STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ excellent voice reproduction
+ highly detailed resolution
+ Lot of drive, dynamics and ambience
+ Real buttons instead of touch operation
- Upper bass partly a bit too dominant
- Wearing comfort somewhat limited depending on ear canal
Sound: Tonal Balance / Transparency9
Sound: Bass / Dynamics9.2
Ease-of-Use / Connectivity8.2
Price / Performance8.5
For a young generation of music lovers, true wireless ear buds often are the first products to offer an experience of high-quality music reproduction. The market is therefore quite contested, so Japanese hi-fi specialist Yamaha is planning to launch an entire new series of in-ear headphones. Their Yamaha TW-E5B, which we had a chance of reviewing, are promising several cool features you might have never heard of, plus top-class sound quality for a retail price around 160 dollars. However, there is no noise-cancelling, a feature being exclusively offered in the more expensive top model TW-E7B.
So one thing is clear: this neat product has to compete with several rivals offering ANC, and advantages like a designated gaming mode, audiophile sound and excellent speech reproduction quality have to go a long way. In any case, you feel the aura of a highly desired gadget when unboxing the set: besides black and white, there are two decent colour alternatives (dark blue and brown). The buds themselves feel solid, yet lightweight. And they are housing real buttons instead of touch surfaces.
Lots of features, new ideas included
The ads for Yamaha´s TW-E5B introduce some buzzwords that even connoisseurs of the brand might fail to understand: Listening Care, True Sound and Ambient Sound. The latter could be translated as voice-through mode to pay attention to both traffic noise or announcements in airplanes/trains. Listening Care is a new word for kind of a loudness, designed for very low playback levels. Frequencies that might fall under the hearing threshold are slightly emphasized dynamically. This applies mainly to the lower bass region, but also to a lesser extent to the treble. However, the effect is rather subtle and really limited to very low levels.
With 8.5 hours of continuous use without recharging, the Yamaha is definitely among the leaders of its class. Calculating a few recharging cycles in the nicely rounded, but not quite handy case, it manages a total of 30 hours, which is absolutely sufficient even for intercontinental travellers.
Phone calls included
An array of multiple mics, a specially shaped and directional microphone channel, and the latest speech identification circuits made by Qualcomm are said to deliver a class-leading speech intelligibility.
Thanks to additional hardware, higher-quality codecs are included as well: Both aptX Adaptive and AAC are supported. In the Android world, it can be used to play music in high quality just like in the Apple world. With aptX, there is also a low-latency mode for gaming. Yamaha wants to avoid annoying time delays between video and sound.
The teardrop-shaped casing has to be inserted into the ear canal first, which might not always be that easy for people with smaller ear cups. Thanks to the slim attachment case, however, there is nothing to complain about once you have inserted the earbud using a kind of “push and turn” technique. In the Yamaha Headphone Control app a brief video tutorial might help beginners. Four different sizes of adaptors help to optimize fit.
Get thr real key touch!
The separated back chamber should also help the 7mm driver acoustically. The three buttons per offer a classic design and a noticeable pressure point. This is definitely an advantage over many True Wireless models just relying on touch surfaces. Depending on the OS of the connected device, the voice assistants from both Apple and Google are supported and activated by pressing the larger button on the right ear bud.
On the left, phone calls can be accepted or ended as well as music playback. On the right, the volume can also be controlled with the small and the large button, but this procedure definitely takes some time to get used to. You have to briefly tap the respective button once and wait until the playback level is synchronized with the device via Bluetooth. Clicking the small button twice skips a track. Doing the same with the big one replays the current track from the beginning, and holding down this elongated button for a second brings either Siri or Google Assistant into action.
Some of the new features are only available via app. It’s called Yamaha Headphone Control App – and should in no way be confused with the Yamaha Headphones Controller, which is not compatible to the TW-E5B! Besides activating loudness, there is also a battery level indicator and a 5-band equalizer.
Are Yamaha´s In-Ear True Wireless really audiophile?
First of all, the Yamaha TW-E5B offers a pleasing combination of high detail accuracy plus pretty dynamic voice reproduction. The result is a spacious, transparent sound image by in-ear standards. Solo voices in the center show a certain tendency of playing inside your head, but a generous, stable impression of reverb and ambience are created to either side. The nimble response to impulses and sparkling fine dynamics in the treble region also speak in favor to the yamahas. However, if you regularly listen to pop and rock recordings from the old days offering a somewhat questionable sound quality, they also expose all the details like a studio monitor, down to a slight hiss.
If the adaptors are not precisely inserted into the ear canals, bass remains thin and underexposed. In this case, it is essential to determine the correct size by trying them all. The correct adaptors can be recognized by the fact that the earphones really seal off the ear canals tightly, and the bass appears rich, deep and even somewhat dominant in the kick range. Depending on the genre, this can even be too much of a good thing and cause the voices to be dominated by the bass.
Take control of the bass via EQ
Adjusting the two lower bands of the in-app EQ (-2 steps for both bass and lower mids do the job) brings back tonal balance to the neutral side, but might also reduce the pure fun factor of the bass. So as a listener you have to decide whether unconditional joy or unconditional neutrality is your highest goal. For older recordings of popular music, however, the voicing seems to be ideal.
For some listeners during our test procedures, the ear tubes caused a slight feeling of pressure, which could affect the wearing comfort being excellent with all others who tried. So trial and error is what you might want to execute before purchasing Yamaha´s TW-E5B. And it is worth it as the natural, highly detailed and bass-rich sound seems to be perfect for long, intense listening without fatigue.
Conclusion and alternatives to the Yamaha TW-E5B
Everyone who is in the market for True Wireless Earbuds in the price range of max. 150 dollars has to make a decision first: How important is noise cancelling? JBL´s Tue 230NC or Panasonic´s TZ-S500W both offer ANC at a lower price point. The JBL comes with an even juicier beat in the lowest octaves and was even more comfortable to wear in some reviewers’ ears. The Yamaha on the other hand offers a more neutral tonal-balanced, nuanced voice reproduction and a far better staging/ambience. The Panasonic master noise-canceling to perfection and sound a bit softer and drier than the Yamaha´s. The non-ANC modell is justifying its higher price with playfulness, space and audiophile timbre in the treble region.
Specs Yamaha TW-E5B
- Retail price: 160 dollars
- Weight: 6.5 g (each)
- Features: AAC and aptX adaptive codecs, IPX5 waterproof, app control.
- More at yamaha.com