Yamaha’s TW-E5B True Wireless Headphones ($149.95) are pretty rare in their simplicity; they don’t have a particularly sports-focused design or feature active noise cancellation (ANC). Instead, the cornerstone is primarily the audio experience. And we’re happy with the balanced yet sculpted sound signature, powerful Bluetooth codec support, and adjustable five-band EQ in the companion app. These are an ideal pair for home listening, although they can also work in a pinch for practice sessions due to their modest waterproof rating. If you want a little more from your headphones, the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless ($179.99) is a nice alternative with ANC and strong audio chops. The Editors’ Choice winner Anker Soundcore Space A40 ($99.99) offers a wider set of features for a little less money.
Premium design, surprising codec support
Available in black, white, blue, or brown, the TW-E5B earbuds are relatively large and fit well without earbuds. The exterior panels feature a crosshatched textured surface along with the Yamaha tuning fork logo. The box includes four pairs of silicone tips in different sizes. These should stay in your ears during more vigorous activity, like running, but other pairs are much better suited for exercise.
(Credit: Tim Gideon)
Internally, the 7mm dynamic drivers provide a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz. The headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.2 and support AAC, AptX Adaptive and SBC Bluetooth codecs. Many competing in-ear headphones only work with AAC or AptX, so we like that versatility.
Both the left and right earbuds have push-button controls on their top edges – one button sits on the left earbud and two reside on the right one. Left earbud button manages playback (single press), toggles ambient sound mode (double press), and handles calls (long press). The controls on the right earcup are for volume (single press) and track navigation (double press). We’re generally not a fan of combining these two functions on the same button – it’s far too easy to accidentally skip a track when you want to adjust the volume – but we like that volume control is an option at all. The two small buttons on the right earcup can also be a bit tricky to spot by touch. Capacitive touchscreens could have been a more graceful solution overall.
The IPX5 water resistance rating is modest for headphones without active noise cancellation – many similarly priced (and much cheaper) models have fully waterproof builds. Jabra’s Elite 7 Pro ($199.99) and Elite 7 Active ($179.99) are suitable alternatives if you need a more durable design; both models sport an IP57 and ANC rating. Either way, this Yamaha pair can withstand splashes and jets of modest water pressure from all directions. You simply cannot immerse the earbuds or clean them under a faucet. The note also doesn’t apply to the charging case, so be sure to dry the earbuds completely before docking them.
The charging case is a bit bulky and does not offer any particular advantages to compensate for its size. The design is at least good-looking – the flip-top lid sports the same textured surface as the earcups. The rear panel houses a USB-C port for the included USB-A to USB-C cable.
Yamaha estimates that the TW-E5B headphones can last about eight and a half hours per charge, and the case provides an additional 21.5 hours of battery life. Your results will vary depending on your typical listening volume level.
Yamaha app experience
The Yamaha Headphone Control app (available for Android and iOS) is easy to use and well-designed: you can download firmware updates, check the user guide, and customize (or disable) the auto-off feature here. The main screen shows an estimated battery life for each earbud and an adjustable five-band equalizer. We wish you could save equalizer presets, but we’re glad a customizable equalizer is available. Finally, you can also activate the Listening Care function – at lower volumes it adjusts the sound signature to emphasize certain frequencies (usually the bass) that sound quieter.
In the app, you can also switch between ambient sound and gaming modes (the latter reduces latency). There’s nothing spectacular about the app, but all the important options are present: an adjustable equalizer, firmware updates and some basic control settings.
Excellent and balanced sound
We tested the TW-E5B headphones with the EQ set to neutral and the Listening Care DSP feature turned off. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the pair deliver plenty of low-frequency rumble without going overboard; nor do the speakers distort, even at maximum listening levels. If you want an extra rumble, you can always dial in the bass via the in-app equalizer.
(Credit: Tim Gideon)
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with much shallower bass in the mix, gives us a better idea of the headphones’ overall sonic signature. The drums on this track get some extra bass depth. They sound round and full, but never veer into unnaturally thunderous territory. Callahan’s baritone voice boasts a balanced blend of low-mid richness and high-mid crispness, while percussive hits and high-register acoustic strums have a bright, detailed presence. The sculpting and boost across the frequency range is noticeable, but we like the end result: rich bass response and solid high-frequency clarity.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop is given the perfect high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punch. Meanwhile, the hiss and crackle of vinyl in the background takes a slight step forward in the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat come through with serious depth, as does the drum loop. However, those powerful basses don’t overpower the balance of the mix. The vocals on this track feature ideal clarity – they sound crisp without too much extra sibilance.
Orchestral tracks, such as John Adams’ opening scene The Gospel According to the Other Mary, excellent sound. The lower register instrumentation gets an appropriate amount of bass presence – its subtle anchoring role doesn’t seem overdone here – and the upper register horns, strings and vocals are wonderfully detailed and clear.
The quality of the microphone is good but not too impressive. We could understand every word of a test recording from our iPhone, but noticed Bluetooth audio artifacts in the signal. Still, you shouldn’t have any issues with calls over a reliable cellular connection.
The Yamaha TW-E5B headphones offer a great audio experience for the price, and support a solid range of Bluetooth codecs. They might even offer the best sound of any in-ear headphone in the sub-$150 segment. You just have to forego active noise cancellation and high-end levels of durability. As mentioned, we’re also fans of the full-featured Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless and Anker Soundcore Space A40, both of which have active noise cancellation. And, if you don’t want to spend on Jabra’s more expensive fitness models, the Jabra Elite 3 ($79) is a great no-frills alternative for about half the price of the Yamaha pair.
The Yamaha TW-E5B headphones lack extra features, but offer solid Bluetooth codec support and high-quality audio performance for the price.
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