This Audio-Technica ATH-S220BT review looks at a pair of cheap headphones that are arriving in a crowded marketplace of the best wireless headphones, all jostling for your attention. But very few can match what these headphones do when it comes to genuinely useful features.
The Audio-Technica ATH-S220BT don't include active noise cancellation (which is no surprise at this price), but they give you a dual connectivity option if you want to speedily jump between laptop and phone, and they also boast a colossal 60 hour battery life, pls a wired option. Y’know, in case you’re away from a charging option for longer than 60 hours. *shudders*
And they do this while sounding far deeper and richer than you'd expect from the average set of headphones at this price. They're such a great choice if you want a versatile and cheap pair of headphones for music, without connection or charging hassle.
Audio-Technica is well known for its high quality yet affordable gear. Most recently at T3 we were big fans of the firm’s gaming option: check out our Audio-Technica ATH-G1 review if you’re looking for a wired console headset. But back to the ATH-S220BT which, at a price like this, have eyes on your commute and anywhere else you want good audio without spending the earth. Let’s break down the pros and a couple of cons in this Audio-Technica ATH-S220BT review.
Audio-Technica ATH-S220BT review: price
First off, the simple bit. The ATH-S220BT wireless headphones in both black and white are sitting at an affordable $69 in the US and £60 in the UK. When it comes to over ear wireless bluetooth headsets it’s all too easy to end up immediately shelling out serious sums for active noise cancelling options. Case in point, the Sony WH-1000XM4 noise cancelling cans at the top of our best wireless headphones list won’t give you much change from $300/£300.
ANC at a sub $100/$100 price point is rare but if you go a little higher than the ATH-S220BT, the JBL Tune 660NC at $99.95 in the US and £89.99 in the UK offers excellent noise cancellation. At the lower end of the scale and without ANC are the impressive Sony WH-CH510 wireless headphones at $60/£50 which have a 30 hour battery life but no wired option. This means that the ATH-S220BT sit at a nice sweet spot in the middle with a stack of extra features compared to the Sony.
Audio-Technica ATH-S220BT review: design & battery life
Before this just becomes a review shouting about how nothing should have a 60 hour battery life and yet somehow does, let’s take a look at the design of the ATH-S220BT headphones. As you’d expect at this pricing, the feel here is a little plasticky but the top of the headband is a leatherette with some light sponginess so there’s no feeling of discomfort with extended wear. The headband extensions click out happily on both sides to make sure the headphones are at the right level, and the build quality feels satisfyingly solid for such a lightweight set of cans.
The design is minimalist with the Audio-Technica logo on both earcups and the swivel design means that once you’ve found the right level of extension, it doesn’t feel like your head is in a vice. The leatherette cushions are comfortable and snug without feeling like your ears are being gripped too tight. Like other headphones, you might notice you’re wearing them after a few hours but a quick readjustment usually makes any tightness disappear.
The cups are on-ear, rather than the full-on hug of other headsets, but they feel snug enough and even without ANC make the world disappear pretty well even at mid volumes. Over-ears would probably do that even better, and some find on-ears uncomfortable, but for use, these work as well as anything else out there. There’s no fold in the band for easier storage, but the earcups themselves do swivel flat for slightly easier sliding into a bag if need be.
The 3.5mm and charging port are located on the left earcup next to the buttons. These are solid plastic but not unpleasant with a light click, and it doesn’t take too long to get used to pressing the volume buttons on the fly. The middle button is on duty for all of power, pairing, and both Apple and Google’s digital assistant – but it feels intuitive to double press to check in with Siri or Google, and it takes a long press to turn on and off with a welcome noise to let you know what you’ve just done.
And then there’s that battery. Turn on the Audio-Technica ATH -S220BT headphones and you are immediately told what the charge level is. It’s a lovely touch that means you’re usually automatically reassured of hours of juice ahead, even if you don’t have the charging cable or 3.5mm wire to hand.
Audio-Technica says you’ll get 60 hours with these and that’s obviously volume dependent. For this review we’ve managed to get the headset to finally say that it’s at low levels after around 50 hours of use at medium to high volumes. That’s a lot of music.
Even better is that 10 minutes of charge from empty will top up the battery by three and a half hours, so even if you’ve only got an hour before you get on a flight, you should be able to top up with plenty of juice.
Audio-Technica ATH-S220BT review: performance
But how do these headphones sound? There’s good news on that front too. While there is a not unpleasant but still clear difference between wired and non amplified and amplified via Bluetooth, there’s an almost surprising depth of sound here. In wireless form, the bass of synthwave tracks is just booming enough, with plenty of room for the mid range, while vocals ring out with satisfying clarity.
Turn off the power automatically by plugging in the 3.5mm cable and the sound changes, but classical instruments retain their timbre and you get plenty of bass and mid-range depth. These aren’t audiophile headphones and you can pay more for significantly richer sound, but for this price, the audio on offer is excellent. These are an ideal partner for music and podcasts on the go.
What’s also lovely at this price point is the multipoint connectivity. We had both a MacBook Air and iPhone happily paired, making it easy to jump between both sources.
One downside, though, is if you want to use these wirelessly for calls. The microphone on the earcup sounds, to quote one caller “like you are under some cushions”, so if you’re looking to take a lot of calls, these won't be for you in wireless form.
Pop in the 3.5mm cable with an inline mic, though, and the picture changes. The microphone is excellent for calls and the headset performed admirably plugged into an Xbox Series X for gaming and chat, as well as a Switch for on the go play. It's a good option if having one of the best headphones with a mic is important to you.
Audio-Technica ATH-S220BT review: verdict
The wireless microphone isn’t much to write home about but for this price point, the Audio-Technica ATH-S220BT deliver an exceptional package. Multipoint connectivity, impressive audio and all that battery combine to make a lightweight pair of headphones that are heavy on features. With impressive sound even without noise cancelling, these are a worthy investment for those who don’t want to empty their banks just to make the world disappear on a commute.