The latest from Klipsch’s budding true wireless department, the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC (available at Amazon), are frustratingly close to fantastic. With exquisite sound and dynamite design, these earbuds could be the toast of the true wireless town. But poor battery life and light-weight noise canceling—not to mention a prolific field of competitors—make their $300 price tag difficult to swallow.
The T5 II ANC are an update of last year’s T5 II, a brilliant pair of earbuds that improved over the original T5 in multiple categories. In comparison, the ANC (as in “active noise canceling”) feel more iterative with many of the new features living in the software. While there are some cool new tricks, the lack of innovation at the core of these earbuds leaves them underpowered when compared to their premium-priced rivals.
With sound this good, though, the T5 II ANC may keep your finger hovering over the buy button.
About the T5 II True Wireless ANC
- Price: $299.99
- Battery life: Up to 5 hours playback with ANC, 7 hours without; 3 full charges in the case
- Rapid charging: 5 minutes for 1 hour of playtime
- Wireless charging: Yes, Qi-certified case
- Colors: Gunmetal, Silver, Copper
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
- Sensors: N/A
- Microphones: 3 beamforming mics per bud
- Audio codecs: AAC, SBC
- Dust/water resistance: IPX4
- Fit: 6 ear tips sizes
- Weight: 5.5 grams per earbud, 76.9 gram charging case
- Special features: Bragi Moves gesture control for calls and playback
The earbuds arrive in thick foam with the buds set above the enameled, metallic charging case shaped in Klipch’s signature Zippo-like design. Included are six pairs of ear tips to fit just about any ear size, along with a braided USB-C to USB-C charging cable. Before digging in, you'll want to download the Klipsch Connect app to access the latest features.
What we like
Sound so good you can almost taste it
The Klipsch T5 II sound breathtakingly good from the instant you start the music. Part of that is a continuation of the T5 II’s brilliantly sweet and clear sound signature with a penchant for the little details. The breath of a singer as she moves toward the microphone, the rustle of a drummer’s pants—these are the moments you miss in less articulate earbuds, and they lead to the proverbial old-sounds-new effect when rehashing old favorites.
While the T5 II ANC unfortunately drop the higher quality aptX Bluetooth codec (Klipsch says it’s because they no longer use a Qualcomm chip), they make up for it with a new element in Dirac HD Sound, built directly into the app and on by default. I’m not usually one for digital enhancements—I like to let the speakers stand on their own. But in recent years, digital suites like Sonarworks’ True-Fi have proven that digital doesn’t have to mean artificial. Dirac HD is of this pedigree, crafting a cleaner, richer, more spacious image out of the T5 II ANC’s already great soundstage, with striking results.
Through pages of notes I detailed my experience with the T5 II ANC across genres, noting their penchant for pulling out brilliant dynamics, eons of space, rich and granular instrumental textures, and impressive balance in even the most saturated mixes. From the dulcet jangle of Sturgill Simpson’s bluegrass master class, Cuttin’ Grass, to the laser sharp synths in Jamiroquai's “High Times” I found myself enamored with the T5 II ANC’s sound.
I didn’t always love the enhancements Dirac makes. It can reshape instrumentation, and especially for sparser mixes like the nostalgic Beatles tune “When I’m Sixty Four,” I found myself more enjoying the straight stuff. I also found bass response, very occasionally, overly assertive. Luckily, you can easily pick your flavor in the Klipsch sound app by turning Dirac off with the slide of a digital switch, or sliding bass down in the EQ. Regardless, it’s a vivid ride through your catalog. At one point I found myself rewinding multiple times to determine if a knock at the door in Superorganism’s “Prawn Song” was real.
Call quality is more pedestrian, though I never had any major issues. The base T5 II are great for calls, and I somehow found those a bit clearer, but while I wasn’t in any windstorms (I’m not sure why that’s so common these days) the ANC held up fine for calls inside and out.
The same attractive and comfy design
When it comes to style and comfort, following the path of the original T5 II was a new brainer. It starts with the charging case which looks and feels like a fat little zippo lighter, right down to the click of the lid. For the ANC version, the case has been upgraded with an even more attractive enamel finish and a useful rubber pad on the bottom. At around 80 grams the case is heavy, but it’s worth the weight.
At just 5.5 grams per side, the buds are anything but heavy. Little pods with protruding ear canals, they’re much more comfortable than they look, virtually disappearing in my ears for hours on end with almost no discomfort. In fact, for reasons good and bad, I can wear them straight through their entire charge time without noticing. One point to note is, while the original T5 II offer powerful IP67 dust/water resistance, the ANC model step down to IPX4, which is common for noise cancellers.
An impressive control set (and some cool features)
I’ve long been partial to buttons over touchpads for the former’s accuracy, as long as the buttons aren’t too difficult to push—otherwise the buds stab into your ears with each tap. The T5 II ANC’s buttons are just right and, thanks to some creative use of both sides, offer every control you’ll need on the fly.
