As an iconic manufacturer of some of the world’s best loudspeakers in the vinyl era, classic American audio brand Klipsch has stuck to its guns, occupying an extremely nostalgic position for those of us in audio circles. The company is known for leaving the crazy expensive stuff to smaller boutique brands, priding itself instead on products that serve up premium listening experiences and retro design at prices that are actually achievable for all of us.
That’s why we’ve been so excited to check out the company’s first fully wireless earbuds, the T5 True Wireless, ever since we first caught a glimpse of them at CES 2019. These are premium wireless buds, but just like all other Klipsch products, they aren’t designed as status symbols. The T5’s combination of awesome sound, 8 hours of battery life, and great style — including perhaps the best-looking charging case we’ve laid eyes on — makes them well worth the slight premium you’ll pay over the AirPods.
Fit and Finish
Both in terms of physical design and literal heft, there is no more beautiful wireless charging case than the metallic enclosure that ships with the T5. A brushed metal job that looks like a fat Zippo lighter (a comparison that’s openly invited by the company itself, shipping our sample unit with an actual Zippo), the case is as heavy as a paperweight and nearly as satisfying as your grandpa’s lighter to open, with a weighty lid that pops up to reveal the earbuds inside (though we do wish the lid clicked when popping open).
We also noticed that, over time, the lid rubs a little on the back of the case creating some scratching on the finish, and we assume there will be more scratches to come, so be aware that the case likely won’t look sterling over the long haul.
Despite its physical weight and somewhat stout characteristics, the case is small enough to fit great in most pockets, with ergonomic rounded edges that help it remain comfortable when walking around.
The earbuds themselves feature the same compact, ear-filling style we’ve seen from Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, Jabra’s Elite Active 65t, and others, foregoing bulky earpieces or the golf-tee design of Apple’s AirPods (and their many imitators).
Black in-ears with Klipsch’s signature copper accents and art-deco logo on the caps, the stylish T5 differentiate themselves from other models in two major ways: First, they feature long, slender acoustic tubes to carry the sound to your ears, allowing the outer part of the housings to sit in the very center of your ears extremely comfortably. Second, they’ve got oval-shaped eartips that snap on (they come with three sizes), making for a great seal, particularly for those with smaller ear canals.
Features and Controls
Apart from their stylish design, the T5 also distinguish themselves with features like battery life and waterproofing. Alongside 8 hours per charge, they sport a claimed 24 hours on reserve in the charging case. That puts them up there with the best on the market, including Apple’s larger (and pricier) PowerBeats Pro, which offer 9 hours per charge, but fewer recharges in their chunky case.
Unlike the Powerbeats Pro, the T5 don’t come with earhooks or even earfins to keep them secure in your ears during workouts (though the snug fit mitigates much of this need), but their IPX4 water-resistance rating means they’re much more capable of resisting sweat and rain than AirPods (which offer zero water resistance), holding up with many of the best sports-ready earbuds. This is important not just if you want to break a sweat, but also if you want to take them out in inclement weather.
Two physical buttons beneath the Klipsch logos on each side of the headphones provide intuitive controls. When both earbuds are in, a press of the left earphone pulls up your voice assistant, where a press of the right plays or pauses music. Long presses of the left or right button lower or raise volume respectively, while double presses skip songs back or forward.
We were thoroughly impressed by the T5 True Wireless’ sound.
You can also use each earbud independently, and the controls change when you do so, with a single press playing and pausing music, and a long press pulling up your voice assistant. To change volume with one earbud in, you’ll have to ask your voice assistant or grab your phone.
Speaking of your phone, these headphones are designed to be great on calls, with four microphones that are meant to help your voice come through with as much clarity as possible. We tested them on calls to friends and family, and the recipients had no complaints as far as sound quality, even in our relatively noisy office.
It’s also worth noting that these headphones have more features to come, via the company’s upcoming Klipsch Connect App, which should debut later this July. Klipsch claims the app will allow for EQ adjustment, firmware updates, and more. One thing we hope will be included is some form of hear-through technology, allowing you to pipe in a bit of the outside world when on runs or in places we want to hear announcements.
One way in which the T5 can’t compete with Apple’s AirPods and Powerbeats Pro is in matching the later earbuds’ breezy pairing to devices — the T5 just aren’t very intuitive in this department. To pair them, you open the case and press the button on the right earbud three times. The issue is that you need to press the button relatively quickly to activate pairing mode, and your device sometimes asks you to pair to both buds — but you’ll only want to pair with the right one. You’ll get it eventually, but it did take a few tries for us. Once they’re paired, though, they reconnect instantly out of the case, and we only noticed a single connection blip (likely due to interference in our tech-laden office building) in over two weeks of testing — that’s pretty darn stable.
The new T5 True Wireless don’t quite steal the mantle of the best-sounding wireless earbuds from Sennheiser’s excellent (and significantly more expensive) Momentum in-ears, but we’re thoroughly impressed by their sound nonetheless.
In particular, there is a gorgeous amount of fidelity down low. When listening to bass-heavy songs like MNDSGN or Anderson .Paak, moments that can often be rendered with rubbery bass response in other wireless earbuds maintain a crisp thump, with each bass or lower percussion instrument occupying its own musical space.
The T5 will be a formidable competitor to industry leaders like the AirPods and PowerBeats Pro.
Things are equally impressive in the midrange with guitars, keyboards, and other rhythm instruments in Calexico and Iron & Wine’s heavily layered album Years to Burn, offering clarity well beyond the AirPods, as well as higher performers like Jabra’s Elite Active 65t and the 1More Stylish.
When compared to the more-expensive Powerbeats Pro, there was a bit less definition in the bass register on the T5, but your preference between headphones will be more a matter of personal taste. We like the midrange clarity of the T5 for instrumental music, where it brings lots of definition to horns and strings, but prefer the high-end definition of the Powerbeats Pro for synthesizers and other more pop-based instruments.
We still maintain that most people shouldn’t be buying true wireless models for audio performance alone — you’re much better off getting a wired pair of in-ears, or over-ear headphones for fantastic sound quality at the $200 mark. But the T5 are one of the few fully wireless models that allow you to be thoroughly immersed in your favorite tunes.
The Klipsch T5 True Wireless are a compelling entry into the true wireless market that bridge the gap between affordable, hyper-functional models and more lifestyle-driven offerings. If you want premium looks and sound alongside great battery life, there are relatively few models on the market right now that match up.
Is there a better alternative?
At $200, the Klipsch T5 cost a bit more than many competitors in the true wireless space, but they offer plenty of reasons they could be worth the premium over more affordable favorites like the 1More Stylish. With retro styling, a comfortable fit, great battery life, and excellent sound, the T5 are a formidable competitor to industry leaders like the AirPods and PowerBeats Pro, and occupy their own space in this ever-growing segment. We expect many people will be as taken with them as we are.
How long will they last?
Klipsch has a good reputation for making very well-built and long-lasting products — just ask the audiophiles who have had Klipsch products in their listening rooms for decades. While the lifespan of all true wireless headphones is limited by battery longevity, we expect you’ll get at least a few years of solid use before the batteries start to wear out.
Should you buy them?
Yes. If you want a classy pair of wireless earbuds with great sound, a comfortable fit, and clean lines, the T5 are among the best you’ll find.