Tech

Grell TWS/1 . customizable in-ear headphones


You say a newcomer to the truly wireless headset space? Sure, that might be a pretty common occurrence these days, but this – Sound of Grell – comes with some pretty powerful legacy. Its founder, Axel Grell, is well known in the headphone industry for his intensive work at Sennheiser on some of the company’s most prestigious products. The TWS / 1 was his first solo production under the Grell brand. Accordingly, we wanted to see what the $200 wireless buds can do.

TWS/1 has a modern look. The design is mostly circular, interrupted only by a small AirPod-like protrusion on each bud. Initially, the plan was to have an all-metal exterior, but physics and radio waves meant that concessions were needed (plastic parts). Overall, they maintain a more upscale feel commonly found in price the point. They remind me a bit of Jabra Elite 75t, but slightly lower configuration.

In terms of fit, the slightly more streamlined design means you don’t feel like something is balancing in your ears, which can sometimes happen with many rotund model. As usual, they come with a charging case that promises four full TWS/1 charges. The buds themselves deliver around 6 hours per charge, which is true in my experience with ANC enabled. Curiously, the buds are placed in the case with a right side to the left and vice versa. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but it takes some time to memorize (you’ll be reminded soon because the buds don’t fit the other way around).

In a world full of my products, it’s hard to stand out. The easiest difference is the price, then the sound quality and or the extra/premium features. Looks like Grell Audio has managed to tackle all three of these, and I’ll say with general success.

The price puts TWS/1 into an unusual category. More premium brands are landing in the $250+ region while more affordable options, like Google’s second generation Pixel Buds or the aforementioned Jabra live in the $150 region. Budget options, south $100, is also becoming more and more popular. Then this makes TWS/1 overlap between high-mid and low-premium. I bet this is purely on purpose as the feature-set and build quality leans towards higher quality, but the simpler packaging and more accessible pricing reveal more of a mainstream audience.

Grell Audio TWS / 1.

James Trew / Engadget

As for the sound quality, this is where things are a bit clearer. In my testing, I’m generally happy with the default sound. It’s probably a bit on the slimmer side for my personal taste with the light weight on the bottom end for casual commercial audio. But Grell has partnered with SoundID – a third-party app that helps tailor certain brands of headphones to your personal taste/hearing.

We’ve seen things like this before, most notably with Nura, which takes this to the next level. SoundID is a bit more explicit in its approach. It still uses some form of hearing test, but instead of asking if you can hear certain tones, it just plays you some music and asks “which do you prefer, A or B”. When I finished this short test, the difference was night and day. With my own personal profile activated (it loads onto the headphones so it applies no matter what you’re listening to), my usual mix of indie and rave mid-10s nonsense has come to life. motion.

I have a slight preference for dynamic range and stronger lows and mids. At least, I suppose I do because that’s the biggest change in sound after completing the test and I immediately find them much more enjoyable. In the SoundID app, you can switch between default sounds and your own profiles, and it really makes a huge difference. You do not need app to get good sound, but I guess you’ll be happier with what it gives you.

Coincidentally, SoundID is also where you’ll get software updates for TWS/1. I had one during my testing and it improved a few things including the touch controls. slightly unresponsive. They still don’t read my faucets 1:1 but it’s on par with most other touch controls I’ve used. Before the update, it was much more frustrating (or, perhaps I’m just learning engineering?).

Those controls are not user configurable, so you’re stuck with what Grell gives you. But, thankfully, it’s pretty much everything you’d want and without too many complicated touch or gesture combinations. Swiping forward or back on the left ear skips tracks, up or down on the right to adjust the volume, etc. Those are the only presses where I have issues with the play/pause controls on the right, and transparency mode on the left – both are more annoying if not activated immediately.

Which brings us to the smart(er) features. As mentioned, the TWS/1 has Active Noise Canceling and Transparency modes – both of which are becoming increasingly standard. But there’s also a Noise Reduction (NAR) mode. Grell explained to me during their initial press conference that ANC is great for lingering noises at lower frequencies, but doesn’t work so well for annoyances at higher frequencies (think baby crying on the plane). NAR is Grell’s own attempt at minimizing these types of sounds.

Grell Audio TWS / 1.

James Trew / Engadget

In practice, I find it very difficult to determine the difference that NAR makes. With ANC, it was easy to hear the rumble of the road outside my apartment turn down the volume. It may not be the most powerful ANC I’ve heard but it does the job. With NAR, whatever the ear equivalent of squinting was, proved to be a little more difficult to determine. It seems to improve a bit the listening experience combined with ANC, but it’s also hard to say how much I’m willing to do so. It’s an interesting concept and I hope Grell can continue to improve over time.

Other minor perks include a “mono” mode (listen with just one bud). This is not as common as it should be in my opinion, and it adds versatility for those who want to maintain some spatial awareness without having to wear both buds. Apparently that’s also how some people like to handle their calls (recall the days of Bluetooth headsets).

Another small added bonus is wireless charging “compatibility”. It’s not something I can test, but the more things that support it the better? Or, at least, it’s a great perk for those already invested in the world of wireless charging.

Overall, Grell has delivered for the price, features and sound quality enough to result in a promising first product from an up-and-coming brand. The price point, in particular, strikes a good balance between signaling high-end ambition without putting it too far out of reach for mainstream consumers. I’d love to see some more advancements in NAR technology and still more responsive controls, but if you’re looking for a new set of true wireless earbuds that can be customized to your taste, then this is a great place to start.

All products recommended by Engadget are handpicked by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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