Aukey Key Series T10 True Wireless Earbuds Review
The True Wireless world is crowded now - should you care about the T10's? A review of the Key Series T10 from Always Wander
Aukey Key Series T10 Introduction
When I say that the True Wireless earbud market is crowded right now - I'm not over estimating. Just pop on over to Amazon and search for that phrase: you'll find yourself staring at hundreds of no-name brands, some top brands you know, and many of them all look the same. The only difference being a brand name like they were using a tool made by the same person that made the Wu Name Generator in 2003. It's a thing, Google it.
This is a market that I've been monitoring and following reviews on for a couple of years. And, I've dabbled a little too. I've never been that enamored with anything other than the high end ones. And truth be told, I didn't love those all that much either. I didn't like the designs, and frankly from all I could read and watch the technology just didn't seem ready. Sometimes I am completely into being an early adopter. But for something with as much potential to annoy you as poorly performing headphones, I didn't want to mess around. This article will be a bit double themed, so it's a lot of detail. I'll cover these headphones, but also some of the inherent challenges in general for these kinds of things. Stick with me though, it should be helpful.
Now for travel, True Wireless earbuds hold a lot of promise. And we'll get into a small bit about these vs. the bigger noise canceling variety of headphones. But most travelers should be very much considering something like this.
Aukey is a household name in the accessory market, and like their cousin Anker, they are throwing their hat into the mid-range earbuds gauntlet with their Key Series T10 True Wireless product. Are these any good? And more importantly, is this market even ready yet? Keep reading to find out. I've not seen too many detailed reviews out there of these, so let's get after it.
This is my Aukey T10 True Wireless earbuds review.
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This overview will be a quick one I think! These are pretty utilitarian. We've got a pair of wireless earbuds, a charging/holding case, multiple tips and rubber wings (for keeping them in your ear), and a small cable. These are a matte finish plastic, which I really like. Not many finger prints here and they look nice and minimal. I'd say design wise the earbuds are a riff on the Samsung Galaxy Buds of one of the past generations, but that's just a feeling. They look good to me, aren't too big and don't stick out of your ear in a weird way. A very important thing to mention is that these are also Bluetooth 5.0 - fantastic to see.
Magnets keep them tightly in the case, and work great. To open, just rotate the top portion of the case and you'll see it twist to the open section - like the container that holds your extra salt. The case itself is a battery, so it's always topping up the earbuds when you put them back (so long as it's charged). Speaking of charging, it's USB-C (cue the majestic music sound) and even Qi wireless compatible. IPX5 certification rounds out the features which (if you remember our lesson from the Bose Soundlink Micro Review) is only water resistant and not proof. They'll be good for exercising and getting a bit rained on, but these are not to be submerged.
Overall, I'd say the build quality is right in the middle. It's not going to blow you away, but it's adequate and appropriate for this price range. Final thing to mention to round this section out is that they also have the usual touch controls you see a lot now. One tap to play/pause, twice to skip track, hold for volume changes.
I think these true wireless earbuds deserve to get some credit where credit is due. They tick a lot of boxes for non-audiophiles. These aren't going to make you think you're in a concert sitting next to the pianist, but they are MUCH better than the $50 dollar buds (I've owned them). I was pretty impressed with the clarity and the different sounds I could here (like softer cymbals and snares). Bass was adequate for me, but I'm into sound enough to not be looking for big bass. I find it muddies the sound. Beats - are not my thing. In most earbuds, you shouldn't really be looking for that anyway, but if that's your style, these will disappoint. Not the buds' fault or yours, probably just not a good match. Regardless, they sound good. They won't touch the Sony and Bose's and Shure's of the world, but these are $109.00 retail. Proper expectations people!
These lights work just as on external batteries - they indicate how charged up the case is.
Other great things to highlight here are some of the little things. They might come off as a little nerdy, but these are the features that REALLY add value to these. For one: THEY'RE USB-C! Thank which ever god it is that you pray to, they are USB-C. First, that means they charge lightening quick. Second, it future proofs them even more. And third, it means you don't need to bring that one micro-USB cable just for these. Next, the Qi wireless charging. If you have a charging pad at work or on your desk at home, just drop the case on that while you're not using them and no need to worry about a cable at all. Not a travel feature - but a good feature for when you're at home base.
