Yamaha’s TW-E3C wireless earbuds might be entry-level but they’re almost the whole package
These new earbuds have a lot to offer for the low price, but can affordability make up for one major omission?
⊕ IPX5 waterproofing is great for exercise br>
⊕ Long battery life br>
⊕ Customisable EQ br>
⊖ Lack of noise cancelling is a disappointment br>
⊖ A little unforgiving with lifeless mixes br>
Yamaha’s new TW-EC3 wireless earbuds represent the most affordable entry point to date to the brand’s portable wireless lineup, bringing many features from the more expensive E5 and E7 series while staying below the £100 mark.
There’s a choice of six colours with a compact and lightweight charging case – ideally, though, the lid should be a little stronger. In the box is a USB-C cable for charging and a USB-A adapter, plus a choice of four differently-sized pairs of ear tips. The buds snap into the case with reassuringly strong magnets, so they are unlikely to fall out.
The case and buds both take two hours to reach 100 per cent charge from empty. On a full charge, you’ll get around nine hours of playback from the buds, and an extra 15 from the case – a total of approximately 24 hours. Compared to the cheaper Piston Buds Pro and the high-end Master & Dynamic MW08s, the battery life in these buds falls roughly in between the two. Both competing models feature noise cancelling which the Yamahas don’t – more on this later.
LEDs on the case show you battery charge status and voice feedback when you place the buds into your ears will also inform you of the state of charge. The TW-E3Cs feature IPX5 water resistance, making them suitable for use during outdoor exercise, or even around the pool, with care.
Pairing is straightforward; simply remove them from the case and they become discoverable – no buttons to press. The buds feature multipoint Bluetooth 5.2, allowing pairing with two devices at the same time and the ability to accept incoming audio from either, including taking a call, without having to manually switch devices. This is incredibly useful and really should be standard on all wireless earphones in 2023, since many people have both a phone and a computer on which they want to listen without tedious re-pairing. In practice, it works flawlessly with the TW-E3C.
You can customise the buds using the companion Headphone Control app, free from the App Store or Google Play. Three modes are available, the first of which is Ambient Sound. This feeds audio from the earbuds’ four microphones back into the signal in order to help you stay alert when listening outdoors. It’s either on or off, there’s no variable level, but it works as advertised. The same mics use Qualcomm Clear Voice Capture to help isolate your voice when making phone calls or invoking voice assistants; indeed, voice pick-up and call quality are commendable.
The second mode is Listening Care, found in many of Yamaha’s other earbuds. Essentially this actively changes EQ at lower volumes to help ensure that you hear the full range of frequencies even when you’re not blasting sound at your eardrums. This means enhancing those frequencies like bass that typically fall away at lower volumes. In use the effect is quite subtle but since listening too loud is quite commonplace, it’s a nice option to have if you’re concerned about affecting your hearing. The third mode is Gaming which aims to reduce latency for sync-sensitive uses like watching video or playing games. We don’t actually notice any latency even with this mode switched off, but again it might help with your particular setup.
Next up in the app is the graphic equaliser, with several presets as well as two slots for user presets. You can adjust the five bands by dragging with your finger, and the settings will be stored in the buds. It’s a relatively broad brush tool as opposed to being surgical, but you can easily make quick boosts or cuts to highs, mids and lows if you prefer an EQ-shaped sound. The buds themselves have no buttons but instead use touch surfaces for commands and these can be customised to an extent in the app, choosing between two setup presets. Some other earbuds allow you more customisation than you get here, but it’s manageable, the app screen clearly showing what combinations of long and multiple taps will achieve
The buds use the standard SBC and AAC codecs as well as aptX Adaptive and feature 6 mm dynamic drivers with a full-range frequency response. They deliver a fairly lively soundstage with solid mids and highs, though occasionally lacking a little in both lows and stereo width compared to more expensive competitors. They do seem a little unforgiving of lifeless mixes but on the other hand also reward punchy production.
Jay-Z’s Numb / Encore fizzles with energy, while UNKLE’s Ronin sounds rich and earthy. In more sedate moments, they handle some live Oscar Peterson recordings deftly too. You can use the onboard EQ to tweak their character if you wish, though as ever, this can affect different tracks in different ways.
The lack of noise cancelling is disappointing, especially when the buds have ambient listening and mics already. For many people who listen while travelling this feature is invaluable, even though it does impact battery life. In fact, only theTW-E7Bs at around £250 do have it, which is obviously a conscious decision on Yamaha’s part. Whether or not it’s a deal breaker will be a matter of personal choice and certainly, there are buds that are even more affordable that do include it.
What you do get with the E3Cs is a competitively priced set of earbuds with solid battery life, customisable EQ, Listening Care and also water resistance, which is more unusual to find at this price point. Audio performance is commensurate with cost, which isn’t a negative; for most people they’ll provide a reliable and pleasurable listening experience while letting you make calls, jog or use voice assistants.
Yamaha TW-E3C earbuds are available now for £89 at europe.yamaha.com
6 mm dynamic drivers
20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency range
4 mics for calls and ambient listening
Up to 24 total hours of battery life
Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs
Connect via USB-C or USB-A
Companion app with EQ customisation
Choice of colours
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