The Head-Fi revolution is more than a decade old and some of us are old enough to remember when a number of the largest loudspeaker manufacturers threw their hats rather prematurely into the ring. Some of them like Bowers & Wilkins stayed the course and eventually found success with products like the PX8 and Pi7 S2, but that level of success took a lot of time and money. Many others failed because they did not understand that the two markets are very different.
Fast forward to 2023 and we find ourselves staring into the abyss that is the wireless headphone and earbuds markets; both dominated by Apple, Bose, Sony, and a smattering of high-end manufacturers like Sennheiser, Bowers & Wilkins, Klipsch, Yamaha, Grado Labs, 1More, Jabra, HiFiMAN, and Focal.
The latest to join the royal rumble are the good people at Atlantic Technology; the New England-based loudspeaker manufacturer has been in the game since 1989 and has done rather well in the home theater category but their foray into the headphone category only began in 2020.
That first wave consisted of the HR280 wired headphones, HAL1 wired IEMs, and the BT210 wireless headphones. In early-2022, Atlantic Technology introduced the FS-BTWS582 wireless headphones to fill out the lineup.
The new Atlantic Technology TWS1 (not to be confused with Edifier TWS1) Wireless Earbuds are their first pair of wireless earbuds and their marketing materials were less than modest in regard to their capabilities.
The TWS1 is marketed by Atlantic as the “ultimate in-ear for an active lifestyle,” which is a bold statement for any wireless earbuds but even more so when one considers the $189 asking price.
My immediate thought was that they were tempting fate if the TWS1 did not deliver on that promise. Having reviewed several “exercise” earbuds that were waterproof and did manage to stay in place during rather vigorous physical activity, but were less than ideal sonically — I started the review process wondering which way the Atlantic wireless earphones would go.
The earpieces are mid-sized and have a set of wings that are attached by a rubber band around the outside of the earpiece that also aids in stability because it grips the ear better than a polymer shell would and the wing fits nicely into the crease of the ear.
The nozzles have a distinct forward rake allowing the body of the earpiece to sit behind the ear canal for a better fit and increased comfort although it does mean the TWS1 have to rely more on the ANC performance as passive isolation is only moderately effective.
Another positive feature of the design is that the TWS1 are lighter than average for the category making them more comfortable during longer listening sessions.
The ovoid shaped case is made from a black polymer and features a single LED on the front and a USB Type-C charging port on the rear just below the hinge. A large gold Atlantic Technology logo adorns the lid; matching the gold accents on the earpieces giving the overall package a nice cohesive feel.
With an IP67 rating, the TWS1 are immersion-proof and also capable of withstanding a lot of dust; unless you intend to wear them in a sandblasting booth which might exceed their rating.
The charging case, however, is not waterproof and unlikely to survive a dip in the pool or prolonged exposure to the elements.
The TWS1 utilizes a Bluetooth 5.2 receiver and provides support for aptX Adaptive and is backwards compatible with aptX; Android users should rejoice at that. Apple users are also well served with support for AAC; we had no issues connecting an iPhone 14 and iPad Air but there is no mention of AAC support in the documentation.
The drivers are 7mm dynamic units with a titanium coated diaphragm with a sensitivity of 100dB/mW. Each earpiece sports a pair of MEMS microphones for calls and ANC use as well.
The battery performance was roughly 8.5 hours per charge; we run the test at least three times with each review sample to get a reliable average score. The charging case provides almost four complete charges before it needs to be recharged itself and that is very solid performance.
Charging times will vary but the earpieces do support quick charging; we were able to log 60 minutes of listening time from a 15 minute charge. The case is also Qi compatible for wireless charging if desired, but we found it quite a bit slower than the USB performance when charging the case.
A complete recharge of the earpieces from depleted was about 2 hours, whilst the case took closer to 3 hours to completely recharge.
The Atlantic Technology app is available for both Android and Apple by searching the respective stores for Atlantic Technology. The app offers a fairly robust set of features, but the layout proved to be somewhat confusing.
In order to view the battery status you have to open the app and click on the ellipsis in the upper left corner which then displays the option to reselect devices, a user manual, and firmware update along with a graphic of the TWS1 and the battery status for both the earphones and case.
Back on the main menu, the user is presented with a large graphic of the TWS1 earbud at the top (a seemingly ideal location for battery status) and then options for the equalizer, noise cancelling and ambient mode adjustment, training timer, and burn-in tool.
