Are you looking for a decent pair of portable headphones for under $100? If so, read on!
In 2021, you don’t need to spend big on a pair of portable headphones. Granted, you’re not going to get the big specs, pristine audio and features of a top-shelf pair, but entry-level headphones have come a long way. For around the $100 mark, it’s possible to find a pair that will tick most of the big boxes for sound, comfort and, importantly, battery life.
Audio-Technica have just re-released an updated model that falls right into this price range. But how do the ATH-S220BT wireless on-ear headphones shape up?
What do you get in the box?
In the packaging, you’ll find the headphones, a user manual, USB-C to USB-A cable, and a 1.2m 3.5mm audio cable.
The ATH-S220BT is, aside from the metal headband, predominantly made from plastic and, as such, they’re very light, coming in at only 180 grams. Overall, the build quality is good, and the headphones fold flat for easy storage in a bag or desk drawer.
You either like on-ear headphones, or you don’t – there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. Many users complain about discomfort from prolonged use, but we’ve never had that issue. The smaller earcups and lighter construction make them an ideal choice for portability. There’s a thin band of padding on the headband and soft faux leather padding on the cups; both are adequate for the job. We had these on for over four hours straight without any fatigue. The on-ear design keeps your ears cool, too, making them an excellent option for the summer.
On the button
Controls for the ATH-S220BTs are on the left cup, and here you’ll find three manual buttons; power-on and volume up and down. Holding the up and down volume buttons for two seconds will also skip a track forward and back, and pressing the power button for two seconds will activate smart assistance through Siri and Google Assistant. There’s also a USB-C port for charging and a 3.5mm port for wired listening.
With Bluetooth 5.0 on board, pairing is quick and simple. A new addition to these redux headphones is a low latency mode designed to reduce lag when gaming or streaming content. Google Fast Pair is included, a feature that automatically pairs an Android smartphone with Bluetooth accessories, connecting them with a single tap of the finger. And there’s also support built-in for multi-pairing. Multi-pairing here allows users to connect the ATH-S220BTs to two other devices such as your TV and laptop at once. With more of us working from home, jumping from a smartphone to a video call on the laptop without continually pairing headphones is a godsend.
One of the new features added to the updated ATH-S220BT is longer battery life. And by longer, we mean long! A four-hour charge will reap an impressive 60 hours of listening pleasure. That’s just over two and a half days of continual battery life. If you get caught on the hop, a quick ten-minute charge will get you 3.5 hours.
A sound option?
You can’t shop for budget headphones with five-star audio expectations, but the ATH-S220BTs are much better than we expected for a $100 pair. Bass is generally over-emphasised on entry-level headphones, but the bass, midrange and treble are all well mixed, offering a precise and balanced audio performance across jazz, rock, electronic and even classical selections from the playlist. For phone calls, the mic is built into the left ear cup, and while we experienced no connection issues during testing, call quality varied from being good to slightly muffled.
So, are these for me?
For the money, these are a good pair of portable budget headphones with a price tag that won’t bring you buyer’s remorse. A respectable soundstage, incredible battery life, a low-latency mode, and the ability to multi-pair make the ATH-S220BTs a solid choice with an appeal to music lovers, and even gamers, on a budget.