Japanese headphone and earphone brand Audio-Technica is a popular name among enthusiasts and audiophiles, largely for its Professional Monitor series of headphones. However, the company also has an impressive range of affordable consumer-centric audio products, and its recent launches have made Audio-Technica more accessible to budget buyers. The company's most affordable wireless product yet is the Rs. 2,499 Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT.
There are plenty of affordable wireless earphones and headphones available in this price range, but not many can claim to have the same legacy and reputation as Audio-Technica. Can this otherwise high-end brand bring its expertise into the affordable space? Find out in our review of the Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT.
The model number suggests that the Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT is the wireless version of the affordable ATH-CLR100 wired earphones, but there are a few small differences that go beyond the method of connectivity. The ATH-CLR100BT has slightly larger 8.7mm drivers than the wired version (which has 8.5mm drivers), and the frequency response range is 20-20,000Hz (compared to 20-25,000Hz on the wired version). There's Bluetooth 5 for connectivity, with support for only the SBC Bluetooth codec.
The earphones have a neckband-style design without the actual neckband; only a thin cable with two weighted modules connects the two earphones, instead of a proper flexible band. Considering that more affordable earphones such as the Realme Buds Wireless and Mi Neckband Bluetooth earphones have proper, well-designed neckbands, we found the design of the ATH-CLR100BT to be a bit inadequate.
The in-line modules are made of plastic and will hang over your shoulders when you wear this headset. The earphones are also plastic, and look and feel quite ordinary. The earbuds are comfortable, though, and offer a secure, noise isolating fit. The right module has the controls - a multi-function button for power and playback and two buttons for volume - along with the microphone and a Micro-USB charging port. The sales package includes three pairs of silicone ear tips and a Micro-USB cable to charge the Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT.
The weight of the modules does pull down on the earphones. The lack of a stable neckband means that the modules move around with even basic activity such as walking. The length of the wire from the modules to the earbuds was a bit too much, and they constantly and annoyingly brushed against our face, generating a fair bit of cable noise. The earphones work best when you're sitting down, and can be a bit uncomfortable if used when moving around.
We were able to get around seven hours of use per charge from the Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT, matching the company's claim. Charging is via Micro-USB - still the standard for affordable wireless earphones - and it takes around two hours to fully charge the earphones from an empty battery.
While most pairs of headphones and earphones in the affordable segment tend to stick to a particular sonic signature that favours popular music today, Audio-Technica has a balanced approach to sound. The ATH-CLR100BT earphones have an uncharacteristically neutral sonic signature, unlike most wireless options priced under Rs. 3,000 that we've reviewed in recent months. We tested the earphones with a OnePlus 7T Pro (Review) as the source device, listening to Spotify, YouTube Music, and our collection of high-resolution audio tracks.
Listening to Magenta Riddim by DJ Snake, we quickly noticed that the sonic signature was unlike what we're used to hearing on budget wireless earphones. This electronic dance track starts with generous helpings of thump when listening to it using most other pairs of earphones in this price segment, but the Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT provided a more detailed approach to this track. While we could hear hints of rumble in the lows, equal attention was given to the mids and highs.
We occasionally found the mids and highs a bit too sharp for our liking, but they were never excessive to the point of causing any listener fatigue. Listening to Sam Smith's How Do You Sleep, the vocals were crisp and rightly took centerstage in the track. That said, some of the exciting parts of the track seemed to lose all their bite because of the soft low-end.
While we did appreciate the uncommon sonic signature, the rest of the sound is just about what you'd expect from a budget wireless headset. The Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT isn't special or technically impressive, but that isn't necessarily what most people expect from an affordable pair of wireless earphones. What you get is an inoffensive, neutral sonic signature that will appeal to anyone on a budget looking beyond the typical bass-and-treble heavy sound that most wireless earphones priced under Rs. 3,000 provide.
The Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT is decent enough for calls and voice communication; we were able to hear the other party and be heard clearly on most of the calls we made. Although there was a fair amount of background sound when outdoors, the positioning of the microphone ensured that our voice was relayed effectively.
The budget wireless earphone segment was filled with smaller, not too well known brands till recently; things have only changed over the past few months with the entry of brands such as Realme and Xiaomi in the under-Rs. 2,000 segment. Although the Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT is a bit more expensive at Rs. 2,499, it's still an affordable headset that might be worth considering for the value and legacy of the brand.
If you listen to a lot of popular genres and want a little punch in the bass, the Audio-Technica ATH-CLR100BT may not be the best pick for you. We also had some issues with the design of the cable and neckband modules. However, this is the most balanced-sounding pair of wireless earphones you can buy for under Rs. 2,500. If that's what you're looking for, then this is a worthwhile pick.
Price: Rs. 2,499
Ratings (out of 5)