Drop + Grell TWS1X

Drop + Grell TWS1X is a new TWS IEM by Drop in cooperation with legendary engineer Axel Grell. It uses a 10mm custom dynamic driver and it's priced at $199.
Price Bluetooth Codec Battery Life
$199
5.2
LHDC
Up to 45h

Introduction

If you’re into audio, then you probably have heard of DROP (previously known as Massdrop). Over the past few years, they have grown into the biggest community-based audio retailer in the world, which cooperates with some of the most known companies in the world, including Sennheiser, Hifiman, Dan Clark Audio, etc. 

Now, they’re launching a new product, the Drop + Grell TWS1X. Axel Grell himself is a legendary audio engineer who stands behind some groundbreaking products like the HD800 series or the best-selling product ever on Drop, the HD 6XX. Having all that in mind, my expectations of the TWS1X are really high, let’s see how it went.

Packaging

First of all, I haven’t received the original packaging. It’s probably due to the fact, that these are still in the final development process. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten all the essentials that’ll be included in the final packaging, which are:

TWS1X Earbuds
Aluminum charging case
USB-C charging cable
Five pairs of eartips
Three wingtip pairs

The included accessories are of decent quality. The USB-C charging cable is very, very short and not very functional, and it is the worst element of the whole packaging. Other than that, you’re getting two pairs of foam eartips and three pairs of silicone ones. The blue wingtips look good and they actually make the TWS1X sit very securely in your ear. I’ve personally been using the originally installed, firm ones and I find them just about perfect for me, but you’ve got some room for adjustments. 

Last but not least, the charging case. This thing is absolutely brilliant. Made of aluminum, it feels sturdy, very secure, and not too heavy at the same time. It’s a joy to use, it has plenty of room inside, which means you can use the earbuds with comply eartips and they’ll still charge with no problem. The case also supports wireless charging, which is always a welcome addition. 

Design, Build and Comfort

Now into the build quality and comfort. The TWS1X looks really interesting and intriguing. The earbuds are on a large size though, and after getting them in my hands for the first time, I was worrying that they’ll be simply too big. Fortunately, while the overall size of the earbud is large, its ergonomic design and wise engineering resulted in a TWS that I can wear all day long. 

First of all – they look very interesting. I got quite a few questions about them while wearing them in public. The outer part that sticks out of your ears is where all the controls happen, thanks to glass touch panels. They feel very responsive and intuitive, a thing I cannot say about some other TWS earbuds I’ve used. 
Regardless of the large size though, a single unit weighs about 7.3g which is pretty good for what it offers. As mentioned earlier, I can easily wear them for a couple of hours with no problem whatsoever (been there, done that), which is pretty essential for this kind of product. It’s meant to be comfortable, easy to use, functional and practical, and it’s all that.

The TWS1X has a small “tail” on the bottom, where the microphones are placed. I’ve tested in a couple of times with phone calls, and every single time I got informed that my voice is very clear and loud, going as far as being better than through a built-in microphone of my phone. Finally, a TWS IEM that does phone calls properly. Other than the phone calls, the microphones have another job – they are widely responsible for the ANC and NAR technologies. 

Tech

Here things are starting to look really interesting. 
First of all, the TWS1X uses 10mm custom dynamic drivers with a tolerance of 1db, which is lower than many high-end brands selling IEMs for thousands of dollars. I’m not saying that it is a deal-breaker or a deal-maker, but it definitely is a nice and modest approach. 
The use of such a big dynamic driver makes for a really good audio reproduction, but we’ll get there in the next paragraph. 

Now, let’s talk about all the different types of sound isolating technologies that are present in the TWS1X. 

