The future of audio is here with TWS (True Wireless Stereo), or at least that’s what some people will tell you. This new type of earphone is becoming more popular by the day and already there are hundreds, if not thousands of affordable models available. In today’s review, I take a look at the Hifiman TWS600 earphones. Are they any good? Let’s find out.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Hifiman TWS600 Review
Good selcection of varied eartips
Lightweight with good noise isolation
Solid Bluetooth connectivity
Default tuning is harsh and lacks tonal balance
No support for Hi-Res Bluetooth codecs
Earpieces don’t fit in charging case when using several of the supplied eartips
Package and Accessories
The TWS600 comes in a standard IEM type box which is black with red highlights and has an image of the earphones on the front. On the rear of the box is a list of some of the features and some general information about the product.
Opening the box, you’ll find the earpieces and charging case seated in a black foam insert. Beneath the foam is the other accessories. Let’s take a look at what’s inside:
Hifiman TWS600 earphones
USB Type-C charging cable
5 pairs of black silicone eartips
1 pair of white silicone eartips
2 pairs of double-flange silicone eartips
1 pair of triple-flange silicone eartips
Build Quality and Design
Futuristic is the first word that comes to my mind when I look at the TWS600. They really remind me of something out of a Sci-Fi movie, like the eye of a Terminator, especially when they’re glowing red! The earpieces are made from a lightweight acrylic material and conform to the general shape of most TWS earphones.
Each faceplate has a single button which is used for playback and call controls. They have a fairly tactile and firm click and are easy to locate by touch when the earpieces are being worn. There is a single vent on the narrow end of the faceplates.
On the inner side of the shells are two electrical contact points use for charging the earphones when they’re placed inside the case. The TWS comes equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 and has an IPX4 rating, meaning it’s resistant to sweat and dirt. Overall the build quality looks and feels good.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
I find the TWS600 to be very comfortable. As I mentioned above, the shells are very lightweight, coming in at just 5.9g each. With the excellent choice of eartips provided, I am able to get a really good seal which also means that the noise isolation is pretty good; perfect for the gym or other noisy environments.
The charging case is made from plastic and has an elongated shape. It’s fairly plain apart from the Hifiman badge on the lid. There’s a handy rubber ring on the base that prevents the case from sliding around and protects the surface of your table or counter at the same time.
There is a single USB Type-C port used for charging. The case is lightweight and small enough to easily fit in a pocket. Inside the case, there are 4 little LED indicators that display how much charge the case has left.
There are some recessed sockets for the earpieces. These sockets are also magnetized so the earpieces naturally fall into place when you drop them in. Or at least, that’s what they are intended to do…
If you are using any of the larger eartips the earpieces do not sit properly inside the case. You’ll need to remove them or use smaller tips in order to use the charging case. This seems like a really careless design oversight and has many people (myself included) wondering why the recessed spaces weren’t made larger to accommodate the earpieces when using larger tips.
Battery life and Bluetooth connection
The rated playback time for the earphones is 5.5 hours on a full charge. The case provides an additional 33 hours of battery life to make a total of 38.5 hours. That’s a pretty decent amount of playback time for sure.
TWS600 has support for CVSD, mSBC, SBC, and AAC codecs. It’s a shame that there aren’t any higher quality codecs available but the lower bitrates is likely partly what enables the earphones’ alleged above-average communication distance.
Hifiman is making a song and dance about the range of the Bluetooth signal, claiming the TWS600 can stay connected up to 150m from the source. In fact, they seem to be talking more about signal strength than they are about the actual audio quality. There might be a good reason for that but we’ll get to it later.
150m stable connection is pretty impressive but less so if you’re out in an open field. In reality, most people won’t be in wide-open spaces where they feel safe to leave their phone at that kind of distance. But still, it means that the signal strength should be fantastic right?
In my testing I found the TWS600 connection to be about as stable as countless other Bluetooth devices I’ve tried. I’m able to walk to the far side of my kitchen with the source (my Android phone) on my desk in the living room and a thick wall in between. However, if I turn my back to the source, the signal starts cutting out.
As per Hifiman’s recommendation, I burned in the TWS600 for around 30 hours before I did any serious listening. Digital sources used for testing include my Android smartphone, the Shanling M5s and FiiO M6.
The Hifiman TWS600 has an unusual sound signature that is light on bass and has a major emphasis on the upper midrange. There is a good amount of detail and clarity is good but the tonal balance sounds unnatural to my ears and ultimately unpleasant. The sound can be improved with some drastic EQ applied but for the sake of testing, I listened with the default tuning.
TWS600’s bass is fast and textured. However, the quantity of bass is quite light and there is significant sub-bass roll-off. This means that even with bass-heavy hip-hop or electronic music there’s not really any bass rumble.
The mid-bass isn’t quite as recessed but it is also very light in the mix. It struggles to gain any foothold under the influence of the upper midrange. The quality of the bass is good but the TWS600’s tonal imbalance means you simply won’t hear much of it.
The mids is where the TWS600 puts itself forward and that is putting it lightly. TWS600’s entire presentation falls under the shadow of a massive upper midrange peak at around 1.8kHz. Midrange notes are fairly lean and resolving but sound distant and lack substance.
Male vocals are somewhat thin while female vocals are pushed well forward. They have good articulation and clarity but lack density and body. Additionally, they tend to come off as harsh and fatiguing at anything above low volume, especially female vocals.
Treble is very laid back and positioned far behind the upper midrange peak. There’s a fairly large dip between 5kHz-10kHz so there is no sibilance or treble stridency. It’s not an aggressive treble but it’s not all that detailed either as vocals and upper midrange instruments will wash out the finer treble details.
Soundstage dimensions are small to average and have more depth than width. Vocals are positioned toward the front of the stage and close to the listener. Imaging is moderate and instrument separation is below average as vocals tend to dominate the soundscape.
The Hifiman TWS600 is an unusual release. In terms of its physical aspects, comfort and functionality it is a solid product. However, it has a really bizarre tuning that is harsh, fatiguing and frankly unpleasant. I could see this being suitable for audiobooks and podcasts due to the clarity and forwardness of its vocal presentation but it falls way short when it comes to music unless you’re willing to do some drastic manipulation with EQ.
It also lacks support for hi-res Bluetooth codecs like aptX. I have much respect for Hifiman as a company (I love the Sundara) but there’s no way that I would recommend the TWS600 to anyone, especially when there are so many more affordable alternatives out there.