EPOSGTW270Hybridearbuds 00

REVIEW – There are many true wireless earbuds on the market today, but only a small number of them have hybrid, multi-platform wireless operating capability.  The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Earbuds have both Bluetooth and an aptX USB-C dongle, which allows them to operate in two wireless domains.  Let’s check them out.

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What is it?

The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Earbuds are a true wireless earbud audio system that operates with a hybrid connection via both Bluetooth and USB-C dongle.  A bit of background on EPOS, they are the company that produced the high-end Sennheiser headphones, and they have now begun producing high-end gaming earbuds.

What’s in the box?

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The GTW 270 Hybrid’s packaging is some of the most sophisticated and polished I have ever seen in a wireless earbud system.

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All of the components are carefully protected withing foam and/or paperboard boxes or sleeves.  The box’s flap also has a magnetic closure.

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Inside the package were the following items:

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  • GTW 270 earbuds
  • Portable charge case
  • USB-C low-latency aptX dongle
  • USB-C charging cable
  • USB-C® to USB-A extension cable
  • Silicone ear tips in 4 sizes
  • Dongle protective silicone sleeve
  • Quick Guide
  • Safety guide
  • Compliance sheet

Hardware specs

I’ve listed what I thought were some of the most pertinent specs of the GTW 270 Hybrid Earbuds below, but you can find the full spec sheet here:

  • Connectivity:
    • Bluetooth® 5.1 (audio and microphone)
    • Low-latency aptX dongle (audio only)
  • Headphones:
    • Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
    • Sound pressure level: 100 dB
  • Microphone:
    • Frequency response: 100-7,500 Hz
    • Pick-up pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Compatibility:
    • Dongle: Nintendo Switch, Android Devices, PC, PS4
    • Earbuds: Bluetooth devices
  • Battery:
    • Listening time: Up to 5 hours of listening time on the earbuds and up to 20 hours of listening time with the charging case
    • Charge time: 1.5 hours to fully charge earbuds and 1.75 hours to fully charge the charging case
    • Fast charge: Up to 60 minutes of listening time on the earbuds after 15 minutes in the charging case
  • Water Resistance: IPX 5
  • Warranty: 2 years, international

Design and features

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I was more impressed by the initial look and feel of the GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds and their accessories than with any other earbuds I’ve reviewed to date.

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The GTW 270 earbuds themselves have a two-tone color scheme, with a black plastic main body and a grey, satin-finished, anodized aluminum panel on their front with the EPOS stylized “E” logo printed on it.  It all combines into a very minimalist, sophisticated look.

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Although the aluminum panels appear to be touch-control points, they are not.  The functions of the earbud are controlled with a single, oval-shaped button on the left earbud, as you can see on the left earbud in the image above. The button controls fairly standard functions such as Play/Pause (press once), Next Track (press twice), Previous Track (press thrice), Incoming Call Answer (press once), Call End (press once), Ignore Call (hold 3 seconds), Activate Siri/GoogleNow, Alexa (hold 2 seconds).  However, there are no onboard volume controls, nor a mute function.  These can be controlled via your device only.  I saw this as a limitation that nearly all other true wireless earbuds on the market now have, and I wondered why these did not.

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The earbuds have a very compact design and ergonomic shape which I’ll discuss further below.   The earbuds also have four sizes of silicone tips that help the user obtain the best fit for their ear canal size.

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Both earbuds also have several gold metallic circles.  I believe the five smaller ones facilitate charging the earbuds while they are in the charging case, and the larger two facilitate the earbuds’ magnetic attachment into the charging case.  Additionally, the right earbud has a wear-detect sensor, which means that when you remove the right earbud from your ear, the sound will stop from both earbuds.  When you replace the right earbud in your ear, the sound starts again.  However, it must be kept in mind that the sound is stopping, but the music/podcast/audiobook to which you are listening is not paused, it keeps playing.  This can act as a sort of “mute” feature in the event that you need to briefly hear something around you, but you will need to back up a song or podcast to find where you left off.EPOSGTW270Hybridearbuds 09

