Klipsch T5II True Wireless Sport McLaren Edition earbuds review
Lando me your ears
There aren't many car companies out there that can do a tech tie-up with a straight face. Can you imagine having a Tesla-branded tablet? It'd take up half your table. A Volkswagen smartphone would constantly be doing things without you asking it to.
So when the McLaren F1 team partnered with audio giant Klipsch to create some earphones, I was a little sceptical.
The Klipsch T5II True Wireless Sport McLaren Edition earphones (hereafter known as the T5 IIs) are designed for audio geeks (like me) who appreciate quality sound on the move. But they're also designed for fitness enthusiasts (erm, unlike me) who are going to get them sweaty.
I've had a pair for a few weeks, and this is what I've learnt so far.
The unboxing experience is wonderful
The T5 IIs come in a black box with a slide-out compartment decked out in McLaren's retina-warming Papaya orange. Inside you'll find the earphones in their case, and a whole raft of different sized earbuds to ensure you get a good fit. There's also a solid metal credit-card-sized plate showing your earbuds' unique serial number, and a booklet detailing McLaren's racing prowess. There's also a pleasingly nerdy spec list for the headphones, just in case you needed to know which version of BlueTooth they use (5.0).
They come in a carbon-wrapped waterproof case, which has some neat tricks. The case itself can charge wirelessly (using the supplied fabric-covered charging mat) or via USB-C, and it can store enough charge to give you 32 hours of total listening time – each earphone charge lasts about eight hours.
The silica gel hides behind the clear side of the case
The case is also packed with silica gel to wick away your sweat after a workout. You can remove the silica gel compartment and microwave it should get saturated with your effort juice.
The case snaps shut using a satisfyingly hefty clip
As well as charging while they're in the case (you get three tiny white LEDs to show you the current charge level of the buds), the T5 IIs can be paired to your phone most easily while in the case. Simply tap the button on either of the earbuds and they'll go into pairing mode. Then it's a case of removing them and stowing them in your earholes.
What's the fit like?
I spent most of my mid 20s trying to find earbuds that fit, and it was always a case of throwing away the standard silicone earbuds and swapping them for memory foam Comply tips. Things appear to have moved on – I switched the T5 IIs to the supplied medium-size silicone tips and they instantly fit like a glove, although they also come with a pair of Comply tips for good measure. The rubber 'fin' which gently holds them in place can also be swapped for several alternatives, but for general wandering around the standard size fin worked just fine.
Not enough choice? There's a pair of foam Comply tips in the box as well
Like any in-ear, you need to get a good seal to make the most of the Klipsch's various drivers, but once you've got these buds in position they stay there. I didn't find myself walking along constantly fiddling with my ears – which is good, because it's easy to accidentally prod either of the buds' buttons when you do have a fiddle.
It's worth noting that the T5 IIs are light enough and comfortable enough to wear for long periods – you almost feel as if they've disappeared after a while.
What do they sound like?
Impressive. Once you've got them sealed in your lug'oles, the T5 IIs immediately sound incredibly clear. They tend to be a little trebly, but not annoyingly so, and the mid-range is punchy while the bass response is strong without being farty or over the top. They sound well balanced, and pleasant enough to leave in for several hours at a time.
They're pretty subtle – although you don't have to mimic Shifty Lando when wearing them
It's gratifying to hear a mainstream earphone that sounds so hi-fi – you get the sense that Klipsch's work developing its 5mm driver hasn't been for nought. If you're depressed by the audio quality you sometimes get from wireless earbuds, these should be high on your list to try out.
The included stickers are very on-trend for 2020
Despite not offering active noise cancellation, the T5 IIs do have a 'transparency' mode, activated by tapping the button on the left bud. This will then play ambient noise from the buds' four microphones into your ears, meaning you can leave them in for shopping trips or to scream abuse at someone who didn't wipe down the rowing machine.
Life with the T5 IIs hasn't been totally perfect. They don't play well with my iMac – they pair fine but sound seems to slowly pan from the left earbud to the right earbud and back again – this could be a fault with Bluetooth audio pairing from an iMac, but it means I tend to dig out my old Sony over-ears for video editing. They're fine with my Macbook, but it's a niche problem to be aware of.
The McLaren tie-in isn't just lip service – you get a gorgeous booklet tracing Klipsch and McLaren's histories
Handling the earbuds can be a bit finicky until you get use to it – the buttons are easy to press by accident when fitting them, which usually results in either turning transparency mode on or starting your music by accident. Likewise, the rubber fins are easy to remove by accident because they simply slip over the earbud. They're minor flaws, and you do get used to them after a week or so.
Should I buy them?
The serial number card is made of metal and has a satisfying heft. Not sure what you're meant to do with it, but it's cool
Even at £259 for the McLaren Edition T5 IIs, they're pretty easy to recommend. They sound fantastic and pack a punch that you just don't expect from a wireless in-ear. Bear in mind that the case is reasonably waterproof (to IP67 standards), and that the earphones themselves are designed to stand up to workouts – either in the gym or stacking tyres for Lando Norris in an F1 pit garage.
They don't feel ostentatious or as if they'll mark you out as an F1 fan either – the branding on the earbuds is limited to a subtle McLaren swoosh on the right side, and that's it.
If you're on the lookout for a gym-ready set of quality earphones, these come highly recommended.