True wireless earbuds have exposed over the past few years. The Master & Dynamic MW07 delivers amazing audio but retail for $249, and Jabra’s Elite 75t are also amazing but cost $179.99. But what if you don’t want to spend quite so much? That’s where the TCL SOCL500TWS comes in. They are under $80, but are they worth it?
Let’s get this out of the way up front. These true wireless earbuds (TWE) have a ridiculous name. As TCL’s first pair of TWE, they could have simply gone with something like ”TruBuds 1” or ”TCL NoCord1”. But no, TCL had to name these the TCL SOCL500TWS. I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’m going to remember that. In fact, for this review, I created a text-replacement macro. When I type ”dumb name,” my iPad replaces it with TCL SOCL500TWS. So there’s that.
Okay, so on with the review.
The first TWE that came to market was plagued by connectivity issues. One channel or the other would cut out for no reason. Or the connection would be fine until you placed your phone in your pocket. As soon as you did, the signal became unreliable. Over the past year or so, that’s improved significantly. The TCL SOCL500TWS employs Bluetooth 5.0, so the connectivity should be rock solid once the earbuds are paired to your phone or tablet.
The packaging is function but unimaginable. Inside, you get the earbuds, a charging case, three were of ear tips (one pair come preinstalled), a short USB-C cable for charging, and some paperwork.
I was surprised that a budget-friendly pair of TWE would use USB-C. It has finally become the standard for everyone but Apple.
Your Entertainment. Your Styles: Vibrant color schemes let you easily find the pair that matches your personality, or even your mood. From opaque glossy finishes to translucent gradient options, along with a variety of color options to choose from, SOCL is our most expressive series of headphones.
The included charging case matches the color of the earbuds. When ordering you have your choice of color. These include:
The earbuds weigh just 1.5g each while the battery case comes in at 12g. This makes them among the lightest TWE we have seen. The 6.5 hours of playback isn’t exception but it isn’t anything to smirk at either. Plus, thanks to the battery case, you can recharge the earbuds three times on the go for a total of 26 hours of playback before needing to plug the case into an outlet or external battery. Add in fast charging which delivers an hour of playback in just 15 minutes and standby time of 55 hours and you have a pair of TWE that can hold their own in the battery department. And, when the battery gets too low, an audible warning will let you know.
The earbuds are smaller than the aforementioned MW07 TWE but larger than the Jabra Elite 65t. The translucent plastic is interesting, but when it comes to their look and feel, they aren’t in the same class as either of those. Instead, they feel… inexpensive.
Made For Music On The Move: Headphones controls makes switching songs, adjusting the volume, and accepting or rejecting calls simple, without ever taking your device out of your pocket. Bluetooth-enabled models offer freedom from wires while still keeping you in control of your music. Oval acoustic tube design for ear caps provide you with a comfortable and ergonomic fit that’s perfect for continuous and long-term usage.
Controls on the earbuds let you answer and reject calls, play and pause music, switch tracks, control the volume, and switch between music and calls. As is always the case, there’s a bit of a learning curve when you first begin using the earbuds. After a short while, however, the controls become second nature.
Inside the earbuds, there is a 5.8mm driver that has a Frequency response of 9 – 22,000hz and an Impedance of 13 Ohm.
- Bluetooth 5.0 True Wireless
- 5.8mm speaker drivers for rich bass and clear sound
- 6.5 hours per charge, with 26 total hours play time.
- Easy-open slim charging case with 15 mins fast charge for 1-hour play
- Geometrically designed for superb comfort fit and great in-ear noise isolation
- Clear calls echo cancellation
- IPX4 rated coatings for sweat and water resistance
- Come with three sizes earcaps and USB charging cable
TCL describes them this was-
The SOCL series is perfect for those with an outgoing lifestyle who always look for the perfect way to identify themselves. With the SOCL vibrant color schemes, you’ll be sure to find one that fits your personality and mood. Our stereo headphones also feature an oval acoustic tube design for their ear caps which provides you with a comfortable and ergonomic fit that’s perfect to continuous and long usage – ensuring the party won’t stop until you’re ready.
Before the Master & Dynamic MW07, I was used to TWE coming in a wide range of colors so long as you only wanted black or white. The MW07 changed that for me. When their CEO offered me a pair, I had a wide range of colors and designs from which to choose. Because of that, the color choices offered for the TCL SOCL500TWS TWE didn’t impress me. Still, if you want affordable TWE in something other than black (although they also offer black), these may be a good starting point as you begin to look around.
Of course, once you past comfort — they are comfortable, battery life — they deliver respectable battery life, and connectivity — I’ve had no issues with dropped connections, the thing that matters most is sound. So how DO these TWE sound? In a word, they sound… fine. It’s not that the audio is bad, it isn’t. But they certainly don’t come close to M & W or Jabra’s offerings. There’s a fair bit of bass, but the sound they produce is still a bit thin. If, for example, you are coming from Apple’s wired EarPods, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. If, however, you are coming from a pair of quality headphones, be they wired, wireless, or TWE, you aren’t going to be happy.
Here’s the thing, though. The TCL SOCL500TWS TWE isn’t looking to compete with those TWE. In fact, for the price of the Jabra Elite 75T, you can get two pairs of these. For the price of the MW07, you can get three pairs of these and have change left over. In other words, if you are on a budget but want a pair of TWE, these will do the job. If you have a teenager who trashes or loses earphones regularly, these may be a good choice as well. But if you want great audio, you will want to look elsewhere. On paper, these earbuds tick all the right boxes, but in actual usage, while the TCL SOCL500TWS TWE are decent, they prove the adage “you get what you pay for.” Check them out here.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the TCL SOCL500TWS TWE
What I Like: Inexpensive; Bluetooth 5.0 means a solid connection; Very good battery life; Come in a choice of pretty colors; Comfortable; Use USB-C
What Needs Improvement: The battery case feels cheap; The sound they deliver is fine but no more than that