The age of true wireless is upon us with plenty of offerings in the market. There are now more options in the more wallet friendly end of town, and it is good to see TCL enter the market with a range of wireless earbuds. With thanks to TCL we get to test the TCL MoveAudio SOCL500TWS.
Standing out from the crowd is the design of the SOCL500TWS.
The case width is about the height of a credit card and barely larger than a square, with not a sharp corner anywhere. The thickest point is where the lid opens and it tapers down to a slim bottom where an USB-C port nestles. The translucent exterior is a point of difference, fading in colour on it’s way up. It is eye catching. The white LEDs on each earbud shows through the translucent case lid, evoking an image of the Android mascot.
On the back of the charging case is a off-white button that is impossible to miss that gives you an at-a-glance status of how much battery is left via four orange LEDs.
Inside the case, the earbuds are also made of translucent material which gives you a tiny peek at some of the internals. The angular top of the earbuds sports prominent TCL logos, and are actually physical buttons. The earbuds are guided into their charging position by magnets, and there is little wriggle room inside the case to misalign them.
The SOCL500TWS comes with three sizes of silicon tips so you can interchange for one that fits your ear canal best. For me the default option works just fine and the fit is actually quite secure.
Each earbud powers on and will separately provide audio feedback, such as the power on or connected status. You can use the SOCL500TWS in either mono or stereo mode, however there are some limitations on what controls are available (more on that later).
Pairing is a breeze and you are off and racing. There are no apps to download, the SOCL500TWS is an “as it comes” gadget. That also means as it stands, there are no firmware updates or means to customise the sound.
With that in mind, that leaves me with what TCL has tuned the earbuds for. Is that a terrible thing? Well it is not going meant to attract audiophiles.
Overall when I am listening to music, it is relatively balanced. The sound is crisp and clear. The bass is a little light on, and the treble is definitely on the very thin side.
Having spent 3.5 hours on two back to back calls using the SOCL500TWS gave me pretty good insight into the performance as a business tool. They fared reasonably well and for most parts I have little issues hearing what others are saying. However there were some regular moments every half hour or so where the audio was fading out or muffled and I had to ask people to repeat what they say. Part of that is the result of people moving away from their speaker, but some of that I feel is attributed to the earbuds themselves.
The microphone side, things are a little less peachy. People generally did not have an issue hearing me, but the mileage varies. It was really obvious that I was using some sort of microphone rather than talking into my phone. Some people have said I sounded a bit staticky, others have outright said I sound like I am talking to the phone from 2m away, there is a buzz every time I talk and intersperse with crackles.
One button (ear earbud) to rule them all. With this limitation, some functions are not available in mono mode.
Available in mono or stereo mode:
- Single-tap: Play or pause music; Answer or end call
- Hold for 2 seconds: Reject call
- Triple-tap: Voice assistant
- Hold for 5 seconds: Manual pairing
- Available in stereo mode only:
Right bud double-tap: Volume up
- Left bud double-tap: Volume down
- Right bud hold for 2 seconds: Next track
- Left bud hold for 2 seconds: Previous track
TCL rates the battery life for 6.5 hours per charge, and a total of 26 hours playing time with the charging case.
Impressively at this price point, the SOCL500TWS has a IPX4 rating providing resistance against splashing of water.
Each bud can be used independently for mono sound.
The case is what it is, a plastic case and the lid hinge feels like it won’t survive much of a fall.
I found the button to require just a little too much force to push, and hence pushing the ear buds harder into my ear canal before it will trigger.
With only a single button, it takes me longer to remember the button controls to do things.
The TCL SOCL500TWS are a budget pair of true wireless earbuds that works in either Mono or Stereo mode. They offer good battery life, particularly if you are using them in tandem in Mono mode. On top of that they offer splash protection which never hurts.
What they don’t have is Active Noise Cancellation, or ability to pass through ambient sound. There are also no sensors to pause playback when you pull the buds out of your ears. Bearing in mind the SOCL500TWS have a RRP of only $129, some features are expected to be left by the wayside. I am a little disappointed that there is no app support to get updates or some basic sound tuning though.
The TCL MOVEAUDIO SOCL500 True Wireless Headphones is available from Amazon, Mobileciti and other online channels.