Pros Incredible sound in a tiny package 2.4GHz dongle makes all the difference for gaming Stable, automatic connectivity via Bluetooth or 2.4GHz
Case in on the bulky side Controls are overly simplistic USB-C dongle could block ports without the extended cable
Gaming earbuds aren’t a new concept. Logitech, Razer, and others have made wired versions for years. However, what is much rarer is the relatively new form factor of truly wireless gaming earbuds.
This is the best game sound I’ve heard from any earbuds (wired or wireless), and some of the best sound period I’ve experienced in a truly wireless set.
The reason for that rarity is simple. Most wireless earbuds rely on a version of Bluetooth. Bluetooth tends to, well, suck for gaming. It introduces noticeable “latency,” or a delay between the game (or video) and audio. Obviously, in many games, this will get you killed by an enemy you only hear approaching after they’ve already shot you. Some Bluetooth protocols minimize this, but none reliably match the undetectable latency 2.4GHz-based wireless connections can offer.
What makes the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid gaming earbuds so unique in this form factor is that they offer Bluetooth and 2.4GHz. This hybrid (hence the name) pair of connection options is common in high-end, over-the-ear gaming headsets like the Razer Barracuda line and SteelSeries Arctis Nova family. But, this is the first time I’ve come across such versatility in a pair of truly wireless earbuds. And, let me tell you, it was a game changer… literally.
Specifications Form factor Truly wireless in-ear budsConnectivity Bluetooth 5.1 (with AptX), 2.4GHz (via included USB-C dongle)Battery life 5 hours (earbuds) | 20 hours (charging case)Compatibility Bluetooth: PC, Mac, TVs, consoles, etc. | 2.4GHz: PC, Playstation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, AndroidRange 49 feetDriver type Dynamic closedIncluded accessories Charging cable, USB-C extender cable, USB-C dongle, dongle cover with carrying loop, extra silicone eartips (3 sizes)On-device controls Yes: play/pause, track skip, digital assistant activationCompanion software EPOS gaming suiteForm and build quality
EPOS began its life as part of high-end audio company Sennheiser. The pedigree of meticulous engineering informed many of the more traditional headsets the EPOS crew designed while still part of the mothership. The same level of quality has stuck with the now-independent company.
<p>They're barely bigger than most wired earbuds, although the charging case is on the bulky side.</p> Michael Gariffo/ZDNET<p>From top to bottom, the GTW 270 Hybrid feels solid. The metal outer shell of the charging case provides a sturdy enclosure for your earbuds to charge in, while the incredibly satisfying hinge feels like something from a high-end timepiece, not a budget-friendly pair of earbuds.
The buds themselves also sport a solid, lightweight, simple design that inspires confidence in both the hand and ear.
I found the buds and included tips to fit comfortably in my ears, and in the ears of the family and friends I let test them. A good, universal fit is vital for in-ear buds like these and EPOS nailed it.
Additional ear tips in small and large sizes come included in the box.
Connectivity is the showpiece of the GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds. You can, of course, pair them with your phone, TV, PC, game console, or anything else via Bluetooth. But, you also have the option to use the included USB-C dongle’s 2.4GHz connection. The dongle (see image below) is compatible with PCs, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and Android smartphones and tablets.
When used, it offers the low-latency connectivity that competitive gamers want, providing audio with zero perceptible delays between on-screen action and its accompanying audio. There’s also a noticeable benefit to sound quality, which I’ll cover below.
You probably never realized a dongle case is a thing you might want someday, but here we are.
I had zero issues with connection stability in my time testing the GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds. They reliably and quickly paired with the tiny companion dongle every time I removed them from the charging case. Switching between the 2.4GHz dongle and Bluetooth was also a simple and intuitive event, with the earbuds automatically handling it quite well.
Power and charging
The EPOS GTW 270 Hyrbid case charges via USB-C. It comes with one cable for charging and a second for extending the reach of its dongle. It might have been better had EPOS instead opted for something similar to the coupler-based setups many gaming mice now use. That would let you use one cable for both tasks. However, that would have prevented you from charging your case while listening over 2.4GHz, so their way might be best for most users.
