True wireless earbuds are hot right now. I guess it makes sense since all the smartphone manufacturers are getting rid of the headphone jacks. Thanks, Apple!
One good thing about this popularity is companies are paying more attention to the sound quality in their TWS buds. They’re doing this by adding CD-Quality Bluetooth codecs like aptX/AAC, and as of late incorporating balanced armature drivers for speed and clarity.
The earphones I’m looking at today, the $89 Shanling MTW100 has these enhancements, plus a lot more that makes them an exciting option in the crowded TWS field. Read on for the lowdown!
BTW, I received this sample from Hifigo.com in exchange for an honest review. That is what follows.
Build and Features
Upon opening the box, the first thing you notice about these earphones is how small the charging case is. It’s probably the smallest I’ve ever seen. The case is a square pillow shape that opens on the corner like a clamshell, with a metal spring hinge. To me, the size is perfect; it fits nicely in hand.
My sample came in a glossy black, which appears on the outside of the case and carries over to the earbud housing itself. The inside of the case lined in a bright orange which reminds me of the safety orange you see in a highway construction zone. That’s not to say I don’t like it. I appreciate the contrast.
The MTW100 also comes in a glossy White and Red, but keep in mind the color you choose will determine the type of driver you receive. The Black (which I have) and Red versions are equipped with a Knowles Balanced Armature driver for a fast, balanced, detailed sound, and the White version has a graphene micro-dynamic-driver, which is said to have some additional bass-slam to go along with the crispness.
Other than the difference in drivers, all versions pretty much carry the same features. There’s BT 5.0 for lower latency and power consumption, AAC/SBC codecs for near CD-Quality sound, an IPX7 Splashproof rating, plus DSP noise-cancellation for clearer phone calls.
They also auto-charge when placed in the case and then auto pair with your device when taken out of the case.
USB-C charging and NFC wireless charging (only red/black BA versions) are on board as well. Balanced Armature models get 7 hours of playback per charge; Dynamic driver models get slightly less with 6 hours per charge. That’s pretty good, but there are a few TWS earphones out there that go 10-12 hours per charge now.
It takes 1.5 hours to charge the buds fully, but with USB-C, you can get a quick boost of energy from a 15-30 min charge. That’s pretty fast.
In the box, besides the earphones, you get about six sets of silicone ear tips in different sizes, a hand strap to loop through the case, and a charging cable. You also get an instruction card which provides some basic direction.
The MTW100 uses full touch control for switching tracks, pause/play of music, along with handling phone calls. More and more TWS buds are starting to use this type of control method, and from my experience, the implementation always takes some getting used to. The touch buttons on the Shanling earphones are no different. It can be hit or miss when trying to perform a function, at least until you figure out where exactly to tap on the earbud. You also have to get used to the amount of pressure to use. Too little, and nothing will happen. Too much and you may perform a function you didn’t want. I was able to get the touch functions to work most of the time, but it does take some practice.
Speaking of Touch functions, if you hold your finger on either earbud for three seconds and let go, you activate the surrounding awareness mode. This opens the mic and lowers the volume so you can hear sounds around you. It’s a novel idea on this type of product, and a useful feature when you’re out and about.
The MTW100 also supports mono/stereo use, so if you just take one of the buds out of the case, it will operate in mono mode for phone calls.
As far as the overall build is concerned, everything is made of hard glossy plastic. The whole package feels well made and thought out down to the metal hinge on the charging case, which I mentioned before.
Like the case, the earpieces themselves are small and light. Due to their size, contour, and wide dome-shaped silicone tips, they fit securely in my ear despite the fact they don’t penetrate the ear too deeply. And while the shallow fit is quite comfortable, the drawback is they don’t isolate you from outside sounds like some other models.
However, isolation is good enough to prevent having to crank the volume, and as you will see, I had no issues hearing fine details in the music I listened to. Noise will only be a problem in the loudest of environments.
You can use some aftermarket silicone tips for a deeper fit and more passive noise cancellation, but they may not fit in the case with them installed. I like the stock tips and don’t mind sacrificing a little isolation for comfort.
Listening to the MTW100
The sound is what really impressed me about the MTW100.
First of all, Pairing them with my LG V40 phone was really simple and quick. I just took them out of the case, pulled up the Bluetooth menu on my phone, and tapped on the MTW100 in the paring list, and I was ready to go.
I used Tidal Hi-Fi tracks streamed from my phone for the bulk of my testing, and I really liked what I heard. The overall sound is very balanced, with no apparent emphasis on any part of the audio spectrum.
The treble is really crisp without too much sizzle, mids are really open and vibrant, and the bass comes in just enough to add a nice weight to the rhythm. If you’re looking for extended low end with a really hard bass slam, then the balanced armature version may not be for you. The Dynamic driver model may be more to your liking.
The soundstage is also fantastic for a true wireless earphone. Most TWS earbuds don’t have a lot of depth or width to the sound. You just look for a good tonal balance and clarity. But the MTW100 plays way outside of your head, and it sounds great.
When I listened to “Intentions” by the rapper Big Boi, the mix was just about perfect. The bass hit just right, even though it wasn’t super deep, (you can tell they use some porting to augment the low end) the vocals were crisp and clean, and the treble while slightly rolled off, provided just the right amount of detail. I really liked what I heard.
If you like a mid-centric or balanced sound profile, then you will love the sound from these earphones. The touch controls take some getting used to, but the MTW100 are well-built and fit great. To me, they are the most comfortable TWS buds I’ve listened to so far, due to their small size and featherweight construction.