An Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW wireless earbuds case

(Image credit: Future)

The Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW have a retail price of $79 / £49, and the lowest we’ve seen them drop to is $44 at Amazon. Compared to the manufacturer’s other wireless and truly wireless earbuds, they are the most budget-friendly. The ATH-SQ1TW are also available in an array of fun colors: licorice, blueberry, caramel, popsicle, cupcake, popcorn.

Audio-Technica’s offering finds itself competing against the likes of the 1More PistonBuds Pro and the EarFun Air Pro 3 — but these models feature ANC which is sadly missing from the ATH-SQ1TW.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Design & comfort

A pair of Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW wireless earbuds and their case sitting in the palm of a person's hand

(Image credit: Future)

Take a quick glance at the Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW and you’ll be struck by the fact that they do not look like regular earbuds. While most earbuds settle for long stems or round designs, the ATH-SQ1TW have an irregular cubic design, and I love it. I wore them for 3 hours straight and they were quite comfy. There are also zero buttons on the earbuds — everything you need to do, like change the volume, toggle low latency mode, can be done by simply tapping. As aforementioned, they come in fun colors. Our test model is fondly named popsicle. The earbuds’ name is a bit of a mouthful so I’ve started referring to them by their color instead.

Each earbud has an LED light illuminating the L and R indicators, so even if you’re pulling them out in the dark, you won’t forget which is which. The earbuds weigh 0.18oz each, and their sleek, tiny case weighs 1.2oz, easily slipping into your pocket. You also get four different earbud sizes in the box should the default not suit you. However, they aren’t the easiest to swap.

If you enjoy taking long walks even when it’s raining (like I do), you might want to rethink buying these earbuds. Audio-Technica says these are splashproof only, giving them an IPX4 rating, so the ATH-SQ1TW won’t survive if they’re drenched. Best not to go for a swim or sit in a sauna with these on your person.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Connectivity

An Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW earbud in a person's left ear

(Image credit: Future)

The Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW employ Bluetooth 5.0 but they don’t offer support for advanced codecs. The only codec supported by these earbuds is the most basic SBC codec. It’s disappointing because many earbuds that feature on our best cheap wireless earbuds list support other codecs. This includes even super cheap earbuds such as the JLab JBuds Mini ($39) and Skullcandy Dime 3 ($29), which offer SBC and AAC codec support.

But at least it’s easy to pair the ATH-SQ1TW to your phone. Simply take them out of their case and you’ll see a notification pop up on your Android or iOS device. The touch sensor is also locked when you take the earbuds out of their case, so you don’t tap them accidentally and start playing music when you don’t want to, for instance.

Herein lies a problem: there is no multipoint connectivity so you can’t connect your phone and laptop at the same time. I’m so used to having my earbuds or headphones connected to two devices at once, especially when I’m at work, so that I can switch between them as and when.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Sound quality

A pair of Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW wireless earbuds, sitting on a marble slab

(Image credit: Future)

For the purpose of this review, I listened to a playlist on Spotify Premium, which is one of the best music streaming services, on my Google Pixel 7 Pro with the standard SBC codec. I was delighted to find that the sound quality was consistent across all songs. When I first put the ATH-SQ1TW earbuds in, I said aloud, “These sound sooo good.” It wasn’t like one song sounded tinny and distant while another sounded perfect. When I tested the EarFun Air Pro 3, I was disappointed that Alt J’s ‘Every Other Freckle’ lacked a full sound, which wasn’t the case when listening on the ATH-SQ1TW.

Heavy rock is one of my favorite genres and I’ve been obsessed with the Alan Wake 2 soundtrack for the past few months. The guitar riffs in ‘Herald of Darkness’ by Old Gods of Asgard really came to life when I listened to the song on the ATH-SQ1TW. The earbuds also do a good job of balancing the different voices and instruments in the song. They don’t feel muddled and there’s no case of one voice sounding louder than the other.

Switching to Lana Del Rey’s ‘A&W’ made me appreciate her vocals like never before. The backup vocals sounded just right without overpowering Lana’s, and the second half of the song — with the bass kicking in and the pace picking up — created a truly immersive 360-degree experience. Speaking of bass, the ATH-SQ1TW amplify it really well. Give MGMT’s ‘Little Dark Age’ a spin and you’ll see what I mean. I noticed every note in the song’s funky bassline, which I’m desperately trying to learn on my bass — perhaps the clarity these earbuds provide will propel my progress.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Call quality

A person tapping an Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW earbud in their left ear

(Image credit: Future)

These earbuds are also great for phone calls. A Sidetone function basically lets you hear your own voice and other environmental sounds through the mic, so you don’t feel like you’re talking too loudly. The person on the other end of the call sounded crystal clear to me, and I was told that my voice sounded clear too. There’s also a hear-through mode which lets ambient sounds in so you’re aware of your surroundings at all times.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Special features

A pair of Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW wireless earbuds, one sitting in the case and one outside

(Image credit: Future)

I’m a big fan of wear detection in earbuds — where playback automatically pauses when you remove an earbud and resumes when you put it back in. It saddened me that the ATH-SQ1TW don’t have this popular feature. There’s also no ANC which even lower priced models, such as the Donner DoBuds One ($49), feature these days.

I would have also liked the option to customize the sound to some degree — adjust the equalizer and boost the bass — through a companion app. While the Audio-Technica Connect app does exist for both iOS and Android devices, it does not support the ATH-SQ1TW earbuds, which means there is no way to update them. From what I’ve read, the Connect app also has a handy Find My Product feature, which tells you the earbuds’ last known location. I would have loved to be able to use that, especially when the earbuds and case are this small. A real shame.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Battery life

A pair of Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW wireless earbuds sitting next to their case

(Image credit: Future)

When you take the Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW out of the box for the first time, you'll need to charge them up from zero, and that takes about 90 minutes. Also, charging the earbuds in the case for 15 minutes, using a 30W USB-A to USB-C charger, gives you around an hour of playtime — great for when you’re traveling. Audio-Technica says the earbuds last 6.5 hours, but it took 7 hours for the earbuds to run out of juice when I tested them.

It’s important to note, though, that the ATH-SQ1TW case does not support wireless charging, so you’ll have to ensure you’re carrying a charging cable at all times.

Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW review: Verdict

The Audio-Technica ATH-SQ1TW are the coolest looking earbuds I’ve tried. The candy-themed colors sound (and look) delicious, and the cubic design would fit right in if you sport an alternative aesthetic. I was impressed with the sound quality, especially the way these earbuds amplify the bass, and I’d say they’re some of the best-sounding earbuds you could get for $79.

But they lack key features. If all you’re looking for in wireless earbuds is sound quality and nothing else, the ATH-SQ1TW are for you. For me, while the build and sound are incredible, I don’t know how long I could live without ANC, and I’d really love app support so that I can alter my listening experience. I’m personally going to skip these. I could save $10 and get the 1More PistonBuds Pro, or settle for the EarFun Air Pro 3 which, at the same price as the ATH-SQ1TW, offer effective ANC and support advanced codecs like aptX Adaptive and AAC.

Nikita Achanta
Staff Writer, Reviews

Nikita is a Staff Writer on the Reviews team at Tom's Guide. She's a lifelong gaming and photography enthusiast, always on the lookout for the latest tech. Having worked as a Sub Editor and Writer for Canon EMEA, she has interviewed photographers from all over the world and working in different genres. When she’s not working, Nikita can usually be found sinking hours into RPGs on her PS5, out on a walk with a camera in hand, at a concert, or watching F1. Her work has appeared in several publications including Motor Sport Magazine, NME, Marriott Bonvoy, The Independent, and Metro.