First of all, we have the ANC mode that works very well. The isolation is strong, making your daily trips around town much more enjoyable. You’ll still hear a car passing by while not listening to music, but all the background noise, wind, and distant people talking is gone. It’s a very strong effect, but it doesn’t make you feel like you’re underwater like some other ANC products. 
Now into my favorite feature: with just a touch of the left earbud, you’ll switch to the Transparent mode, and suddenly you’re hearing everything that’s going on around you. It works marvelously, so much that I’ve been using the TWS1X at my job and trips to the store. A quick touch to the left panel and I’m hearing everything as clearly as with nothing in my ears at all, this is a life-saver.
One of the biggest selling points of the TWS1X is the new NAR sound-isolating technology by Axel Grell, which is told to be revolutionary in noise-canceling. Honestly, for me, it works almost the same as the ANC, but it additionally empowers the bass of the noise-canceled sounds. For example, when someone is constantly talking to you while switching from the ANC to NAR, the biggest difference is that the person sounds more bassy with the NAR, while both canceled noise just about equally. 

When it comes to connectivity, the Drop + Grell TWS1X uses Bluetooth 5.2 with Qualcomm 5141 chipset. There’s no LDAC, but you’ve got LHDC, which currently is probably the best codec in the game, mainly due to its low latency.

Lastly, one of the most important things about a TWS IEM is the battery, and I’m happy to report that the TWS1X delivers. With the ANC turned on, the earbuds themselves have about 6 hours of playtime in them, with an additional 28 hours in the case. With the ANC turned off, you’re looking at more than 8 hours in the earbuds themselves, and about 37 in the case, which is an absolutely brilliant score. You won’t be thinking about recharging them too often. 

The earbuds are also Splash Proof with an IPX4 rating, which means that you don’t have to worry if it starts raining or if you plan to use them in the gym. Don’t get too crazy though, it’s just a minor splash resistance, so you should avoid getting really wet anyway.

Sound

Let’s get into the sound of the TWS1X. In terms of the tuning, it checks all the boxes of quality, super portable TWS IEM on the go with its bold, powerful bass response and exciting overall performance.

The bass is definitely the star of the show here. It sounds big, forward, and addicting,  but the quality is there as well. An elevated bass response helps the noise-canceling while providing a lot of fun at the same time. I personally know a lot of people that are looking for flat-sounding, neutral earphones on the go, and I never understand that. While wandering around the city, on the way to work, or just grabbing the groceries I always look for a fun, exciting, and entertaining sound that’ll make that everyday walks more enjoyable. 
Back to the bass of the TWS1X, it’s not as controlled or polished as many would want. It bleeds into the midrange a little bit, adding that rich and big body to vocals, which I actually really like, but it has to be noted. Other than that, this is a fun provider, working wonders with every music genre I listen to on the daily basis. It doesn’t matter if it’s electronic music, rock, metal, or rap, everything sounds exciting and it makes you involved with the music. 

The midrange is slightly warm and thick sounding, mainly due to that delicate bass bleed, which actually suits my preferences perfectly. Vocals sound smooth, lush, and rich, with no hint of harshness or graininess. The TWS1X is definitely a V-shaped IEM, so the whole midrange is slightly recessed, but to the point where it’s still enjoyable and natural sounding, it’s just not in the spotlight. It serves a rather supporting job in the overall sound presentation, which again, is widely desirable on the go. I just don’t want to rate it as a classic IEM, because it is not a classic IEM whatsoever. You won’t be using them in the same kind of scenarios, but their job is to be your company in everyday duties outside. 
Still, while playing my classic test song, A Thousand Shards Of Heaven by Lunatic Soul I got a rich, intimate and warm vocal reproduction, while the rest of the spectrum was fun-oriented. It was when I played Sylosis or Daft Punk though when I had a lot of fun walking around. I actually tend to listen to more expressive and dynamic music ever since I got them because it gives me that sense of huge, spectacular sound. 

