TCL Moveaudio S600 TWS review: Standing out in a crowded space
This week on the podcast I want to take a moment to talk about the true wireless earbuds that I've been using for the past few weeks. They're the TCL Moveaudio s600 true wireless earbuds. I've been using them exclusively for weeks and I'm ready to share some thoughts.
Right off the bat, I want to point out one big negative for these buds. This isn't a terrible criticism, but these earbuds are basically AirPods pro clones. Now all things considered that's not bad because Airpods Pro cost 250, and these only cost $99. You'll get a lot of the same things you get from Airpods Pro - Active noise canceling, passthrough for hearing your environment, and touch-sensitive areas for volume, track skipping, google assistant, and more.
But physically speaking these look like AirPods Pro, with the silicon tips that get inserted into your ear canal, and stems that stick down from your ears like earbuds missing their wire. It's not a great look, but at least these aren't white. The grey and silver buds and stems can blend into your ears so they don't look ridiculous, but let's just say I'm more a fan of the Galaxy Buds design.
The battery case is your typical case where the top flips open. The buds slip in and stick magnetically. The charging case charges via USB C and via wireless charging which is super sweet, and becoming more and more common in $99 wireless earbuds.
In terms of battery life, TCL advertises about 8 hours of battery life on a charge and that's consistent with my findings. I usually got two extra charges before plopping it onto the charging pad. That's a total of 32 hours of listening time which is honestly more than enough. I didn't charge the headphones often during my time with them. But I would only listen for half an hour at a time if that, so not a lot of battery usage going on there. Overall it's safe to say these earbuds will last you a good long time, certainly over a weekend, if not a full week of use.
As for the software, the first thing I was delighted to come across was Google's fast pairing protocol. Basically, when you open the case near an android powered phone, the device should recognize the device and open a dialog that shows a picture of the buds and a simple connect button. Hit it, and you're connected. It's pretty slick, but it didn't always work. I'm not sure why. I tried to isolate just a single phone and get it to pair. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. I'll say the fast pairing is potentially cool, but fairly hit or miss.
In terms of software, TCL has an app that controls the functions of the earbuds. You can set a tap, double-tap, triple tap, and long tap, and each earbud can be configured separately. One thing I'm not a fan of is that each earbud has a specific set of controls for volume, track skipping, and assistant. You can't mix and match. For example, if the right earbuds are set to volume control, you can tap once for volume up and long tap for down. But that leaves off double and triple tapping which could otherwise be configured. It's a limitation that in my opinion doesn't have to be there.
As for sound quality, it's pretty good. You get a good solid range of tones from deep bass all the way up to the high end. Nothing is overblown, but all the same, I'd like to see some EQ settings in here for fine-tuning the sound a little bit. They offer a nice balanced sound, but I'll want different profiles for podcasts than I will for meetings or music.
The earbuds also have wearing detection which automatically stops the music when you take them out. That's a configurable option, by the way, you don't have to pause the music when you take them out. I left that on because of what I'm about to tell you about next.
The noise cancellation and isolation on the earbuds are both good, but not great. The seal in the ear canal blocks out a lot of sounds. Active noise cancellation is similarly good. Driving with the windows open is always a decent test and these work pretty well. Another good test for ANC is how low you can keep the level of what you're listening to, in that respect these work well.
The transparency mode technology that allows you to leave the buds in and have conversations is not all that great. The microphones aren't sensitive enough to pick up what you need to pick up. One frequent example I ran into was at the drive-thru. I often had to remove the buds to properly hear what they were saying to me. This is also the case for cashiers when I was inside a store, so if you're thinking it was just because I wasn't facing them or something, that's not the case. Basically, you can use transparency mode to hear your surroundings when you're outside biking or running, but for conversations, it's not all that great.
So where does that leave us? Overall, I'm pretty happy with these buds as is. In my world, the things I look for are decently long battery life, good ANC, and both play controls and volume controls in an easy-to-use package, and these buds check all those boxes. Can you get better buds? Yes. but you'll spend more money for sure. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro for example have ANC and better transparency, but I'm not in love with the couch controls since I have to pick between volume and track skipping. But in the 99 dollar space, there are a LOT of options out there, including another set or two of buds that I'll be talking about in future episodes, but for now, there are my go-to buds and probably will be for the foreseeable future, especially now that I'm on iOS and I simply will not buy Airpods, at all ever.
As always, there's a link below and if you pick up a set, you'll be helping the show, but more importantly, I think you'll be getting your money's worth.