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CES 2021: TWS Headsets Continue Their Winning March

by Ville-Petteri Ukonaho | Jan 15, 2021

TWS headsets have become the fastest growing consumer electronics devices in the world. These small gadgets are already changing how and where we listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc. Working from home during the pandemic has really helped these devices become commonplace in many households. However, there is still more room to grow as our recent installed base report suggests.

Solid TWS refresh from JBL

At CES 2021 we saw multiple new TWS headsets from JBL, one of the TOP10 TWS vendors in the world. The new additions to JBL lineup are: JBL Live Pro Plus, JBL Live Free NC Plus, JBL Reflect Mini NC TWS and JBL Tour Pro Plus. All of the newcomers are coming to the premium US$100+ segment where Apple AirPods currently leads. The quartet has impressive featureset (e.g. Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and IP protection in every product) but are otherwise not unique. Adaptive Noise Cancelling found (Pro ANC) in Tour Pro Plus and Live Pro Plus gives a small differentiator against other headsets in the same price category.  Another small differentiator are wireless charging cases for both the Live Pro Plus and Live Free NC Plus. The Tour Pro Plus and Live Pro Plus have IPX4 rating (Splashes and sweat protection) whereas Live NC Plus and Mini NC Plus have IPX7 (immersion protection) rating for protection. Overall a solid refresh to their lineup which will resonate well with consumers and keep JBL in the TOP10.

 

Samsung GalaxyBuds Pro will Compete with AirPods Pro

Samsung held a press conference during CES launching its new Galaxy S21 lineup and its new GalaxyBuds. The GalaxyBuds Pro are the most expensive premium TWS set from Samsung to date, costing US$200 retail. The featureset competes directly with AirPods Pro but its design is pure Samsung. Intelligent ANC, IPX7 protection, wireless charging and automatic ambient sound mode give plenty to anyone purchasing this headset. Samsung is offering the new headset as a soft bundle with new Galaxy S21 lineup pre-orders which will definitely help with the initial sales numbers. Samsung has solidified its position as worlds third largest TWS vendor and this new product will surely help keeping Samsung in the TOP3.

 

TCL, Edifier, Belkin and Anker add to their lineups

TCL is best known for their smartphones and less about their TWS headsets. TCL has couple of mid priced models in their portfolio so the new MOVEAUDIO S600 premium set is a welcomed newcomer. The design is clearly inspired by AirPod Pro and featureset is similar to many other premium TWS headsets with Hybrid ANC (similar to Adaptive ANC in TCL TWS headsets), IP54 rating, and wireless charging case. Overall a solid addition to their lineup and will strengthen TCL’s position in the market.

 

Edifier is a lesser-known brand in the TWS market but better known from their speakers and wired headsets. Edifier has two mid-priced TWS headsets in their portfolio but have been more focused on tethered in-ear Bluetooth headsets. The new Edifier NB2 Pro sits in the upper side of Edifier’s portfolio with a US$99 retail price. However, with that price users get a solid featureset with ANC, IP54 rating and fast charging. The GM5 (Edifier Hectate) is the more affordable pair from Edifier. With a US$79 price tag the device sits at the middle of the mid-range TWS. The featureset is directed towards gamers with Qualcomm aptX Adaptive. With Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive solution, the Edifier GM5 is capable of Dynamic low latency as low as 40ms, yet still capable of High Definition (HD) quality audio.

 

Belkin’s Soundform Freedom is the second TWS pair from the vendor better known from its impressive non-audio accessory portfolio. Belkin is better known from chargers, adapters, screen protectors etc. but has recently been expanding into audio products as well. The Soundform Freedom is positioned in the upper part of the mid-range with a US$99 retail price. For the price users do not get ANC, which would have been a great addition, but they do get wireless charging and IPX5 protection. The device also has one additional trick up its sleeve; it is one of the first third party accessories that integrates with Apple's Find My application, which helps finding lost items. Whether that feature is worth paying US$99 for is up to individual users to determine, but TWS headsets are easily lost.