Aukey is known for its portable power solutions like wall chargers, power banks, computer accessories. They also expanded into audio products like wireless speakers and wireless earphones, the latter falls under their sub-brand called Key Series, recognisable with their key-like logo. The EP-T18NC True Wireless ANC Earbuds is distributed in Singapore by iCentral Mobile and retails at S$189 with 18-month local warranty.
Unboxing and Operations
The T18NC round casing has a sliding door that disappears when opened. The earbuds is inspired by the AirPod Pro or Pamu Slide with an elongated mic extension and an oval-shaped ear tips, only bigger. And like the AirPod Pro, the T18NC feels very comfortable on my ears. The silicone-coated body offers better finger grip and does not slip off the fingers as easy as glossy surface earbuds. They are also IPX5 water rated.
And just like AirPods, Bluetooth pairing is initiated from the charging case by pressing the button next to the USB-C port for 3 seconds. Interestingly, the earbuds automatically go into pairing mode when no devices were connected, without initiating from the case.
Operating the earbuds is by touch controls. Tap once to play-pause, tap twice to go to next song. There is no way to go to previous track. To enable ANC, tap and hold the sensor. Double-beep means ANC is on, single long beep is ANC off.
Works as Individual Earbud
The moment the charging case door is slid open, the earbuds will establish connection with the device, even before removing the earbuds. Both earbuds can work independently, so you can use either earbud or both earbuds, and still enjoy audio seamlessly. However, when using one earbud, the audio does not switch to mono.
Each earbud delivers 7 hours listening time, with the casing adding another 17 hours. The case supports wireless charging or using USB-C. It’s one of the more bulky cases, but still manageable.
The T18NC delivers bright treble, slightly harsh and grainy, depending on the volume level you listen to. The bass is natural without too pushy, and after I switched to the largest eartips that provides a tighter seal, the bass is little more elevated which better matches the highs, though still insufficient. The midrange is subdued to give an overall clean sound that does not cloud the overall tonality. On top of that, the sound stage is quite wide, which somewhat makes the harsh treble a little more bearable.
Comparing with the other ANC TWS earbuds that I have with me, the Sony WF-1000XM3 is still the best in eliminating ambient sound across the frequencies. Even though the upper frequency is still audible, it is at least attenuated. The AirPods Pro also kills sound better. The Huawei Freebuds 3 is the poorest, naturally, since it is an open-fit design. The T18NC is nevertheless effective in removing ambient noise in general, but the highs remain elusive, so much so that you end up hearing more highs than usual because the earbuds remove the rest of the sounds.
Many in-ear headphones already achieve passive noise cancellation, but at the expense of comfort, as the ear tips tend to be harder and thicker, and they put pressure against your ear canals to get the seal. The T18NC achieves better noise cancellation than most standard ear tips, but the high pitched sounds are audible, and normal earbuds removes them much better.
It’s not easy to find true-wireless earbuds with call quality that are comparable to wireless or wired. The T18NC does not deliver premium voice call details, as my callers said I sounded muffled (the loudness depends on how much I speak up). The mic picks up more of the low frequencies hence the voice tend to be more chesty.
Connecting to Windows Computer
Thanks to auto-pairing, connecting to Windows is a breeze. Just go to the Bluetooth settings and click “Add Device” and you should see the T18NC in the search list (make sure there are no other devices connected to T18NC).
Once connected, there are actually 2 sound profiles from the T18NC. One is the normal stereo mode where you listen with CD-quality audio. The other is the “Headset” profile which streams mono-quality audio plus mic enabled. When using the T18NC for music and video, you should choose the “Headphones” profile, and when using for teleconferencing, you should choose the “Headset” profile. Some apps (like Skype) allow you to select the audio and mic source, so pick the one that works for you.
When i reviewed this earbuds in March 2020, there weren’t many true wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling, and none of them costs below S$200. The Key Series EP-T18NC by Aukey makes a compelling buy, and offers great listening experience especially for consumers who love a punch at the highs with balanced lows. The only drawbacks are the large round case and the lack of volume controls over the earbuds. Otherwise, I’m impressed at what a non-audio brand like Aukey can produce. Available from Challenger, Mobilestop and Shopee.
Currently, Aukey Singapore is having an attractive promotion with Shopee, selling at only S$149 with free Aukey 10000mAh power bank. This deal is really good and I highly recommend them to my readers. They fit comfortably in the ears, easy to handle, and offers great clarity.