A good pair of noise cancelling earbuds is hard to come by, but a good pair of cheap noise cancelling earbuds—blasphemous! The Edifier TWS NB fits the bill, though; it’s reasonably priced, features effective noise cancellation, and reproduces very good sound. Not all is perfect with these large earbuds, so let’s see if the drawbacks are forgivable.
Who should get the Edifier TWS NB ?
- Commuters on a budget should get these affordable active noise cancelling (ANC) true wireless earbuds, because they’re nearly half the cost of the leading competition and offer good ANC for the price, so long as you can get them to fit well.
Are the Edifier TWS NB easy to use?
Yes, but these earbuds don’t offer the smoothest user experience and absolutely pale in comparison to the Google Pixel Buds or Apple AirPods Pro. The pairing process isn’t difficult, but it isn’t intuitive either. Once I got the earbuds set up, though, auto-connect worked reliably and the controls are easy enough to remember.
The rectangular charging case adorned with a metallic finish looks sophisticated, even if a bit outdated. I enjoyed the heft to the case which, paired with the cool-to-the-touch aluminum finish, felt premium. It uses a magnetic clasp mechanism which never popped open no matter how many times I test-dropped it on the kitchen mat. On the back of the case are four LEDs which communicate something about battery life, not specified in the user guide, and a USB-C input.
A scratch-resistant finish coats the earbud housings which match the case. I’m sure there’s someone out there who will fall in love with this design, but again, it reads a bit antiquated. Perhaps it’s the slightly-too-serious color scheme or the shape of both the earbuds and case which lean a little too far on the side of drab, but I just couldn’t get into it.
Wearing these earbuds makes a serious statement because they protrude so far from the ear. They’re unwieldy compared to the Sony WF-1000XM3 and even the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus. Good luck wearing a beanie, or any kind of tightly hugging cap with these. It wouldn’t be a big deal if the wing and ear tips maintained a secure fit like the Bose StayHear+ tips, but I couldn’t do so with these buds. I was surprised by the heft and size of the housings seeing how the Edifier TWS6 and TWS1 are significantly smaller. Then again, neither of those headsets afford noise cancelling, so no need for additional internal components.
Onboard controls are fine
To go to the previous track, you must press and hold the left multifunction button; the same process may be performed on the right earbud to skip a track. Pressing either button once pauses playback, and double-pressing it toggles noise cancelling and ambient listening. You may answer a call via the controls, and if you want to access Google Assistant or Siri, you have to press and hold either button down.
Noise cancelling is quite good
The Edifier TWS NB do a very good job of attenuating upper-bass and low-midrange frequencies and render them ½ as loud as they’d sound sans-ANC. If you travel by air or train car often, these are a great deal and can easily make rumbles imperceptible with music playing. 1kHz frequencies aren’t reduced quite as well, which is something we’re used to seeing from this breed of earbud. General environmental noise is significantly reduced, too. For just over $100, this headset is one of the best deals in noise cancelling earphones.
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A problem I had with noise cancellation performance was consistency: the earbuds lost their seal often. Once this happened, environmental noise made its way through, making the ANC much less effective than the graph depicts. You may have better luck with this, but unfortunately, none of the provided ear tips fit my ears particularly well.
How is the connection strength?
The earbuds stay well connected within the 10-meter range because of a few things: Bluetooth 5.0 firmware, aptX support for high-quality wireless audio, and an LDS antenna. They use the standard Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo technology which delegates one earbud as the primary receiver which then relays information to the secondary earbud. Sometimes this causes latency issues, but that wasn’t the case with the TWS NB.
During the Edifier TWS NB review period, I never noticed any egregious audio-visual lag while watching YouTube videos. The earbuds also maintained a stable connection when outside; regardless of whether my phone rested in one of my pockets or in my backpack, I never experienced any connection hiccups.
How to pair the Edifier TWS NB
- Open the case and remove either the left or right earbud.
