One of the greatest failings of the high-end audio industry has been the lack of brand recognition outside of its very narrow circle of customers. 95% of consumers have never heard of brands like Audeze, Audio Research, KEF, Magnepan, or even Grado Labs. McIntosh? Absolutely. KEF? Probably. Klipsch Audio? My grandmother has heard of Klipsch.
It’s possibly the high-end brand that casts the largest net on a global basis. The Klipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC Earphones are starting to expand the reach of that net and that’s a very good thing.
Klipsch have been around for almost 75 years and the loudspeaker brand that Paul Klipsch started in Hope, Arkansas, has evolved into a global leader offering award-winning products in the loudspeaker, subwoofer, soundbar, and headphone categories.
Klipsch’s Heritage Series loudspeakers fell out of favor in the high-end press for many years; the same group found religion a few years ago and now consider the 5 available models including the Heresy IV to be some of the finest speakers available.
As the owner of a pair of 30 year-old Heresy II loudspeakers, I find the recent love affair to be most peculiar. It took a few YouTube reviews of the Klipsch RP-600M (read our review here) to convince the audio press that Klipsch was a high-end speaker brand again?
If you’ve ever had a reason to question the sincerity of the high-end press, the Klipsch reversal is definitely food for thought.
Headphones and earphones came a bit later to the Klipsch line-up with their first IEM arriving in 2007 and their first over-ear model arriving in 2010. I purchased the S4 when it came out and remember it being quite good for that era and worthy of the Klipsch name.
Klipsch only recently entered the TWS market and today they have the T2 entry-level model and T5 flagship. The T5 comes in several varieties; including a PGA Tour edition, a sport model, and a McLaren collaboration for car enthusiasts.
The Klipsch T5 II ANC model is the true flagship model and is available in the standard version (under review here) and the carbon fibre McLaren edition. Minus the fancy finish, both models offer the same internal components.
The packaging of the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC belies the quality of what hides inside. If you find it swinging from its hook on a sales rack, don’t confuse the bright graphics and big box store marketing as a form of hype. Klipsch have done their homework with these true wireless earphones.
The case is brushed metal available in a copper, black, or gun-metal finish with the Klipsch name in a subtle dark gray on the front and a USB type-C port centered on the rear.
In addition, the case can be charged using any Qi compatible wireless charging pad albeit a bit more slowly than the USB option. Unlike most, the hinge is on the side giving the case a look that is reminiscent of the Zippo lighters of old.
The heft of the case is substantial as well and is near triple that of some other recently tested models that were manufactured from plastic.
All of the edges are all rounded and smooth and the overall size is small enough that pocket carry is comfortable unless wearing something particularly form fitting. Skin tight jeans will cause odd stares on the subway platform.
Opening the top reveals the earpieces sitting in their charging bays. One really nice touch that most other models skip is that the inside of the lid has a custom insert that mates to the earpieces and prevents any movement when the case is closed.
This ensures that the earpieces remain in contact with the charge pins and that the earpieces cannot be damaged by being jostled inside the case. The earpieces themselves have a magnetic attachment to the bay that further enhances alignment of the charge pins and keeps everything in its place.
The earpieces take up roughly half the volume of the case with the remainder taken up by the 360mAh battery and charge circuitry. The case provides three 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 illuminated, opening the case will activate them and give a larger viewing area.
The face of the earpieces have an outer ring that matches the color of the case and a central button for touch control. The rings have a break at the nozzle where an LED indicator light sits and shows pairing state or charging.
The body of the earpiece is manufactured out of resin and consists of a main body that houses the battery and electronics and an offset nozzle that contains the 5.8mm driver.
The underside of the body has clear L/R indicators between the nozzles and the charging plates. The design puts the driver directly in line with the nozzle and eliminates the need for sound bores.
The tips are unique to the T5 series and standard tips from other makers will not work. The design of the tips uses the central core of the tip to snap into a recess in the nozzle rather than slip over a standard nozzle. The good news is that the Klipsch T5 II ships with 6 sets of tips in various sizes so chances are good your size is somewhere in the mix.
Its also worth noting that Klipsch does offer replacement sets of tips should one get lost or damaged. I found it easiest to turn the tip inside out and then directly grip the stem to insert them into the body of the earpiece as getting an exact alignment between tip and port was difficult without doing so.
The fit was quite good with the fifth sized tip working well for me and I have fairly large ears so leaving 4 sizes below and 1 above should cover most people comfortably.
The earpieces sit deep in the ear with very little protrusion and I found that I could wear them comfortably for the life of the battery charge (roughly 5+ hours) without fatigue becoming an issue.
Most consumers don’t wear IEMs for that length of time and I suspect that most will find the Klipsch T5 II to be an excellent pair of wireless earphones as far as comfort is concerned.
This might be an issue for some people and I think it’s important to discuss the Bluetooth 5.0 support; the T5 II ANC only supports SBC and AAC protocols. While I found connectivity to be good and didn’t have problems with drop-outs when the source was kept within reasonable distances in open space — I did find a single interior wall was sufficient to defeat the signal at times and multiple walls defeated it completely.
I can’t speak for how the Klipsch T5 II will work in your specific home but it’s fine otherwise if you’re walking around with your source device in your pocket or inside a jacket or bag.
At the end of the day, consumers purchase Klipsch because their products consistently deliver great sound quality. The T5 II ANC earphones deliver on the build quality and features front, but how do they fare when it comes to sound quality?
