Upon receiving a pair of ATH-SR30BT wireless headphones from Audio-Technica to review, I was excited to test out these affordable ($119) ‘phones to see how they stack up against my favourites in the same class.
At first glance, I can tell that the closed-back headphones are designed for rough handling. They're made of thick, hard-wearing grey coloured plastic that has the reassuring feel you'd expect from an extra heavy-duty headphone structure. These aren't the prettiest-looking headphones, yet the industrial design has a certain appeal that conveys "function over form."
The faux leather pads are of a reasonable size, and generally comfortable to wear. They aren't as comfortable as, say, my Sony 1000Xm3 headphones. But keep in mind that those ones are four times more expensive. Where the Sony creates little chambers for my ears to reside in and breathe, these make contact with the entire ear. That can lead to some discomfort and irritation after particularly long listening sessions. More than once, I found that my ears were getting hot. But that likely won't be an issue for most, since these headphones are not designed for prolonged listening. Rather, they're ideal for mobility, during times when you're likely to take them off every now and then and reposition them, such as during morning commutes, or occasional listening. I do like the neat cluster of physical control buttons on the left cup, and the easily collapsible design is handy, especially if you're bringing them to use on-the-go.
What really impressed me about these headphones, however, is the sound quality and extra-long 70-hour battery life. While the sound is based on Audio-Technica's M50x, the SR30BT calms down the shrillness just enough to be enjoyably lively without having the poke-your-ear presence.
Listening to "Jazz at the Pawnshop" and "Disney's Music From The Park" were equally relaxing and enjoyable. I also listened to YouTube's BGM channel with café-style background music ranging from piano solos to Disney songs and Christmas music (why not?) with great ease.
Just like the legendary M50x that was released in 2007 and serves as the reference for Audio-Technica's audio signature, these headphones are tuned more towards studio monitoring instead of a specific genre. Switching genres to electronic music, I found that the SR30BT headphones deliver all the delightful bass slam and electronics synthesizers buzz and whatnot from various artists of ye-olde Technotronic, from Moby to Daft Punk. The tuning of the SR30BT is great for noisy environments: it puts extra emphasis on the things that are usually dulled down by the busy city around you. Yes, I actually took the TTC around town to test these headphones.
As far as sound fidelity and realism are concerned, I'd rank these headphones far ahead of any sub $200 headphones I've tested to date, including Apple's Beats and models from Bose.
While it's an expected omission given the low price, I would have loved if these ‘phones had active noise cancelling, and an analog input. They are Bluetooth 5 aptX all the way, and can connect to a single device at once. That means I had to switch between my iPad and iPhone whenever I wanted to use either device.
Through the entire month of my testing period, I never had to charge the headphones. The life could have been extended beyond average for me since I tend not to listen at high volumes. Still, it equated to about 60 hours of low-to-medium volume listening. Audio-Technica isn't exaggerating when the company touts the long battery life of these ‘phones. When you do need to recharge, they charge via standard USB.
So should you buy these headphones? If you are someone who's constantly on-the-go using a mobile device like a smartphone as your source for music, I don't think you can find a better pair of headphones than the Audio-Technica ATH-SR30BT to accompany you on your commutes. They come in charcoal and natural grey finishes with a charging cable for $119.