The next under the hood good-to-mention is that they are Bluetooth 5.0. What does that mean? Stronger connection. Twice as much battery life (claiming 7 hours; don't have an exact test but Id' say that's fair or close to it). Cleaner sound, ideally. There really aren't a lot of USB-C and BT 5.0 buds out there, so this is a powerful combo for travel. Better battery life and quicker charging when you're on the go? Sign me up. Bluetooth 5.0 can help overcome a lot of the dropped connection issues, but it cannot overcome the inherent bluetooth tech issues with that. We'll get into that in a special "Performance" section for this article.
The Aukey T10 True wireless earbuds do their best to offer a lot of value, but there's still some short comings. It wasn't a big deal for me, but the sound not being "audiophile" or "blow you away" level quality might be a problem for some. Though I think if you're looking at these, that's not really your target feature.
These are also not noise cancelling, which is all the rage now. I knew that going in, but don't expect to be awed by the ability to block out noise. I use them on the subway in NYC while commuting, and it's still plenty loud with train noises and the loud-talkers on the train. Though, it's because I'm super protective of my ears and the volume. We've been destroying our ears and hearing for years with earbuds - don't turn the volume up on earbuds, folks. Stop that. You can thank me in 30 years. You don't have to trust me here, do the research yourself. It's not a good report. Back to the review. These will "isolate" and block out some noise by the sheer nature of the fact that they are basically ear plugs, but I didn't find them to be exceptional here. That will also depend on the fit and seal you can make, however, and will vary by ear. We're all unique snowflakes with unique snowmen and snow-women ear canals. They do however work pretty well to block sound out in normal, walking around environments and indoors.
The touch controls. Let's talk about these. I wouldn't say they are "finicky" so much as just hard to really get a hold on. The tap-pressure needs to be pretty precise, it's a bit hard to get the timing down, and with the size of them, I found myself just missing the area to hit a lot. Or, I'd only get one tap right and Pause the music instead of two taps for switching tracks. It's really not a deal breaker for me, but it's something to make you aware of. You might be way better than me at it. For reference, I also use some Sony over-ear headphones with touch controls and have no issues there. I think because it's just a bigger target and surface area. Let's not blow this out of proportion here though - you can always do this on your phone like a reasonable person.
Lastly, I will say that it seems like the rubber ear fins, when they soften up and are in your ear for a while, tend to come off the bud when you pull the ear buds out. This is a bit of a flaw. I can deal with it for the price, but could be improved.
Here's a shot of the buds outside of their housing.
The Improvement Requests
For this one, let's go with the obvious based on the comments just prior. Try and fine tune the touch controls more. I get it, there's a balance between too sensitive, and just nonsensitive enough to prevent things like accidental touches. We can all be working on things to improve though, so no offense meant, Aukey.
More heat resistant rubber for the fins, and a stronger hold on the ear bud so they don't come off when you remove the ear bud from you ear.
The only other thing is I think I would recommend making a stronger "catch" on the lid of the case. There is a SLIGHT catch when you open them to the perfect spot, but making that more noticeable would be great. Also, the same kind of thing to ensure it stays shut. When these get tossed in your bag or suitcase and you're on the move, it seems a bit too easy for that case to twist and open. That's pretty much all I've got though!
The Performance Piece
OK in this section I want to cover the technical performance of these buds, not the sound quality. The reason being is because true wireless earbuds are very much something that can vary wildly in experience, and they are affected by environment. For that reason, these may well be the best things for you, or just not the right choice. And I mean that as the category, not this brand.
So, I live in NYC, and have been using these on my commute for the last 2 weeks. That's about 40 min each way, give or take, through a mix of Brooklyn streets, subways, and Manhattan streets. I will say that overall, I'm VERY happy with these. I got my feet wet a year ago on a pair of Bluetooth 4.2 buds that were only $50.00 retail. The batteries didn't last too long so I needed to charge them too much, the connections would drop pretty easily, etc. They weren't horrible, but just didn't really do it for me. The Aukey T10's held their connections really well, only doing the Bluetooth "skip" once in a great while. As far as I can tell, they haven't lost sync with each other at all.
