I’ve been reviewing a lot more Audio stuff lately, especially since our resident audio expert Mark had to go to China for work, so when he asked if I wanted to check out the TWS600 from Hifiman, a high end and relatively low-cost audio brand, I was ecstatic and jumped at the chance.
- Beautiful balanced sound
- Strong Battery
- Comfortable fit
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Independent use
- Case is huge
- No AptX
- Not for all music types
- £200 is too rich for some
Disclaimer: Hifiman sent me these earbuds for the purposes of review. They are not reading this review before it goes live and doesn’t have any bearing on the outcome. Part of my time with the TWS600 was with a pre-production set, but most was with a production sample. I have listened to them for over 50 hours, well past the 20 hours of “burn-in” recommended by Hifiman. These have been tested on my Huawei P30 Pro, Xiaomi Mi A2, Samsung Galaxy Book 2 and desktop computer.
The TWS600s are a strange shape, I will openly admit to judging their comfort before wearing them and being totally wrong. Whilst these are not the most comfortable earbuds I have ever worn, especially for long term (over 2 hours) use, but given their shape and hard plastic exterior they are remarkably comfortable. I’ve gone on train journeys to and from London in these, flights to Munich and back and not had issues in comfort, much longer than that I would likely switch to over-ear headphones anyway.
Each bud is somewhat heavy actually coming in at 5.5g (they say 5.9g but I weighed it at 5.5g), my SoundCore Liberty Air 2s are 5.1g, and my Redmi Airdots are a scant 3.9g but those aren’t buds known for their stellar audio quality, comparing the TWS600s Against other high-end audio solutions my Liberty 2 Pros are a whopping 8.2g each and my Optoma NuForce Be Free8’s are 6.4g each, so in that group, they’re pretty damn light for the sound they produce.
Despite their somewhat unusual shape of what appears to be a kidney bean which then bends into your ears, the outer face has a single multifunction button which obviously changes it is function depending on what you’re doing, but for media, a single press of either button will pause the music/media and pressing it again will play it. Double pressing the right button increases volume, and double pressing the left button reduces volume. Lastly, a triple press of the right button goes to the next track, a triple press of the left button goes back to the last one. Whilst physical buttons might seem a bit outdated, I for one find button combos easier to remember than tapping on a touchpad, plus it is easier to figure out where the trigger area is on an actual button.
Next is the charging case, something I’m pretty strict on when it comes to wireless earbuds, I think that they’re as much a fidget toy as they are a charging and carrying case, and sadly the TWS600 case is far more functional than it is anything else. It’s pretty big, which is its first sin, and it is a pretty weird shape, like a huge grain of rice, making it pretty uncomfortable to put in your pocket, it is also near impossible to open single-handedly due to the incredibly strong magnets and the tight tolerances around the latch.
Once you’re into the case things are a lot better the interior is a really nice soft-touch plastic that feels silky. There are two large divots where the buds themselves go and 2 pogo pins per socket for charging the buds. Each bud is rated for 5.5 hours of use and 38.5 hours when you include the battery the case gives. The magnets that snap the buds feel quite weak especially given the stupidly strong magnet keeping the lid closed but also the size of the ear tips you have on the buds themselves will contribute to how easy the buds are to get in and out of the case.
My favourite thing about the case? Which I’ve been moaning about for what feels like years, is that it finally uses USB-C to charge!, finally I don’t have to bring a MicroUSB cable with me “just in case” as my earbuds really where the last thing in normal use that still uses MicroUSB and it was very annoying.
The Thanos paraphrase in the title aside, these are truly some of the most balanced wireless earbuds I’ve had the pleasure of using, especially after the burn-in period, which I did scoff at first, but these really do sound better after a good 20-30 hours on them, it’s not a night and day difference, but the sound stage seems to widen a bit and certain sounds, specifically mids and vocals seem to perform better.
These are, as far as I can tell just using standard dynamic drivers, not Balanced Armatures or a hybrid like the new Liberty Pro’s from Soundcore, but that doesn’t stop them from sounding absolutely beautifully. These are not your ultra-bass heavy dubstep wubba lubba dub dub beats type headphones, despite running the risk of sounding elitist and snobby, these are for more purposeful and thoughtful music, but can also be used for pop music pretty well.
I was a musical theatre kid, so that love persists as an adult, so listening to west end soundtracks is one of my favourite past times, and Hamilton, Avenue Q, Billy Elliot and Wicked all blew me away on these. I felt like I could lie on the floor, eyes closed and listen to shows in it is entirety here and sing along, I felt the orchestra, I felt the soundstage was perfect everything just clicked for pure enjoyment of the music.
Of course I didn’t just listen to musical theatre stuff, I do like modern music in different styles, and Fall Out Boy’s modern collection (from “Save Rock and Roll” onwards) was enjoyable with depth between Patrick’s stellar vocals, Andy’s Drums and Pete’s Bass all had enough separation to perceive and feel them.
Something that didn’t sound great on these, but I honestly wasn’t expecting it to, was TRON:Legacy soundtrack from Daft Punk, maybe because I’m used to listening to this on more bass and mid-heavy buds but these somehow felt a bit more lifeless, which I wasn’t expecting.
Lastly “pure” vocals, so people like Andrea Bocelli, Katherine Jenkins etc. people whose voice is the main attraction and the music is secondary (do not @ me) they just knocked me on my arse, it was the type of experience where you want everyone to leave you alone, you put this on with a glass of wine (or Scotch) in front of the fireplace and you just do nothing but listen and enjoy.
Kudos to Hifiman for making me run out of words to describe how balanced these are because damn.
Proudly boasting Bluetooth 5.0 I was expecting dropouts to be a thing of the past, and we’re sadly not quite there yet. Dropouts on my mobile devices are far less frequent than on older buds, but on my laptops and on my desktop I still have dropouts if I spin around in my chair or move a few meters to the right and my monitor gets in front of the desktop.
On mobile as I said the experience is a lot better. My P30 Pro supports Bluetooth 5.0 with Aptx HD, and whilst the TWS600s don’t support AptX or AptX HD, the sound quality is truly beautiful.
Hifiman claims the TWS600s are low latency and that the buds can be used independently of each other, and whilst I got the buds working independently, it’s not particularly easy to do so. I take issue with the claim that these are low latency because watching video there is still a split second where the Audio is not synced to the video, Apple seems to have figured this out, why is this so hard for everyone else.
Battery and Charging
This is simple, the battery just lasts and lasts. I’ve only charged the case once, and the buds are always charged when I take them out of the case to use them. The issue with both the buds lasting so long and the case having such a huge battery is that when the case eventually does get low I won’t notice and will likely get stranded with an empty case and 25% battery warning on the buds, at least it uses USB-C to charge up and a quick 15 minute charge will give me enough juice, though in the case everything is dead, the buds take 60 minutes to charge from dead to full and the case takes 90 minutes.
If it isn’t obvious, I’m quite smitten with these buds. For the type of music I listen to they sound stunning, despite their strange look, they’re quite comfortable to me and the battery just goes on and on.
But at £200 these aren’t for everyone. If you listen to very bass-heavy music you can find better buds than this, they might even be cheaper than these and they’re unlikely to have a bulkier case. But for people that know audio, and like a balanced set of buds and know the music they listen to benefits from balanced buds, then these are a wallet wrenching no brainer from me.