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Give your head a shake: Klipsch’s new earbuds use head gestures as controls

Today, Klipsch launched its latest true wireless earbuds, the $299 Klipsch T5 II ANC. As the name suggests, these are Klipsch’s first true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC). But what makes these earbuds unique is their ability to sense head movements and use them to control phone functions like accepting or rejecting calls.

These gestures are enabled through Klipsch’s partnership with Bragi, a company you may have heard about before. Bragi was an early innovator in the true wireless space and launched the $299 Bragi Dash in 2016. Those earbuds were loaded with sensors and onboard memory that enabled a host of features like fitness tracking. At the time, we felt Bragi had focussed too much on features and not enough on simplicity. In 2021, Bragi is using the lessons it learned with the Dash and Dash Pro to develop its Bragi OS — a customizable, gesture-sensing software that Klipsch has incorporated into the T5 II ANC and the Klipsch Connect app.

Klipsch T5 II ANC true wireless earbuds.
Klipsch

Within the Connect app, you’ll find a section that lets you assign “Bragi Moves” which, for now, consists of head nodding and head shaking. When you receive a call, you can nod your head to accept it or shake your head to reject it. While music is playing, you can shake your head to skip to the next track.

Is this better than simply tapping on the earbuds? I guess it depends on how often you tend to find your hands occupied. It’s certainly no substitute for earbuds that let you speak hands-free to a voice assistant like the Amazon Echo Buds, Google Pixel Buds A-Series, or Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro, but it’s more discrete: Not everyone wants to bark at Siri to answer a call in the middle of a busy gym. Klipsch expects to update the app over time to allow even more gestures and controls.

The Bragi OS also enables something called Bragi Sidekicks — handy functions like automatically engaging transparency mode when you pause your music — that you can customize and turn on and off within the app. Transparency mode is an increasingly common feature on wireless earbuds, but Klipsch thinks it has found a way to make it better. Its Noise Shield technology monitors outside sounds while you’re using transparency mode and tries to automatically cancel especially loud sounds while keeping you aware of your surroundings.

When it comes to the T5 II ANC’s sound quality, Klipsch has reached out to another third party for a helping hand. It has tuned the earbuds’ acoustics using Dirac’s HD Sound technology. Dirac says its HD Sound can help compensate for the many ways that earbud components “color” the sound you hear, and thus possibly introducing changes from the original recordings. Another potential benefit to Dirac’s technology is that it could help you hear more of your music at lower volume levels, thus reducing your chances of developing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

I’ve tried Dirac’s technology on other headphones like the Beats Solo 3 and found that I preferred the way the Beats factory tuning sounds. If you find the same thing is true for the T5 II ANC, you can always turn HD Sound off using the Connect app.

Getting a good fit is also key to sound quality, ANC performance, and the ability to listen at lower volume levels. Klipsch includes six sizes of silicone ear tips to help you maximize your chances of getting a good seal and a comfortable fit. You get IPX4 protection on the earbuds, but don’t expose the charging case to moisture.

The T5 II ANC’s claimed battery life is comparable to the AirPods Pro when ANC is on: Five hours per charge in the earbuds and a total of 20 hours when you include the charging case’s capacity. But it gets significantly better when you disable ANC: Seven hours per charge and 28 hours in total with the case. Speaking of the charging case, Klipsch has preserved its iconic metal Zippo lighter-inspired design but has now added wireless charging through a rubber membrane on the bottom.

Klipsch T5 II ANC McLaren Edition true wireless earbuds.
Klipsch

Along with the introduction of the T5 II ANC, Klipsch is continuing its partnership with British racing marque McLaren: The $349 T5 II ANC McLaren Edition’s overall features are identical to the regular T5 II ANC, but it brings McLaren’s distinctive papaya orange color scheme along with a racing-inspired treatment to the charging case. A tire-tread pattern rubber strip runs around the outer edges while the body is crafted using carbon fiber — the same material that is used to keep a Formula 1 car chassis as light and stiff as possible.

The extra $50 for the McLaren Edition is for more than just cosmetics. They come with their own dual-position Qi charging mat and their charging case uses NuCurrent wireless charging technology. Klipsch claims that the combination means the McLaren Edition will charge twice as fast as any other wirelessly charging earbuds case.

Both the standard T5 II ANC and the T5 II ANC McLaren Edition are available today from Klipsch.com.

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Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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