A newcomer to the true wireless headset space, you say? Sure, that can be a pretty common occurrence these days, but this one – Grell Audio – comes with a pretty strong legacy. Its founder, Axel Grell, is well known in the headphone industry for his extensive work at Sennheiser on some of the company’s most prestigious products. the TWS / 1 is his first solo product under the Grell brand. As a result, we’re interested to see what the $ 200 wireless headphones can do.
The TWS / 1 has a modern look. The mostly circular design is only interrupted by a small AirPod-like protrusion on each bud. Originally the plan was to have the exterior case made entirely of metal, but the physics and radio waves meant that some concessions (plastic parts) were needed. Overall, they retain a premium feel to what you often find at this price point. They visually remind me a bit of the Jabra Elite 75t, but a bit lower.
In terms of fit, this slightly more streamlined design means you don’t feel like something is balancing in your ear, which can sometimes happen with rounder models. As usual, they come with a charging case that promises four full charges of the TWS / 1. The buds themselves offer around 6 hours per charge, which is true in my experience with the ANC turned on. Oddly enough, the buds are placed in the case with the one from right to left and vice versa. I don’t know why, but it does require some reminder (we will remind you soon because heads aren’t going the other way).
In a world of products, too, it’s hard to stand out. The simplest differentiator is price and then sound quality and / or extra / premium features. It appears that Grell Audio has tried to tackle all three of these issues, and with general success I would say.
The price point puts the TWS / 1 in an unusual category. Many high-end brands land in the $ 250 and up zone, while more affordable options, like Google’s second-gen Pixel Buds or the aforementioned Jabras, live in the $ 150 zone. Budget options, south of $ 100, are also increasingly common. This, then, launches the TWS / 1 at the overlap between high-mid and low-premium. I would bet this is quite intentional as the feature set and build quality is more upscale, but the minimal packaging and more accessible price point indicates a wider audience.
As for the sound quality, this is where things are a bit clearer. In my testing, I was generally happy with the default sound. It was perhaps a bit thinner for my personal preference with a slight weight on the lower end for a typical commercial sound. But Grell has partnered up with SoundID, a third-party app that tailors certain brands of headphones to your personal preferences / hearing.
We’ve seen things like this before, especially with Nura taking this to a whole new level. SoundID is a bit more sober in its approach. It still uses some form of hearing test, but rather than asking if you can hear certain tones, it just plays music for you and asks you “what you prefer, A or B”. After this short test was over, the difference was night and day. With my own personal profile turned on (it downloads into headphones to apply whatever you’re listening to), my usual mix of mid-10s indie and rave nonsense came to life.
I have a slight preference for the dynamic range and the more powerful low and mid-high frequencies. At least I guess so, because that was the biggest change in sound after I finished testing and I immediately found them to be much nicer. In the SoundID app you can switch between the default sound and your own profile and it really makes a huge difference. You do not need the app to get a good sound, but i guess you will be happier with what it gives you.
Coincidentally, SoundID is also where you’ll get software updates for the TWS / 1. I had one in my testing and it improved a few things including the slightly unresponsive touch controls. They still don’t read my 1: 1 taps, but it’s about on par with most of the other touch buttons I’ve used. Before the update it was a lot more frustrating (or, maybe I just learned the technique?).
These controls are not user configurable, so you are stuck with what Grell gives you. But, luckily, that’s pretty much anything you’d want and without too many complicated touch or gesture combinations. Swiping forward or backward on the left ear skips tracks, up or down on the right for volume, and so on. I was having issues controlling play / pause on the right and transparency mode on the left, both of which are more annoying if not activated immediately.
This brings us to smart features. As mentioned, the TWS / 1 has an active noise cancellation and transparency mode, both of which are becoming more and more standard. But there is also a noise reduction mode (NAR). Grell explained to me in their initial briefing that ANC is great for sustained low frequency noise, but doesn’t work as well for high frequency annoyance (think crying baby on an airplane). NAR is Grell’s own attempt to provide some reduction in these types of sounds.
In practice, I had a hard time figuring out the difference NAR makes. With the ANC, it is easy to hear the low rumble of the road in front of my apartment decrease in volume. It might not be the strongest ANC I’ve heard, but it gets the job done. With NAR, whatever the auditory equivalent of strabismus, turned out to be somewhat more indeterminate. It seems to slightly improve the listening experience in combination with the ANC, but it’s also hard to say how prepared I was. It’s an interesting concept though and I hope Grell can continue to improve over time.
Other small advantages include a “mono” mode (listening with a single bud). It’s not as common as it should be in my opinion and it adds more flexibility for those who want to maintain some spatial awareness without having to carry both heads. It’s also, of course, how some people prefer to handle their calls (reliving the days of Bluetooth headsets).
Another little added bonus is the “compatibility” of wireless charging. It’s not something I’ve been able to test, but the more things that support it the better? Or, at the very least, it’s a nice perk for those who have already invested in the world of wireless charging.
Overall, Grell has considered price, features, and sound quality enough that the result is a promising first product from an emerging brand. The price, in particular, strikes a good balance between signaling premium ambitions without putting it too far out of the reach of mainstream casuals. I’d love to see new advancements in NAR technology and the controls could be even more responsive, but if you’re looking for a new set of true wireless headphones that can be customized to your liking, these are a great place to start. .
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