REVIEW – True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds have been around since 2015 and have become a distinct market segment in consumer electronic devices. Now several models exist with built in noise cancellation including the Edifier TWS NB. I have a pair to review – read on to see what I think!
What is it?
The Edifier TWS NB true wireless earbuds are in-ear earbuds that connect wirelessly through Bluetooth to enable True Wireless Stereo (TWS). The earbuds also have active noise cancelling (ANC) which isolates outside noise. The ANC features are available with or without a connection to a Bluetooth audio source. Another mode available on these earbuds is an ambient sound mode, which passes audio picked up by the unit’s microphones to the in-ear speakers. This permits sounds in the user’s surroundings to be heard without removing the in-ear earbuds (which provide a decent amount of passive noise isolation). When the ambient mode is used in combination with audio playback the noise from the surroundings are mixed in so that the audio playback and the surroundings can both be heard. The Edifier TWS NB true wireless earbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 with Qualcomm CVC and aptX Technology so that phone calls made with the left earbud or both earbuds.
What’s in the box?
- Edifier TWS NB earbuds
- Charger case
- USB A to USB C charging cable
- A set of small and large ear wings
- A set of small and large foam tips
- A set of small, medium and large silicone tips
- User manual
- safe use warning
- Feed-Forward Active Noise Cancellation technology from AMS
- Bluetooth 5.0 with Qualcomm CVC and aptX Technology
- Supports HFP, HSP, A2DP, and AVRCP profiles
- 20 Hz – 20 kHz range
- 94 dB sensitivity
- 32Ω Impedance
- Laser Direct Structuring antenna.
- 10 m (33 ft) range
- 5-hour ANC playback and 11 hours playback with the ANC off.
- 3 full charge reserve in the case
- Ambient sound monitoring
- Graphene 13 mm speakers
- App supported
Design and features
The Edifier TWS NB true wireless earbuds come in a sleeved box. The front of the sleeve shows two views of the earbuds The back shows features and specifications. The bottom of the sleeve shows trademark and compliance statements. The box inside of the sleeve is made from rigid cardboard. The top of the box shows the Edifier name and logo. The inside of the box shows the rear of the earbuds through a foam sheet printed with smooth contour lines suggesting the flow of sound and music. The charging case and earbuds are secured in a foam cutout. The spare parts and paper printouts are in a box stored above the foam.
The earbuds automatically power on when they are removed from the case and power off when they are returned to the case. A manual power off can be achieved by pressing the button on the top for seven seconds. Even if the earbuds are turned off before being placed in the case they will start charging as soon as the charging contacts are engaged. A single press of the button will restore power. Each side must be powered on and off independently.
The Edifier TWS NB true wireless earbuds are in a pairing mode as soon as they are removed from the case for the first time and will pair with the last Bluetooth device that they have connected to automatically. The Edifier TWS NB true wireless earbuds only support pairing to one device at a time and so switching between several Bluetooth enabled devices (such as a laptop, phone, and office desk phone) will require connecting and disconnecting the earbuds from each device. To reset the Bluetooth state the button can be pressed for five seconds while the earbud is in the charging case.
The Edifier Connect app is available for iOS and Android and permits you to do everything that can be done with the buttons except it also the headphone LED indicator to be turned on and off and also has a sleep timer for 10, 20 30, 60 or 90 minutes.
The size and shape of the TWS NB is on the larger side. The boom on to which the ear tips fit ends at a rounded dome that sits inside the concha cavum. The distance between the dome and the most outward-facing side of the earbud is 7/8 inch. This article states the average distance to the intertragal notch is 10 mm, so on average, the earbuds will stick out of your ear about a half-inch. That’s about the measurement of the exposed portion of the buds when I’m wearing them. I guess I have average-sized ears!
