Chinese headphone and audio equipment manufacturer HiFiMan is best known for its audiophile headphones, including the flagship Shangri-La, which retails for a whopping Rs. 36,00,000. This brand has come a long way in its relatively short time in the market, and is considered a leading manufacturer of electrostatic and planar magnetic headphones. Fortunately for buyers with smaller budgets, HiFiMan does offer more affordable options as well.
One of these is the company's first true wireless headset, the HiFiMan TWS600. Priced at Rs. 12,999, this isn't what we'd typically expect from this brand, which has thus far stuck to wired audiophile headphones and earphones. The earphones feature the company's proprietary Topology Diaphragm drivers, and promise great sound with the convenience of true wireless connectivity. Does the HiFiMan TWS600 live up to expectations? Find out in our review.
There's no delicate way to put this - the HiFiMan TWS600 looks a bit strange. The all-plastic earpieces are grey in colour and are the shape of kidney beans. The outer parts of the earpieces have transparent patterns that allow lights to shine through, with a physical button at the centre of each one. There is a pattern on each one's button, which oddly resembles the continent of South America, and small HiFiMan logos just to the sides of them.
The buttons control playback, call handling, volume, and voice assistants through a series of routines. These are fairly easy to remember for the most part; we only had a bit of trouble with the long-press routines, since pressing for too long would power off the headset. The LEDs on the earphones are largely decorative, but they do indicate when the earphones are on or charging.
There is a microphone on each earpiece, found near the bottom. Hilariously, a card in the sales package of the HiFiMan TWS600 recommends removing one earpiece and holding it near your mouth when taking voice calls, suggesting that the microphones aren't very good. We've tested this of course, and you can read about it below.
The charging case of the HiFiMan TWS600 is a bit longer than what we're used to seeing in the true wireless segment, but it looks good and is well built. There is a set of four lights on the inside to indicate the charge level of the case itself, and they illuminate when the earphones are placed in it or when the case is opened. The USB Type-C port to charge the case is at the back, and a useful rubber grip at the bottom helps keep it secure when placed on any surface.
The sales package includes nine pairs of silicone ear tips including double-flanged, triple-flanged, and wide-bore options, so there's something for everyone in terms of comfort, fit, and noise isolation on offer. You also get a short USB Type-C to Type-A cable for charging the case.
Coming to specifications, the HiFiMan TWS600 is largely in line with what we'd typically expect from true wireless earphones in this price segment. It has Bluetooth 5 with support for the SBC and AAC codecs - one surprise is that there's no aptX. The frequency response range is 20-20,000Hz. The earphones use HiFiMan's proprietary Topology Diaphragm dynamic drivers, which are said to have a nano particle coating in specific geometric patterns to affect sound.
Battery life on the HiFiMan TWS600 is impressive; we were able to get five hours of use from the earphones per charge, with the case providing six additional full charges, for an impressive total of 35 hours per charge cycle. The case took a little under two hours to charge fully when connected to a laptop.
At Rs. 12,999, the HiFiMan TWS600 competes with options such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds, Apple AirPods (2nd Gen), RHA TrueConnect, and more. However, the sound was quite different from what we've gotten used to expect in this segment, largely thanks to HiFiMan's unique sound tuning and the Topology Diaphragm drivers powering the earphones. HiFiMan recommends a considerable amount of burn-in time before evaluating the sound, and we ensured that they had about 15 hours before we began our review.
We used a OnePlus 7T Pro (Review) as the main source device for our review, with Spotify, YouTube Music, and our collection of high-resolution audio tracks for music. We also tested the headset for voice calls.
Starting with Dirty Sexy Money by David Guetta, we immediately found the sonic signature of the HiFiMan TWS600 to be neutral and balanced, leaning towards no specific part of the frequency range. The punchy synthesiser elements didn't sound quite as aggressive and driven as we've heard on competing true wireless earphones such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds. The attack in the sub-bass could be felt to a small extent, but we didn't hear any special treatment in the mid-bass frequencies.
The vocals in the track definitely sounded more defined and clear than we've heard on any other true wireless earphones, and there was significant sparkle at the top that almost had us believe these earphones are tuned for a brighter sound. We quite liked that about them - sound across the range was clean and defined.
Switching to a high-resolution version of Michael Jackson's You Rock My World brought out the best in the HiFiMan TWS600. Although it did tend to sound a bit bright at times, we were impressed with the level of detail and insightfulness that the earphones brought out in the track. We were able to hear a lot more than usual in the track, with a distinct sense of direction and approach. Turning the volume up too high made things a bit too sharp; the TWS600 was best used at volume levels under 50 percent.
We then tried out a busier high-resolution track, Close To You by Australian electronic group Avalanches. The presentation was rather neat and tidy, with the various synth elements and samples in this song never getting lost in the medley. We were also impressed with the soundstage and imaging, with the HiFiMan TWS600 offering immersive and clean sound reproduction.
Coming to voice calls, we were particularly keen to test the microphone quality given that HiFiMan has itself expressed doubts about its ability to pick up our voice. In practice, this wasn't really a problem, and sound on both ends of the call was acceptable in most environments.
The HiFiMan TWS600 is a bit of a misfit in the true wireless segment, taking an approach that is different to every major competitor in every way. While most true wireless earphones tend to deliver a more conventional sound signature, HiFiMan sticks to its ways even with its first true wireless headset. You get a clean, detailed, and balanced sound that is refreshingly different and better suited to audiophile sensibilities.
The sound can occasionally seem a bit too bright and sharp, and bass lovers will find the lack of punch in the low-end disappointing. Furthermore, the design is polarising, and the all-plastic bodies of the units are definitely disappointing at a price of over Rs. 10,000. However, if you're looking at a balanced, detailed pair of true wireless earphones, there's very little that can compete with the HiFiMan TWS600.
Price: Rs. 12,999
Ratings (out of 5)