When EPOS and Sennheiser went their separate ways, it wasn’t immediately clear what the result would be. For years, that partnership had put out well made, if a little staid, gaming headsets for pretty high prices and it wasn’t entirely clear if that would be the approach going forward. The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid is the company’s first solo product, and it’s definitely a big departure from the likes of the GSP 670 or GSP 602. These are the first true wireless earbuds for PC, consoles, and mobile platforms.
Is that enough to justify the high price?
Who should get the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid?
- Gamers looking for something a little more low-profile than the typical gaudy gaming headset.
- At-home workers looking for something they can pair with a microphone they already have, and use with their phone too.
- Anyone looking for a pair of true wireless earbuds they can also use for gaming.
What is the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid like to use?
If you’ve used a decent pair of true wireless earbuds before, there’s a lot about the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid you’ll find familiar. The earbuds come in a magnetically clasped metal charging case. The buds themselves sit snugly in the case, secured by magnets so you don’t have to worry about improper charging connections. The case and side panels of the earbuds are covered in brushed aluminum emblazoned with the EPOS logo.
The GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds are pretty well built and merit an IPX5 rating. They’re lightweight, but don’t feel cheap, thanks to the partial metal construction. The headset comes with silicone ear tips of three additional different sizes, and once you find the right fit, sealing the ear isn’t an issue. They’re comfortable to wear, even during hours-long gaming sessions. However, if you’re expecting these to function just like other TWS earbuds in this price category, you’ve got another coming—for better and worse.
A lot of the niceties and features you’d expect out of high-end true wireless earbuds are missing here. The earbuds’ metal side panels look like they should be touch-sensitive, but they’re just for show—what few on-ear controls you get are locked to a single multi-purpose button on the left earbud. The button lets you pause and play music, and well as skip or go back a song with a double-tap or triple-tap respectively. Mono playback is supported, but only through the left earbud. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sticking to basic options like this, but they all go away when you start gaming.
The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid are the first real attempt at bringing TWS audio to non-mobile gaming platforms. These buds are compatible with everything you’d expect over Bluetooth, but they also support connections to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, and PC using a USB-C dongle. When you pair the earbuds to the dongle, which happens automatically when not paired over Bluetooth, the multi-function button loses all function and all audio control is ceded to whatever device is connected. The microphone also stops working when gaming—in fairness, it sounds bad enough to discourage use in voice chat, but to remove the option altogether is a little jarring.
Losing the multi-function button isn’t a huge deal—it’s not like playback controls are useful in a video game. However, losing the microphone function feels pretty rough. If you decide to try the USB-C dongle with your smartphone (it works), you’ll run into the same issues.
How does the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid connect?
The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid sports a pretty wide range of connectivity options. These true wireless earbuds connect via Bluetooth 5.1 firmware, with support for the SBC and aptX codecs. The inclusion of aptX is great for Android users looking for high-quality wireless audio, but if you’re an Apple user, the lack of AAC means you’re stuck with the default SBC codec—iOS doesn’t support aptX.
Additionally, the GTW 270 Hybrid USB-C dongle uses aptX Low Latency to connect to gaming platforms like the Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation 4 and 5, as well as mobile devices that support audio over USB-C. It comes with a USB-A adapter cable, as well.
The earbuds have also gotten new features with successive firmware updates. The GTW 270 Hybrid now has Bluetooth multipoint support, which allows for pairing to multiple devices at once to facilitate quick switching. It can also now connect simultaneously to its dongle and to another device via Bluetooth (you can toggle back and forth using the button on the dongle).
However, to access updates, you need to use the EPOS gaming suite desktop app, which is still a fairly spotty experience—during the review process, it rarely worked on the first try, either by not recognizing the earbuds or being completely unresponsive and requiring restarting my computer to try again.
How long can the battery last?
According to EPOS, the GTW 270 Hybrid can last up to 5 hours on a single charge, with capacity for three charge cycles in the case, for a total of 20 hours. At a consistent output of ~75dB(SPL), these true wireless earbuds can output sound for up to 4 hours, 55 minutes on a single charge—pretty much as advertised. EPOS claims the earbuds should charge up in about an hour and a half while in the case, and we haven’t run into anything to dispute that. The case itself charges over USB-C, but doesn’t feature any sort of quick charging functionality.
Gaming with the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid
Gaming with the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid is a rather befuddling experience. Depending on the platforms you use, you’ll probably either love it or hate it. Let’s go over the good stuff first
On a basic level, the GTW 270 Hybrid is genuinely a great pair of gaming earbuds. These are very comfortable, lightweight earbuds—they feel great over long gaming sessions, and the charging case means you won’t have to worry about coming back the day after and needing a charge very often. The earbuds easily handled the hectic audio of matches of Apex Legends on PC, as well as the varied soundscape of New York City in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PlayStation 5.
These earbuds support virtual surround sound on PC through the EPOS Gaming Suite, it works about as well as most software-based surround sound standards—it offers a slider for reverb intensity, which is kind of neat. It also works just fine with the PlayStation 5 3D audio functionality.
