The $ 199 GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds from the audio company EPOS are, as far as I know, the first truly wireless earbuds made for gaming – but the buttons themselves are not the biggest selling point. The USB-C Bluetooth receiver that comes with the earplugs gets that distinction.
It is much more compact than USB dongles with standard flash drive that comes with many headsets. It is also more capable of operating with the aptX low latency (aptX LL) codec which provides good sound without noticeable delay. With the help of the receiver, the GTW 270 Hybrid can be especially good for fast-paced games where audio signals count for success; but really, it̵
However, there is one problem: the microphones do not work when listening to audio via the USB-C receiver. (However, the earpiece’s built-in microphones work when paired with a device via Bluetooth.)
This falls more on the technical limitations of aptX than EPOS ‘decision-making. In an effort to prioritize bandwidth for sound quality and response, only the playback channel is active when listening using the USB-C dongle. It’s a potential deal-breaker for some gamers who might be able to jump into a conversation with friends on the consoles. But to EPOS ‘credit, the wait between the dongle and the earphones actually works not existing.
These gun-colored knobs have a simple, discreet design so that they do not protrude too much from your ear. They are not too heavy, and the fit is comfortable, thanks to replaceable silicone earplugs that help you get a good seal in your ear. When it comes to controls, they only have a single multifunction button that handles pause and resume music, changes tracks, and records phone calls. In other words, without the USB-C dongle, these are not that special. (EPOS makes a $ 169 version of the sans dongle.) For general use – such as phone calls or music – you can get more by spending less if you check out some of the options in my colleague Chris Welch’s affordable wireless earplug buying guide.
Outside of gaming, these earbuds can be used like any other wireless set to connect your phone, tablet or laptop via Bluetooth. They support Bluetooth 5.1 (with the SBC or aptX codec, depending on the device you connect) for music, videos, games and phone calls, and EPOS says you can pair them with up to eight devices. Pairing is done by holding down the button on the charging case.
Speaking of the charging bag: it has a metal design which unfortunately is very easy to scratch. It is charged via USB-C; with full charge, EPOS says it can provide up to 15 hours of extra battery life to your earphones. During the review period, the GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds reached the five-hour mark for battery life, which matches the company’s requirements. And if you’ve been on a sweaty jog or just do not want to get caught in the rain, these IPX5 are water repellent.
I’ve spent the last few weeks using the earbuds to play games alternately on the PS5, the switch and my laptop several times each day. (If you’re curious, it comes with an adapter that lets you connect the dongle to a device that has USB Type A ports.) The GTW 270 Hybrid works like any wireless gaming headset, but the truly wireless form factor has some obvious advantages. I like that they allow me to move uninhibited by wires, and using them does not insulate me (or ruin my hair) as much as large boxes over my ear. The receiver is pre-paired to the knobs, and they connect almost instantly.
I also love the convenience of being able to use just the right earplug (the right one controls the Bluetooth transmission, so listening through the left earplug does not work), so I can keep my ear accessible to listen for packets being dropped. Of course, this is nothing new for people who already use really wireless earbuds. It just feels new to experience this freedom with a gaming headset.
I sampled Demon’s Souls remake, 2018s God of War, Ring Fit Adventure, and Ghost of Tsushima, along with a few other games, during the review period. Although they do not have the widest sound picture or the clearest frequency difference I have heard for listening to music, they shine with game sound – especially with surround sound effects and bass delivery. The overall sound quality is not explosively robust, and there is a limit to how immersive the surround sound effects can be, given the earbud’s small drivers. But the sound is not too compromised. Unless you are a hardcore gamer who needs to hear all the details in crystal clear presentation, these are likely to suit you.
The GTW 270 Hybrid would be very close to ideal if the microphones worked while connected with the USB-C dongle. Alas, they do not, so using the dongle will be almost useless for those who often play multiplayer games with friends. (It’s a slightly different story if you play a lot of single player games and do not mind not having a microphone for games.) Since earplugs are not so useful for games without the dongle, it means you make a big compromise, and that is one that none of the best gaming headsets I have tested (most of which are cheaper than this) ask you to make. It is your choice.
Photograph by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge