Gamers are still overwhelmingly in favour of over-ear headphones when it comes to choosing a way to listen during long gaming sessions.
Can EPOS's jaunt into the world of gaming earbuds revolutionise the way gamers approach audio? And how do these high-end Bluetooth earbuds stack up for music and entertainment?
I've been using the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Wireless Earbuds for the past few weeks and here are my thoughts.
These are premium earbuds with a high price tag to match. They're stylish, robust and offer great sound, managing to pack a closed-back headphone experience into a tiny pair of earbuds.
For a wince-inducing $370 price tag, you get a brushed metal case, USB-C charging cable and low-latency Bluetooth gaming dongle for use with a PC and Nintendo Switch. The earbuds boast a reasonable five hours of charge and an additional 20 hours in the case.
The EPOS GTW 270 earbuds connect quickly and painlessly every time, especially cycling between dongle and Bluetooth on your phone. I also found the microphone to be about as good as you can expect from a pair of Bluetooth earbuds.
My eclectic taste in music makes for a good test of the depth and range of any kind of headphone. I was really impressed as these earbuds put out great sound, no matter what I was listening to.
Bass is delightfully strong but not overpowering, while mids and highs are represented without being mashed together. These buds offer a vibrant sound profile that makes listening to music or audiobooks a joy.
For reference, these are probably the best earbuds I've used aside from the AirPods Pro.
The great sound quality is helped a lot by the active noise-cancelling (ANC) capability, which is utterly brilliant. Whether you're listening to Gorillaz during a high-powered hedge trimming session, or enjoying some Run the Jewels in a crowded cafe, background noise will be at an absolute minimum.
So how do the EPOS GTW 270 earbuds stack up for gaming? After all, EPOS is justifying that high price by offering unrivalled sound, comfortable fit and the point of difference of being geared towards gamers.
As stylish as these earbuds are, the reality is they only half do what they say on the tin.
Gaming requires precise spatial awareness and an understanding of where sound is coming from. Whether that's listening for movement on the battlefield, or trying to predict your opponent's next manoeuvre on the racetrack, creating a reliable depth of sound is essential for gaming headsets.
These hit the mark in some games, and drop the ball in others.
You get a lack of spatial sound that makes locating sound direction or distance next to impossible in most competitive shooters, like Escape from Tarkov or CS:GO. I tried out quite a few shooter games to ensure I wasn't being too harsh, and the truth is, they're simply bad for any game relying on spatial awareness.
Single-player games sound quite good through the EPOS buds. They project good ambient noise and soft music in games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas, while really keeping the sound tied together in Just Cause 3.
But contrast these with the Astro A50 gaming headset, which gives you that location and depth of sound, and you're left wanting a lot more.
What's worse is these earbuds commit one cardinal sin that prevents them from being taken seriously among gamers: you can't use the microphone on the earbuds when it's plugged into a computer.
This is unforgivable. If you're willing to splash out nearly $400 on a pair of earbuds, you expect to be able to use all the features, all the time. Communication is key in gaming and by removing such a staple feature, you risk not having gamers even look in your general direction.
I have a few minor gripes and grumbles with the earbuds around their fit and profile, most of which I'm willing to put down to my own personal taste. I did find the rubber sleeves (the bit that goes in your ear) didn't fit my own personal ear canal, but a quick switch from another pair of earbuds fixed that quickly.
While they make for great entertainment earbuds, a raft of issues stops the EPOS GTW 270s from reaching their true potential.
Good sound and a comfy fit make for a great user experience, but gamers will be disappointed when they go to use the microphone and find it off-limits.
If you're looking for an AirPods alternative and don't fancy much of the existing competition, the EPOS GTW 270 earbuds are a good option. Just don't expect to win any world gaming championships with them.
Oskar was supplied a set of EPOS GTW 270 wireless earbuds for this review.