From play/pause and song skip to voice assistant, engaging the ANC or transparency mode (which blocks out or lets in sound via the onboard microphones), and the all-important volume control, it’s all available with a series of taps. You can also customize, though oddly only the left earbud is up for grabs—most playback functions are done with the right. My one complaint is hanging up the phone which, oddly, requires holding the right button for a full second. (I never once got this right.)
But that’s just the start of the show. Digging through the bones of the now-defunct true wireless pioneer, Bragi, Klipsch's latest offers Bragi Move gesture control. This allows you to do things like pick up a call with a triple nod of your head, hang up with a triple shake, and even skip a song with the same triple shake. None of these were very useful for me in most situations—I find tapping a button easier than shaking my head—but their accessibility potential is obvious and a welcome inclusion.
The app offers some other cool extras, too, including an effective multi-band EQ and multiple presets to customize your sound even further, as well as the ability to set the earbuds to automatically add ANC for music or transparency for phone calls.
What we don’t like
Battery life is decidedly last-gen
As alluded to at the start, there are some serious governors holding back this otherwise speeding train, and battery life is the main offender. The earbuds claim 5 hours with ANC, and 7 hours without it (less than the original pair). Apple’s AirPods Pro offer just 4.5 hours with ANC (and 5 without) so it’s not egregious, but then again, Apple’s buds are nearly two years old and have (rightfully) settled well under $200 on sale at this point in their tenure. All other ~$300 earbuds we’ve seen of late have much better battery life.
Sony’s WF-1000XM4, for instance, nearly double the Klipsch pair, offering 8 hours with ANC and up to 12 hours without it. Same thing with Master and Dynamic’s MW08. Bose’s QuietComfort offer 6 hours, and honestly, anything in 2021 should be on par or higher. What’s worse, I clocked 4 hours with the T5 II ANC in successive tests at medium (or slightly higher) volume. That’s half of some rivals, and that’s not great.
It wouldn’t be surprising to me to find out these have the same battery as the original T5 II, and adding ANC there is like pulling a trailer with your Toyota Camry—not very efficient.
ANC is appreciated, but also relatively weak
I tried the T5 II ANC against multiple earbuds in multiple tests, including outdoors, inside, and with both our usual AirPlane Drone video test and a pink noise test. While their ANC would have been a great addition a year or two back, in 2021 it’s a tougher sell. Not only is it beat out by big players like Jabra’s Elite 85t or even Apple’s AirPods Pro, but it also couldn’t keep up in some areas with Samsung’s $150 Galaxy Buds 2. The latter worked similarly for lower drone noises, but handily beat the T5 II ANC when it came to higher register sounds like keystrokes without music playing.
That’s also true for audiophile-aimed earbuds like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2, which trade on their passive noise isolation (i.e. noise blocking), but also do a better job masking the full throng of frequencies when switched on.
I’m stoked Klipsch finally went for ANC, and it definitely adds some good cushion with music playing. But it’s clear with extras like Dirac HD and Bragi gesture controls that Klipsch realized $100 is a stiff premium to pay over the T5 II's launch price for ANC alone. Meanwhile, many of the rivals mentioned above have dropped in price. That’s the marketplace, and the T5 II ANC will eventually drop too, but right now it’s tough to justify the cost.
A few other complaints
The earbuds are pretty well-situated for features, including helpful options like Qi wireless charging for the case, the ability to use one bud at a time, and all their app goodies—but they don’t have it all.
Again, I’m holding their feet to the flame because of their price point, but there are relatively common premium features missing, like sensors to pause the buds when you pull one out and an earbuds finder.
In addition, the Klipsch Connect app was a bit dodgy during my evaluation. The app froze on me four times in one sitting, and at other points it took so long to connect to the buds I ended up shutting it down and rebooting. Most times it was slow to connect, and with so much of the earbuds’ booty locked inside, that’s a problem. Luckily, software is upgradeable, so hopefully this gets fixed soon.
Should you buy them?
Not at this price, unfortunately
Klipsch’s new T5 II ANC are gorgeously designed, light and comfy, and offer incredible sound quality that stands well against the best in the genre. They’re also relatively rugged, offer comprehensive controls, and are fun to use. But at $300, you're getting last-gen battery life and ANC that barely keeps pace with Samsung’s $150 pair.
I’ve mentioned some great alternatives, including the Momentum True Wireless 2 and the heftier Sony WF-1000XM4 for serious music fans, the latter of which are $20 cheaper than Klipsch’s pair and offer top-of-the-class ANC, nearly double the battery, and plenty of other extras (though they are heftier).
If you want to go cheaper, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 don’t sound nearly as good, but they still hold their own, offer a stellar design, and cost you half what the T5 II ANC beg. Apple’s AirPods Pro offer similar comfort and more comprehensive ANC, often for around $180. And if noise canceling isn’t a must, the original T5 II can often be found for well below $200, packing much of what we love about the ANC model.
If you adore the sound and design, the T5 II ANC won’t disappoint on either front, but you’ll want to go in with lowered expectations elsewhere. Here’s hoping the cost drops soon, because there’s no doubt these buds would be a sweet ride at the right price.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.