Audio-Technica ATH-G1 Headset Review: A Gaming Headset Worth Listening To
For fans of quality music headsets or record players, Audio-Technica is probably already a brand you know. If your most important audio experience comes when you're gaming, though, they may have slipped through the cracks of a market dominated by the likes of Astro, HyperX, and Turtle Beach.
One of Audio-Technica's newest headset, the ATH-G1, rivals headsets like the ever-popular Stealth 700 from Turtle Beach in price, but to establish the brand in the gaming world, they need to outperform those and other stalwarts.
While the ATH-G1 lacks some features players would assume are standard on even entry-level headsets, the actual audio experience is blatantly better than those offered in its price range, making it a go-to piece of equipment for players serious about their game audio.
How The ATH-G1 Sounds
At $169, the ATH-G1 is actually one of the cheapest gaming headsets offered by the revered company, but that price would put it at near the top of some rivals' headset lines. With that in mind, the ATH-G1 needs to outperform those rivals in all the usual ways, like overall audio quality, onboard features, and form factor. Two out of three isn't bad.
In terms of audio quality, the ATH-G1 is the best I've experienced at this price. It dwarves similarly priced headsets from bigger names, giving Audio-Technica the strange designation as deserving underdog. They're a company used to consumer trust and name recognition, but the ATH-G1 will be a headset that helps them break into gaming in a serious way — or it least it deserves to.
The headset's 45mm drivers may not seem so impressive on a specs list, but the ATH-G1 finds a way to make them work. The end result is an audio experience with the loudest ceiling I've experienced so far, but not one that sacrifices the subtleties of game audio design that remains at the forefront of the most important factors.
Seriously, cranking the ATH-G1 all the way up is absurdly loud without a loss in sound quality. They're actually too loud for me in most instances, but if I could be assured they're not going to do long-term damage at this level, I'd mess with them like that some more in stuff like PUBG or Blackout, where the audio edge plays a massive role in how a round shapes out.
You're not going to get the revolutionary audio experience of higher-end headsets like the HyperX Cloud Orbit S built with Audeze parts, but you likely already understand that tradeoff. For this price, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better experience.
How The ATH-G1 Feels
Another big benefit of the ATH-G1 is the form factor. Simply put, it's the most comfortable over-the-ear headset I've ever used. Lightweight and breathable, it's built for long sessions, be they on console, PC, mobile, or even just for music.
It doesn't feel as bulky as most other fancy headsets I've bought or reviewed. Once you get to this price range, many headsets offer a detachable microphone, and the ATH-G1 is no different. In turn, this has made them my go-to headset for mobile gaming or for stuff like music and podcasts.
Where it stands out most, however, is in how stylish it looks. Reflective royal blue circles surround the brand logo on each ear cup, and though the minimalist design leaves some wires exposed and running through the light metal, all seeming a bit strange at first, I got used to the look and eventually came to appreciate their studio style. It mirrors those which DJs or producers may use. That's Audio-Technica's move, so they're going to use it.
While stuff from Astro and Turtle Beach wear their gaming-first design on their sleeve (on their ears?, this Audio-Technica headset appeals to the more varied audiophile. As a result, they drop the early-aughts' boyish designs of lime greens and bright oranges in favor of sleek blacks and metals, with a touch of elegant blue.
They look classy in a way the industry's most recognized brands deliberately lack for reasons I still can't quite figure out. More than that, they don't feel like they're just marketed toward young men. They're refreshing.
What Else Can the ATH-G1 Do?
It's always important to spell out the versatility of a headset, especially pricey ones where buyers don't want to ensure they've made the right choice on the first try. Here's where the ATH-G1 falters. Yes, it's a great headset for all parts of your audio-driven life. As mentioned, it's become my travel headset for those trips in the hotel with my Switch or several hours of podcasts.
However, they clearly lack a few features that should or very well could be standard for $169.
For one, there's just one way to connect them, and that's via the 3.5mm headphone jack. A lack of any wireless options stings, but a total of zero USB inputs hurts more. The cord that comes in the box is two meters long, which is almost comically long. There will maybe be times when I'm thankful for this immense length, but I haven't had one yet. As it's plugged into the controller anyway, what's the need?
The worst offense of the ATH-G1 is its almost complete lack of onboard buttons. The headset features none at all and the cord contains one volume dial and a mute button. The mute switch's physical markings are so obscure it's not immediately apparent which way mutes the mic.
With no way to balance game and chat audio, the ATH-G1 lacks one of the central features offered by virtually all other gaming headsets of note. At least on Xbox, the audio mix options are easily found, but on other platforms, they aren't as quick to find. Regardless, one shouldn't have to go looking for those menus with a headset that costs almost $200.
- Fantastic audio for its price range — and with a very high ceiling, too
- Comfy, stylish, and maturely designed
- Lightweight and battery-free
- A lack of standard onboard features, like a chat/game mix
- The few buttons that are there are obscure and unnecessarily confusing at first glance
Audio-Technica's ATH-G1 offers a sonic experience better than its direct MSRP competitors. It's not the best headset on the market, but it's not trying to be. For that, everyone would agree to pay much more. However, for the high-end but still sub-$200 market — likely the most trafficked headset range in gaming — you can't do much better than the ATH-G1.
Its lack of physical buttons and features can be hard to overlook, but the mature, lightweight fit paired with the fantastic quality of the audio overall makes it a versatile and proudly simplified headset. Audio-Technica seems to pride itself on not being flashy, and while that gets the company into some trouble with the ATH-G1, it also helps deliver a gaming headset worth listening to.
[Note: An ATH-G1 review unit was provided by Audio-Technica for the purpose of this review.]