Let’s get into the treble. It is once again fun and quite forward sounding, which it should be. It makes everything sound vivid and engaging, while not being harsh or bright. A thing that must be taken under consideration while making this kind of product, is that majority of people will listen to compressed music which is not mastered too well in the first place. Thanks to that, The Weeknd, Post Malone, Of Monsters And Men, Nero, etc sound impressive and just enjoyable, without making you overthink the technical aspect of every recording. 
Don’t worry though, this review might seem like a continuous excuse for a rather poor technical performance, but it is nowhere close to the truth. Actually, the TWS1X is a technically impressive TWS earbud when it comes to the overall sound performance. My point is that it has a rather specific kind of performance to deliver, and it does that just about perfectly. I somehow feel like I need to express the fact, that not every headphone should be neutral sounding with a frequency response close to Harman. I feel like it gets widely overlooked nowadays, with more and more people looking only at the frequency graph and then judging the product without giving it a second thought or even a brief listen.
So, yeah, the TWS1X’s tuning is exceptional for what it is – an on-the-go, TWS IEM meant to give you a fun and exciting listen. 

The soundstage is really impressive for this kind of product. It sounds open, spacious and the imaging is really good. Sure, you won’t get a feeling of listening to an open-back headphone, that’ll be impossible. Still, the stereo image is very clear, every instrument has its place and you’ll have an easy time pointing to each and every sound source on the soundstage. 
Regarding the size of the actual stage, it is medium-sized with limited depth. While the TWS1X sounds quite wide and open in this regard, the depth is limited to about 2 feet in front of you. Again, it is rather desirable, because a huge soundstage would limit the overall forwardness and that bold feeling to the music. Overall, the TWS1X is a good staging IEM, but definitely nothing extraordinary. 

Having all that in mind, I’ll go ahead as far as calling the TWS1X an almost perfect TWS IEM. It’s very comfortable, looks sick, has great battery life, superb functionality and it sounds fun and exciting, without even a slight sense of being too much.

Comparisons

 

Fiio FH3

These two are very different when it comes to the type of experience they’re meant to deliver. The FH3 is more audiophile-oriented with limited functionality over the TWS1X, while it’s also widely more demanding. To get the most out of it, you’re looking at a 100 dollars+ spent into a quality DAC/AMP, such as the Lotoo S1, Luxury & Precision W2, or some iBasso offerings. When you’ll have that setup on your hand, you’ll end up with an impressively technical and high-fidelity kind of sound performance. Still, when it comes to the overall ease of use, functionality, and ergonomics, the TWS1X is miles ahead of the FH3. 
When it comes to the raw audio performance though, the FH3 is more technically capable with better detail reproduction and a better soundstage. The TWS1X on the other hand sounds fuller, more fun and engaging, while sacrificing some of the technical aspects a little bit. It’s not a night and day difference though, which is quite impressive, having in mind that we’re talking wired vs Bluetooth. 

Campfire Audio Honeydew

The overall sound performance of the TWS1X reminds me somehow of the Campfire Audio Honeydew. Both are extremely fun, bold, and engaging sounding, being a great choice for outside activities or everyday trips. The biggest difference is of course the functionality and overall comfort. 
In terms of the sound signature, there are some differences as well. The Honeydew is slightly recessed in the midrange area and its treble is softened up in comparison to the TWS1X. The overall sound performance stays quite similar though, with both focusing on that engaging, head-bobbing type of experience. 

Summary

The hype is real. The Drop + Grell TWS1X is a brilliant TWS pair of earphones that deliver in every important aspect. Great build quality, fantastic ergonomics, battery life, great ANC, and most importantly – the sound that is both impressive and very fun to listen to. For $199 these are one of the best recommendations I could give for an everyday, easy-to-use headphones to use outside. My girlfriend is constantly trying to steal them from me, which should give you an idea of how good these are for an average consumer. If you’re looking for a good pair of TWS IEMs, look no longer and just get them. 

 

Highly recommended.

Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:

  • Headphones – Fir Audio M5 Custom, Campfire Audio Honeydew, Fiio FH3
  • Sources– Phone (LHDC, aptX Adaptive), Cayin N3 Pro

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