When shopping for a new pair of earbuds, consumers have a lot of choices to make. How should they sound? How do they feel? What features do they need? We all enjoy our music in different ways. From the style of music you enjoy to activities you do while listening, there are many factors that will change your answers to these questions.
Headphones are a very personal possession. When they adequate meet all of your criteria, they offer countless hours of enjoyment. But if they fail to live up to your expectations in any small way, you’ll find yourself searching for a new pair.
Manufacturers sell their headphones by telling you what they can do. But the question you should be asking is “who are they for?” We’ve tested the LiteXim TW-18 in a variety of aspects to help you answer this question.
LiteXim produces electronics and peripherals for a wide variety of applications, but they’re best known for their headphones. Although they’re significantly cheaper than name-brand solutions, the audio quality is usually superior to alternatives in this price bracket.
The TW-18’s aren’t their first truly wireless earbud, but the latest model offers improvements to both comfort and battery life. These are the most common complaints about true wireless headphones, so we were excited to see how LiteXim addressed these problems.
Ergonomics & Portability
Bluetooth headphones usually fall into one of three categories. Over-the-ear headphones look like a more traditional set of cans. With large drivers held in place by a wide headband, these are the least portable options. However, they often have the best sound quality and superior battery life.
Wireless earbuds fit inside the ear canal, offering superior portability. In spite of the name, they still have a single wire connecting the left earbud to the right. This design offers more flexibility than over-the-ear headphones, but still restricts movement.
True Wireless earbuds are the latest design, offering complete freedom from wires of all kinds. From a technical standpoint, you’re actually buying two separate earbuds. Each has their own battery, processor, and receiver. Because there’s no cable running behind their neck, many consumers prefer true wireless designs when performing athletic activities. But this platform has one key disadvantage. Since each earbud needs it’s own batteries, true wireless options are larger and heavier than other types of earbuds. Many consumers find that the extra weight allows it to slip out of the ear, making it hard to enjoy music during a workout.
The TW-18’s are larger than many options, but their unique design compensates for any disadvantages this would cause. A plastic wing slips in top of your ear, holding the earbud in place. This keeps them secure and reduces pressure on the ear canal. This wing is very flexible, and features a small strand of wire inside. The wire gives it a lot of elasticity. It can adapt to different ear shapes and sizes, but holds itself in place during use.
Anyone performing high intensity athletic activity can benefit from this design. They’re less likely to fall out than other models, and they feel comfortable in the ear.
True wireless earbuds have to pack twice as much hardware into half the space. The battery is the largest component in an earbud, so this is usually the first compromise made. Many models can be used for only two hours before needing a recharge.
The first solution to this problem was a battery case. This is a simple plastic carrying case that has a large lithium-ion battery inside. You would charge the case up, which would then be able to charge the earbuds one or two times. Consumers might get five to ten hours of usage out of the complete system, but they’ve have to place the earbuds back in the case whenever they needed a top up.
With the TW-18, LiteXim has done away with the battery case. Rated for 5 hours, these new earbuds have twice the capacity as their predecessors. In our tests, we found that the actual battery life depends heavily on your usage.
At volumes below 30%, we had no problem getting the advertised capacity. At 50%, we’d only get 4 hours. If you’ve got them cranked all the way up, we barely reached 3.5 hours. Surprisingly, they were extremely efficient in standby. They lasted over two days sitting on our dresser, so forgetting to turn them off won’t render them unusable. When you do need to charge, you can plug them into any standard USB port. They only take 1.5 hours to charge, so every 10 minutes on the charger gives you roughly 25 minutes of usage.
If you need your earbuds to last through a single extended session, the TW-18’s provide 1.5 to 2 times the useful life of models that use a battery case. But if you prefer multiple short listening sessions, a battery case would give you more total usable time without having access to an outlet.
With a feature called “True bass HD”, we expected these earbuds to sound like something produced by Beats Audio. Bass heavy earbuds are extremely popular in fitness, as the sound signature gives you that kick you need to power through another rep.
In reality, our expectations weren’t exactly accurate. Bass was strong, but it wasn’t the focal point of the entire sound signature. It had a lot volume, but it remained fairly articulate. Instead of that melodic, punchy bassline plodding along, we lower frequencies were more of an accent to the other tones. Both the highs and the mids integrated with each other smoothly, producing something that sounded surprisingly cohesive.
This unique sound signature is ideal for many types of music, but won’t be for everyone. It’s great for enjoying details of complex tracks, and for enjoying the harmonic nature of instrumentals. It doesn’t have that “in your face” aggression of many athletic headphones, instead opting for a more neutral sound signature.
Beyond listening to music, the TW-18’s provide a few key features that we’ve come to expect from modern earbuds. They’ve got a built in omnidirectional microphone, allowing you to take hands-free calls. A slim button along the top of the enclosure gives you the ability to answer or hang up a call. This button is easy to find, so you won’t struggle to pick up a call while you’re on the road.
If you’re going to be taking a lot of hands-free calls, the wireless design offers a key advantage over any other design. If you like, you can only use one at a time. This allows them to replace a modern earpiece, which is typically used exclusively for calls and rarely for music.
With Bluetooth 4.1, these earbuds are using the latest standard available. Compared to other standards, 4.1 has two main advantages: range and sound quality. Audio is sent uncompressed, so there is no digital noise or transcoding delays that you might get with older earbuds.
Even though Bluetooth 4.1 has the potential to travel over longer distances, you won’t see much of a difference with the TW-18’s. They’ve got a 25-meter range, which is more than enough for day to day use. LiteXim turned down the power of the transmitter in order to reduce power consumption. This explains how they improved the battery life, but it means that this isn’t the best choice if you want to walk around your house while streaming audio from a laptop.
With true wireless earbuds, having each bud function separately from the other is a handy feature to have. On the TW-18’s, this feature is a little more limited than other models. You only have two options: you can use both, or you can use the left.
The only visual difference between the left and right earbud is a small indicator on the back side. If you pick up the right and try to pair it, you’ll end up connecting both in stereo mode. If you planned on lending an earbud to a friend or taking hands-free calls from your right ear, these aren’t the best option out there.
By taking a unique approach to the wireless earbud design, LiteXim successfully addressed some of the biggest design flaws. Overall, there are three key advantages to the TW-18’s. They sit securely in your ear, they’ve got a neutral sound signature, and they can be used for longer before needing to be recharged.
This makes the TW-18 Earbuds ideal for a specific type of consumer. If you enjoy indie or acoustic music, the unique sound signature will be more enjoyable. If you need more than 2.5 hours of use in between recharges, this direct-charge design is better than a battery case. Additionally, if you listen to music while working out or commuting, the memory-metal ear band will help keep them in place.
Don’t meet all of the criteria? Check out our review of the Best True Wireless Earbuds on the market. There are plenty of options that have the same level of portability, so you can focus on choosing the design that best suits your needs.