True wireless earbuds have been all the rage in techland for a while now, with pretty much every vaguely audio-related brand rushing to fling a pair into the market.
But gaming-specific wireless buds? There aren’t so many of those yet, and after a few years developing gaming headsets while leveraging Sennheiser’s audio expertise, EPOS is going it alone with its debut gaming buds, the GTW 270 Hybrid.
What sets these apart from your average Bluetooth buds is the USB-C dongle they ship with, which enables a low latency connection to your gaming device of choice - including the famously Bluetooth-lacking Nintendo Switch.
Unfortunately this functionality does prevent the use of another crucial gaming audio feature, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
Design: Here’s a tip
While they’re slightly too easy to drop, we’re a big fan of the GTW 270 Hybrid’s design. They’ve got just the right amount of heft, while the black and grey design is both premium and pleasingly discreet. We’re just as positive about the matt gunmetal silver charging case and its snappy magnets. There’s nothing going on here that’s garishly GAMER, and we commend EPOS for this.
EPOS says the closed-back buds have been designed to adjust to the wearer’s ear for maximum comfort, and they’re definitely a snug fit. The buds come with eartips of various sizes, and it’s important that you experiment to find the best ones for your lugs.
Not only will this make them sound better, with less leakage and audio going straight into your ear, but it will also improve noise isolation. The GTW 270 Hybrid aren’t noise-cancelling buds, but with the right seal for your ears, they actually do a really impressive job of blocking out the world while you game or listen to music.
The grey panels that bear the EPOS logo on the front of the buds look like buttons, but they aren’t. The small button you do use exclusively for playback and phone controls is subtly located on the side of the left earbud, with EPOS eschewing any fancy gesture stuff. We’re fine with this, but it can be hard to find. There’s no way to change the volume on the buds, but you can say the same about the most popular true wireless earbuds in the world.
An IPX5 water resistance rating means the buds are protected from sweat and the odd splash, but we wouldn’t be taking them on a run.
Features: We’ve got a connection
The GTW 270 Hybrid earbuds are nice to both look at and wear, then, but upon unboxing them the first thing you’ll notice is the accompanying USB-C dongle, which supports an aptX low latency connection to your device. (Annoyingly there’s no way to store this adapter in the charging case).
For the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and USB-C Android mobile devices, all you have to do is plug the dongle in (it’s pre-paired with the earbuds) and wait for the purple light indicator to signal that a connection has been made. If you want to use them with your PC or PS4, there’s a USB-A adapter cable in the box too.
It works extremely well, with no perceptible lag and no dropouts during our testing. We mainly used our review unit with the Nintendo Switch Lite, but the buds played just as nice with the PS5, even though it isn’t listed as a supported device.
The GTW 270 Hybrid work just as well as bog-standard Bluetooth buds with your phone, but there is a problem: they don’t support a multipoint connection, so you can’t be connected to your Switch via the dongle and your phone at the same time. Switching between devices has to be done manually, so don’t expect to be slaying Bokoblins in Breath of the Wild and then hopping onto a phone call without considerable faff.
We had some issues connecting to the dongle when Bluetooth was enabled on our phone too, with the buds seemingly defaulting to that connection unless forced not to. And that’s not all on the negative front. The dual microphones are fine for calls, but totally redundant when you’re using the USB-C dongle, as the aptX low latency codec only supports a single playback channel. So unless you have a workaround, forget about in-game chat in Fortnite.
As predominantly single-player gamers, this admittedly didn’t pose a massive problem to us, but if you play a lot of competitive multiplayer, it almost certainly will. Either way, it’s a bit odd that a product advertised as a gaming headset simplty isn’t going to work for a huge chunk of gamers.
Performance and battery life: multi-talented
If you’re spending the best part of £180 on some gaming-oriented earbuds, you’re probably intending to use them principally for gaming, and the GTW 270 Hybrid’s diddy drivers provide impressively wide, immersive sound, with a more impactful low end response than you might expect.
As we said before, as long as nothing else is trying to hop on the standard Bluetooth connection, they connect to your dongle-toting device in a matter of seconds. The nearer the earbuds are to the dongle, the less likely you’re going to get interference, so the Switch is the perfect partner.
We booted up Inside on our Switch Lite and picked out plenty of detail, while the various hack and slash weapon sounds in Hades weren’t buried by the escalating guitars and booming drums in its score. Are they going to blow your head off like the best speakers or over-ear gaming headsets? Of course not, but these buds are no sonic slouch.
Sticking with the gaming theme for our music-only testing, we fired up the sensational lofi ‘Zelda & Chill’ playlist on YouTube (a frequent WFH go-to), and straight away noticed how well the buds separate the various instruments and synthesised sounds on show. Bass response is a bit too soft at times, but we wouldn’t think twice about popping these in if they were the nearest headphones to us.
You get around five hours of listening time on a full charge, with an extra 15 provided by the case. Given that our Switch dies long before the buds would, battery life was never an issue, and they should easily see you through a long-haul flight when they eventually return.
EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid verdict
True wireless gaming earbuds are definitely tantalising on paper, and there's no doubt that EPOS’ have a lot going for them. The USB-C dongle is undoubtedly the main draw here, with its low latency wizardry making all the difference when you’re playing a game. It doesn’t hurt that the GTW 270 Hybrid buds look and sound pretty great too.
But the limitations of the aptX codec mean these buds are all but useless if you need to talk to other people on the microphone, ruling out most online multiplayer games. Even if that’s not technically EPOS’ fault, it’s hard to ignore. Switching between connected devices is annoying too, and while the GTW 270 Hybrid do an admirable job of blocking external sound by design, the lack of noise-cancelling at this price is questionable.
A mixed bag, then, but if you take your Switch with you everywhere you go, enjoy mobile gaming and like the idea of saving a bit of space in your backpack, these buds are well worth a look.