Drop x Grell TWSX/1 Review

Axel Grell is a prominent name in the headphones world as he was previously involved with the creation of some of the most beloved headphones from Sennheiser. This collection includes the HD580, 600, 650 and HD800 series, among others that are widely revered amongst the audiophile community. He left Sennheiser a few years ago, and now has started his own brand, simply called Grell. The first product introduced in this new company is a true wireless earphone called the Grell TWS1.

Popular online storefront, Drop, came in and partnered with Grell and created an exclusive Drop version of the unit called the  TWSX/1, which is also priced at the same $199 price tag as the Grell version. As far as I can tell, the only differences between the two versions is the removal of the Grell branding on the Drop outer shell, and the addition of the Drop blue-colored ear wings for improved fitment on some ears. I do use these when wearing these IEMs personally.

As a disclaimer, this review unit was shipped to me directly by Drop. I have a Drop Affiliate account, however, I normally don't ever use it, so that's my spiel. The item can be purchased directly from Drop.com as this is an exclusive item to their store.

User Controls & Experience

Before I begin too far into this, I do want to point out that there have been a significant amount of user disdain and negativity around this TWS IEM's controls and overall experience. And for the most part, its all true to me, especially when I received the first unit, which was not only pretty messed up from a touch interface standpoint, but also a sound stand point. I ended up getting a new set from Drop that clearly worked a lot better and did not come from that original batch. 

That said, the original firmware it ships with is quite problematic, from touch buttons being mapped incorrectly, to random changes in playback, and other anomalies. To fix this, you'll need to get the SonarWorks Sound ID app to pair with the TWS1/X and upgrade its firmware, which isn't as simple as you'd think it would be. But after, a couple attempts, I was able to successfully upgrade the firmware, and most of the incorrect mappings were resolved.

Most of....

I no longer have the experience of the left and right controls only working, in harmony (or chaos) on only the left side, which has been resolved and the proper playback buttons are now mapped on the right side and noise canceling/transparency and "Noise Annoyances Reduction" modes are on the left side. 

That said though, I still have some issues with either extreme sensitivity in some cases where ANC turns on quickly, or Transparency does, or off, or both turn on at the same time?! OR, the touch controls don't respond at all, even after taps or long presses. It's still a bit scatter-brained in its touch effectiveness, and leaves me quite frustrated and leaves a lot to be desired.

The transparency mode is typically my go-to though, as I really enjoy using this mode on my Samsung Galaxy Buds series of TWS. The Grell version seems to have much higher sensitivity than the Galaxy Buds and it can be so amped up that you get a lot more background noise than I'd like, giving off a kind of white hiss sound thats quite audible. It's not really a problem during music playback however, but when music is off, that noise can be an annoyance.

The ANC and NAR modes are average compared to other noise cancelings I've tried and is about on par with the Galaxy Buds. I really don't know if theres a major difference between the ANC and NAR modes to be honest, and so I'd probably need to test it in a louder setting (which is hard to do during Pandemic Times).

Sound Impressions

The Grell TWS1/X has a bass-leaning tuning with a warmish mid-range and a decent and extend treble range. It's an overall warm tuning, but has some big bass bumps occasionally that I find sometimes overly dramatic and a little muddy, but it's pleasant enough for most music as well.

The biggest and most noticeable sound quality is definitely the bass range. That is, because to me, the general frequency response is in-line with what I consider neutral for the most part, but the bass has a life that hits around 150Hz and its quite audible and heavy in many tracks that demand a big bass boost.

While add a bass shelf around 150Hz typically leaves a clean bass line with just an emphasis on sub-bass rumble and slam, the way this shelf is done leaves it more with a strange "not really punch, not really slam" sound that is more or less muddy and lacking definition. It feels like its midbass bloat, but its not necessarily mid-bass that's bloated. I can't really describe it, but this aggressive low end tuning makes this IEM generally sounding a bit blunted and un-refined.

The mid-range and treble tuning are solid in quantity and delivery. I don't have much really to say other than there's nothing wrong with how its tuned in this area. It gives off a pleasant enough range that I'd say it works across many genres well.

Now comes the other issues with my sound impressions of the Grell/Drop collaboration. The tuning is generally fine. It's not wholly different than say the Sony WF-1000XM3 nor my current favorite and daily driver Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. In fact, they probably share more similarities in tuning than not. If one wanted to make the bass similarly, a simple toggle in the app can make them slightly more bassy.

I find the Grell TWS1/X to really lack good quality technical capability. It just lacks definition and any sort of dynamics. Everything sounds like its masked in some sort of mushy, soft glaze and when a proper acoustic string instruments wants a delicate detail presented, it's either missing or rounded and glossed over.

This IEM has the technical capabilities of something much, much less expensive, but tuning of something that is probably on-par with other TWS of its price range. 

Overall Thoughts

The Grell IEM came with a lot of hype, a lot of hope, and a lot of excitement, but after my 2 months of using this through several trials and tribulations, anger and frustration, and generally "meh" listening experiences, I am a bit disappointed in the package completely.

From the strange looks, the poor controls and sensitivity, the mediocre noise features, and generally mediocre quality sound, it has left me wanting more. A lot more. Even the generally decent tuning can't save it from its own self-destruction. Maybe future firmware updates will resolve some of the UX issues, but I don't think simple DSP fixes can resolve some of the issues with the limitations of its hardware. 

(And yes, I did try to EQ it)

View the product ratings on Antdroid's IEM Ranking List and/or Antdroid's Headphone Ranking List


Post a Comment