Epos is flying solo. After co-creating a series of gaming headsets
with Sennheiser for the past two years, the company developed its first completely independent device – the GTW 270 Hybrid, a pair of specialty wireless earbuds
for gaming. Separating it from the rest of the earbud pack is a wireless headset staple: a USB-C wireless dongle which you can plug into a PC, Nintendo Switch
, or PS5
. While the GTW 270 mostly nails its sound right off the bat, the dongle suffers from some glaring technical shortcomings that limit its utility… Like the fact that you can’t use the microphone in low-latency mode. These problems, frankly, make the GTW 270 Hybrid a hard sell as a headset alternative. Their sweet sound and decent battery life are more than enough reason to consider them as a solid set of everyday carry headphones with a special affinity for games, though.
[widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=epos-gtw-270-hybrid-review&captions=true"]
Epos GTW 270 Hybrid – Design & Features
The GTW 270 Hybrid is a polished, but fairly conventional set of “true” wireless earbuds. (As opposed to the wrap-around Bluetooth earbuds
connected by a wire-filled neck band). The earbuds
look small, but are still big enough that the rounded rectangular base of each bud pops out from your ear. They’re bigger than the little stalks that emerge from your ears when using Airpods, but look a little more elegant.
There’s a single small button near the top of the left earbud, which controls phone-related functions like answering calls and media controls, including play, pause, and track selection. With only one button – and a small one at that – it can be tricky to remember all the control inputs: To skip forward a track you press the button twice, to skip back you have to press three times, you hold the button down for three seconds to end a call. Between that moment you spend fumbling for the button by your ear and the second or two to search your memory for how the controls work, it often feels easier to just bypass the earbuds and control your calls and music on your smartphone
The small nub poking out of each bud has an adjustable rubber ear tip on it. The GTW 270 comes with four sizes of rubber tips. The tips are designed to create a solid seal that cuts out a significant amount of ambient noise. The earbud really fills your ear, so make sure you take a moment to find the right size: I used a larger-than-ideal size for a couple of days and simply having the buds in my ears grew painful.
Like most true wireless earbuds, the GTW 270 Hybrid comes with a carrying case that doubles as a charging vessel and wireless networking hub. The small, dark aluminum-coated box has a slick, subdued look. The front has a single button, which you can press to check the case’s battery life or hold to pair the earbuds via Bluetooth. The back has a USB-C port for charging and syncing on PC. When you pop the top, you’ll find discrete molded spaces for both earbuds, ensuring that they’re secure and that the copper wireless charging contacts hit all the right spots.
I was fairly impressed with the Epos GTW 270 Hybrids’ battery life. Like other earbuds, the actual ear pieces have a small battery inside that can only last a few hours, but will charge inside the carrying case, which sports a larger battery. According to Epos, the earbud batteries hold a five hour charge, and the charging case battery can store fifteen hours, so you can get a total of 20 hours of battery life between charges. Of course, the nature of the two-stage battery means that your single-session playtime is capped at five hours. Despite that additional cap, I never ran into battery issues in my testing. I was able to play multi-hour sessions on my gaming PC
and PS5 without having the earbuds drop out on me.
The case’s other primary feature, networking, is where the GTW 270 Hybrid falls apart. Pairing the earbuds with any device requires a fairly specific order of operations, and they won’t work if you do them in the wrong order or if certain conditions interfere. To pair the earbuds via Bluetooth or the USB-C dongle, you put the earbuds in the case, close it, then open it again. If you’re pairing the dongle, it should start pairing automatically. If you’re connecting via Bluetooth, you press and hold the case button. The pairing windows are fairly small, so you need to make sure your PC, phone, or console is ready to go. You also must make sure you’re unpaired from other devices.
None of this is hard, but simple doesn’t mean foolproof. There are enough potential points of failure that you will find yourself struggling to set up the earbuds at some point: It may be because you forgot to actively unpair with your phone before syncing with a PC, or because you press the Bluetooth pairing button before opening the case, but something’s going to go wrong and you’ll scratch your head for a second, annoyed, before figuring it out.
The case’s pairing issues are fairly minor, but there are larger issues with the GTW 270 Hybrid’s signature component, the USB-C dongle. The dongle allows for a superior low-latency wireless connection between your PC, phone, or console and the earbuds. (Bluetooth, by and large, introduces an unacceptable amount of lag for games). Under ideal conditions, the dongle is the difference between the laggy, borderline unusable audio you’d get from any pair of Bluetooth headphones, and the lag-free performance of a strong wireless headset.