I didn’t find the large size of these a drawback but I was conscious of making sure that I didn’t take a shirt off over my head while wearing them. The most contact I had was putting on and removing the loops of a facemask, worn during the COVID-19 outbreak. I had to make sure that I didn’t brush up against the surface of the earpods. They stick out enough that sleeping on your side with them is impossible. Aesthetically, because of the two-tone design and because of the different shapes used, the earbuds don’t appear to stick out as much as they would if they were a solid black cylinder. An exploded view of the earbuds from the Chinese Edifier site shows a standard ICB inside. Apple folded the electronics of the iPod in half in order to get it to fit into the earbud design. Such designs cost money so perhaps Edifier was compromising the size of the units for price.
The portion of the earpod that fits into the ear is a cylinder made of black plastic. The top of the cylinder is capped in a champagne-gold truncated cylindrical wedge. There is a small black detail on the curved rear of the wedge that is printed with an “L” or “R”. The straight front of the champagne cap is a small window for an LED. There is a button on the top of the wedge which is used to control the earbuds. The most outward-facing part of the earbuds is a black plastic inlay with a small microphone port and the print of the Edifier logo. All the facets and the two-tone design give this a retro look. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is what the designers intended. Each earpod weighs about 9 grams.
The business end of these earbuds terminates with a 4 mm diameter post. To ensure users have a secure in-ear fit, Edifier supplies three sets of silicone eartips (S, M, L) as well as two pairs of earfins in different sizes. There are also two pairs of foam eartips, which typically offer the most secure seal and can sometimes deliver an enhanced bass response. I would use the largest earfins that fit in your ear so that the earbud does not rely on the pressure of the tip to support the earbud in the ear. There is no official statement from Edifier as to the ingress protection fo these earbuds so I would keep them as dry as possible.
When not in use the earbuds fit securely in the charging/storage case. The case is 86 x 23 x 67 mm. It’s a matte finish anodized aluminum that is the same color as the cap on the earbuds. The base is a plastic pedestal and has the model power and registration marks stamped on it. The rear of the case has a USB-C charging port and 4 battery indicators but the manual does not explain what each level represents. The top of the case hinges open with what feels like a very sturdy mechanism. The case design doesn’t seem to be optimized for portability. The boxy shape of the case does not lend itself well to being pocketed. On the flipside it looks great on a desk, but who uses TWS in just one place? Another drawback is that it is difficult to pick the earbuds out of the case. The inside of the case has hinges which hold the earbuds against the charging contacts that make negotiating the earbuds away from the contacts and out of the case challenging. This is exacerbated by the wide lip of lid blocking access to the inside.
Even though there is a growing trend of incorporating touch controls into consumer devices, I prefer the use of physical buttons on these earbuds. A physical button provide tactile feedback, lowers accidental touches, and can be used wearing gloves in the winter. A single quick tap toggles playback and manages phone calls. A longer press on the right ear plays the next track and a longer press on the left ear plays the previous track. A double tap on either ear switches between the ANC, Ambient, and ANC off modes. Pressing and holding when no music is playing summons your device’s voice assistant. If paired to a windows computer this will bring up Cortana. Unfortunately, there is no built-in support for changing the volume or mute.
The earbuds are charged each time they are put into the case. I feel this unfortunately means that the case trickle charges the earbuds when they are not in use. There are two truths to every rechargeable battery: batteries will discharge over time (even if there is no load on the cell), and batteries only have a finite number of discharge-recharge cycles before they stop holding a charge. When devices are trickle charged, the charge cycles continue to accrue without really using the battery. This has the effect of shortening the playback time and overall lifespan of the battery. I wish that the charger had a switch on it that would disable the charging feature. Personally, I cover the electrodes on the earbuds with a bit of post-it until the evening and then recharge them.
As stated earlier, the Edifier TWS NB true wireless earbuds have a couple of operational inconveniences. The left earbud is the main earbud. That means that the right earbud will not function without the left earbud in place and only the left earbud is used for recording sound using the microphone. The right earbud will function if the left is in the storage case but a charging earbud cannot function. The other main issue is that there are no volume controls. The LEDs on the sides of the unit are big and bright. I felt like an airplane with wing strobes while walking through the house at night while listening to music. Smaller indicators would work just as well.
The earbuds blink green when using ambient/transparency mode or ANC and blue when neither of these features is used. The LEDs are red while charging and turn off when fully charged.
