In my recent review of the Klipsch T5 ANC IEMs, I mentioned that Klipsch had also introduced a “McLaren” version of those same wireless earphones that were dressed in carbon fiber but were otherwise the same. It would appear that I was quite wrong about that based on the my time with a review sample of the Klipsch T5 II McLaren Edition True Wireless ANC Earphones.
McLaren is known for its pioneering work with carbon fiber in F1 racing cars and their rather pricey automobiles that the lucky few can afford. The collaboration with Klipsch is not their first kick at the can in the high-end audio space, however.
TAG McLaren Audio was founded in 1998, following the company’s acquisition of British amplifier manufacturer Audiolab; the venture folded in 2003 and Audiolab is now part of the IAG Group which includes Mission, Quad, and Wharfedale.
The partnership between these two iconic brands combines the audio engineering skills of Klipsch and the styling and carbon fiber prowess of McLaren to create the Klipsch T5 II McLaren Edition under review.
The kit comes with the earphones, tips, 1 USB Type-C cable, 1 USB Type-C to Type-A adapter, and a two position wireless charging pad.
There is a tire motif on both the charging pad and charging case and rather liberal usage of the McLaren orange/black color scheme on the products.
Unlike the base model that utilizes an all-metal case, the McLaren version uses a composite shell with black carbon fiber front and rear panels, and a tire tread design that wraps the case.
The tire tread is the pattern from the McLaren F1 race car. The bottom forgoes the tread in favor of stability with orange accents at the hinge and junction of the lid and body.
The interior is also bright orange and the Klipsch and McLaren logos are tastefully displayed on the case front. The case weighs 50% less than the standard version and the difference is easily felt in your pocket when walking.
The earpieces are very similar to the original T5 II with a black body, large touch sensor, and an LED that is blue when pairing and red when charging. The earphones have the Klipsch name on one and the McLaren logo on the other; the tips are orange to complete the color scheme.
The tips are a proprietary design with the stem/nozzle being part of the tip rather than being part of the earpiece. This does mean that standard tips will not work and replacements are only available through Klipsch.
Klipsch have been rather generous with 6 sizes of tips so finding a size that works for each individual should be possible. There are two charging poles on the under side of each earphone that mate with the case when seated properly.
I mention this because I experienced a few situations where the charging poles were not properly aligned and the case did not charge the earphones.
Internally, the same 5.8mm dynamic driver is used in both versions of the T5 II and it offers support for Bluetooth 5.0; users are limited to AAC and SBC which is somewhat disappointing.
The earphone batteries are rated at 7 hours with ANC enabled and I found that to be roughly accurate with my own tests showing between 6 and 8 hours depending on which settings I used.
It does seem odd for a flagship to omit support for Bluetooth aptX and LDAC, but connectivity was solid despite the omissions. I didn’t have problems with drop-outs when the source was kept within reasonable distance in open spaces. However, I did find that a single interior wall was sufficient to defeat the signal at times and that multiple walls defeated it completely.
The earpieces take up roughly the top half of the case with the remainder taken up by the 360mAh battery and charger circuitry. The case provides 3 full charges for the earpieces before needing to be recharged itself giving an overall life of roughly 20-28 hours between recharges of the case.
The charge status can be quickly viewed by looking at the seam between the lid and case body as a series of three LEDs blink when charging and show the percentage of charge when disconnected. If the LEDS are not lit, opening the case will activate them.
The kit comes with a two-position charging pad so users have a way to charge both the T5 II and their phone quickly and easily. My only gripe with the pad is that the position of the case has to be near perfect and when a large phone is placed on the charger, it obstructs the LED that indicates charging so it’s a bit fiddly in that respect.
Once learned, the system works well and it is easy to just drop the case on the charging pad as you come in the door and have it ready to go again, the next time you head back out.
At launch, Klipsch announced that the T5 II are the first TWS earphones to support Bragi OS and Dirac HD; the McLaren edition earphones support both as well.
The Bragi feature allows users to program various head movements to answer calls, adjust the volume, and even fast forward or reverse tracks when listening.
When used with the “transparent” mode, Bragi helps improve phone call quality by keeping the callers voice inside the earpieces.
