EPOS GTW270 Wireless Gaming Buds Review
Review edited 31/5/21 (for purpose of addressing connectivity issues and Firmware update)
Headset Firmware: 7.3.55
Dongle Firmware: 3.3.43
Affected details under "Connectivity" highlighted in Purple.
Updated opinion added in Bold Blue.
Compatibility: PS4/5, PC, Switch, Mobile
Test Time: 30 hours
Round One, Fight.
I really want to like these earphones. I’m a huge fan of the Sennheiser brand and it isn’t well known that EPOS have been working with them over the last few years as “Sennheiser Communications'', so they have some of the best shared knowledge you could ask for in the audio industry. Brief history, EPOS, was established in 2019 and subsidiary of Demant, a professional audio company of 115 years who have been developing hearing aids and professional ‘flight grade’ audio equipment, so that’s quite a resume.
EPOS is now riding independent of its more internationally famous ex-partner Sennheiser and has sent in the GTW270, their first true wireless gaming earbuds, as its scout ship into the big open world of gaming audio. I honestly didn’t even know they were coming into existence until I was sent a test pair out of the blue on release. Like I said, I really want to like them, and they're not bad by any means but some hard truths do lie ahead.
This is done well. Very well. They look nice and feel premium. Even the packaging presentation is top notch. The buds, they’re simple, classy, weighty (in a good way) with a nice darkish aluminium finish branded with an etched ‘E’ logo on each bud. Subtle. And they fit nice. For a bud without winghook type tips, they hold nice in the ear and don’t move much at all under a ‘shake’ test. Which on that note, they’re exercise friendly thanks to the IPX5 sweat resistant rating. Packed with the usual S M L tip sizes as well as XS for the smaller eared gamers, you’ll likely find your goldilocks zone no problem. I’ve personally been able to sit with them in for a full charge (4-5 hour) sesh without any urge to take them out. So props overall on the bud design.
As for the buds resting place, the battery case. It’s a rectangular prism (67x33x36mm @ 61g) with more of the same nice matte aluminium finish. Flip top lid, USB C port on the back for charging and 4 battery indicator lights on the front. It’s larger than your average bear, not amazing pocket-friendliness but it’s not not-manageable. Previously I’ve had the Sony WF1000XM3’s which had a monster battery case. The EPOS’s are only slightly less obscene in the pocket than those, but I’ve since been spoiled with the Jabra Elites 75Ts (which will cameo as a reference point further on) that have such a compact battery case and great performance, it’s tough to be Switzerland about it and not feel the GT-Dubs here are a little clunky in the pocket.
What irked me most here though was the fact that having gone with a larger battery case, there was no slot to keep the USB C dongle in. One of the MOST frustrating things for me transporting these around for my switch, is having to keep track of two components, when I simply shouldn’t. Yeah, the dongle comes with a lanyard/keyring holder sleeve, but this leaves the USB C tip hanging out vulnerably and for me, anything I can attach it to is usually going to cop a beating. I feel this is a huge oversight and or missed opportunity to not have a socket in the case. Even leaving it in the Switch or ‘Piggy backing’ the dongle into the charging case is just out of the question due to breakability possibility. (re: Image)
As expected, crystal. This is what you expect from a company that shared brains with Sennheiser for so long. Everything is as it should be for a gaming unit sound wise. There’s a balance across the whole frequency range that doesn’t disappoint. Bass is bordering on a little light on, but for me it was warm, kicky and not overbearing. Treble is just the right amount of crisp, especially for playing games where hearing small detail is vital. That’s really what these were built for. These aren’t for Bass heads. Listening to Tools Fear Inoculum, the drums are a little quieter than others, but it still hits enough, and I can appreciate the clarity of the other musical elements.
Now for what they were built for, gaming. I play Rainbow Six Siege quite a lot, usually on Astro A50s, so that’s my current benchmark and I have since been playing Siege for about 15 hrs consecutively with the GTWs. I’m impressed. Surround sound is done via software (Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos) and are pretty decent for a speaker that is directly driven into your earholes. The positional audio is top notch and the audio for footsteps and firing is clear. Also with vocal communication from other players coming in, it remains pretty consistent when there’s a lot of audio activity. This is what they were built for, and they do it well... but good audio needs a good consistent connection.
So the GTW offer up a Low Latency Wifi USB C dongle for high performance audio streaming, and Bluetooth for you to live your everyday mobile life. They can’t be run simultaneously (a feature that is becoming more prominent on larger headsets, as to be able to answer a call while not interfering with game audio for instance) but this could be a limitation of the size and battery life levels they wanted to aim for.
The Low latency is great. Couldn’t really fault it for response time. What I did have trouble with was drop-outs. Line of sight and interference could be an issue for some. The manual quotes up to 5 metres, it’s a high traffic band, I get it, so range is volatile. However, when using my PC which sits under my table (it’s literally right there, maybe 1.2m max from ear to dongle) I found signal break up was an issue. That MAY have stemmed from a combination of electrical activity from power boards, as well as wi-fi signals (tested running a Wired connection and interference has greatly reduced) but this could be something to factor in when looking into these. They do come with an extension lead to run the dongle closer or up onto a desk possibly for this reason but it would be unplayable long term if I wanted to leave my setup positioned the way it is. I even test the dongle in my USB C capable Note 10+ playing Spotify in my open plan kitchen and I was getting 3 metres at most before noise break up. When plugged directly into my switch though it seems (fine for obvious reasons).
