Wireless earbuds, truly wireless earbuds have been a real boon to the accessory industry, companies you may never have heard of, in addition to companies you’ve definitely heard of are making them, one of those companies that you might not have thought of would be Aukey, yes, portable battery bank Aukey, but in fact, this isn’t their first foray into Bluetooth earbuds, and the EP-N5s are proof they know what they’re doing.
- Good performance over most music types
- USB-C charging
- ANC Support
- Powerful but not painful bass and lows
- Crisp Highs
- ANC could be stronger.
- No app control
- BT dropouts common on certain devices
- 10mm Dynamic drivers
- 2 mics per earbud
- 7 hour playtime per charge
- 4.5 hours with ANC enabled
- 35 hours in total
- USB-C quick charging
- Mono mode (right earbud only)
- 60mAh battery per earbud
- 500mAh battery in the case
The EP-N5’s is a newer generation of truly wireless earbuds, instead of just trying to ape the AirPods or AirPods Pro, which some are definitely still doing) the EP-N5s take a different, more subtle approach. Sure they still have the stems of the AirPods, but they’re angled more towards the mouth for audio quality, whether that be for calls or virtual assistants, the stem is flatter and contours to the face a bit nicer. They have silicone ear tips with replacements in the box, however, these aren’t typical, they’re more of a rounded rectangle than circular so don’t lose these is my advice.
The EP-N5s are also a lot lower profile than I was expecting when in your ears, sure they’re still visible due to the stems, but I’m surprised at how unobtrusive they were. Taking a look at the hardware. On the outside of the bud, there is the stem at what is roughly a 45-degree angle, with a microphone on the lower end as well as on the upper end of the stem. Looking at the bottom is pretty simple, it is the two pogo pins for charging when inserted into the case. On the top there is nothing, and on the inside is a third pogo pin, for what I assume is case detection? I can’t get a concrete answer for this pin, lastly is the actual bulbous inner ear part of the earbud, with two more holes in the frame, I think this might have something to do with bass, an open chamber type thing.
The case is also really nice, it is a small, pebble-esque shape, (though not as pebble-like as the Realme Buds Q) It’s covered in a soft-touch plastic that easily glides into and out of a pocket, It feels very similar to the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 case. It’s like a taller AirPods Pro case or a Wider Airpods case but not glossy plastic. Upfront is the Aukey logo with 4 status LEDs that show how much battery life is left in the case, above that is the thumb indent bisected by the hinge line. On the bottom of the case is the USB-C port, and I applaud Anker for using USB-C here, it makes me much more likely to use these on the go, and finally is the rear, there is nothing here other than a glossy accent piece, this is partially to support the different material for the hinge for stability, it’s also a nice accent.
Regulatory information that would usually be on the bottom or on the rear of a product is instead hidden on the inside of the lid here, the left side having the product information such as the model number and case battery capacity, the right side has the regulatory certifications. Of course, the lower half of the case if where you place the buds to charge them. They magnetically latch into place, although it is not the strongest magnet, due to the shape of the earbuds, if you have fatter fingers it might be a bit tough to get the earbuds out.
Lows and Bass
A trap that most cheaper earbuds fall into, whether Bluetooth, wireless or even tethered fall into is to just pump the bass, thankfully, Aukey doesn’t do that here, it is a bit more present than I’d like, but it is not uncomfortable or overpowering that I’ve experienced in this price range a few times now.
The bass level on the EP-N5s is heavy but in a strange way, I can feel the bass in my head but it is not shaking my head, but I can feel the pressure of every bass drum tap in “American Idiot” and in Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put your records on”, it was very comfortable.
This is where I’d say the EP-N5s are at their weakest, it’s all quite flat, but not in the “I like a flat sound signature” way, flat as in lifeless, which when compared to the nice low end and vocals, it’s a bit jarring
Another trap cheap buds fall into is pushing the volume and making highs sound shrill and tinny, thankfully that isn’t the case here. Let me be clear, you still do not want to run these at 100% volume, that’s not a comfortable volume and it is not healthy, but also they get tinny and shrill, but at less than 80% volume, which I often tell people is the max volume they should listen to things at, the strings in Rob Dougan’s “Clubbed to Death” are certainly not as clear as they are on my Liberty 2 Pros or my HiFiMAN TWS600s but they’re fine.
