HiFiMan TWS 800 Truly Wireless Earbuds – has True Wireless come of age?
Pros: Sound – much improved from TWS 600
Fit – shape looks bulky and heavy – but, even with my flat feet, they stay in!
Looks – one word – bling
Convenience – yes, TWS are extremely portable
Cons: Bass light – needs foam tip, but none included
Controls – call me a technophobe, but am struggling with the presses on the shells
HiFiman’s TWS 800 have been sent to me as a review sample. I write this to you with my own opinion and nothing more. I have read no other articles on these as is my preference for all things I review. Other than researching the technical information and reading the instructions supplied I come to you with fresh ears, unspoilt by the opinions of others.
About the TWS 800
This is HiFiMan’s 2nd TWS model. Their 1st, the TWS 600, is still on sale, and, if you’re lucky, may be at a heavily discounted price from it’s debut at $199. The TWS 600, and TWS 800, are based on the drivers in the RE600 and RE800 IEMs. There have been adjustments made to the tuning and (I believe) there may be a sprinkling of some magic dust on the TWS 800 at least. In the official wording this is known as a nano particle coating. TWS stands for truly wireless.No cables are evident, at all, in a TWS design. TWS earbuds have a charging case. The case for the TWS 800 will recharge the 6 times before the case needs recharging. The earbuds are charged by placing them into the left and right cradles.
The retail price of the TWS 800 is $299. It is a bluetooth 5.0 model. The 1st HiFiMan TWS, the 600, it is fair to say, created some controversy. Although it looked snazzy in it’s alien egg shaped charging case, and was easy to use, the sound signature was considered to be thin and harsh. EQing naturally hid some of the blemishes; these do have the foundations of a pretty decent driver, but for occasions when that wasn’t possible, the people suffered. The shape of the TWS600 meant that I had to readjust them constantly when I took them out for a run. In the end I came up with a solution; I found some old hybrid foam tips and some silicon wings that fitted around the outside edge of the shells. I managed to draw out the good points of the sound signature and kept them in my ears. The sound became vivid even when out running. Bass was still fairly light but with effort, yep, I could hear something happening behind the scenes.
Myself and a few others complained bitterly about our experiences. HiFiMan listened, inwardly digested, furrowed their brows, and set to work in their R&D department. From the ashes of the TWS 600 came the TWS 800. So what, if anything, has changed? The 800 has an upgraded driver. It is based on the RE800 IEM.
The TWS 600 is based on the somewhat lesser, but still pretty competent RE600.
I’m hoping you get my drift here. We have the brain of a $599 IEM inside the 800, but the TWS 600 has a pairing that reflects its price much more accurately. Having found this information out, I hope I too, have whetted your appetite. There is surely more potential for excellence in the TWS 800 before they are plucked from the safety of the cardboard outer.
The TWS 800 is not a plastic affair like the TWS 600. It’s metal construction adds to the weight and prestige. HiFiMan state that the materials they’ve used will reduce distortion and raise the frequency response. The TWS 800 is an altogether more sizable affair than the 600. It has a larger bluetooth module and amp than its predecessor. The size has been cunningly disguised. The shape of the TWS 800 brings a modern look to the HiFiMan in ear range. The TWS 600 had an elegant oval shape. It was not a great fit for my ears. The shape doesn’t conform to the contours of the outer ear and so it relied on the eartip having a decent relationship with the ear canal entrance to stay in place. Not so with the TWS 800. The shape of the 800 conforms closely to the concha, or middle part of the ear, the bit where you put the driver shells into.
The tuning of the 800 truly wireless has been done more sympathetically. There is now a less analytical feel to the sound signature compared to the younger brother. Technically everything is better inside; so although we have here a more fun and less edgy sounding earbud, we still have some finesse as would be expected with a driver that can dig out more detail.
Build quality,accessories & cosmetic appeal
The TWS 800 construction has been well thought through. The TWS 600 needs the right earbud to be switched on after it comes out of the charging case in order for it to pair with the left. Otherwise you just get sound from the 1 earbud. With the 800, as soon as you take the buds from the case, they pair with each other and with your phone. so far, that is 100% take it to the bank reliable for me. The case has a deeper recess than the alien egg case (which I love the look of) that comes with the 600. The charging pins will align themselves more readily and reliably with the TWS 800, even with larger ear tips on.
This is a picture showing the case and the buds in place and being charged. The blue status indicates the left bud is charged; the right bud is being temporarily recharged. In the centre and at the back of the case and harder to spot in the photo, are a series of orange dots. They indicate the charge left in the case. 4 dots is full and 1 dot is 25% charge left.