Bluetooth. Well. I like to think I’m pretty capable with tech, but this process isn’t ideal either (I warned you, hard truths). The buds must be docked into the battery case, the battery case button held in for 5+ seconds (which then causes a dialogue response from the headphones… that are sitting in the case…?) and then you can find them on your BT list on your device. Then you can take them out and put them in. No onboard re-pairing. This is a little convoluted. But again, low latency gaming earbuds first, bluetooth second remember. I’ve had a bit of grief jumping between dongled mode and BT mode too. Could be a side effect of the pairing method (needing to go back into the case) but I’ve not had this much trouble with Bluetooth in a while.
Also downloaded the EPOS Windows software hoping to see if there was an new firmware to improve the experience. Well it kind of made 'the experience' worse. Followed the instructions and simply can't get it to recognise them. I was hoping even if there wasn't an update it would still display them as a connected device for other settings, but just nothing. In their defence, most games hardware companies have trash software when starting out. For instance, Corsair iCue is still sub par and thats 5 plus years old, so I'll give them til the end of the year on this. You're welcome EPOS.
*UPDATE EDIT* As of 31/5/21, I have applied the latest firmware and connectivity has improved dramatically. Dropouts and Wifi 'Ticks' have disappeared and signal range is far better. The EPOS Software has also been updated and has far better recognition of the when the unit is connected.
Ok, so straight out the gate, Microphone. Or lack thereof decent functionality for one. A gaming product with no chat capability via the purpose built low latency function? Blows my mind a little. According to some reports, it’s due to APTX (high quality audio codec) data transfer constraints but again, there has to be a better way. When asking for the price in question ($349aud), there are earbud products on the market (again, Jabra Elites, Airpods) that are in the same quality and cheaper (granted, not low latency), with amazing driver and microphone tech in super compact buds. When you CAN use the microphone, it’s via Bluetooth connections. It’s a dual ‘pinhole’ setup, on the right bud and its… vanilla. Not bad, not great. Enough that if you were remote gaming that you could still manage to be heard well enough by obliging team mates, but when you CAN'T use the mic with Low Latency mode, it doesn’t really matter. And without dual/simultaneous connectivity, even using them to switch to over to bluetooth to call your mum for some money for the Season 42 Battlepass of Call of Destiny: FortSeige Legends, seems almost too much effort given how clumsy switching between connectivity methods seems.
And the buttons… sorry… BUTTON, non plural. One button to rule them all (functions that is). They manage to pull off the Play, Pause, Next Track, Back track and Voice assistance off the one button, but volume control speaks volumes for a functional headset. It’s like they aren’t trying at all to be a ‘Street’ bud. Volume on the move is SO important. The button is also not in the greatest spot at the top left bud. It may well be an acoustic sealing issue, but it would have been great if they could have utilised the perfectly fingertip sized aluminium “E” plates that adorn the top of each bud as a button. The Jabra Elites 75T’s have dual bud button functionality and it’s one of the most functional builds I’ve used to date, so dropping to a smaller single button function was a tough pill to swallow for me.
At $349(AUD rrp) this is where it gets tough. These DO sound nice and they fit comfortably. They are a unique player in the gaming demographic with the Low Latency ability. But just because they’re unique doesn’t mean I could personally justify dropping three fifty down on them. And let's remember a large number of the targeted 'Switch' demographic are shopping off the "Bank Of Mum and Dad" too.
If they nailed that bluetooth element, I would totally vouch for them but they’re sub par as a convenient bluetooth headphone and this devalues the cost benefit ratio against their asking price for me. I really don’t know if gamers are that fussed on a wireless bud solution just for gaming when they can get a really good set of over ears WITH a functional chat microphone for the same price.
Finish Him - Updated 1/6/21
I REAAAAALLY wanted to love these. And don’t get me wrong, I like them. The audio is clean. Precise, clear and responsive. I just wanted to LOVE them, and maybe I’m underestimating the complexity of the Low Latency tech, but the fiddliness factor hurts too much.
You’d have to buy into these as a chat-free gaming headset first and foremost, and bluetooth ‘street’ headphone third (yes, I said third). Don’t get me wrong, the audio heritage is there and these would be a solid buy at say around $250. I acknowledge low latency buds are rare and you simply can’t get that response from any other bluetooth bud. But it’s 2021. People need more than that when it comes to headsets. We live in a world of Zoom calls, Discord, and communication on the go. Having to micro manage connectivity between Wireless and bluetooth with docking and undocking, pairing, re-paring, controlling volume externally and fishing around for where you put that dongle, it’s just not flying with me, not at $349 at least.
I really hope EPOS does succeed in this space and I hope they have a crack at a v2.0 edition of these.
Since firmware slash connectivity updates, I now main with these as a PC headphone. The audio accuracy combined with feel of freedom for keeping my ears nice and uncovered is great now that the connection is consistent. I am however lucky as I run an external mic as my input, something not everyone may have the benefit of doing. So lack of low latency dongle microphone may still hurt potential buyers. That said, EPOS are coming out with the B20 Studio-grade streaming mic which looks promising as a companion if you got the cash to splash. (Review to come in June)
I still can't validate them as a decent 'Street wear' Bluetooth headset as the single button function, no 'hear through' option, size of battery case and pairing method is still a little inconvenient and there are better alternatives for that. But as a 'side gig' for a primarily gaming headset, at least 'Toothin' is still an option.
Overall I'm glad I don't have to wait for the aforementioned second edition, and that they've sorted this out quickly. For anyone chasing a comfortable, precise gaming earphone, I can now recommend them more confidently at their asking price point as the connectivity issues are polished out, and it's nice to know EPOS are paying attention and addressing the issues.
Nathan is a Gamer, Collector and an Electronics Retail Lifer/Employee. He can't commit to a favourite game, but the Hitman Saga is up there and you'll find him on
twitch.tv/nateoriousfox casually playing Rainbow Six Siege. His dedicated hardware reviews and other critical thoughts can be found at technatelogic.com (coming soon).