- Press and hold the multifunction button until the LED quickly alternates between red and blue.
- Enable Bluetooth on your smartphone and select “Edifier TWS NB” from the list of available devices.
- Remove the other earbud from the case.
After this initial pairing process is complete, the earbuds will automatically connect to that device (or the last used device) when removed from the case. To clear all pairing history, insert both earbuds into the charging case and hold either earbud’s multifunction button for five seconds. The earbuds don’t support Bluetooth multipoint, so you’ll have to manually switch between devices.
The Edifier Connect app isn’t very useful
Even when the headset was clearly connected to my smartphone and playing music, the Edifier Connect app struggled to identify the TWS NB. It would take a few tries for the app to recognize the earphones. Once connected to the app, functionality is limited: you may switch between noise cancelling and ambient sound modes, check battery levels, and that’s pretty much it. There are some other frivolous features like disconnecting Bluetooth and enabling or disabling the LED indicators. I can see the latter being useful, however, to those sensitive to light and plan to use the earbuds at night from bed perhaps. Otherwise, it isn’t worth the download.
How long does the battery last?
During our official test, the earbuds lasted 4 hours, 3 minutes with noise cancelling turned on. This falls short of the listed five hours of playtime, but you’ll likely reach that by listening at quieter volumes; we test at a relatively loud output across the board. It takes an hour to charge the USB-C case, which provides listeners with two charge cycles.
You may notice the earbuds aren’t able to hold a charge after a while; this is the unfortunate reality of true wireless technology: the battery cells are constantly depleted and recharged, which degrades them over time. If this happens within the one-year warranty period, Edifier may cover you for repairs or a replacement.
How do the Edifier TWS NB sound?
The Edifier TWS NB earbuds house graphene-coated drivers, and deliver a very palatable sound. Low frequencies are amplified just enough to register the extra oomph, while low-midrange notes are reproduced with great accuracy. Vocals sound fabulous through the TWS NB, and auditory masking is noticeable but not to the point of distraction. Fans of pop music will enjoy this sound, but those who favor the sound of delicate string resonances should turn their attention elsewhere.
Lows, mids, and highs
Maisie Peters’ song Stay Young opens with picking the low notes of the A and Asus4 chords on guitar. These notes play well with Peters’ vocals, and it’s very easy to hear what she’s saying and the detailed resonances that echo from her vocal chords.
Auditory masking presents itself during the chorus when using the Edifier TWS NB, though: at 0:52, Peters sings “So stay young,” and right at the word “young,” a prominent kick drum is hit. This almost completely drowns out the -ng sound, which doesn’t happen with my Shure AONIC 50 headset. This is a unique example, but properly demonstrates how busy songs may be reproduced to sound as if detail is missing when really, the TWS NB is just amplifying bass notes too much relative to quieter mids.
Can I use the Edifier TWS NB for phone calls?
You may, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so because the microphone array does a poor job of combating the proximity effect and filtering out background noise. While the chart above implies near-ideal voice transmission across the board, reality tells a different story which may be heard in the demo below. Compression is heavy, which is to be expected from true wireless earbuds at just about any price point.
Edifier TWS NB microphone demo:
Users taking quick, casual calls can scrape by with this muddled vocal reproduction, but it won’t bode well for professional conference calls. Anyone who spends a lot of time on the phone may want to stick to their handset, or consider some great headphones for phone calls.
Should you buy the Edifier TWS NB?
If you’re anxious to scratch the noise cancelling true wireless earbuds itch, the Edifier TWS NB headset is a great option. Noise cancellation isn’t the best but it’s better than what passive isolation gets you. For just $120, there’s plenty of high-tech goodies baked in and sound quality is very good too.
However, listeners who want an effortless pairing process or multipoint functionality, look into the Google Pixel Buds or Jabra Elite Active 75t. Alternatively, the Edifier TWS6 are great earphones for the same price, or the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 which is $20 cheaper and has significantly better microphone quality.