But the dongle’s connection is sensitive to physical interference. In a relatively enclosed space, like in the crowded backend of my gaming PC, the dongle was basically unusable. The sound came out a staticky, partially garbled mess. There is a workaround: You can plug the dongle into any device using a USB A-to-C extension cable, which gives you some freedom to position the dongle and case can read each other unfettered. Still, it’s pretty rare for peripherals with direct, dongle-based wireless connections to get disrupted so easily.
On top of that, the low-latency connection only supports audio playback, which means you can’t use the earbuds’ built-in microphones while connected via the dongle. Plus, the earbuds don’t provide any chat mix controls or even a mute button. It’s pretty clear that the earbud microphone is meant for phone calls and video chat, not gaming. On PlayStation 5 and PC, you can bypass the issue by using a second microphone like the one built into the DualSense. With other devices, you simply don’t have access to a microphone in-game. Even on the platforms where a workaround is possible, though, it creates problems you don’t need to worry about on virtually any other wireless headset.
Epos GTW 270 Hybrid – Software
When connected to a PC via the dongle, players can tweak some of GTW 270 Hybrid’s audio via Epos Gaming Suite, the company’s configuration software. The Gaming Suite is a relatively modest app, offering a few settings tweaks, including the ability to turn off 7.1 simulated surround, and an EQ interface that allows you to tweak how the headset sounds. The app comes with only four preset EQ profiles – flat, esports, movies, and music – but allows you to save your own custom profiles.
Epos GTW 270 Hybrid – Listening & Gaming
The Epos GTW 270 Hybrid sounds great, assuming you’re okay with all the connection-related caveats we’ve already discussed. They generate very clear, if somewhat soft, sound that carries nuanced details that help create an immersive gaming experience. That quality carries across both the Bluetooth and dongle-based connections. Where many Bluetooth earbuds deliver washed out, compressed-sounding audio, the GTW 270 lets you hear a lot of the little quirks in your favorite songs and games. Though some of the connection-related confusion still applies, these earbuds are actually really appealing when you ignore the “gaming” label and use them as everyday headphones for your commute, wearing around the house, going to the gym, etc.
But, alas, we cannot do that in this review. There’s a natural disadvantage to using earbuds versus a conventional headset. The GTW 270 Hybrid uses 6mm drivers, which is significantly less powerful than the 40-50mm drivers used for most over-ear headphones
. Now, earbuds don’t need the same kind of power as standard headphones because the sound is already in your ear, but you lose out on some of the side effects of having powerful speakers, like the big thumping bass for explosions, drum-heavy music, and anything else that goes boom.
When set up for success, the dongle delivers. I played Dead by Daylight
and Destruction AllStars
on PS5 using the low latency connection and DualSense mic. The low latency connection delivers great sound with no noticeable lag between the audio and video. The dongle’s connection issues are notable and can inject a little unnecessary exasperation into setting things up, but it’s worth pointing out that I was able to use it successfully on all compatible platforms, and only needed to use the extension cable with my PC.
That said, it’s still a poor alternative to an over-ear gaming headset, especially for multiplayer games. Having to use the DualSense mic was an annoyance: The open mic can pick up external noises you don’t want to broadcast, like the sound of me rapidly shaking the analog stick to wiggle out of a killer’s grasp in Dead by Deadlight. Even though that’s technically an issue with the the DualSense controller
, rather than GTW 270 Hybrid, it isn’t an issue you would encounter with any other dedicated gaming headset.
[poilib element="quoteBox" parameters="excerpt=The%20open%20mic%20can%20pick%20up%20external%20noises%20you%20don%E2%80%99t%20want%20to%20broadcast"]
Like most Bluetooth headsets, the connection introduces a distracting amount of lag that can disrupt the sync between audio and video in cutscenes, or simply make games more difficult if they require audio cues. I played Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
on PC using a Bluetooth connection, rather than using the dongle, and found there was a small gap between when my gun fired and when I heard it fire. In a quickdraw situation or, worse, when you hear a gunshot but don’t know where it’s coming from, that half-second can be the difference between life and death. Even in single-player games, anything that requires precise audio/video syncing will suffer.
[widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=best-gaming-headsets&captions=true"]
The Epos GTW 270 Hybrid is available now for $199 at Epos’ digital store