The GTW 270 Hybrid’s charging case is outstanding.  It has an anodized gunmetal gray exterior with a satin-finished that is a joy to touch—it has a really premium, solid feel. Because the case’s exterior is fully aluminum, this case gives a level of strength and crush-resistance that plastic cases can’t match, which helps protect the earbuds inside.  The front of the case has five tiny LEDs with a small, oval-shaped button beneath them.EPOSGTW270Hybridearbuds 12

Like the earbuds, the case has a black EPOS “E” logo atop its lid.  The case is charged with the included USB-A to USB-C cable via a port on the back.  The earbuds themselves will give approximately 5 hours of use, and the charging case will boost this to approximately 20 total hours of listening time.  In practice I found this to be accurate.  The total time to charge the earbuds is supposed to be 1.5 hours, and the time to charge the case 1.75 hours, but in my experience, both the earbuds and the case charged event more quickly than those times.EPOSGTW270Hybridearbuds 10

While charging the case, the LEDs glow to indicate the charge level, and when unplugged from the charging cable and the button is pressed, the LEDs glow to indicate the case’s charge level.EPOSGTW270Hybridearbuds 11

The inside of the case’s lid has a soft, rubbery-feel material that helps cushion the earbuds and keep them from moving around in the case as well as protecting the earbuds from scratches.  The lid’s hinge has a bit of a spring assist that helps it snap into both the open and closed positions with a very satisfying feel.EPOSGTW270Hybridearbuds 13

The charging case has two cavities into which the earbuds perfectly fit.  In the photo above you can see five spring-loaded pins that make contact with the five smaller metallic circles on the earbuds, as well as two larger metallic circles that mate with the two larger metallic circles on the earbuds.  My guess is that the pins are for charging the earbuds, while the larger circles are magnets that help keep the earbuds aligned with the charging pins while also keeping them secured in the case.

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While the earbuds are in their case, the tiny LEDs on the earbuds glow green to indicate that the earbuds are at full charge, yellow to indicate a partial charge, and red to indicate when the earbuds are nearly fully drained.

Bluetooth connection

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Bluetooth pairing of the GTW 270 earbuds was fairly straightforward.  I simply opened the lid of the case, pressed the button on the front of the case, waited for the LEDs to flash between blue and red, then selected “EPOS GTW 270” when it popped up in my iPhone XR’s Bluetooth devices lists.  If you ever need to re-pair the earbuds with your device (which I very rarely needed to do), simply place them back in their case and go through the steps as previously described.  Using Bluetooth, the earbuds function similarly to most true wireless earbuds.

A few things to mention about Bluetooth with the GTW 270.  I was able to Bluetooth pair the earbuds with my iPhone XR and they worked well.  I was also able to Bluetooth pair the earbuds with my work-issued Lenovo X270, and use them for Zoom meetings, to both listen and talk without issue.  However, I could only Bluetooth pair the earbuds with either my iPhone XR or my Lenovo laptop, not both simultaneously.  Therefore, if I wanted to use the earbuds with my laptop, I had to un-pair them from my iPhone XR.  I saw this as a limitation.

Low latency aptX dongle connection

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The GTW 270’s “hybrid” connection system is accomplished via a low-latency aptX USB-C dongle.   This dongle can be plugged directly into devices that have a USB-C port, or with the included USB-A to USB-C cable can be used for devices with only an old-school USB-A port.  A silicone sleeve with an attached lanyard is included as well to help protect the dongle.

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The dongle has a single LED on one side and the silicone sleeve includes a small window through which the LED can be seen.

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The earbuds and the dongle are shown above.  All are small components, so be sure you don’t lose them!

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Pairing the GTW 270 earbuds via the dongle is fairly straightforward as well.  Open the lid of the charging case and plug the dongle into a device, as I’ve done with work-issued Lenovo laptop above, which has a USB-C port.

EPOSGTW270Hybridearbuds 22The dongle’s LED will blink blue briefly while it connects with the earbuds…

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…then LED on the dongle glows purple when the hybrid connection to the earbuds has been completed.  A few things to note about the dongle are below.

