TCL SOCL500TWS wi-fi earbuds hands-on: You get what you pay for
“TCL’s first pair of true wi-fi earbuds provide the efficiency you’d count on for $80.”
Spectacular battery life
Intriguing translucent design
Case feels flimsy
Management buttons troublesome to press
In the case of America’s budding relationship with TCL, it’s all concerning the firm’s value-packed 4K televisions, which supply unimaginable image high quality for his or her very low worth factors. However TCL is greater than only a fairly display screen. The corporate has heady ambitions in the case of different client electronics merchandise, together with establishing itself within the more and more aggressive audio market.
For CES 2020, that equates to a brand new lineup of audio gear to comply with TCL’s price range soundbars, together with (as a result of all audio manufacturers are contractually obligated to take action) true wi-fi earbuds. First teased at IFA 2019, the SOCL500TWS are the model’s first pair out there within the U.S.
However catching up with the group after 4 years of innovation is not any straightforward activity. At simply $80, the SOCL are available in at a really good worth, however like different audio gear we’ve seen from TCL up to now, they really feel a bit extra like an “also-ran” providing that aren’t prone to flip many heads.
Cool look, flimsy really feel
I’m a realist. I do know I shouldn’t count on the moon from a low-price pair of earbuds in the case of construct high quality or design. However maybe as a result of TCL presents a lot unimaginable worth from its LED TVs, opening the SOCL is one thing of a letdown.
The paper-thin plastic mattress that holsters the buds contained in the cardboard packaging is a harbinger for the SOCL’s charging case itself, which is feather-light and feels prefer it’s one unhealthy fall away from dropping its lid. I do just like the case’s micro measurement, and its translucent exterior, which fades in coloration on its means up, is a pleasant contact. I additionally like the truth that you’ll be able to see the glow of the white LEDs on every earbuds’ exterior with the case closed, wanting like beady eyes on a smiling little anime creature.
Inside, the buds are seated on tightly packed magnet charging pads, with simply sufficient room to suit beneath the lid when closed. The buds are additionally sheathed in translucent casings, permitting you to peek inside at among the circuitry. The round housings give approach to sharp, angular extensions on the outside with a TCL emblem that additionally serves because the singular management key for every earbud. It’s truthfully stunning there’s a bodily button right here, as its so unassuming I pegged it for a contact sensor.
A yr or two in the past, I’d be flabbergasted by a pair of $80 true wi-fi earbuds that provide stable performance. And whereas that’s merely not the case in immediately’s market because of speedy innovation and deep competitors, the SOCL nonetheless provide some spectacular options for his or her worth level. That features 6.5 hours of battery life per cost and 26 hours complete playtime with the charging case (although I’ve not but been in a position to check that declare), which tops Apple’s $250 AirPods Professional, water-resistance with an IPX4 ranking, and even quantity management on the earbuds — once more, one thing Apple’s pods don’t provide.
What’s not listed below are any extras like ambient sound, sensors to pause playback once you pull the buds out, or lively noise cancellation know-how. None of that’s stunning at this worth, although leaping up by $50 to Amazon’s Echo Buds provides you all these issues. You too can entry your voice assistant with a triple press of both management key.
Talking of the management keys, I’m not a fan. I’ve been vocally against hard-to-press buttons on totally wi-fi earbuds prior to now because of the stress they inflict in your ear canal, and the SOCL are a major instance of this. Whereas contact controls are sometimes much less correct than bodily keys, I’ll take them any day over a button that makes me continuously shove the buds into my ears.
Jabra’s spectacular 65t and 75t earbuds show management keys don’t should be stiff, and true wi-fi upstarts like TCL would do properly to be aware of that discovery.
At $80, you’re not anticipating a lot from the SOCL’s sound, and admittedly, that’s about what you get right here. Once more, in contrast to TCL’s LED shows, nothing concerning the SOCL’s sound stands above the group or screams out “worth decide!”
Let me be clear after I say that sound isn’t outright unhealthy. It’s clear and comparatively balanced, with some punchy bass on the low finish of the spectrum. However the treble sounds lots like how the plastic case feels: Flimsy.
The worst offenses include sharper, brighter devices like trumpets or percussion, providing a flat chew to the assault and an absence of resonance that tended to grate on my ears over time. Snare drums and cymbals are significantly tinseled, often edging on distortion.
On the brilliant facet, name high quality is mostly fairly good. Callers are clear and current, and on the opposite finish, nobody had points listening to me in my check calls.
Whereas I’ll reserve a full verdict till after I’ve spent extra time with these earbuds, TCL’s first providing are a good, if underwhelming addition to the teems of true wi-fi earbuds already in the marketplace. Their 6.5 hours of battery life and water resistance give them a leg up over many low-priced fashions, however spending as little as $20 extra on value-packed buds like 1More’s Fashionable will yield extra satisfying outcomes — particularly in case you maintain sound high quality in excessive esteem.
The TCL SOCL500TWS earbuds can be launched someday in January 2020.