HELM Audio has sent me a pair of their brand new HELM TWS 5 Wireless Earbuds for me to test. This is the first time I had heard of HELM, but it seems that this is the second generation of these earbuds. With that said, this means I can’t compare the new ones to last years model, but it means I get to experience their product for the very first time.
Right off the bat, everything about these headphones are compact. The attractively sleek black box houses only the charging case, charger and manual. The charging case itself is about the size of my palm, and can easily fit in the front pocket of my jeans.
The earbuds seem bulky at first because the weight distribution is a little lopsided, but the fit is snug. They’re made out of a soft, rubbery-plastic material with a rubber hook to latch onto your outer ear fold. Twist them into place and they feel sturdy, and not too constricting.
So what has changed from last years model to this years model? The step up to Bluetooth 5.0 of course. With this, you get better compression with a higher detail to what you are hearing. You get Qualcomm aptX support and more.
These have a good amount of lows to them, making them great for rock and roll and similar genres of music (it can be fun listening to a nice heavy guitar solo with these). This also means they are good for watching movies on your mobile devices.
They still don’t provide audiophile listening, but you will almost always hear me say that about TWS buds, no matter the manufacturer. One of the best sounding true wireless (TWS) models I have heard is Sennheiser’s Momentum TWS, and even those don’t sound audiophile to me (and those are over twice the price as these). So this doesn’t affect me much when it comes to this model (Helm TWS 5) since it does rate pretty high against just about all of the other TWS models my ears have come across.
With Bluetooth 5, you get more clarity in what you are listening to thanks to the better compression rate that allows more bandwidth to your ears from your paired device (assuming of course that your device also supports BT 5). You can hear the difference with these.
Also with Bluetooth 5, you get much better battery life. Where the other buds offered around 3 hours of playback per charge (up to 15 hours with the case recharging them when not in use), this new model offers 6-8 hours of playback on a single charge, extended to up to 30-40 hours with the case. Now, the price tag of these buds matches them perfectly for the most part.
One thing to note is that while HELM lists 6 – 8 hours of playback time, I can’t accomplish this at all. The most I can get is right at 5 hours almost on the dot every time. This is slightly disappointing to me because I do stream on Mixer and do so for 5 – 8 hours a night. I have yet to make it a full stream with the HELM TWS earbuds.
As for making phone calls, the sound is pretty good. Still noticeable by the other party that you are “using a Bluetooth earpiece”, but both parties can hear each other clearly. It’s hard to create a solid conversation experience when the mic isn’t riding close to your mouth. For what it is, they sound just fine though.
Range (when it comes to distance) is something to really take note of if you’re comparing last years model to this years. The previous-gen model had better distance at 80+ feet. With this new model, the range is around 60+ feet. In my own tests, they seemed to perform around the average distance of a normal pair of semi-wireless buds (with the wire running between the buds), which typically have a longer connected range than TWS models. From what I’ve read, last years model seems to have a bit better range in distance than this years. As I mentioned originally however, I can’t compare but it’s something worth noting for those of you who have used the original model.
This may also have something to do with the big gain in battery life (a sacrifice of one feature for another). Less distance could mean they are spending less power on transmission strength, therefore saving a little more on battery. This is nice, but again, we got a little spoiled with the distance before.
They still, however, do an amazing job in water-dense environments. We wouldn’t recommend showering with them as HELM doesn’t claim to be completely waterproof, but they should be perfect for the gym, a good sweat and even light rain.
I did find that these perform really well at auto-switching on and off when you take them in or out of the case. With the last model, I’ve read they didn’t always turn off when placed into the case, which could cause their battery to drain and you not knowing that all of your notifications were being sent to them. With this model, however, they turned off automatically, every time I placed them back into the case.
The tips are a tight fit, so it takes a little more than normal to swap them out. The easiest way is to turn the umbrella section of the tip inside out by flipping it out/up and pinch the tube as you wiggle/rotate it around the stem of the bud. At least you’ll never have to worry about popping off on its own (ever).
With a $30 increase in price from last years model, the HELM Audio 5.0 TWS Earbuds now sell for around $129.99 which isn’t bad considering what you get for that price. My only complaint with the HELM 5.0 is the battery life. I really wish this was at least 1 – 2 hours better than what it is now and hopefully HELM will listen and try to improve on that if they decide to make another model or even something new.
One last and final thing to note is that HELM Audio won several CES Awards for the upcoming CES 2020 in January. You can check that out via the link here: CES 2020 Innovation Awards.