Hifiman are well known in the audiophile community for their planar magnetic headphones. However, they also have a well-regarded range of IEM’s and earphones. Coming in at around $99-$200 depending on where and when they are purchased, the Hifiman TWS600 are Hifiman’s first foray into the true wireless space.
Full disclosure, Hifiman sent these over to me for my honest review. This is pretty exciting for me as this is the first time any company has sent me anything to review. However, I’m obviously not going to let that affect my opinion. So let’s get into it and take a look.
The Hifiman TWS600 comes with 9 different pairs of silicone tips so there should be something here for everyone. There are 5 different sizes and shapes of single flange tips, 3 different sizes of dual flange tips and a single pair of triple flange tips.
Comfort is obviously very personal but it is good enough for me, however, the earpieces themselves are fairly bulky. The inside face of the earpieces are shaped for a good fit, however, there are no hoops or lips to hook into your ear. The outside is a little blocky and bulky, but I have certainly seen larger earphones, this is probably on the larger end of medium-sized. For these reasons, the secure fit in your ears is quite reliant on a good fit with the tips as the bodies of the earpieces themselves simply rest in or slightly outside of your ears and they don’t have a particularly ergonomic shape. This isn’t a problem when you have a tight and secure fit with the tips, but for a looser fit, as you might get with foam tips, they may not fit quite so securely. I’m not sure I would feel so confident working out wearing these using foam tips, however, with the supplied silicone tips I was able to achieve a good tight seal. I would like to see a much more ergonomic shape to fit into your ears more compactly and securely.
Appearance-wise they have a rather aggressive or sci-fi sort
of look to them, especially when the star-spiral-shaped LED is on, which
changes between red and blue depending on the current state of charging or
pairing. This may be a love it or hate it thing for a lot of people. However,
the LED does not operate during normal use and apart from their relative
bulkiness, they do look rather understated when the LED is off.
The case is fairly compact with a rounded shape that fits in the hand quite nicely. The lid is held closed magnetically and the earpieces themselves are also held in place magnetically. Inside there is a battery indicator to show how much charge is left in the case. One complaint I do have about the case is the space for larger ear tips. The earpieces will not always fit into the case and charge properly with larger tips which is a bit of an oversight and can be quite annoying. This is something that I think should be improved in a future version.
The controls are pretty standard, a single press to play/pause or answer/end a call. A touch tap to change volume, and a triple tap to move track forwards or backwards. However, I find the controls to be a bit of a pain. The button is right over the ear canal and to press them means pushing the earpiece further into your ear. This can be quite uncomfortable when you have a tight seal due to the pressure in your ear. I’m not a big fan of this and I think Hifiman could improve this by using a touch control ideally with gesture support in a future version. However, personally speaking, I tend to find it easier to just use the controls on my phone whenever I use any wireless headphone, the chances are my phone is in my hand anyway.
Pairing is pretty simple, pair the left to the device and the right will pair to the left. However, both individual earpieces can be paired to the device opening up the option for mono mode using a single earpiece. Using the left earpiece in mono is as simple as removing the left and keeping the right in the case. Switching back to stereo is as simple as then removing the right earpiece. However, using the right earpiece in mono takes an extra step. One must remove the right earpiece, leaving the left in the case. Then you must press and hold the button to power cycle the right earpiece, it will then after a few seconds pair to the device in mono mode.
The Hifiman TWS600 operates over Bluetooth 5.0 with a range of up to 50m however Hifiman did test these in an open field up to 150m. This is, of course, a fun experiment and not particularly relevant to real-world use, however it is certainly impressive. For my part, I found I was able to move around my entire flat leaving my phone in one room and not get a single dropout, which is more range than I will ever need. As for codec support, they can use CVSD,mSBC,SBC,AAC, however, unfortunately, they do not support AptX which I think is a real shame and is something I would like to see in any future versions.
Battery life is a pretty average 5.5 hours. The case holds a further 33 hours or 6 full charges for a total of 38.5 hours. This is really rather decent all in. The earpieces can be recharged in one hour and the case takes just 1.5 hours to charge. Charging is done using a USB-C connector which is good to see and should be the standard in 2020.
Call quality is pretty decent and about as expected, however a little quiet I think. No one I spoke to had any complaints with my audio during phone calls. However, Hifiman does recommend removing one earpiece and talking directly into it in noisy environments.
Back to the topology driver. This is an 8.5mm dynamic driver with a special coating which is applied at different thicknesses and patterns throughout the diaphragm allowing Hifiman to tune these drivers to their specific desired characteristics. This is the same technology that is in use in Hifimans other much more high-end earphones and the TWS600 are the first true wireless earphone to feature this technology.
The Hifiman TWS600 comes with a little card advising that the topology driver requires a specific burn-in period of 10-20 hours before maximum performance is achieved. Whatever one’s personal feelings about burn-in, I’m not sure if this had much of a difference to the sound. However, in the interests of fairness, I did give them plenty of time to break-in.
The Hifiman TWS600 is a rather interesting earphone, with a sound signature unlike anything I’ve heard before. I actually planned to have this video done a few weeks ago but it took me quite a while of listening and thinking about what I was hearing to come to a conclusion with these.
First up the good stuff, soundstage is really quite excellent. They almost sound like an open earphone, rather than a closed in-ear monitor style. There is an excellent sense of space and width. Imaging is not quite as good but it is quite decent. There is a decent amount of depth and separation too.
The overall sound signature is rather interesting. The bass is rather light, the treble restrained and the mids, particularly the upper mids are quite forward. This is not a sound signature I have heard in many if any other headphone before.
Bass is light, very light. Sub-bass is rolled off and low bass is weak. However, what bass there is, is rather detailed and articulate. Basslines are there, quiet but distinguishable in the mix. However, bass does lack authority and weight, but it could be said that what it lacks in authority it makes up for in detail. For my personal tastes, I would prefer to see a much stronger, more present bass performance than this. They do leave you wanting for genres such as EDM and hip-hop.
Lower midrange is excellent, but in fact, this is a very mid-forward sound signature. Vocals are decently forwards. However, there is a tendency to be rather shouty in the upper mids perhaps due to the energy in the 1-2kHz region. For the most part, the low-mid mids are fairly detailed, providing excellent instrumental separation and clarity, especially for genres such as jazz as evident by the superb reproduction of saxophone, guitar and piano. And whilst I did say the bass was light, that is also often the case with jazz, and the detail provided by the Hifiman TWS600 suits the jazz drums and double bass perfectly. Lovers of Charles Mingus, this might be the TWS for you.
Treble is quite restrained, without a hint of harshness. Upper treble, in particular, is quite rolled off, meaning there isn’t quite as much sparkle. However overall this relaxed treble makes them respectfully non-fatiguing. This is actually close to my preferred treble response for a more casual earphone. Although it could be said that the upper midrange is somewhat overpowering.
Overall this is a rather interesting sound signature and perhaps an acquired taste. For my own personal tastes, I much prefer a warmer and more bassy signature, like the HD650 for example. If Hifiman could tweak these to bring the low end up and some of that upper mid shout down they would be on to a winner. This is not a sound signature for the masses. However if you do appreciate a mid-forward sound signature, one that excels in clarity and detail in the lower end, especially if genres such as jazz are your bag, then the Hifiman TWS600 could be worth a look.