I’ve never been the biggest fan of gaming headsets. Even if I overlook that a great deal of them look downright garish and are often constructed from flimsy plastic, I just don’t find actually wearing a pair of over-ear headphones very comfortable.
It’s why I’ve always opted for a pair of earbuds during gym sessions, and even during work calls I can typically be seen rocking a pair of wired headphones over a bulky headset.
However, last year I got swept up in the hype of the PS5 launch and pre-ordered Sony’s official Pulse 3D Wireless Headset to use alongside my new next-gen system. While I definitely see the quality of the official PS5 headset, and greatly appreciate its relatively tasteful design, my old gripes have still reared their head.
After even a modest amount of play I find the top band uncomfortable, and I just generally dislike the feeling of having my ears encased in leather. I also find the act of charging the headset a pain. Sure, it’s just a simple USB-C charger, but I long for the simplicity of just throwing earbuds in a charging case and knowing they’ll be fully juiced when I next need them.
Fortunately for me, gaming earbuds have steadily become more and more common, and last weekend I was given the chance to test out a new pair: the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Gaming Earbuds. It’s been a revelation in almost every way, but like most things that seem too good to be true, there is a pretty substantial catch.
Making a solid first impression
Right out of the box I was taken with the GTW 270. Not only is the unboxing experience as luxurious as you’d expect from a $200 set of earbuds, but the buds themselves are wonderfully understated from a design perspective.
They sit within an aluminum charging case, into which the buds snap with a satisfying magnetic click. Before I had even put the buds into my ears I was already ready to declare them my gaming audio accessory of choice.
Charging-wise you can expect to get about 5 hours from a full charge, with a further 15-16 hours provided by the charging case — which was enough to cover my whole weekend of lockdown gaming.
Breaking away from the band
The GTW 270 is effortlessly simple to set up. Similarly to true wireless earbuds like the Apple AirPods, it uses Bluetooth for a practically seamless connection process. Getting the pair set up on my work laptop and phone took literally seconds, and after some teething problems selecting which tips were the best fit for my clearly abnormally shaped ears, I was happily bopping along to my Spotify playlists.
Of course, the GTW 270 is marketed as a gaming accessory, and that’s primarily the function I was interested in, so I moved on to see how it would perform paired up with a PS5.
As the PS5 doesn’t support Bluetooth, I had to make use of the supplied wireless dongle. The dongle itself sports a USB-C connector which is perfect for the corresponding port on the front of the PS5, but it does mean that Xbox Series X gamers will need to use the included USB-A converter cable, which seems like an inelegant solution.
Nintendo Switch users can, like on the PS5, just plug the dongle straight into the console’s USB-C port — though the lack of space in the charging case for the dongle is a massive oversight.
Once plugged into my PS5, the LED light on the dongle lit up, and the GTW 270 earbuds connected instantly. I jumped straight into charming underwater simulator ABZÛ (which is currently free along with a bunch of other PS5 games) and was instantly impressed.
The tips had formed a tight seal, and I was able to fully appreciate the game’s emotive score, quickly becoming fully immersed in exploring the ocean and interacting with all manner of aquatic creatures.
The sound mix was maybe not as full as I typically expect when using the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset but this is an expected trade-off with earbuds, and not having an irritating band making my head itch after was pure bliss.
After being lulled into a peaceful state of tranquility, I decided to play something a little more intense and opted for a match of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Loading in with a friend, I quickly discovered the big catch with the GTW 270 earbuds.
Not designed for online gaming
The GTW 270 does come packing a built-in microphone, but it cannot be used when you’re connected via the dongle — only over a Bluetooth connection. This means it borders on useless for competitive gamers, or anyone who just wants to chat with their friends as they play.
That’s a pretty big catch. If you’re someone who detests playing online and just wants some earbuds that can be used to play through single-player games, then the GTW 270 will fit the bill marvelously, and I’d thoroughly recommend them.
However, if you want a headset with some versatility that can also be used for chatting to your friends while playing games online, then these buds unfortunately just won’t do the job.
It’s a puzzling decision for a set of buds that presents itself as “gaming wireless earbuds” on the front of the package to make such an obvious omission. And while it might be the GTW 270’s singular drawback, for some, it’ll be significant enough to be a deal-breaker.
Personally, I’ve become quite taken with this set of buds. I will almost surely keep using it as my gaming audio accessory of choice when I’m playing solo, but as someone who occasionally wants to play with friends, it’s a shame I can’t reach for it every single time.