To say the vocals surprised me isn’t the right thing to say, but it is the only words that come to mind. I’m not going to tell you these sound amazing for pure vocal work, like Acapella tracks or Opera, because they don’t, all the guys’ voices from VoicePlay bar Geoff’s all muddled together a bit, but when you listen to tracks with an equal amount of vocals, instruments etc the balance is pleasant. Of course, people don’t only listen to music with earbuds, they listen to podcasts and make phone calls, and talk to virtual assistants, how do the EP-N5s do with that?
For Podcasts, it all depends on how it is mastered but the EP-N5s are adequate, I can still make out the different hosts and even when they clip in the source podcast it is not ear bleedingly bad, same with phone calls here, people sounded pleasant, but it was very dependent on network quality, whether it was a VoLTE call or a VoIP call.
This was more of a mixed bag for me. On my P30 Pro and my TCL devices I had more frequent dropouts than on my Realme devices, at first when only testing on my P30 Pro I thought it had something to do with the Huawei/Balong Bluetooth modem, but the TCL devices have Snapdragon chips and had similar dropouts at similar ranges. I do not know what Realme is doing differently, but these, for me at least are not a “leave your phone in the office and walk to the kitchen uninterrupted” pair of TWS buds, and that’s a shape.
On a much more positive note, the intra-bud connection is much more solid, I never had a disconnection or had either bud go out of sync with the other by the time both were out of the case they were already connected to each other, and by the time they were in my ears they were playing the connection chime. Without cracking them open I cannot tell what TWS chip is inside of them, I’m assuming it is some generation of Qualcomm chip, but in my testing, it’s not as good as the Kirin A1 in the Huawei FreeBuds, the Realme R1 in the Buds air Neo or the Buds Q.
This was a little more disappointing, with a rated battery of 7 hours without ANC and 4.5 hours with it, me getting just under 6 felt a bit weak. Let me clarify, this is still good endurance, but I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong to shave over an hour off of the use time. Thankfully I rarely listen to stuff or have buds in for a quarter of a day at a time so it’s less of an issue, but in the time I’ve had it, I made sure to try and use them for as long as I could and I go under 6. For what it is worth, the 4 hours I got with ANC on, I’m pretty happy with that, it’s close to what they state and much better endurance than my Huawei FreeBuds 3.
Charging is also super easy, drop the buds into the case and they charge, about an hour charged them fully, but It was likely closer to 50 minutes. Charging the case was thankfully done by USB-C the ubiquitous port that is sadly not as ubiquitous as it should be yet. The EP-N5’s are the cheapest pair of earbuds that I’ve tried which have USB-C and I have to applaud Aukey here for this, If I’m going to lambast OEMs for leaving it out and using MicroUSB, I also have to balance that out and praise the OEMs who do use USB-C.
Active Noise Cancellation
When I got asked if I wanted to review the EP-N5s I was excited, my Aukey PR person knows I’m on the autistic spectrum and have some auditory problems, so finding out these had ANC I was very excited, but when I got them I was a little disappointed, these are definitely actively cancelling noise but it feels like it could definitely feel stronger. Background noise was, for the most part, taken out but people were still very present. I’m not sure if this was a choice from Aukey or just a limitation of the technology they’re using, but I’d have loved to be able to dial in the amount of noise cancelling. Maybe I need to change the silicone ear tips so the seal is better, but the ANC could definitely be stronger here.
On the plus side, the lower ANC was a benefit in that it doesn’t have the suction/pressurised feeling that I do with so many other ANC systems such as those from Bose. I can sit and wear these with no music and the ANC on, sit quietly in my office or a cafe and not feel like my ears are blown or like I’m in an aircraft on the ascent, which is always nice.
Despite not being perfect I really enjoy the EP-N5s. I wish the ANC was a lot stronger, and I do wish that it had n app so you can control the earbuds, change the controls and maybe an EQ, but that would have likely increased the cost and made these less competitive.
The EP-N5s are comfortable, unobtrusive and sound good. They aren’t perfect, but I’d say they sound just as nice as the AirPods Pro, even with worse ANC, but they’re also a fifth of the price of the AirPods Pro, which is an impressive feat for Aukey.