I’ll say it from the get-go; I have never been a fan of earbuds. I’d go as far as to say I hated the things until APple’s EarPods came along, which were the first earbud I’d found that 1) fit my ear, 2) stayed in my ear, and 3) didn’t sound like a miniature loudspeaker being overdriven in an undersized enclosure. Once the novelty wore off however the EarPods returned to the iPhone box where they have stayed through several generations of devices, those supplied with my current phone remaining untouched. You could argue that I am therefore unqualified to review earbuds. But I’d counter that if I can find a pair of Earbuds that I like, they’re likely pretty damn good.
So when Edifier reached out to offer a sample of their latest model, the TWS6, I decided to give them a shot. I have a history of liking the company’s speakers and more traditional over-ear headphones. And on receipt of the sample my first impressions were consistent with past findings. Simple yet luxurious packaging, some clever tech and handy accessories left me feeling as if I was well on my way to another positive earbud experience.
Let’s back up a bit. The TWS6 are a true wireless stereo, bluetooth 5.0-equipped pair of earbuds complete with a wireless charging case (à la AirPods). The Qualcomm Bluetooth chipset delivers A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP and AptX playback through Knowles balanced armature drivers in an enclosure just 12 mm in diameter. They also feature CVC noise cancellation for use in calls and touch controls to facilitate playback, smart assistant and call acceptance and rejection. Curiously the controls, though able to distinguish multiple taps, don’t extend to volume or track navigation.
originally developed for hearing aids and other critical listening applications, Balanced Armature drivers are said to offer “improved fidelity, realism and detail” over traditional dynamic drivers; though Balanced Amateur drivers can be combined with a traditional dynamic driver in a ‘hybrid’ earphone. In such cases the Balanced Armature driver takes care of the high frequency content and the dynamic driver handles low frequencies.
Due to the extra space required a hybrid setup is better suited to a wired earbud as space to fit electronics is significantly reduced and more power is inevitably required, though in most applications a single Balanced Armature driver is theoretically sufficient to reproduce high-fidelity sound.
Where dynamic drivers vibrate a membrane to move air and thus produce sound, Balanced armature drivers use voltage to vibrate a tiny reed that is balanced between two magnets, the motion of which is transferred to a very stiff aluminium diaphragm. This diaphragm is specifically designed to be free of unwanted resonances in the audio band, allowing it to produce excellent clarity.
The TWS6 are available in black or white with a matching charging case. Included are small and large ear tips in both silicone and memory foam with ‘ear wings’ also provided. The wings give a more secure fit if you’re using the earbuds in sporting or outdoor situations where head movements are likely to cause the earbuds to fall out.
Each earbud gives up to eight hours of battery life on a single charge. Both can be charged up to three times by the charging case when it is fully charged, allowing an impressive 32 hours of use away from a charger. The case supports Qi wireless charging and can also be charged via USB C with the USB A to C cable included in the box. In practice battery life fell just short of the quoted 8 hours at a little over 7 hours and 30 minutes, though this was at reasonably high volume levels and repeatedly using the touch controls.
The case is smart and compact though the glossy black finish is a magnet for marks, small scratches and fingerprints. The case handles Bluetooth pairing and TWS pairing via a button on the back and a number of coloured status LEDs. The earbuds also indicate their status via audible beeps and tones, which are faintly audible if you hold the case close to your ear.
I tested the TWS6 with an iPhone 8 running the latest version of iOS 13. The pairing process wasn’t without hiccup. Holding the pair button on the case with the earbuds in place imitates pairing mode. On a couple of occasions I received a ‘pairing unsuccessful’ message, despite the fact that the TWS6 were discoverable and identified in the iPhone’s bluetooth settings. Holding the pair button on the case for 10 seconds effectively performs a factory reset, forgetting all paired devices. I didi this before also holding the button for eight seconds to perform TWS (true wireless stereo) calibration for good measure. Once this was done I was able to pair the TWS6 with my phone.
The left and right earbuds are listed as separate Bluetooth devices. I initially thought that connecting one would be sufficient to automatically pair both, but this wasn’t the case. I had to repeat the pairing process a second time to get both earbuds connected, at which point I could use either or both, in the latter case with TWS working as it should. The TWS6 can only be paired with a single device at a time, so if you want to switch devices you’ll have to do so manually.
Once the earbuds are paired, usage is straight forward. The buds power on automatically when you remove them from the case and power off again when you put them back. They also connect and disconnect automatically, and you can use either or both for mono or stereo operation. Connection isn’t as quick and seamless as APple’s AirPods but it’s handled reasonably well. I experienced a failed connection on a couple of occasions, but reseating the earbud in the case and removing it again was enough to restore the connection without having to delve into Bluetooth settings.
The controls worked as expected. A double tap on the right earbud handles play / pause, and a double tap on the left earbud triggers Siri. Double tapping either earbud will accept or hang up a call, and both earbuds include a tiny pinhole microphone which provides adequate quality for phone calls and simple voice memos, though it’s not as good as the iPhone’s inbuilt microphone for the latter. Noise cancellation works well during a call, though thankfully doesn’t seem to be active in normal use.
As is typical with earbuds, the TWS6 are tuned for bass with a 1.5 to 2x boost over the mids. There’s a bump in the mids too which makes vocals, synths and snares more prominent, particularly in modern R&B and remix tracks. The sound is engaging though by no means true to the source material. The mid bump also reduces perceived masking of detail, most of which appears in the high frequencies. That said, however, high frequency detail is still impressive given the single-driver approach with no harshness or fatigue.
The TWS6 are perfect for contemporary music, though compromise on outright sound quality. This is to be expected especially given their modest price and the features they’re packing. If you’re after audiophile sonics, you should stick with traditional cans or higher-end in-ear monitors. But while they may have failed to convince me to ditch my unfashionable on-ear or over-ear headphones for earbuds, I will concede that there’s no denying their convenience when on the go, and they do sound perfectly acceptable and even enjoyable with most mainstream music. THey’re ideal for music on the go, for working out or for music around the house, and if that’s what you’re after I’d recommend you check these out.
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