Bottom line: There are a lot of true wireless earbuds that target affordable price points, but few go as low as the Aukey EP-T21. You'd be right to assume that earbuds this cheap wouldn't be worth the time of day, but the EP-T21 somehow manage to offer a tremendous all-around user experience. Build quality is top-notch, there's an IPX4 rating for water-resistance, and everything sounds as good as you could ask for.
- Clean matte design
- Good for casual listening
- IPX4 water-resistant
- Strong wireless connection
- Jaw-dropping price
- Inconsistent touch controls
- Micro-USB charging
- Only available in black
When I first came across the Aukey EP-T21 on Amazon, I had a good chuckle to myself. I've seen a lot of true wireless earbuds trying to target budget-minded shoppers, usually hitting prices of anywhere from $50 to $100. That's a good price range to go after to get a good mix of features, performance, and value, so I thought to myself, "How in the world is Aukey selling a pair for $30?"
It's true that wireless earbuds like this are becoming more and more of a commodity with each day that passes, but $30 just sounded way too cheap for what Aukey was promoting. So, with nothing to lose other than three Hamiltons, I bought the EP-T21 and anxiously awaited their arrival.
After rocking these earbuds for the last few days, I'm happy to say they surprised the hell out of me. No, they won't be replacing your AirPods Pro or Jabra Elite 75t anytime soon, but if you set your expectations right, they're phenomenal.
Aukey EP-T21 So much to like
I've got a lot of praise to sing for the Aukey EP-T21, but let's start first with the design/build quality. The earbuds themselves go the AirPods route with the longer stem design, but unlike regular AirPods, the EP-T21 have customizable silicone tips for a better fit and sound isolation.
The out-of-the-box tips fit my ears really well. They stay in just fine even when shaking my head around, and when worn for long periods of time, never cause any discomfort.
Aukey's charging case is a pretty standard affair, featuring a rectangular shape and two distinct slots for the earbuds. The magnets that hold the buds in place and keep the lid closed are all wonderfully strong, yet still make it easy to take the buds in and out when you want to. Having some color options other than black would be welcomed with open arms, but at least the matte black paint job looks clean 👌.
Next, let's address the elephant in the room and talk about sound quality. These do not sound amazing, but you shouldn't go into $30 true wireless earbuds with that expectation. All the EP-T21 need to do is sound decent, and in that regard, Aukey went above and beyond.
Listening to music on the earbuds, everything sounds — for a lack of better words — pretty good. Vocals are clear, there's a level of bass I wasn't expecting, and songs don't sound lifeless the way they often do on ultra-cheap headphones/earbuds. Things can sound messy when there are a lot of loud guitars or very heavy instrumentals, but for most songs, the EP-T21 hold their own better than they have a right to. Remember, folks, these are true wireless earbuds that cost $30.
Another area where the Aukey EP-T21 come out on top is with the wireless performance. Bluetooth 5.0 powers the show, and in my few days of testing, I had zero connectivity or pairing issues. The EP-T21 consistently connect to my Pixel 4 XL when I take them out of the case, along with properly shutting off when I put them back. I've been able to freely walk around my 1,200 sq ft apartment without having the connection drop, and when watching YouTube, there isn't a noticeable delay between the audio and video.
Battery life is perfectly respectable, giving you up to five hours of continuous playback and an extra 20 hours when you factor in the charging case — totaling 25 hours for the entire package. That's better than the 20-hour battery life on the $140 TicPods 2 Pro, but not nearly as impressive as the 40-hour endurance you get from the Back Bay Duet 50 and TOZO T6.
A couple of other highlights before moving on:
- There's an IPX4 water-resistant rating which makes the EP-T21 a great choice for workout buds at the gym or while out running/biking.
- You can use either bud on its own for mono audio.
Aukey EP-T21 Where it could improve
Even at a price this low, there's still room to complain about the Aukey EP-T21. Looking at the earbuds, there are two main things that stick out to me as genuine annoyances.
Similar to a lot of true wireless earbuds, the EP-T21 feature capacitive touch controls on both buds for managing your music and phone calls. There are a variety of things you can do, such as double-tapping either bud to play/pause your music, long-pressing the left earbud to go to the previous track, long-pressing the right earbud to go to the next track, etc.
The concept of these controls is great, but unfortunately, the implementation is quite finicky. Sometimes the controls work just fine, other times they don't. The play/pause control can be overly-sensitive and be triggered when taking the earbuds out of my ears, but the day before, I could double-tap the buds all day long without any sort of response. Because of all that, I ended up not bothering with the controls and just resorted to using my phone if I wanted to pause or change the song.
My other complaint will be familiar to anyone that's read my other headphone reviews, and that's Aukey's use of Micro-USB on the EP-T21's charging case. This is a port I want to see die in 2020, and while I suppose I could give Aukey a pass considering the earbuds' price, using Micro-USB these days feels so retroactive that I'd rather not.
Aukey EP-T21 An easy recommendation
If you also found yourself being skeptical of the Aukey EP-T21 when looking at the Amazon listing, I don't blame you. The idea of $30 true wireless earbuds sounds too good to be true, but for reasons beyond my understanding, the EP-T21 are thoroughly great earbuds that I'd happily use and recommend to just about anyone. And as of this writing, Amazon is offering an additional five percent off through a coupon checkbox on the order page.
You can obviously find other true wireless earbuds with better sound, battery life, etc., but at a price this low, I think Aukey knocked it out of the park.
4 out of 5
The wonky playback controls did prove to be rather annoying, as did the lack of USB-C charging, but those are very minor complaints when looking at the big picture. The fact that I actually enjoy listening to the EP-T21 and that they look and feel like a competently-made product is impressive in and of itself.
If you or someone you know is is the market for true wireless buds but is an especially tight penny-pincher, I think you'll be hard-pressed to find something better than this.
How low can you go
There are a lot of true wireless earbuds that target affordable price points, but few go as low as the Aukey EP-T21. You'd be right to assume that earbuds this cheap wouldn't be worth the time of day, but the EP-T21 somehow manage to offer a tremendous all-around user experience. Build quality is top-notch, there's an IPX4 rating for water-resistance, and everything sounds as good as you could ask for.
Do the touch controls let you change the volume?
No. You can answer/end/reject a phone call, play/pause music, go the previous track, and skip to the next track. You can also trigger your phone's voice assistant (Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri).
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