We all use a feedback mechanism to adjust the volume of our voice, and earpieces that reduce the level we hear result in people yelling when on the phone so this is a nice touch. There is also noise guard which is pretty clever for an earphone named for a race car.
When using “transparent” mode, the noise guard blocks out loud noises that might harm your hearing otherwise. It is not meant as a substitute for shooter’s ears or other OSHA approved ear-plugs, but it does help.
I’m really starting to think that Bragi needs to be integrated into all TWS earphones to protect listener’s hearing long-term.
Klipsch did an excellent job with the first version of its Connect app and having reviewed a few dozen wireless earphones — it is definitely a step above what is currently available from almost every other manufacturer.
The app offers full EQ presets and customizable options, the ability to set the touch controls, Bragi gestures, ANC/transparency and sidekicks. Sidekicks offer the ability to turn on ANC only when listening to music or turn on the transparency mode only when on the phone during calls.
Is there a big difference between the base model and more expensive McLaren edition when it comes to sound quality?
It’s definitely not huge but there are some differences. The extreme low end is slightly emphasized but that lift actually rolls off rather quickly as you move into the mid-bass; the impact is quite solid and bass notes are well defined.
The mid-bass is rather articulate with excellent speed and control and I was unable to discern any measurable levels of bleed or thickening of the sound into the lower midrange.
Midrange clarity was a strength of the base model and I really didn’t hear much difference between the two in that regard; it was very clean and detailed sounding and I found that notes had ample weight and force behind them.
There is a bit of a push in the upper midrange and lower treble that brings vocals forward in the mix which gives the Klipsch T5 II a somewhat bright signature overall.
Between the two models, the McLaren’s sonic signature is definitely different in the treble where it pulls back a bit more in the 8-9kHz range and has slightly more emphasis around 12kHz before it rolls-off.
The McLaren has a little more top-end extension than the base model but some might find the less expensive earphones to sound more even in that regard; neither model could be described as sounding “airy” in that regard,
Neither model recreates a huge soundstage possibly due to the positioning of the drivers that places them very close to the ear canal; imaging also suffers to a degree as well.
There are 6 microphones in the T5 II; 4 are used for beam-forming during phone conversations and 2 are used for noise rejection. Overall, conversations were clear and I had no complaints from those on the other end regarding environmental noise or poor call quality.
Turning on Dirac does alter the sonic signature quite a bit with vocals being more forward in the mix but also with some added compression in the midrange.
Dirac worked much better when watching a film using an ASUS smartphone; relatively strong dynamics, clear dialog, and low end impact in action sequences that did not have me reaching for the volume control.
The active noise cancelling was rather good at reducing droning noises but struggled somewhat with higher frequencies; something that is quite typical for most ANC headphones and earphones. Quick bursts of noise were not removed that well with either T5 II model.
Is it worth the extra money to buy the Klipsch T5 II McLaren Edition Wireless Earphones?
I think that’s a fair question to ask; $349 is not the most you can spend in the category but there is a lot of completion to say the least.
The build quality, battery performance, sound quality, app, dual charging options, and rather successful use of carbon fiber does make a compelling case for these wireless earphones.
The Klipsch competes rather successfully with the B&W PI7, M&D MW08, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 in a lot of areas and minus the absence of support for Bluetooth aptX and LDAC, it is one of the best in the category.
Where to buy: $299 at Amazon | Klipsch.com
March 19, 2022 at 10:26 am
Just got a pair of these last Monday, and yes, the charging issue with mine too.
It’s a bit alarming that Klipsch continues to let these out with the charging issue; the left earpiece on mine has to be situated just so, balanced accordingly or it will not charge fully, or just drain. I’ve submitted a customer support ticket, so we will see what happens.
Beyond that, quite amazed by the Dirac tuning; nice level of detail retrieval I have found, for everything from rock, EDM, acoustic and jazz, I prefer these over the Sony XM004 ANC iems (sound)… Sony definitely has the upper hand for the accompanying application, and charge base.
January 12, 2023 at 6:07 pm
Keep us posted on the trouble ticket, please?
One would think, with the price tag superior customer support would be included.
Peace of mind is something I expect if I’m investing in pricey products.
Thx in adv!