As I'm writing this review, I currently have almost 10 pairs of true wireless earbuds stashed away in my desk. I say this not to brag, but to hopefully convey the point that I've used a lot of these earbuds and have developed a pretty good idea of what's hot and what's not in this little niche of audio gear.
Most of the models I've reviewed have been in the budget segment of true wireless earbuds, and after using quite a few of them, I've developed the mindset that most people don't need to spend more than $50 or $60 for a pair of solid earbuds in this form factor. If you just want something that sounds good and has a long-lasting battery, you can pick up something like the $30 SoundPEATS TrueFree Plus and call it a day.
But what if you want something more? Let's say you're in search of premium true wireless earbuds but don't necessarily feel like spending $230 for the Sony WF-1000XM3. What's a person to do? If Aukey has any say in the matter, you'd check out its Key Series EP-T18NC earbuds.
Clunky name aside, the EP-T18NC drive a hard bargain — impressive sound, active noise cancellation, 24-hour battery life, and more for under $150. It's an enticing package on paper, and thankfully, they're every bit as good in the real world as Aukey touts them as being.
Spoil your ears
Bottom line: With everyone and their cousin making true wireless earbuds these days, it can be difficult to find a pair that really stand out from the competition. When it comes to the Aukey Key Series EP-T18NC, this is something they do with ease. Whether it be the refreshingly unique design, thoroughly great audio quality, or plentiful charging options, the T18NC deliver a phenomenal user experience for anyone in the market for premium buds.
- Great, rich sound
- Noise-canceling works better than expected
- Super unique case
- USB-C and Qi wireless charging
- IPX6 water resistance
- Reliable battery life
- Case is bulky
- Inconsistent touch controls
- No auto-pause/play
Aukey Key Series EP-T18NC What I love
As soon as I unboxed the EP-T18NC, the thing that caught my attention is the charging case. This is a key component of any true wireless earbuds, and more often than not, it takes the shape of a rounded rectangle/tube. There's nothing wrong with that design, but with so many companies using it, it's made it difficult for a lot of earbuds to stand out.
This is not an issue for the Key Series EP-T18NC. Aukey's charging case takes the shape of a circle, making it instantly recognizable on my shelf of its competitors. The plastic casing has a soft-touch finish that feels wonderful to hold, and even better, fingerprints are kept to a minimum and easy to clean up. A USB-C port on the side is used for charging the case, or if you'd rather, you can place it on your favorite Qi charging stand/pad and charge it wirelessly. Yes, yes, yes — more of this, please.
When you want to access the earbuds themselves, you slide open the semi-transparent top and pull them out.
The case is definitely one of the larger ones I've ever used, but it still fits easily enough in my jeans pockets and will go into any backpack with ease. It's nowhere near the extreme portability of the AirPods case, but personally, I'm OK having some added chunk if it means having a more visually interesting design.
Despite its size, I absolutely love the look and feel of Aukey's charging case.
Going back to the earbuds, it's time we talk about them and stop rambling about the case.
Just like any true wireless earbuds, Aukey includes a few different ear tips to help you find the best fit for your ears. The medium tips included out of the box fit my ears just fine, staying in even while shaking my head and remaining comfortable throughout long work sessions. I've seen a lot of complaints on the Amazon product page complaining about the EP-T18NC not having a good fit, but in my use, I've yet to have any such issues. As always, your mileage may vary.
The buds are covered by an IPX6 rating for water resistance, meaning they'll continue to work just fine through a rainstorm or an especially sweaty run. Battery life is also a non-issue, with the EP-T18NC getting up to seven hours of continuous use and the charging case holding 17 hours of battery life — resulting in a total package of 24-hour battery life. That's not quite as legendary as some earbuds that reach 40 hours of total juice, but it's also miles better than the abysmal 10-hour battery life of the Skullcandy Sesh I previously reviewed.
With all of that out of the way, let's now talk about the elephant in the room — sound quality.
On the technical side of things, the EP-T18NC have 13mm dynamic drivers with "Titanium-coated diaphragms" that "deliver exceptional Hi-Fi stereo sound." Moving beyond the flashy marketing hype, all you need to know is that the EP-T18NC sound really, really darn good.
Compared side-by-side with Aukey's more affordable EP-T21 earbuds, the EP-T18NC are miles better in every way. Audio is crystal clear with no muffling whatsoever, there's a shocking amount of bass to give your music a hearty feeling, and you can crank up the volume without any distortion. I can listen to and enjoy the cheaper EP-T21, but you don't have to be an audiophile to tell the difference between Aukey's bottom-of-the-barrel and flagship earbuds.
To give your tunes an added boost, the EP-T18NC also offer active noise canceling. This is something you will not find on the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Buds+, and surprisingly, I came away quite happy with the ANC performance of the EP-T18NC. The noise cancellation obviously isn't on the same level as what you'd get from the Bose QC35 II, but it's good enough for blocking out the low rumble of a dishwasher or dryer while minimizing the noise of your spouse watching TV in the other room of your apartment.
Considering the size and price of the earbuds, it's impressive they work as well as they do in these regards.
Aukey Key Series EP-T18NC What could be improved
There's no doubt that Aukey's created one heck of a package with the Key Series, but in that same breath, there are a few areas where Aukey can improve for Round Two.
As much as I love the unique design of the case, I know a lot of people will be put off by its large size. I don't mind its chunky nature, but I think we can meet a middle-ground of having a distinct design while also being a bit more pocketable.
I'm also not thrilled with the performance of the EP-T18NC's touch controls. I can do a single-tap to pause my music just fine, but tapping again to resume refuses to work. Similarly, doing a fast double-tap on the left earbud to go back to the previous song often just pauses it. I'm not sure if this is an issue specifically with my unit or not, but either way, it made me mostly give up on the touch controls and just use my phone for managing playback.
Lastly, I really would have liked for Aukey to add an auto-pause gesture to automatically stop music when you take the buds out of your ears. This is something we usually see on higher-end earbuds of this caliber, and it's one of those niceties that helps to round out the whole experience.
Aukey Key Series EP-T18NC Yes, you should buy them
There's a wide world of true wireless earbuds out there. If you just want earbuds in that form factor while spending as little money as possible, you can get a pair for around $30 and be perfectly happy. If you want to step up to something with better sound, splurging for something in the $50-$60 price range (such as the TOZO T6) can help you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Why should someone spend $140 for the Aukey Key Series EP-T18NC? If you love this wireless form factor and want earbuds that can deliver fantastic audio, long-lasting battery life, and powerful noise cancellation, the EP-T18NC have your back. The core functions are as good as you could ask for, and when you add those together with the striking design, USB-C + Qi wireless charging, and IPX6 water resistance, you end up with a pretty complete package.
The EP-T18NC get really close to being perfect, but with flaky touch controls, no auto-pause gesture, and the undeniable bulk of the charging case, there are some caveats to keep in mind before clicking the "Buy" button.
However, if you don't really care about any of those things, I cannot stress enough how much I've enjoyed using the Key Series ET-18NC. Aukey has impressed me once again, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Spoil your ears
With everyone and their cousin making true wireless earbuds these days, it can be difficult to find a pair that really stand out from the competition. When it comes to the Aukey Key Series EP-T18NC, this is something they do with ease. Whether it be the refreshingly unique design, thoroughly great audio quality, or plentiful charging options, the T18NC deliver a phenomenal user experience for anyone in the market for premium buds.
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