Audio-Technica ATH-G1WL Wireless Review: Meh For Music, Absolutely Epic For Gaming
Audio is a critical component in any gaming experience, and I don't just mean for games like Beat Saber or Dance Dance Revolution.
From hearing where gunfire is coming from in Fortnite to accurately getting classic lines like, "You must gather your party before venturing forth," dunked into your eardrums, sound effects and music can be just as important as graphical quality.
The fact that we now have lag-free wireless headsets for phones and laptops still kind of blows my mind, especially having grown up with felt-covered Discman headphones that could charitably be called "absolutely awful."
Audio-Technica's 2019 product lineup now includes a wireless model specifically aimed at gamers, and if you play games more than you listen to Spotify or Apple Music, then they should definitely be on your wishlist.
Bells and whistles aside, of which the ATH-G1WL has plenty, there's really only one thing that matters with a pricey headset like this: how does it sound?
While I'm not the guy who insists on downloading the FLAC lossless audio files from Bandcamp or the one who will argue about why vinyl sounds better, I can say one thing for certain: after reviewing music for a decade and getting to interview musicians and audio engineers regularly, I do put a premium on sound quality. So, hopefully, the analysis below should be helpful to audio junkies and the average gamer alike.
Alright, ready? Let's dive in and take a look at how the ATH-G1WL compares to other headphones in terms of sound quality, comfort, and overall features.
How the Sound Stacks Up
To get a proper baseline and explore the differences between headphones with varying designs, I tried out three different models to compare and contrast the ATH-G1WL's sound:
- Crappy $10 earbuds from Big Lots
- Denon DJ HP1100 wired headphones
- Audio-Technica ATH-G1WL wireless Bluetooth earphones
Since headphones aren't just for gaming or even a single type of gaming, I compared the three across three different test beds: music reproduction, single-player gaming with lots of music, and multiplayer gaming with lots of chaotic sound effects like bullets, explosions, and sword-clanking.
For the music test, I went with Ihsahn's "Mass Darkness" off the Arktis album. It's something heavy with catchy elements, a bit of a progressive twist, and a combo of harsh and clean vocals that hit all the various sound types in one song.
The track has a clean enough production that you'd notice if the sound quality is off, but it is still heavy enough that it's something I'd listen to regularly for a pulse-pounding backing soundtrack to a gaming session.
So how did the three models stack up?
To be blunt, the Big Lots earbuds were garbage. Just straight up, unmitigated garbage. Somehow they take this epic track and make it sound like '90s era Mayhem, all with an extremely fuzzy tone muddling the low notes.
Moving onto the wireless Audio-Technica ATH-G1WL wireless headset, the quality is leagues ahead of the earbuds (of course), although it is still not pitch-perfect. Unfortunately, the headset still has a slightly fuzzy tone to some of the backing notes, which becomes much more noticeable at higher volumes.
Strictly for listening to music, (especially with heavy guitar notes and booming drums), there's no question the Denon DJ wired headset came out on top for sound quality.
For gaming, it's an altogether different story.
Where Audio-Technica's wireless offering really shines is with PC game audio. When tested by that metric, the ATH-G1WL easily lived up to its pedigree.
Echo effects and deep-bass strings found in Pillars Of Eternity 2 come through crystal clear and provide a killer surround sound atmosphere. There's also no appreciable lag in sound despite the lack of a wired connection.
Clicking Tekehu's icon at the bottom of the screen, resulting in, "Yours to command, captain," immediately filtered into my ears in full 7.1 surround. Ditto when launching a lightning attack with my scepter in the ultra fast-paced Ziggurat.
Fortnite, Call Of Duty: Black Ops, and Homefront: The Revolution all had the same high-quality sound when played online.
How the Design Compares
Now that we know the game audio is top-notch, what about all the other features like button placement and comfort?
First up, I love being able to change the volume directly on the headphones. While a lot of models have on-ear volume wheels, the positioning here is easy to reach while gaming, and the wheel is easily discernable from the other buttons and switches.
Rather than just swiveling up out of the way, you can fully remove the mic for when you aren't gaming online and don't need it in your face. The mic also has a bendy attachment string so you can put it into any position you want, an added bonus for any use.
The mic easily picks up sounds, it's clear, and I never had any issues with teammates not being able to hear me. On top of that, the volume on/off switch for the mic is on the far side, which is a nice touch. it makes it easy to remember which button is for the audio output and which is for the mic input.
Where the ATH-G1WL absolutely annihilates the competition is in overall comfort level. This model fits perfectly over my ears, and it is significantly lighter than I expected. While something like the Audeze Mobius weighs around 350g, this Audio-Technica model weighs 290g without the detachable mic.
The level of "barely there" comfort makes multi-hour usage much preferable to other large over-ear headphones. The difference is so noticeable that I now get ticked off when I plop my Denon DJ headset back on. That's because I know how much more comfortable high-end headphones could be if they went with the current Audio-Technica design.
However, the ATH-G1WLs don't fold up for storing like other Audio-Technica models, or those from Logitech or Audeze.
Since this pair doesn't come with a storage bag, either, it's worth investing in a charging stand for aesthetically-pleasing storage — and so they don't get banged up while on the coffee table or thrown into that pile of cords by the door.
The Bottom Line
- Crystal clear audio for PC gaming
- Ludicrously light and comfortable
- Easy button access for volume and muting
- Sound quality is tailored toward gaming and isn't great for music
- No Bluetooth for phone pairing
- Wireless means charging — and remembering to charge
When it comes to video game audio, the ATH-G1WL is easily the best headset I've ever used. The fact that it's wireless puts this model in the upper echelon of headphone contenders.
After charging all night long, I got a solid and respectable 14 hours of listening time, although other wireless gaming headsets, such as some from HyperX and Logitech, provide upwards of 30 hours of battery life.
There's one final design issue worth noting: this model is tailored exclusively towards gaming, and that shows in more than just sound quality. Despite being wireless, these headphones don't provide a phone- or tablet-pairing option via Bluetooth. For some, it's a small issue that easily disregarded. For others, it might be harder to overlook.
That issue aside, if you want a wireless option and play games more than listen to music, you can't go wrong with the Audio-Technica ATH-G1WL.
You can pick them up on the Audio-Technica website for $249.99.
The full specs can be found here:
|Battery||Internal, 3.8V rechargeable|
|Battery Life||15 hours|
|Charging Time||7 hours|
|Weight w/o Mic||290g|
|Mic Sensitivity||-43 dB (1V/Pa, at 1kHz)|
|Mic Frequency Response||30-20,000Hz|
|Mic Polar Pattern||Hypercardioid|
|Included Accessories||6.6ft charging cable; USB transceiver;
spare earpads, windscreen
[Note: An Audio Technica ATH-G1WL review unit was provided by Audio Technica for the purpose of this review.]