The earbuds stay in the ears if the correct earfin is used and jerky motion is kept to a minimum. This means you can forget skipping rope or jogging in these but walking and eating seem to be acceptable activities.
The battery on the case took almost exactly 3 hours to charge. The case only draws a quarter of an amp so a high wattage charger won’t speed the charging process. This test was performed with the case empty and drained. After it was charged I installed an earbud and continued charging. Each earbud takes about an hour to charge and consumes another 100 mAh of power.
Discharging the earbuds was timed using my smartphone over an extended amount of listening sessions. From 13JUN2020 to 20JUN2020 the earbuds were listened to for almost 17 hours. Each row in the table below shows the amount of time the earbuds would play with ANC until the left earbud was empty. The first session was charged from the wall and the next two sessions were charged from the case. The last charge is incomplete because it emptied the charge stored in the case. The amount of time the earbuds play agrees with the times published by Edifier.
|1st Charge – case has full charge too||05:05|
|2nd charge – 1st recharge from case||05:11|
|3rd charge – 2nd recharge from case||05:03|
|4th charge – incomplete recharge from case||01:20|
The best place to test ANC is on an airplane. I didn’t have an opportunity to do this for a review but I did test them standing near a whole-house air-conditioner condenser while the fan was running. With the earbuds installed but with ANC off, there is already a fair bit of passive noise cancellation. Turning the ANC on reduced the whirl of the fan to a barely audible whisper. For feed-forward ANC, these earbuds perform very well. Another plus is that the ANC has an undetectable impact on the quality of the music being played. There didn’t appear to be any drop out of the bass or addition of a hiss.
The range of the Bluetooth signal is also very impressive. It is dependant on the surroundings but in most cases, it is stable well over the stated maximum of 33 feet.
I usually listen to a few songs when reviewing audio. For this review, I listed to Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. At the start of the album, there is a crescendo of sound. The TWS NB’s don’t pick up on these as well as the KZ ZS6 Quad Driver High Fidelity Extra Bass Hifi In Ear Earphone Detachable Cable (Grey with Mic). The drums and bass that come in at 4:32 are a little too overpowering. In general, it sounds like the bass is about twice as loud as it is using the other headphones. However, even at high volumes the bass never sounds distorted. The highs of the guitar at 6:11 don’t seem as pronounced when listening with the TWS NBs. The laughter at 8:51 isn’t as startling as it should be and the backing vocals at 9:30 are almost unperceivable. The high hats at 11:11 are not as well defined as they should be. It seems that the bass is so boosted that some of the mids and highs suffer. To complicate matters, it seems the highs are actually not as responsive as they should be. Most of the time the audio response coming out of the TWS NBs is fine, but it isn’t Hi-Fi.
I didn’t perceive any delay while watching videos on YouTube because of the low latency AAC codec.
The recorded speech from the earbuds, for either telephone or microphone is passable but not fantastic. Here is another recording. A bit of echoing and a bit of distortion from being so close to the microphone is detectable. The recording for audio is mono – the right earbud does not record. Talking with the ambient mode on has the benefit of not causing a muffled sound while speaking as described here.
What I like
- Great ANC
- Excellent passive noise isolation that works without ANC
- Affordable price for ANC earbuds
What I’d change
- Match bass response on the high end
- Bulky construction
- No built-in volume controls
- No way to control trickle charging inside case
I have been critical of TWS for a long time because of the fear that I’ll be using them and they will fall into a puddle or that I’ll drop them at night and never find them again. Even though the Edifier TWS NB doesn’t have an IPX8 rating or a find mode, they are still very good earbuds. If you can tolerate the way that they stick out of your ears they are very good at reducing ambient noise. Although fans of instrumental strings may find the soundscape lacking, they are still very good for listening to most other genres of music. For the price, it is hard to find other TWS with ANC. if you like your peace and quiet without wires pick up a pair today. If you can be a little more patient, Edifier silently released the TWS NB2 on 01JUN2020. If I get my hands on these I’ll let you know of the improvements that they have made.