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(Pocket-lint) - It isn't always easy making tech - you can strive all you like to make a bit of kit that gets received well, and the reward you've cooked up for yourself is simply the challenge of improving on the already excellent.

That's what Klipsch has had to do to its impressive T5 II True Wireless earbuds, which we tested earlier in 2021 and were hugely impressed by. In this case, though, there was one obvious feature missing, so it's no surprise that Klipsch has now added it - active noise-cancelling (or ANC for short).

Design

  • Finishes: Gunmetal, White, 'McLaren'
  • Physical control button on each 'bud
  • 6 pairs of oval tips 

It isn't true of the entire package, but when it comes to the look and feel of these earbuds, Klipsch has clearly taken the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach - as they're almost completely unchanged from the first version of the earbuds. That's a great thing, too - we love how the T5 II ANC feel, just like we did their predecessors. 

Pocket-lintKlipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC review: Polishing a diamond photo 1

First up, let's talk about the case: it's a solid and weighty affair that's nonetheless small and pocketable. The gunmetal finish version we've got in for review is really metallic and high-quality, opening at the narrow end much like a Zippo lighter.

It's a satisfying case to flick open and shut, and there's only really one small change from the last version: it now has a rubberised bottom. This makes it far easier to leave on a surface, in particular to charge it wirelessly without it sliding around. It does take away slightly from the classy looks, but that's a price worth paying for the boost in practicality.

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The earbuds that case houses, meanwhile, are similarly hard to tell apart from their older versions. They're impressively lightweight, featuring Klipsch's proprietary oval-shaped earbuds at their tips - and you get six different sizes and shapes to try for the perfect seal, more than you'd normally be afforded.

It makes it pretty easy to get a nice seal, even for those with bigger ear canals, and the earbuds sit pretty naturally in the ear. How light they are really does help on the comfort front.

Each earbud has a single button on its outer face, which is easy to tap without pushing the 'bud into your ear too much (although we'd still have preferred full touch-based controls). These can play and pause your music and alter the implementation of ANC.

Pocket-lintKlipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC review: Polishing a diamond photo 2

It's a great package from a design point of view, showing that Klipsch knew it was on to a winner when it released the first version of these earbuds.

Sound quality

  • Active noise-cancellation (ANC) and equalisation (EQ) control
  • 5mm dynamic moving coil micro speaker
  • 10Hz - 19kHz frequency response
  • Dirac HD sound toggle

We were supremely impressed by the sound profile of the original T5 II, so the headline addition of active noise-cancellation (ANC) here is a major boon for any true wireless earbuds - and works pretty well. The isolation you get when you switch the mode on is impressive, and while it doesn't quite match the best-in-class efforts that Bose and Sony offer, it's still great to have.

Pocket-lintKlipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC review: Polishing a diamond photo 7

There's also a transparency mode for safer listening when you're out and about, and you can easily swap between this and ANC by tapping the left earbud's button - something you will probably have to do, as we found the earbuds often switch ANC off between uses.

Another addition comes in the form of Dirac HD tuned sound, a setting you can toggle on and off in the earbuds' companion app. It's a beautifully mixed series of settings that makes a seriously audible difference to tracks. It contributes to audio performance that, to our ears, approaches the best any earbuds can offer. Sticking Lorde's Solar Power album on, we were struck by how delicate the T5 II ANC could get, but switching to Kanye's Donda made it clear that bass is no issue either.

Pocket-lintKlipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC review: Polishing a diamond photo 8

You get full equalisation control in the app, so building your own preferred sound profile is entirely possible, but the out-of-the-box setup is impressive enough that we really didn't feel the need to tinker.

Features and battery life

  • 7-hour battery life (21 more in the case)
  • Gesture controls

The addition of ANC has come at a slight cost to battery life, reducing from eight hours to seven (even without using ANC) - and with the cancellation setting turned on it's only a five hour situation. That's not exemplary in this market, but it is fairly standard for ANC earbuds, and with more juice in the case we never found ourselves struggling for long.

Pocket-lintKlipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC review: Polishing a diamond photo 5

There's also been a significant jump in the asking price of these earbuds, which might be harder to stomach, but that's the cost of ANC improvements really. We asked for ANC, and we've got it, but you can pick up the last-generation 'buds without it for over $130/£130 less - a point well worth noting.

Still, another small-yet-fun addition is new gesture-based controls, made in partnership with Bragi, which has resurfaced by contributing to the earbuds. It lets you nod your head a few times, or shake it, to accept and reject calls (or other options), and works impressively well. Is it a game-changer? We wouldn't say so, but you might find you really like using it.

Sadly, one other big miss from the last generation of earbuds is still absent here - ear detection. This means you still won't get auto-paused music if you take an earbud out, something that sounds minor but is useful on a near-constant basis.

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All the various controls you do get are customised and tweaked in Klipsch's very capable app, which is fairly slick even if you won't find yourself using it much after setup - when these apps are clunky, they tend to blight your experience a bit.

Verdict

The Klipsch T5 II True Wireless are a clear upgrade over the earlier non-ANC model. This new active noise-cancelling fills in the only real shortcoming of that older version, while the sound is now even better now thanks to Dirac HD.

However, there is a price rise that's a bigger one than we'd normally expect, so you might want to pause on immediate purchase. Although if you can't wait then these earbuds are easy to recommend as some of our favourites going. Talk about polishing a diamond.

Also consider

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Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ

If you want some classy earbuds that stand out a bit from the crowd and don't just replicate the AirPods formula, these Bang & Olufsen 'buds tick those boxes handsomely. They sound absolutely superb, have great ANC, although they're even pricier than Klipsch's earbuds.

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Sony WF-1000XM4

Competing directly at Klipsch's price point, these Sony 'buds are simply superb, offering best-in-class noise-cancelling with no ifs or buts. They sound great and have had a solid redesign, bringing the case down in size by quite a margin, among other improvements.

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Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 1 October 2021.