This post serves as a changelog for the TWS Buyer’s Guide.
The TWS guide will not be updated immediately as I’ve been having problems with that page currently. I’ll be troubleshooting and updating at a future date.
"The Award Winner"
You probably know 1More for their aptly named “Triple Driver” earphone. One of the biggest breakouts in the IEM scene, embedding itself deeply into mainstream consciousness and establishing itself as one of the best budget IEMs you can get for the price, winning tons of awards that nobody has ever heard of (including me).
What you may not know is that my opinion on the Triple Driver is actually really, really low. I don’t like it and I think far better IEMs exist for cheaper, even during its heyday.
The Stylish does not make me rethink my preconceived notions on 1More as a mass-market company masquerading as an audiophile one, instead it strengthens them. I can’t even call its signature a “generic tuning” because a generic tuning implies some form of average mediocrity, whereas the Stylish sounds simply bad to me. The bass is bloated, the mids are alright in the sense that they aren’t unlistenable but I wouldn’t go any further than that, and the treble… well, you better be an absolute wuss when it comes to treble sensitivity, because the Stylish has virtually zero upward extension.
Yep, the Stylish is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “mass-produced, mainstream earphone”. Maybe 1More would like it if I made that as an award plaque and sent it to them.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro
"That Linus TWS"
Driver configuration: 1BA + 1DD hybrid
If you’re like me, you probably first heard of the Liberty 2 Pro when LinusTechTips
shilled talked about them on his YouTube channel.
I didn’t have much hope in them in the beginning since it was my belief that most general-tech-reviewer-sponsored headphones usually doesn’t live up to the expectations of the average audiophile, and instead are targeted towards the mainstream consumer. So imagine my surprise when I actually liked the Liberty 2 Pro.
Yes, it has its fair share of problems. The bass quantity is probably too much for a lot of people, the midrange is shouty and I detect the treble straying into sibilance at times. But the Liberty 2 Pro really is my “guilty pleasure” listen in the sense that I absolutely love the bass presentation. It’s rumbly, it’s impactful and yet retains a sense of cleanliness not normally heard of in IEMs with this level of bass quantity.
If they had reined in the midrange tonality a little better, I probably would’ve purchased one myself. Alas, that’s my personal dealbreaker.
Grade: C+ ★
Audio Technica ATH-CKS7TW
On the opposite end of the spectrum to the CKS5TW, we have this. Man, Audio Technica really knows how to diversify!
I honest-to-god thought that the CKR7TW I listened to broken at the start. It sounded like I was getting no seal, or that maybe the midrange driver was broken (in the daft assumption that it was a multi-driver setup), or perhaps something had gone awry during the pairing process and I had gotten a monstrosity of a sound thereafter.
Shoved it into the microphone and had all my questions answered with matched channels. Nope, the CKR7TW was meant to sound like this. A shrill, sharp, sibilant mess with zero thickness and weight in the midrange, sounding closer to a pair of blown out tweeter speakers than anything resembling a properly tuned IEM. And despite all this, despite its sheer emphasis on the upper frequencies, the CKR7TW struggles to extend beyond 10kHz and presents virtually zero air into the mix.
Yep, the direct opposite of the CKS5TW. Your options are endless.
It’s cheap. It sounds average. And it’s probably Edifier’s zero effort cash-in on the TWS boom.
The average stuff are the hardest to talk about because there’s nothing to praise nor to roast. The TWS1 has decent bass but with issues in the upper midrange, making things sound overly harsh and/or forward. Other than that, it’s more or less a case of “you get what you pay for”.
Grade: C ★
"Excellence in Theory"
I’ve told this to a few others IRL: the TWS5’s FR response is basically a screwed up version of my neutral target curve with my desired bass response of a sub-300Hz boost.
By all accounts I should be absolutely gushing over the TWS5’s sound, but it sounds pretty normal and unexceptional to me. Yeah, the bass response is pretty nice with the nice and low controlled boost, the midrange isn’t overly forward and screaming in your face, but there’s still a little bit of that TWS1 harshness creeping into the TWS5’s signature.
Overall, pretty good still. Not the worst you can do with your cash and can still service most audiophiles well.
Jabra Elite 75t
Product page: https://www.jabra.com/bluetooth-headsets/jabra-elite-75t
The 65t is probably one of Jabra’s most popular products. And so with the announcement of the 75t, hype was… noticeably high.
Unfortunately as much as I loved the 65t, the 75t goes off the rails into just the weirdest direction ever. Now, I may be a basshead myself in the sense that I love a low-frequency boosted IEM as much as the next guy, but the 75t takes that concept and just runs to the hills with it. So if you play a track that’s particularly sub-bassy you feel that the 75t is missing a huge chunk of its sound, especially when the music glides up from low sub-bass notes.
The midrange doesn’t really compensate for this shortcoming either, considering that it’s both thin and harsh, owing to its double whammy of recessed lower mids and emphasised upper mids.
Sorry Jabra, the predecessor takes the win here.
Product page: https://www.lypertek.com/tevi
I have read many great reviews on the Tevi. I also get asked to review them very often, so this is me finally running out of excuses not to do so.
I must admit, the Tevi didn’t blow me away when I first heard it. My reaction was more “hm, this is pretty alright” as opposed to the “oh my god how does this sound so good” response that you’d probably expect for a TWS set that’s priced as it is and placed at this rank position.
And that’s the thing, as I pondered it over and gave it a little more reflection and analysis, I realised that the Tevi… didn’t do anything particularly excellent, but in the same vein it didn’t do anything wrong either. It was instead rather focused on being a general all-rounder, hence my initial lack of enthusiasm. Sure you could say that the midrange is a little too emphasised, but it’s not like the tonality is out of whack or even just mildly off. Everything was more or less on point, from the control of the bass emphasis to the delicate balance of treble…
Now if you liked the Etymotic house sound, and I’m not saying that you automatically will (it is kind of an acquired taste), the Tevi is probably the closest you can get to a TWS, bass-boosted Etymotic.
The TWS industry is getting scary. Wired world better step up.