The dongle works well for listening to music, podcasts, gaming, and so forth, but it cannot utilize the earbuds’ microphone.  So while my son was able to connect the dongle to his PC laptop and use it to hear sounds while gaming, he could not speak to his fellow players.  Also, while I was able to connect the dongle to my PC laptop and use it to hear my co-workers during Zoom and Teams meetings, I was not able to speak to them.  In my estimation, this is a limitation of using the dongle for gaming or virtual meetings.

Also, the dongle is compatible with Sony Playstation consoles, but not compatible with Microsoft Xbox consoles.  I learned this the hard way when I attempted to use the USB-A to USB-C cable to plug the dongle into my Xbox-S console and it didn’t work.  When I investigated this on the EPOS site, I discovered that the GTW 270’s dongle is only compatible with Playstation.  I was disappointed to discover this.

Additionally, the dongle is compatible with Android devices that utilize a USB-C connection but is not compatible with Apple devices due to their Lightning connector.  Therefore, I was not able to evaluate the dongle with my iPhone XR, and we don’t own any Android devices at our house.  I saw this as another limitation.

Finally, EPOS provides free Gaming Suite software which can be downloaded to a PC that can help customize the user’s listening experience.  However, as my laptop is work-issued and our IT department strictly limits our ability to install non-company software, I was not able to install and try the Gaming Suite software.

Fit

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I really like how the GTW 270 earbuds fit in my ears.  I’ve reviewed a number of true wireless earbuds and the GTW 270 earbuds may be the best, most secure-fitting of any of them.  They include four sizes of silicone ear tips, and because I have large ear canals, I selected the largest size, which fit well.

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The GTW 270’s compact design, ergonomic shape, small size, and minimal weight of the earbuds allowed me to easily give them a press and slight twist into my ear canals and into a position that felt very secure.  I used the GTW 270 earbuds during many different types of activities, and they stayed firmly in my ears during all of them.  Also, the earbuds are very low-profile, not bulky, and barely protrude from my ears at all, which helped prevent them from getting knocked out.  Further, if you are careful in selecting the best silicone tip size to fit your ears, they can provide a very respectable level of passive ambient noise blocking.  For me, this was sufficient for me to wear these earbuds while vacuuming or mowing the lawn, and nearly all of the ambient noise was blocked in both of those activities.  While wearing these in the room with someone else speaking to me, I almost could not hear the other person.  Finally, the earbuds are also rated to IPX 5 water resistance, which kept them functioning even during my heavy (i.e. sweaty) exercise sessions.

Sound

The sound of the GTW 270 earbuds is very good, I think partially owning to its ambient noise-blocking combined with its inherent sound capabilities.  With a frequency response range of 20-20,000 Hz, the bass was excellent, but the mid-range and highs were where the earbuds shine, I suspect because the headphones are somewhat tuned for a detailed sound performance in gaming experiences.  I listened to music, audiobooks, and podcasts, and all sounded excellent, and my son reported that while he used the earbuds and dongle during gaming, the sound was very good also.EPOSGTW270Hybridearbuds 27

What I like

  • The entire product has a very high-quality look and feel.
  • Earbuds are very low profile and fit securely in my ears, even during vigorous exercise.
  • The earbuds and the charging case provide a very long combined charge.

What I’d change

  • Make the dongle compatible with Xbox consoles.
  • Make the dongle compatible with iPhones/iPads/iPods.
  • Allow use of the earbuds’ microphone while using the dongle.
  • Provide on-board volume controls.
  • Allows the ability to Bluetooth pair a phone and a laptop without having to un-pair one of them first.

Final thoughts

I have mixed feelings about the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Wireless Earbuds.  Looking at them solely from the standpoint of a set of earbuds with a charging case, they are excellent.  They have a really high-quality look and feel, and the earbuds fit great even during vigorous exercise and function fine, although they do not have on-board volume controls.  However, the “hybrid” part is where the GTW 270 system falls short for me.  While the low-latency dongle appears to be a useful feature, because of its compatibility limitations and the fact that the dongle can’t utilize the earbuds’ microphone, I found the addition of the dongle did not add much value for the relatively high price of the product.

Price: $199.99
Where to buy: EPOS, Amazon
Source: The sample of this product was provided by EPOS.

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