Klipsch proudly announced the T5 II ANC as the first true wireless earbuds to support Dirac HD. Dirac is a form of digital sound processing that is designed to enhance dimensionality and provide a more immersive experience. If this sounds vaguely familiar it is because this technology is a direct competitor to Apple’s Spatial Audio that has received a lot of press lately.
A lot of us find the need for “spatial audio” debatable when listening to music so the fact that the app allows easy access to Dirac’s on/off switch is welcomed.
I started listening with Dirac disabled to better understand the tonal balance of the T5 II and really enjoyed what I heard. The sub-bass has a mild lift but falls back quickly as it moves into the mid-bass and definition in the lower range is quite good.
The mid-bass has excellent pacing and control and a smooth transition into the lower midrange without any bleed or thickening of the sound.
I found the midrange to have good clarity and there was a lot of texture present on both instruments and the human voice. This is not a lean sounding pair of wireless earphones. Guitar had excellent body and the sound never became congested when I pushed the volume higher.
There is a push forward in the upper midrange and lower treble that brings vocals forward in the mix and does give the T5 II a bright overall signature; the good thing is that the Klipsch T5 II has no tendency toward sibilance and does not come across as harsh or strident.
There is enough top end to have some air and sparkle as well. The only real drawback to the base tonal balance is the soundstage is rather small possibly due to the drivers being as close as they are to the ear canal. This also somewhat limits imaging as there simply is not a huge amount of stage to work with.
Dirac or Distraction?
Turning on Dirac does alter the sonic signature quite a bit with vocals being more forward in the mix but it also added some compression in the midrange that I did not prefer at all to the base tonal balance.
I suspect this is partially due to my music selections and will have more to say in regard to Dirac support when my Rog 5 phone arrives which also supports the technology. It will be interesting to hear if Dirac really shines for movies and games as it may well offer more there than I found initially.
The T5 II ANC also sports both preset and customizable EQ that allows the user to further tune the sound to their liking should they desire.
As for ANC and transparency, the good news is they don’t alter the base signature as much as some other offerings on the market. The bad news is that while they work, they are not class-leading.
The ANC was fairly good at reducing droning noise but struggled somewhat as those tones got lower and really had some difficulty removing tones lower than about 50Hz from the mix.
Quick bursts of noise are almost never completely removed by ANC so the hope is that any constant background noise can be effectively filtered. The T5 II are good at it, but there is room for improvement and maybe an additional firmware update will enhance its ability to filter lower tones.
What about phone calls? Consumers pair their ANC wireless headphones to their smart phone so they can keep their phone tucked away.
Even with six microphones, the noise rejection during phone conversations is only average and wind noise can still be heard by listeners on the opposite end of the call.
There was never a time when the voice didn’t cut through enough to be heard but again I had hoped for slightly better performance considering the technology involved.
Transparency mode works reasonably well and those that need to be aware of their surroundings will find this one of the better features of the T5 II as it does exactly what it needs to do.
I did find some finicky behavior in switching from music to call back to music when using the transparency setting as it didn’t always turn on for a call when off in music listening mode, which means that you don’t hear your own voice as clearly as you do when it is enabled. I suspect a firmware update will fix this issue.
One of the key selling points of any true wireless design is the control app that opens up a wide range of features and functions that go beyond the basis controls built into the earpieces.
Klipsch clearly put a lot of work into this aspect of the product and I have nothing but praise for it. This is not a minor issue and something that turns a lot of consumers off when it comes to really expensive wireless headphones.
The Klipsch Connect app is one of the most complete on the market at present and offers all the features you’d expect plus a few you might not. A full EQ featuring presets and customizable options was previously mentioned, but the ability to tune touch controls to your liking is also present; as is the ability to use gestures to operate certain functions (also known as Bragi controls).
This allows you to answer a call by nodding “yes” or reject one by nodding “no.” I found this function worked well as long as your movements are fairly exaggerated. Trying to be discrete doesn’t work here so know that going in and don’t freak out when people stare at you in line at Starbucks when it happens. You’ll look very involved in the conversation and that’s perfectly fine.
Sidekicks is another neat feature that offers the ability to turn on ANC only when listening to music or transparency only when on the phone.
So where does the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC fit in today’s TWS market? The app wins points for being among the best I’ve tried to date, and its base signature is right near the top and while I like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Master & Dynamic MW08 sonic signatures a bit better, this is really a matter of preference with the T5 II offering a really nice tonality that is a a bit brighter than the other two.
The T5 II certainly wins on style points compared to the Sony with a more robust case and better build, but here again roughly ties the Master & Dynamic in the style category.
The T5 II takes a hit in the ANC category where it is slightly behind the Master & Dynamic earphones and a good distance behind the Sony offering. The T5 II does offer wireless charging which is not a feature of the MW08, so it gains a few points there.
Battery life puts the T5 II ANC in the middle of the pack as well and the lack of aptX HD or LDAC support will remove it from the running for others.
Despite its shortcomings, the Klipsch T5 II has great style and a great base signature and will tick a lot of the right boxes for many users. Klipsch would be better served focusing on those aspects in its marketing because they do make it a compelling alternative to the Sony.
Klipsch has a definite winner with the T5 II True Wireless ANC Earphones but there are some things that preclude it from being the “best” in category right now. It’s definitely in the top tier which is pretty impressive considering how intense the competition is.
Where to buy: $299 at Amazon
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