Like most USB-C accessories, it charges quickly. A full charge provides five hours of listening time on the earbuds, and an additional 20 hours of audio when topping back up using the charging case, according to EPOS.
I did notice some fluctuations, but the advertised usage times were quite accurate, and fairly impressive, given the low weight of the earbuds. The case is on the heavier side. It’s hardly noticeable when tossed in a bag, but the slightly bulky, rectangular shape doesn’t make it the best pocket companion.
The earbuds fit into the charging case with a confidence-inspiring tightness.
Michael Gariffo/ZDNETHow do they sound?
All of this convenience and dual-connectivity means little if the sound of the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds doesn’t offer the competitive accuracy gamers want. Luckily, all of the clout EPOS carries from its Sennheiser forebears shows in these incredibly competent little earbuds.
When used over 2.4GHz, they offer clear and punchy bass, and sharp, accurate highs. The latter is extremely important as this is where the audio cues that alert you to in-game enemies tend to live. I felt no loss of directional accuracy or auditory acuity when using these in-ear buds instead of my long-time main, the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro. That’s not something I can say for any other earbuds that I’ve tested, gaming or not.
Music performance was equally impressive. Instruments and vocals showed an incredibly amount of separation for drivers as tiny as the ones used in these earbuds, with a soundstage wider than many (more expensive) over-ear headsets and headphones.
Simply put, this is the best game sound I’ve heard from any earbuds (wired or wireless), and some of the best sound period I’ve experienced in a truly wireless set. It outshines the first-gen Apple AirPods Pro, and even excels past the gorgeous-sounding but problematic Drop + Grell pair I tested earlier this year.
When connected via Bluetooth, I would say everything I just wrote is about 80% as true. I wouldn’t recommend using Bluetooth for gaming if you have the option to use 2.4GHz. But, if you’re listening to music or videos, the sound is nearly as good. Unfortunately, the maximum volume is significantly lower, and a tiny bit of the clarity, separation, and overall soundstage is lost. In this mode, the buds are in just about a direct tie with the aforementioned AirPods Pro.
As usual, this is a section where it’s best to let the thing speak for itself, literally. The provided video should tell you all you need to know. Overall, the mic in 2.4GHz mode is entirely serviceable for everything from Zoom calls to in-game chat. I wouldn’t start a podcast with it, but I’ve heard far worse boom mics on much more expensive wireless headsets.
I had to double-check the price of the GTW 270 Hybrid on EPOS’ site while testing. I was sure I’d remembered it wrong. Something with these features that sounded this good couldn’t possibly have been $150, but it was.
To be clear, there are some areas where the earbuds is surprisingly simplistic. The on-device controls amount to a single button offering the usual pause/play, skip track, and digital assistant options, but no volume controls. To be fair, the AirPods Pro also lacked on-device volume buttons until their second, $250 iteration. The larger case may also be a turn-off for some active users that like pocket-sized portability.
But, if you’re a gamer that travels to LAN parties and tournaments, or even one that barely ever leaves their desk but prefers clean, simple, wire-free options, I would say the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds offers one of the best combinations of impressive sound, reliable performance, and excellent build quality I’ve seen in a gaming headset at this price, let alone one in the truly wireless earbud form factor.
Other gaming audio makers should take note: This is how you make a solid, legitimately competitive pair of truly wireless gaming buds. I only hope the competition that will almost certainly grow in this product category can match the very high bar set by EPOS’ early entrant.
Alternatives to consider
A cheaper option that relies exclusively on Bluetooth. Its latency is rated at 60ms, which is higher than the 2.4GHz latency offered by the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid, but still pretty good for Bluetooth. Good for casual and mobile gaming.
If you want EPOS’ quality in a more traditional, but still wireless, gaming headset, the GSP 670 is the closest option in price. It’s been praised for its comfort and sound, and it retains all of the same excellent construction engineering mentioned in this review.
Want the best game-tuned audio for anything under $1,000? Willing to deal with a wire to get it? This is your huckleberry. The microphone is also one of the best boom mics on any gaming headset, period.