As is usual with the minimalism of the TWS tech, there are no buttons to be seen anywhere on the TWS 800. The operation of them is via a series of taps. 1 tap, the most common thing you’ll be using, is play\pause and answer\end any phone calls you recieve. The more intricate stuff; 2 on the left for lower volume 2 on the right for more, 3 on the left for last track 3 on the right for next track; suffice it to say, on the run I find it a struggle. On the TWS 600 I was able to do this whilst I was out running. Who knows? It’s probably just me. The taps do work; all I’m saying is, more often than not, the 800 thinks I want to pause my music.
As for the build quality, mine work fine, they’re made with no issues that I can see. The bit that sits in the concha of the ear, the main bit, has the feel of a rubberised plastic with a bit of grip to it. I applaud that, because it’s gonna keep these big things in and there’s no metal to burn you when it’s going in there on hot summer days, which will hopefully be back before we know it.
The box opened. Leaving aside the inner white and outer black felt at the back of the picture, we have the case, the warranty card, a bag of tips, a USB C charging cable and an instruction leaflet. I have forgotten to include the black felt bag for the case in this picture. The case is very shiny, and will need the bag if you take it with you, because it will scratch easily.
These are the tips supplied. The best fit I got was with the 4th set going from left to right, interestingly exactly the ones I use for the RE2000 Silver IEMs from HiFiMan. In use, if they were pushed too far into the ear canal I’d get a flex noise from them. They could be reinserted with less depth and would still stay in, much to my surprise. The tips supplied didn’t give the impression of much bass at all. I had a rummage around and found that a set of Comply Foam Tips gave a decent amount of bass and were much more snug in my ear canal. The seal was such that outside noise was attenuated to near inaudible when on the streets. When using the treadmill I could enjoy classical music without being overly put off by either my flat feet or my breathing. With the tips supplied I found it hard to concentrate on quieter pieces of music.
The look of the TWS 800 is all about bling. It is shiny. Oh yes. There are curves where flatness could have been used. The case is a shining example of that. The smooth flatness is there to accentuate the look of the earbuds and it also serves to hide some of the fatness of the driver housing underneath. I am a fan of the aesthetics. Many of the portable HiFiMan products are a bit dated in their looks, but the TWS 800 are more in tune with what’s happening now. As a caveat this is shiny enough that it is prone to scratches, don’t drop them! The TWS 600 has that advantage. Yes, they have a plastic construction, but the case and shells on them are scratch resistant.
The shortcomings of the sq on the TWS 600 have been largely taken care of, thanks to the better drivers, amp, bluetooth module and housing. The lack of harshness and overall poise in the sound signature of the TWS 800 made me realise just how serious HiFiMan are in this new market sector. I can state that there is a definite hifi quality to these. The codecs that the TWS sector can accommodate are still lossy, SRC and AAC rather than APTx and LDAC, but in practice I didn’t feel like I was hearing much less. When there were occasions that I was just sat down quietly listening to the TWS 800 during the course of the past 3 weeks I felt they could hold their own with their wired cousins, or at least not be trailing a long way behind them. We are not talking like for like between these and a set of wired $299 IEM’s. If your interest is value for money above all else, then there are many more better sounding options out there. But take them out on a run, or take them to the gym, then you begin to realise what a necessary luxury the TWS really is.
The bass is lacking with the tips supplied. It is a shortcoming of the potential of the TWS 800, and I achieved a decent, tight bass response by adding some Comply Foams. With a reputation for a boosted bass signature and a dip in the upper frequency range. The mids and highs were none the worse off for this coupling but my ears were thankful for a touch of extra warmth.
The TWS 800 needed to be different from their earlier cousin, the TWS 600, to succeed. so have they managed it? To a great extent, they have. The things look better, sound better and operate with more efficiency and reliability. The case can get scratched more easily than plastic. The bass is too light without foamies and the tapping is difficult to get the hang of, when you’re on a run at least. This is an altogether different kettle of fish from the 600. It sounds much smoother and classier, and can hold its own with wired models, not £ for £, but it sounds like something a headfier would be satisfied with, particularly on the move. Once you’re out running on the open road the stakes are raised even higher; this is a decent sounding TWS that has eliminated any cable noise and has a great deal of isolation. It may even become an excuse to get out there for a walk, a run, a trip to the gym. If it does that, then your money has been well spent indeed.