TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053 review: True wireless earphones on the cheap

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MSRP: $44.99

The Good The TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053 earbuds cost less than $50 and sound better than you'd expect for a true wireless model at this price. They offer solid wireless performance and 5 hours of battery life, and come with a compact charging case that delivers an extra five charges.

The Bad Charging case uses standard Micro-USB, not USB-C; if you don't get a tight seal, sound quality isn't as good; sounds a little bright (some presence boost).

The Bottom Line While their sound quality isn't without issues, the TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053 are among the better sub-$50 true wireless earphones.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 9

If you're like me, you may have poked around Amazon looking for cheaper alternatives to Apple's AirPods, which start at $159 and hit $199 if you want wireless charging. There are plenty of bargain models out there with high user ratings, including the TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053 ($45). But are they really any good?

In my experience, most of the time they're just all right -- and some aren't good at all. This TaoTronics pair, however, rises above the "meh" classification. They still aren't fantastic, particularly when it comes to sound quality, but they are among the best sub-$50 true wireless models I've tested.

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They look like black AirPods.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Pipe style

While their relatively compact elliptical shaped charge case feels a little cheap -- I'm not sure how well the hinge will hold up over time -- the build quality of the buds themselves seems pretty decent. Their "pipe" design is somewhat reminiscent of the AirPods. However, as with Anker's SoundCore Liberty Air ($80), what's different is that these guys have a noise-isolating design with silicone tips that seal off your ear canals and passively muffle noise around you. The AirPods are "hard" buds and have an open design that lets sound in.

I didn't find the TaoTronics quite as comfortable to wear over longer listening sessions as the Liberty Air, which are a bit smaller, but they still fit my ears securely and I was able to get a tight seal, which is crucial to maximizing bass response and sound quality.

I can't guarantee they'll fit your ears as well as mine -- they didn't, for at least one of my coworkers. And some people may prefer the AirPods' fit. But for someone like me who worries about keeping my AirPods in my ears without a set of accessory sports fins, I appreciated that they stayed put, even when I ran with them. According to TaoTronics, they're sweat-resistant.

I had no problem pairing and repairing the headphones after the initial pairing setup (I used an iPhone X ($399 at Amazon) and a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus) and experienced only handful of dropouts in a week of testing. They use Bluetooth 5.0, and the connection to my phone was generally solid, even in the streets of New York City, where lesser true-wireless earphones have a tendency to be plagued by interference problems.