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For those not familiar with the Drop Grell TWS1X, Grell was founded by one of Sennheiser’s top designers Axel Grell so there are high expectations from those aware of the association. For the rest they might be unaware of the wonderful products Sennheiser has created throughout the years.
If you peruse their about page it reads just like any other direct to consumer breakout brand forked out of a legendary following, promises of high quality parts, cutting edge tech, but with a direct to consumer pricing model.
Ever been in one of those relationships that you do not know how to describe and default to the cliche- It’s complicated? That is how I feel about the Drop Grell TWS1X. The sound is another wonderfully tuned Harman profile with lower bass boost absent of midrange bleed, a mild treble plateau that gradually fades with good technical abilities and features that sport a working ANC feature set.
Disclaimer: Thanks go out to Drop sending a free pair and for trusting me to review these as a first time product for Audioreviews. I hope they are not too let down by my critique, but we also need to be honest to readers-no sides taken. Price as tested $200. Tested with Firmware version 2.8.0
- Harman Sound Profile
- Small Wireless Charging case, also USB-C
- Case Charge level indicator
- Transparency Mode
- ANC/NAR mode works well
- IPX4 Splash Proof
- Manual not descriptive enough a quick start guide with universal pictures, but no manual to describe the features or SoundID.
- Fast Battery drain during storage
- Fitment-short nozzle stem
- Awkward pairing issues, sometimes only one connects if you put the wrong side in first.
- Storage orientation is opposite (Left earpiece on the right, Right earpiece on the left)
There are essentially 4 modes of operation
- Normal (Transparency Off, ANC Off)
- Transparency On
- ANC ON
- ANC ON + NAR ON
ANC, NAR and Transparent modes are not explained in the manual other than how to switch them on/off
Transparent is fairly obvious for an experienced user, but not a novice.
ANC=Automatic Noise Cancellation
NAR=Noise Annoyance Reduction (Not much information on what this does)
Switching between the modes is weird. Sometimes it says ANC on/off, other times it says NAR on/off with a 1 sec hold.
Pop noise when turning ANC mode ON.
COMFORT / CONTROLS
I don’t own a lot of wireless IEM’s because I have trouble keeping them in place. My only other pair is the wonderfully fabulous Sony WF-1000XM3, but even those I struggle with to keep them in place. I prefer something that locks in place in my ears.
So this is a bias I have and wanted to point out the Drop Grell TWS1X does not make this better. The stems are short, the ear wings don’t seem to help, and therefore I had to resort to using foam eartips which was still not enough to keep them in place if in moving around situations.
The controls on the Drop Grell TWS1X are divided amongst both sides so that volume (right side) and track changes (left side) are not confused with each other. In addition to that, Play/Pause on the right, and ANC/Transparency single taps are on the left. Upon inserting them into your ears, there is not much area to grip and I found myself cycling through modes as I inserted them or activating Google Search.
The responsiveness of the touch sensor was about equivalent to the Sony WF-1000XM3, however there were times I wish they would pause sooner. I had seen discussion that there is some delay to prevent unwanted commands from occurring.
Note: Firmware updates for the Drop Grell TWS1X are done through the SoundID app, which also allows a user to apply a personal EQ to earphones in their database, which is quite large. It appears to be similar to an app called Neutralizer. The SoundID app is a Sonarworks product, and not specific to the Drop Grell TWS1X.
- Charging case with Wireless Charging
- USB-A to USB-C charging cable
- 3 pairs of silicone eartips (S, M, L)
- 2 pairs of foam eartips (M, L)
- 3 pairs of wingtips (various fits)
Ok having moved past the hiccups with operation, the sound of the Drop Grell TWS1X is quite enjoyable. With modern music the bass blooms in the bottom end, yet I sense some compression action occurring most likely from the built in amplifier. With music that does not utilize the lower octaves, it comes of sounding balanced and tighter.
Activating the ANC mode adds even more echoing bass boost which again is fairly typical of ANC earphones that are designed to cancel out constant noise signals typically centered throughout the bass region and lower midrange.
Airplanes, public transport and lawn mowers are typical good uses. Since the boost is focused purely towards the bottom octaves, they avoid bleeding into the lower midrange.