In terms of connecting to my phone when pulled out of the case, no issues. They connected in 2-3 seconds each time with never a problem. I really don't think it can be considered a pain point anymore when compared to Apply Airpods. The gap is now gone.
I DID experience some skipping on the earbuds however, and it's important to describe that here, but also to explain why it happened. It's not the Aukey T10's fault - it's Bluetooth's fault. All Bluetooth devices are subject to having to use the same airwaves. They all operate on the same frequency to transmit the sound from phones to headphones. Well, put them in a city like New York - and that spectrum is VASTLY more busy than other cities, even just over the river in Brooklyn. Because of that, when you pop out of the subway, well you run smack into the jungle of different radio signals and what have you. That frequency is crowded and everything is fighting for space. That can cause your true wireless earbuds, or any other headphones on Bluetooth, to skip - so to speak. It happens to me more on smaller headphones like earbuds, I believe because of the lower power they have and the chips are smaller. That piece is a guess, the other is fact.
One more thing to note, and I have one of my coworkers to thank for putting me on this trail, is that Bluetooth devices need THINGS to bounce the signal off. Buildings, walls, even trees. If you're coming to a big street crossing and everything opens up all of a sudden - you will notice your Bluetooth headphones might skip then as well. This is why! In general, I've found Bluetooth 5.0 to be better at this. However we cannot expect the headphones to fix the inherent issue with the technology itself. It's mostly a wavelength traffic issue, just like WiFi in a way.
One time this did effect me recently was in O'Hare International Airport - it was SUPER busy and crowded, and they DID do some skipping there. I can only assume because of the crowded frequencies.
So, your environment matters. Remember that before you decide to get some Bluetooth headphones.
The last thing to mention, is with video latency. That means, when you are watching a video with Bluetooth headphones, is the audio in sync with the video? It can be a big problem with internet video sources, and older Bluetooth technology. With these, I saw some mixed results. When the AAC codec is being used, it works pretty well with YouTube and Netflix. So you're mostly fine. If the internet connection is slow, and YouTube isn't buffered, you will get some out of sync audio. Further, with downloaded Amazon videos, occassionally the audio would get out of sync, but it would adjust it self. Lastly, something like American Airlines' online video library they have no - that let's you watch on your own device - I wouldn't even bother. The audio was SO out of sync on this kind of source it was unwatchable. I put this way more on the American Airlines' tech than the Bluetooth tech. They probably are using much too slow of a connection and lots of compression. So, use your wired headphones for that.
The Airpods Question
OK for these, I think the question needs to be answered in terms of how these stack up against the Apple Airpods 2. And not because I'm an Apple freak (I'm not, I'm an Android freak actually) - but because Airpods were the devices that put these kind of thing on the map. And for all the Apple owners out there, you're going to be asking this question. Important to note that I have not tested the Airpods myself. That being said, I have read enough reviews and watched enough YouTube reviews on them to get the main points down. As well as spoken with friends who have them. The good and bad points are all pretty consistent across those sources, so I'll summarize that here. And really, I feel like a lot of people just don't know this stuff. They'll just buy them because they are the Apple solution, and that's fine too if it works for you! Figured I'd try to help you get a bit more informed.
First, for the Airpods you're going to pay more. And frankly, I'm not sure it's worth it. Airpods I believe are around $150.00 US give or take, with the Aukey's coming in around $109.00 US. It's kind of a lot for what you get. You get flawless connection to your Apple device, that's a plus. But here's another thing - these Aukey's auto connected when I took them out of the case in 2-3 seconds. How much faster do you really need it? You can't even put them in your ear faster than that.
Next would be the sound quality. The dirty secret for the Airpods is that frankly, they aren't really a step up in sound quality. So you're paying $150.00 and getting the same quality as the regular Apple buds. That's not very cool in my opinion. At that price, the sound quality should be better. I've heard they are useless in loud settings and airplanes which is bad for wandering! Unless you turn it way up, which is awful for your ears, again. That also means these suffer from the same issues with sound isolation (they are not fit well for that) and sound leaking (when people can hear the sound leaking out from your ears). I'm a fan of being a conscientious traveler, and that's not nice to do to people. No one on the plane wants to hear your electro-hard-rock-post-punk-edm-hip-trance-retro folk music. Especially the person in the seat next to you on the plane. You know, that confined metal tube 30K feet in the air where they can't get away from that sound and have to listen to it for the next 6 hours. Think about that next time, with ANY headphones, haha. Be considerate!
