Clear, vividly detailed sound
Great style, fit, and finish
Good battery life
Some controls are finicky
Missing some features
Transparency Mode needs work
About the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless earbuds
Like Apple’s AirPods and the tons of other true wireless rivals, the T5 II have no connecting wires at all. As the name implies, these are the second generation, and offer some marked improvements, including vastly improved water resistance, Transparency Mode to hear the world around you while listening, and a more streamlined, slimmed down design.
The Klipsch T5 II are also joined by two different pairs in the series. Those include a Sport version for $30 more—which add ear fins for a more secure fit as well as a uniquely designed waterproof case that can be charged wirelessly—and above that a $250 McLaren version which is mainly an aesthetic upgrade, but also includes a charging matte.
Here’s a look at the T5 II’s specs:
- Price: $199.99
- Battery life: up to 8 hours per charge, 32 hours total with charging case
- Rapid charging: 10 minutes charge for 80 minutes of playback time
- Colors: Silver, Gun Metal
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
- Audio codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX
- Dust/water resistance: IP67
- Ear tips: two shapes in three sizes each, six total
- Weight: 5 grams per bud, 87.5 grams case
What we like
Durability meets elegance
Klipsch’s original T5 were among the most stylish earbuds around when they hit the scene last year, and the T5 II improve on that design in some subtle but effective ways. The original T5 were already compact, and the second gen are both smaller and lighter. The design is also more polished, adding in touches like LED lights beneath the exterior housing to indicate charging status. As mentioned, the T5 II have also added better water resistance (they’re now dunkable) and dust protection for durability.
Speaking of durability, the Zippo-like metal charging case is a tad slimmer according to Klipsch (I honestly wouldn’t have noticed) and small enough to easily pack, but just as tank-like as before. This thing is heavy—mostly in a good way, though you’ll certainly feel it in your pocket—and gives a satisfying click when you close it like the timeless lighters. (Klipsch is so into the Zippo comparison the company even put out branded Zippos as a promotion.)
Secure and relatively comfy fit
True wireless earbuds are notoriously tricky when it comes to fit; turns out it’s hard to pack sound and streaming tech into a tiny bud, let alone making sure they nestle in your ears comfortably. Klipsch’s solution is a combination of a relatively compact primary housing, a very thin soundtube, and both oval and round ear tips in three sizes each.
Add in a weight of just five grams per bud and you get a fit that’s among the most comfortable I’ve encountered in the space, allowing for hours of wear without notable complaints. While they don’t sit flush in your ear like Google’s Pixel Buds, they’re not overly bulbous either, and, for me anyway, they’re secure enough for rigorous activities like yard work or even jogging.
My only gripe is that it would be nice if Klipsch included the ear fins bundled with the Sport pair with the regular T5 II, as those whose workouts cause excessive sweating may find the earbuds getting loose. On the other hand, I noticed the fins on the Sport pair I tried tended to slip off rather easily, so this particular omission may not be a big loss anyway.
Plenty of battery
Battery life is one thing that hasn’t changed for the T5 II, but it’s also one of the categories in which the original pair were ahead of the pack. Klipsch’s claimed 8 hours per charge beared out in testing, and the extra 24 hours in the case adds up to overall battery life that matches or beats most name-brand competitors and pummels Apple’s pricier AirPods Pro and the Pixel Buds, both of which max out at 5 hours per charge.
Sure, you probably won’t put the buds in for 8 hours, but the extra playback time means you’ll rarely need to even think about battery life, and it should also extend the T5 II’s overall lifecycle.
Good passive noise isolation
A lack of any active noise cancellation is something to consider about any earbuds approaching the T5 II’s $200 price point in 2020—Panasonic’s excellent RZ-S500W include excellent noise cancellation at a lower price (though they’re also more bulbous because of it).
That said, while there are some features we wish the T5 II included (more on those below), the lack of ANC isn’t a major complaint thanks to their passive noise isolation, rated at -22dB. With music playing low, most ambient and drone noises are effectively drowned out, to the point where I can’t hear my keystrokes as I type this.
Ultra-clear, well-balanced sound
As Klipsch fans might expect, the T5 II offer a vividly detailed sound signature that's clear as cut glass. It’s a brighter flavor overall, but it’s never sharp and the taught delivery reveals everything in your music with dimensionality, from the subtle nuances of vocals and dialogue to glossy electric guitars and punchy, textural percussion. The earbuds are especially fun for brass, where the sweet upper midrange of both instrument and earbud blend for a lively punch.
I particularly enjoy how well the T5 II clear out space for instrumental separation and dynamics, letting each element within the mix breathe. This helped unearth details on tracks I’d overlooked or simply missed in previous listens, such as the strikingly loud amp hum at the end of Elvis’ Blue Moon or the litany of strange warbles that seem to pop out of the primordial synthesizer ooze of Talking Heads’ This Must Be the Place.
If forced to raise a complaint, I'd say the treble gets just a little sizzly in brighter tracks, especially for really washy cymbals. Occasionally sound may even be a bit too clear, exposing weaknesses in poorer recordings or other off details you didn’t notice. Did you know the left-side guitar in Springsteen’s Thunder Road is slightly out of tune?
While I spent a lot of my listening focused on the clarity and upper register detail, don’t sleep on the bass here. Perfectly balanced in the “flat” EQ setting, bass is both rich and precise. The result is a smooth and groovy foundation that outdoes the Pixel Buds’ similarly clear sound signature down low. For that matter, the T5 II best the majority of wireless earbuds we examine, with a few notable exceptions like Sennheiser’s pricy-but-luscious Momentum 2 wireless.
When it comes to call quality, I noted a few stutters in the calls I made, but it was hard to figure out which end was responsible. Generally callers could hear me well and vice versa with no major issues.
What we don’t like
They don’t have all the features
The T5 II offer some handy extras, including impressive water resistance and battery life, staples like adjustable Transparency Mode and the ability to use one earbud at a time, and even aptX for high quality streaming on supported devices (sorry, Apple folks).
But there are some notable omissions. Apart from their lack of noise cancellation, the T5 II don't provide a sensor on the buds to auto-pause when you take one out, and they also don’t appear to power down when not in use. That means you’ll need to keep them in the case or be mindful of disconnecting them when not in use or you may run down the battery or be unwittingly connected.
The Klipsch Connect app also misses some functionality you'll see in flagship pairs from the likes of Google, Jabra, Apple, and others including Find My Earbuds and customizable controls. I particularly missed the latter—I rarely use voice assistants, for example, so I’d love to drop that function and replace it with something more useful. On the other hand, the app’s five-band EQ is excellent, allowing you to easily adjust multiple frequencies or pick from presets.
Controls are a tough fit
Controls are a constant conundrum for true wireless earbuds designers: the smaller the buds, the harder it is to fit them all in. While most earbuds we see these days use touchpads on the buds' exterior housings, the T5 II go with a physical multi-key on each earbud to control everything from play/pause and song skip to voice assistance and even volume control.
It's ambitious, but I'm not a huge fan of the deployment here for a few reasons. First, unlike Jabra’s Elite 75t series, the buttons are on the firm side, meaning they end up jabbing into your ear canal when pressed. In addition, while onboard volume control is a win (plenty of true wireless earbuds still don't include it), the full monty of options is a lot to ask of two buttons—Jabra is among the few brands to manage it well. Lowering volume via the left-side key tended to be particularly spotty, often toggling Transparency Mode on/off instead. Here’s hoping Klipsch adds customizable controls in a firmware update to mitigate some of these issues.
Transparency Mode is squirrelly
With a “boosted” antenna, the T5 II offer solid Bluetooth connection; I was able to leave my phone and walk all about my house with no issues, and I only experienced one or two dropouts in multiple days. However, I did note some swapping of the stereo image a few times between the buds. Oddly, the issue seemed to only happen when I used Klipsch's new Transparency Mode. While it was intermittent, I noted it on two phones and it occurred in both the regular T5 II and the Sport model.
Occasionally stereo swapping is something that’s not wholly uncommon in smaller true wireless earbuds, including the Pixel Buds, which seem to have some ongoing connection woes possibly due to their small antennas. I won't speculate on the T5 II's issue, and it may not happen with all phones, but it could potentially cause annoyances when using Transparency Mode.
Should you buy it?
With sound this good, it’s hard to say no
Klipsch’s T5 II are elegant, durable, and sound fantastic. They’re also quite comfortable and stay put in my ears well, something a ton of earbuds struggle with. That said, they have a few quirks and are also missing some key features, so it’s worth exploring some alternatives before you buy.
I generally prefer Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2, which sound a little warmer and more natural and also add in customizable controls and active noise cancellation. However, they’ll cost you $100 more and they’re a fair bit bulkier, too.
If sound is less important, Jabra’s sporty Elite Active 75t offer better controls, a better app, and didn’t exhibit the same stereo swapping as the T5 II in Transparency Mode, but I also don’t find them to be as comfy. Those who want something with noise canceling and great sound at similar pricing may also want to check out Sony’s WF-1000XM3 and Panasonic’s RZ-S500W, though neither are as optimized for workouts.
While they’re not as polished as I'd hoped, Klipsch’s T5 II are as comfy as they are stylish, and put out some of the best sound in the genre. If great sound is your prime directive, they’re well worth consideration.
Meet the tester
Managing Editor - Electronics@ryanwaniata
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
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