Midrange is set forward, with a very intimate dry sound. Treble has good presence keeping things lively and delicate at the same time. Peaks and such are well controlled, for me the treble is the star of the tuning.
If I had to nitpick perhaps it could use a sprinkle of more airiness. Strings, flutes and cymbals are very natural sounding. If ANC is active and the NAR is turned on, I pick up some boost in the treble as well but it could all depend on what the ANC is trying to cancel out too. The NAR is sort of a mystery.
Timbre is fairly close to natural, the Drop Grell TWS1X favors width over depth, imaging is excellent and spacing is clearly delineated. Height information is mostly maintained on a level plane, with average lift. Volume is limited on these, occasionally I would catch them quickly ramping the volume down when activating the ANC as if they could play louder if allowed.
Transparency mode is useful in an office setting, or possibly in an active usage scenario, however as mentioned before I could not get them to stay in place with even a simple walking exercise.
The microphones are very sensitive so they pick up wind noise and whispers sound unsettling loud. You could potentially ASMR yourself using the transparency mode. I would like to see if this could be simmered down with future firmware updates maybe?
Sony WF-1000XM3 (Discontinued street prices $50-150)
While both the Drop Grell TWS1X and the Sony WF-1000XM3 both utilize apps to control and EQ, the Sony requires the app to control the earphone settings. There is no way to access some of the features without the app.
The Drop Grell TWS1X on the other hand allows you to cycle through the different listening modes on the earphones themselves. The WF-1000XM3 is fully customize-able for the transparency mode though.
The Drop Grell TWS1X sounds more balanced than the V signature of the WF-1000XM3. Mids sound recessed on the Sony after listening to the Grell. The Grell also has a more rounded treble that allows many instruments to shine as opposed to the one note treble feel of the Sony.
The Drop Grell TWS1X has wireless charging while the Sony does not (winner TWS1X), but then fails on battery drain just from sitting around (winner 1000XM3). This seems like a toss up, except its more of a nuisance to grab a pair of dead earphones then be inconvenienced by having to plug them in to charge.
There is one final thing to note, when I bought my Sony I did some research that technically the battery can be replaced if you are handy. I don’t know if the Drop Grell TWS1X battery can be accessed without destroying the earphones. I might just be a nerd in this regard to worry about such silly things, but something to think about in our throw away society.
Most of my concerns (and others) for the Drop Grell TWS1X appear to be the user experience, so if you can overlook the functionality quirks they are a wonderfully sounding set with nice features comparable to the Sony WF-1000XM3.
I know they are trying real hard to work through peoples’ concerns on head-fi and Drop so that is a glass half full half empty scenario. They are receptive to solving people problems, but it would be nice if there were no bugginess in the first place, I am referring to the single side pairing conundrum.
My two biggest gotchas are fitment and battery drain. Nothing more frustrating than having to charge them once a week even if not using them. However my biggest disappointment is that I cannot use them in more active situations.
This is the most frustrating part for me because the sound tuning is excellent and the ANC passed my lawn mower test. So if you plan to use them in a stationary situation that requires ANC or even just wireless usage, and don’t care much about the battery drain these are a wonderful set of wireless ANC IEMS.
- 10.1mm high precision custom dynamic drivers
- Dynamic transducers (tolerance +/- 1 db)
- Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) Qualcomm® cVc™ Noise Cancellation
- Axel Grell Noise Annoyance Reduction (NAR)
- Transparency Mode
- Max Sound Pressure Level 105 dB SPL 1 kHz in some countries
- Frequency Range 4Hz – 22 kHz
- Low-noise, match-paired microphones
- SoundID app
- Splash Proof (IPX4)
- Bluetooth 5.2 with Qualcomm 5141 chipset
- Bluetooth range over 50 meters (164 feet)
- Compatible with iOS and Android, as well as tablets and laptops.
- Audio Codecs: SBC, AAC, Qualcomm® aptX™, Qualcomm® aptX™ adaptive, LHDC
- Up to 30 hours of listening time with ANC ON (6 hours in earbuds and over 4 full charges in the charging case)
- Up to 40 hours of listening time with ANC OFF (Over 8 hours in earbuds and over 4 full charges)
- USB-C charge connector
- Wireless charging compatible
- Glass touch field for gesture commands on each earbud
- Built in voice-assistant
Get it direct from DROP.