Clicking the gear at top right brings up options for side-tone, gesture controls, ear-detection, and multi-connect.
The equalizer menu has a seven band EQ for those wanting to manually adjust the sound signature but also houses AI-tune which tunes the TWS1 based on the listeners’ hearing profile and the level of ambient noise in the immediate listening area.
While wearing the earbuds the listener is put through a hearing test and the sound signature is adjusted based on the outcome of the test.
For those less inclined to use the app, the music control functions, ANC, and countdown timer can be controlled by the touch sensors on the earpieces.
The inclusion of the aptX Adaptive codec allows the TWS1 to deliver near CD quality audio via Bluetooth which most other protocols struggle with; aptX Adaptive can adjust in real-time, changing the bit-rate and adapting the quality. The codec can scale between 279kbps and 420kbps for CD and hi-res quality music.
That might sound inferior to aptX or AptX HD, but the reality is the aptX Adaptive is a more efficient codec and it’s far more effective at minimizing drop-outs when listening to music.
It was also the first Bluetooth codec to be able to wirelessly transmit 24-bit/96kHz files.
The decision to support aptX Adaptive gives the TWS1 an advantage over Apple’s AirPods if your source device supports the codec.
Unfortunately, the biggest phone providers have been slow to adopt aptX Adaptive, so many are likely using source devices that force the TWS1 to drop back to aptX or aptX HD and that negates the ability to handle CD quality audio.
For that reason I did some of my testing using Sony and OnePlus phones with aptX Adaptive support and some of my testing with Samsung and Apple phones that don’t. The S20 supports aptX HD while the iPhone 14 supports only AAC.
There is an uptick in detail that is evident with aptX Adaptive in use but other signature characteristics of the TWS1 remained consistent across all the phones when using the same source material.
The low end features some emphasis around 65Hz with a gradual decrease as you move from the mid bass into the upper bass. Bass depth and definition is quite good with no discernible roll-off until around 25Hz where it transitions to less defined impact and a loss of clarity.
This gives the TWS1 sufficient impact and definition overall as the mid bass shares the elevation of the sub-bass throughout much of its range. The mid bass has more texture than expected and is fairly tight so big does not equate to boomy although my personal taste was to EQ the range between 300Hz and 600Hz back a bit as it sounds a bit cleaner with a mild adjustment.
The lower midrange does plateau somewhat but remains generally flat between 600Hz and 2kHz; there is a drop at this point before another uptick as we enter the lower treble. Clarity and resolution are above average in the range.
The dip at 2kHz keeps female vocals from pushing forward of their male counterparts and it’s hard not to notice that male vocalists sound much fuller as a result.
Guitar notes have sufficient edge and growl and excellent pacing; rock and pop are rather well served by these earbuds overall.
The transition into the lower treble and the aforementioned dip and uptick strips violin notes of some energy and tonal accuracy; one can certainly use the EQ to add some emphasis in this range if you feel you need it.
The initial emphasis in the lower treble quickly drops back and creates a little bit of a trough between 4 – 7kHz that gives the TWS1 a very polite sounding treble. There is some energy added back above 7kHz but it never reaches the level of the mid bass and peaks in 13kHz range before rolling-off somewhere above my 14kHZ limit.
This does give the treble a bit of unevenness and the result is that most songs sound good if maybe a bit treble shy while every once in awhile I hit a track that lost quite a bit due to the trough and sounded oddly dull as a result.
This may be due to poorly recorded or mastered tracks rather than the tuning of the TWS1 itself but know that it can be a bit unforgiving.
The soundstage is well proportioned but not overly large in any dimension which results in orchestral pieces sounding a touch crowded at times but instrument separation is quite good and helped keep placements well defined. Imaging is good with movements easily tracked and positions well defined in space.
With the exception of the unevenness in the treble range, the Atlantic Technology TWS1 offers a rather pleasant listen with most genres of music. The bass response won’t please bass heads but it proved to resolute and well defined overall above 25Hz.
The build quality is rather robust and it proved to be excellent at resisting the elements.
The most important feature is its implementation of aptX Adaptive and its ability to handle CD quality streaming going forward as more manufacturers integrate aptX Adaptive into their devices. Take that Apple.
Where to buy: $189 at shop.atlantictechnology.com | Amazon
Related Reading: Atlantic Technology 8600e Home Theater Speaker System is Massive
May 24, 2023 at 4:24 am
Again, welcome home and I am glad you are doing better, my friend.