So we've covered general fit, sound, and price. What else? Well, it's not all over-hyper here. Apple, like usual on their products, have designed a great piece of hardware that certainly pairs well in its ecosystem. It works great with other Apple products. Further, it's got some hardware magic up its sleeve. There's what they call their H1 chip (W1 in the first gen), which is a proprietary piece of tech that works towards focusing on the connection speed and strength on the buds to your device. In practice, I've heard it's pretty bulletproof. Now, I don't believe it's going to overcome ALL of the Bluetooth issues we covered above, but it does work to mitigate it more than a standard chip does. I can't speak to it completely, but it's something to think about. In design and function in the ecosystem, Apple won't be beat from an outside source. Smart move, frankly. Stick with these if you just want to be able to deal with Apple products, the ease of integration, maybe have it part of the Apply Care (I'm not sure, is it?) and the other stuff doesn't matter to you that much. Otherwise, I really don't think your best value is in the Airpods 2.
Let's take a step back here and have ourselves a breath! I know, that was a lot. But I really do think there is a lot to cover with this kind of tech. It seems pretty simple, but I've seen more people than you can count get wicked annoyed with their purchase because it just doesn't do what they were expecting, or they read reviews on Amazon and it doesn't cover any of this stuff. True Wireless earbuds can be awesome, and so can the Aukey Key Series T10s - for the right reasons and with the right expectations going in. So what do we think?
Who are these for and how do they relate to your wandering? Well, I think these are for the quick and efficient traveler (or commuter) that's trying to cut down on the bulk and still wants an essential companion (Music or Movies) while on the go. Having no wires is really a thing of beauty. I can't overstate how convenient that is. Traveling is stressful. You're moving, you're twisting, there's no space on airplanes and there are so many places to get them caught. Not to mention how tangled they get in your bag. No longer. It's eliminated. So for the traveler cutting down on space but not on tech, that still wants good sound at a reasonable price, these are for you. You value convenience, flexibility that the build and water resistance gives you, and the battery performance of Bluetooth 5.0. I feel they'd be great for one bag travelers that don't have the extra space for bulky cases. I also think they are great for work travelers. I use them on the planes for flights of 2 hours or less. Plus, they don't give you headphone hair, which honestly is important if you're going to a meeting from the airport.
For someone that wants top notch sound and noise canceling, you will want to look to over-ear headphones. Buds just can't compete yet in that department (though, Sony just released - while writing this article - the WF-1000XM3: noise canceling buds with killer performance! Keep an eye out for possible reviews later in the year). You really need to keep in mind though that you'll have another case to carry around the size of a dopp kit. They add weight and bulk and remove valuable space in a one-bag travel situation. But for a lot of people, that's probably fine. Also, Audio Technica JUST announced some affordable, true wireless ear buds that should start around $99.00 in November. This is a top brand in Audio, and they will be using Qualcom's new Bluetooth mobile chips - so you MIGHT be able to expect similar effects to the Apply H1 chip. Something to look out for. I would also consider the kind of video sources you use. Will it be downloaded files on your computer? YouTube? Netflix/Amazon? Airline sources? This matters.
When thinking of these in a wandering sense, another last bit to remember is that on planes, there's no Bluetooth connections to their infotainment systems. And well, true wireless buds (regardless of brand) are lacking in one major department: the ability to plug a headphone jack and cable into them. You're out of luck and will be forced to use those terrible airline headphones, or nothing, on your 15 hour flight to Hong Kong. Remember this when you are making a purchasing decision of earbuds vs. over ear.
With the Aukey True Wireless T10 earbuds, I was able to get a crazy deal. It was Amazon's sale event, and on top there was a coupon. So I picked them up for $60.00. At that price, it's an absolute no brainer, just get them and use them as your secondary pair or situational pair like me (For reference, I also own and use the Sony WH-1000XM3 noise canceling, over-ears. Review coming later this year). But even at $109.00 I think these are a good buy for the quality, features, and performance to price ratio. If you're focused on audio sources for your wandering, highly recommended for your true wireless earbuds choice. For video, your mileage may vary.
Here’s the Amazon link if you want to grab them: