Hardware Review: EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Wireless Earbuds

Quality Bluetooth audio on Switch and other devices, with some caveats.

By Zack Fornaca. Posted 02/11/2021 01:52 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Good audio quality and pleasantly snug fit; usable on Switch and many other common devices; plug and play device switching; barely any lag if any when using the dongle
Poison Mushroom for...
Dongle is expensive and easy to lose; physical button on the wrong earbud; no microphone via dongle

For people who use their phone as an all-in-one device, headphones are pretty simple, but gaming devices complicate things. If (like many modern devices) your phone has no 3.5mm headphone jack, and you game on a Switch (which has a 3.5mm headphone jack but no Bluetooth), it’s hard to find a general solution that  doesn’t involve multiple pairs of headphones.

Enter the EPOS GTW 270, which bypasses the lack of native Bluetooth on Switch by leveraging a dongle.

While of course not the only headphones bridging the multi-device gap, for gamers who prefer earbuds the GTW 270 is a solution worth considering. Despite some flaws discussed below, they do fundamentally provide a good experience across multiple devices, including Switch, Android, PC, Mac, and PS4 (plus iOS and PS5, though I lacked the hardware to test those).

Like many Bluetooth earbuds, the GTWs come in a small carrying case, and the earbuds recharge their batteries from the case when at rest. The earbuds themselves are advertised as having “up to 5 hours” of battery power, with the case’s battery providing about another 15, and in my experience that was accurate. It’s not the greatest battery life (a bit worse than my previous everyday BT earbuds), but more than enough for anything but a truly excessive gaming binge. The case charges via USB-C, and while a USB cable is provided, an AC adapter is not. The instructions suggest charging from your computer. Otherwise, you’ll need to find another charging solution.

Opinions will vary because ears vary, but compared to my past earbud experiences, I find the GTW 270s to provide a better seal, sit more comfortably, and block out more environmental noise. The audio quality is also generally better, especially where in-game sound effects are concerned, but keep in mind that my past experience is with midrange earbuds, not high end. All in all, the in-ear experience is strong but not mind-blowing. What most stood out to me about the quality of the audio was that the earbuds could keep a crystal clear signal even when the paired device (Pixel 4a) was several rooms away, which is something my other BT earbuds cannot manage without audio issues.

Worth special emphasis is the ability to use the right earbud without the left, and the inability to do the reverse; the left bud is dependent on the right and only plays audio within a fairly small distance of the right. Unfortunately, the left bud has the only physical button, so for e.g. pause/play functionality, that’s severely compromised if you’re only using one earbud. Depending on your usage (in my case, listening to music in one ear while working in the kitchen), this may present a serious flaw.

The most unique thing about the GTW 270, and the thing that makes it appealing to Switch owners, is the USB-C dongle that comes with it (plus an included cable that lets you connect the dongle to a USB-A port). This can be plugged into and used with a range of devices, most notably the Switch, but also PS4, PS5, PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. Some of those devices accept Bluetooth audio normally (e.g. PC, Android), so you may wonder how beneficial this actually is, but Bluetooth implementations and standards can vary a lot in compatibility, user-friendliness, and quality, so the GTW 270’s ability to circumvent those by using a plug and play USB-C dongle is actually quite valuable even when considering Bluetooth-enabled devices. The dongle also makes switching between devices less of a headache. I don’t need to turn off Bluetooth on my phone or disconnect the headset in device settings before connecting to something else. Instead, I just pull the dongle out of one device, and pop it into another. The plug and play experience is one of the biggest hassles of Bluetooth vs wired headphones, and it’s nice to avoid it.

EPOS advertises the dongle’s audio connection as lag-free, and I don’t think that’s literally true, but it is close enough to true that I only even perceived any lag at all when playing classic Mega Man games in Mega Man Legacy Collection. It’s slight enough that I’m not entirely confident I’m not imagining it, and I don’t think anyone would notice if they weren’t playing the same six NES games every year for 32 years and counting. When playing even other twitchy action games like Dragon Blaze and Panzer Paladin, I noticed no lag whatsoever.

I did experience one audio issue with the GTW 270s that I should mention, with the caveat that it is not unique to the GTW 270s but just more acute on them, and may reflect an issue with my Switch Lite or with the game that the GTW 270s are just better at revealing. In Dragon Blaze, for whatever reason, some of the explosion sound effects can create a clipping/crackling effect which is somewhat noticeable via the built-in speakers or wired headphones, but much more noticeable via the GTW 270s.

There are a couple other Switch-specific considerations worth dwelling on. First, since the dongle uses a Switch’s only USB-C port, it cannot be used while charging a Switch, though it can be used docked via the dock’s USB-A port and the adapter cable. Second, the dongle does not fit in the case containing the earbuds, so if like me you have a compact Switch case that lacks room for the dongle, storage/transport becomes a consideration. Should you lose the dongle, the MSRP for a standalone dongle is $89. Considering that the whole package is $199, that’s a pretty steep price for such an easily lost piece. Third, these won’t obviate the need to use a separate phone app for voice chat. Actually, even if Nintendo somehow changed the Switch OS to allow in-game voice chat, the GTW 270 dongle still wouldn’t support it; the earbud microphone won’t work via the dongle, and that goes for all platforms, not just Switch.

Because many Switch owners use multiple gaming devices, here are two final caveats. First, this will not work at all on an Xbox One or Series S/X, because Microsoft uses different audio standards. Second, because the PlayStation Vita has a Micro USB port instead of USB-A or USB-C, it cannot use the dongle, and while it can use native Bluetooth, the Bluetooth audio is incredibly laggy (a Vita issue in general). If you’re only concerned with using the GTW 270 on a subset of the following, it does work well: Switch, PC, Mac, Android, iOS, PS4, PS5.

Despite the flaws and platform limitations, fundamentally this is a good product that does what it sets out to do: provide Bluetooth audio to Switch players in a way that also works across a suite of other devices those players possess. On one hand, the audio quality and battery life don’t do a lot to justify the price tag when compared to other Bluetooth earbuds. On the other hand, this is usable on Switch and that alone does make this stand out from the crowd. There’s definitely room for improvement in subsequent revisions (redesigning the case to accommodate the critical dongle is certainly the most pressing issue), but even as is, this is worth a look.

Nintendojo was provided a sample of this product for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation.

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