Audio-visual lag can feel pretty terrible when you’re gaming. Even if it’s very minor, it only takes dying to a bullet before you hear the sound once to decide it’s the bane of every gamer’s existence. However, I’m very impressed with the dongle’s aptX Low Latency connection. Despite all the hemming and hawing over Bluetooth vs 2.4GHz connections you’ll find on the internet (some of which you’ll find in reviews I’ve written), I have yet to notice a single hitch or instance of audio lag, even after weeks of semi-regular use. However, while it sounds good, and feels good, EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid is still a little inconvenient.
As I mentioned before, when you use the USB-C dongle you lose access to the earbuds’ microphone, and the lack of on-ear volume control starts to feel pretty glaring. Having to alt-tab on PC just to turn down your system volume can frankly be a pain, and navigating your PlayStation’s audio settings to turn down the headset volume is even less fun. Losing the mic also makes the multiplayer experience—the PlayStation 5 has a mic built into the DualSense controller, but that’s not the case on PS4 or most desktop PCs.
Gaming headsets are supposed to make things simpler for gamers, and the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid runs a real risk of doing the opposite if you’re on the wrong platform, or even just playing a game you can’t pause.
On a platform like Nintendo Switch, a lot of these issues don’t matter as much. Nintendo is still a stickler when it comes to mic access, so most headsets don’t work as they should for voice chat on the console, and the volume rocker is just a couple inches from where your hands already sit. When the console is docked, the lack of volume control becomes an issue just like on other platforms, though.
The only particularly Switch-centric frustration is that the simultaneous connection feature doesn’t support multi-source simultaneous audio, so you can’t use the Nintendo Switch voice chat mobile app and get game audio at the same time—you can toggle back and forth pretty easily, at least.
How does the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid sound?
Compared to our new in-house frequency response curve (the pink skinny line), the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid offers pretty accurate audio output, albeit with a few caveats. As with a ton of gaming headsets, and consumer-oriented audio products in general, these buds boost bass notes, but not outside the range of what most people would consider pleasing to hear.
More concerning is the way these true wireless earbuds dip in output between 2kHz and 5kHz. This could well be a result of natural resonances in the ear cancelling out sound, but you may find auditory masking is an issue in media with a lot of loud bass tones—high-range output isn’t much quieter, so any issue will probably be pretty rare. Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar generally sounds quite good on the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid, with clear guitar and vocals, and supporting instruments generally coming through nicely, but the hi-hat gets a little lost when the song’s tempo and intensity pick up.
In game, you shouldn’t have much issue with clarity or volume with frequency response like this. In fact, while the increased audio output up to 300Hz means the rumble of explosions and gunfire will be pretty loud, it also means sounds like footsteps should be come through pretty clearly too.
The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid handles isolation about as well as any pair of true wireless earbuds with a decent set of silicone ear tips—basically it isolates you from your surroundings better than most gaming headsets. This can’t compare to noise cancelling options in the true wireless space, but if you’re viewing the GTW 270 Hybrid as a gaming headset, it’ll be hard to find better. Oh, you should ignore that dotted blue line that appears below 40Hz: it reflects sample noise. These are not noise cancelling earbuds.
How is the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid’s microphone?
As we mentioned above, unlike just about every gaming headset on the market, the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid doesn’t support voice chat while gaming. According to EPOS this is because the aptX Low Latency codec, which it uses for the earbuds dongle connection, only supports audio playback. Regardless of the reason, if you’re someone who wants to talk to teammates or friends in party chat or over Discord while you game, this is probably a dealbreaker.
The microphone works pretty normally over regular Bluetooth connections, but it sounds pretty well in line with most TWS microphones (not great). Listen for yourself:
Should you buy the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid?
If you don’t mind not having a microphone (or you’ve already got one set up), the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid is worth considering, but this isn’t as versatile a product as it initially seems.
The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid presents a compelling sales pitch—it’s the first real gaming true wireless earbuds, with lag-free audio and support for almost every major platform. It’s comfortable, sounds great, and it’s easy to use. The earbuds don’t have the longest battery life on the market, but it’s long enough to make it through very long gaming sessions, especially if you leave the buds in the charging case afterward.
However, compared to products in either of the categories it supports it just doesn’t quite match up, in important ways. It’s pretty glaring to lack a microphone as a gaming headset—the whole product category is meant to avoid needing to buy a standalone microphone, and this necessitates it. The lack of any kind of on-ear volume control also means you’ll be hitting the PS button or alt-tabbing whenever you want to make an adjustment, which can get old very fast.
On the true wireless side, this is a pretty barebones product for just shy of $200 USD (it is for gaming headsets too, but novelty can go a long way). The multi-function button only allows for a pause/play/skip functionality, as more and more new TWS products bring more on-ear control through touchpads and other methods for cheaper. The microphone works here, but as you can hear from the sample, it doesn’t match up to a lot of the great options on the market, many of which are cheaper.
The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid is an exciting product, because it means someone finally cracked the code on making a decent pair of TWS gaming headphones, but you’ve got to be comfortable making some pretty glaring trade-offs to justify buying it. If you hate the feeling of over-ear headphones, and you never need a microphone for gaming, these are compelling—otherwise, you may find they come up short.