Yamaha TW-ES5A Buds Review: Not Polished Enough

The Yamaha TW-ES5A are active sports buds at a premium price that made us rethink TWS tech all over again. Find out why in our review.

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Yamaha is a brand that evokes strong emotions from bikers and music nerds. Building on this legacy, the Japanese company launched a new pair of truly wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds in India last month, the Yamaha TW-ES5A.

Priced at Rs 15,700, the buds are made for an active user on the go, so they feature the whole shebang of silicone fins and a large triangular body. They also feature some thoughtful features, such as Listening Care, which claims to protect your hearing by not forcing you to play loud music, and about 34 hours of total playtime along with the case. But what’s the catch? Find out in our review.

Yamaha TW-ES5A Buds Review: Build quality & design

We love showing the Yamaha TW-ES5A to people because of how they react to seeing its case. Unequivocally, everyone said, ‘Hey, why are you giving me a bar of Cinthol in the name of TWS buds?’

The extremely pale turquoise colour of the case and the buds is to be blamed for this.

The overall design theme of the TW-ES5A is brawny – both the case and the buds are big and chunky. The case is made of dull, soft-touch plastic and isn’t exactly pocketable. The buds have a dual-tone vibe to them, the outer shell is made of glossy plastic, whereas the side facing the ear tips is made of matte black plastic. The overall heft of the case and buds reminded us of the first generation truly wireless buds from 2015 and 2016.

The buds do not feature any touch-sensitive surfaces, and you can control these only using a total of three physical buttons on both buds. While we love the tactility of the buttons, mapping these is a bit weird. The left bud has just one button, single pressing, which pauses and plays a track, and double pressing it toggles the ambient listening mode. The right bud has two buttons, and these help you skip or go back one track, increase or decrease the volume and interact with the voice assistant. This means single-bud use is restricted to the left bud because that’s the only one that helps you pause or play tracks, but then you can’t skip songs. Also, you can’t change the button mapping in the accompanying app, which made us realise how we take the touch controls on other TWSes for granted.

The fit of the buds is outstanding, there is no way these will come off in any situation whatsoever. A wide variety of fins and ear tips come with the package. In fact, the fins are some of the best-designed ones in the business. The seal is so good that water can never enter your ear canal, even if you’re stuck in heavy rains with these. These are also IPX7 certified, so they like water but not dust.

On the downside, the weight of the buds makes these taxing to wear for long hours. They also look hideous in social environments as these are giant turquoise triangles popping out of your ears.

The lid of the case is a bit flimsy, and even after shutting it close, you can see the light coming from the LEDs of the buds. There are two giant stickers on the case claiming compliance with different electronic standards and quality checks, but there’s no physical button for pairing.

So, overall, the fit of the TW-ES5A buds is fantastic, but then they look archaic and are tiring to be worn for long periods.

Yamaha TW-ES5A Buds Review: Sound quality

The overall profile of the TW-ES5A sounds flat out of the box. It’s not a very inspiring sound, as the low-end thump sounds are missing. Being active and gymming is usually associated with bassy, upbeat music and even tweaking the equaliser settings didn’t get us too far.

We tend to prefer flatter sound profiles in high-end audio gear because they tend to give the most natural reproduction of music, how it was intended to be heard by a producer. Flatter profiles can also be easily tinkered with within the equaliser. But here, the entire spectrum just lacks the panache we expect from a pair of high-end buds.

This may be partly due to the 6mm dynamic drivers, which are small even for budget buds standards. The overall loudness of the buds, too, takes a massive hit because of these small drivers. In terms of codec support, you have SBC, AAC and Qualcomm aptX.

We were also shocked to discover that there’s no active noise cancellation offered by the TW-ES5A. Instead, there’s just an ambient mode that lets you listen to your surroundings using the onboard mics on each of the buds. The good news is that at least this works well, especially in a gym, where compromising your hearing can result in some spectacular disasters.

A heavily marketed feature here is Advanced Listening Care, which ensures accurate frequency reproduction even at low volumes so that you aren’t forced to listen to music at high volumes. This works well, but the buds don’t get all that loud. But hey, that’s the price you pay for keeping your hearing intact for longer, right?

We listened to a variety of stuff on the buds, all the way from music to podcasts and movies. For buds priced this much, the experience was just average. The soundstage is surprisingly wide, but as we mentioned before, the bass simply doesn’t quite penetrate your soul.

We listened to music using Apple Music on a Samsung Galaxy Flip 4 and Google Pixel 7 Pro on the highest bitrate settings. To test something upbeat, we listened to French Montana’s recent hit, Unforgettable, during a walk in a noisy park. The mids and highs were balanced, but we sorely missed the vibrations of the catchy beats of the song. Increasing the lower frequencies in the equaliser somewhat helped gain some of the oomph back.

Then we moved on to something desi and heard Ali Zafar’s Jhoom. This song has very little in terms of low-end frequencies. His smooth tenor vocals were reproduced well, and so was the guitar solo towards the end of the song.

Podcasts and movies sounded fine, but for a pair of buds worth somewhere to the north of 15 grand, fine isn’t good enough, is it?

Yamaha TW-ES5A Buds Review: Smart features

The TW-ES5A can be connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth, but if you want access to the equaliser, ambient sound, listening care, and gaming modes, you’ll need to download the Yamaha Headphone Control app (iOS/Android) on your phone. We are hyperlinking the app because it’s easy to confuse it with the Yamaha Headphones Controller app, which is very different.

The app gets full marks for ease of use because it’s foolproof – there are just four things to tweak around, and the pairing takes place quickly.

The Google Assistant works as intended – holding down the plus button on the right bud summons it, and you can give it commands even when your phone is locked in your pocket, a handy feature to have when you’re working out or playing.

Yamaha TW-ES5A Buds Review: Battery life

The claimed battery figures of the Yamaha TW-ES5A are impressive and totally spot on. By themselves, the buds offer about nine hours of playtime, whereas the case adds another 25 hours of backup. These figures are possible thanks to the large size of both the buds and the charging case and possibly because of the smaller driver size.

Given our use, these buds easily lasted us a week’s worth of use. The buds also feature quick charging functionality, which provides an hour’s worth of listening time with 10 minutes of charge. These numbers alone place the TW-ES5A among the longest-lasting buds we have ever reviewed. Heck, the charging case would have easily been a portable power bank if its dimensions were stretched by another centimetre or so.

Yamaha TW-ES5A Buds Review: Verdict

Given how there’s very little competition for premium active TWS buds, Yamaha might have identified a huge opportunity, but they haven’t quite made a product that can justify the price tag. TWS tech has come a long way, and around the same price, one can easily buy the Sony WF-1000XM4s or the new Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, both of which offer excellent fit, comfort and sound quality. The latter even offers the same IPX7 water resistance that the TW-ES5A does.

The Yamaha TW-ES5A is underpowered in every way possible, except for its battery and perhaps the winged ear tips. But we are sure the brand fanatics will still find a way to justify their buy, and we would too. After all, our first guitar, synth and mics were all Yamahas. But keeping that aside, we are looking forward to seeing more options for similar, outdoorsy TWS buds in the same price range. For now, alternatives include the Bose Sport Earbuds, which have great sound quality and fit but not all-week battery life. There’s also the much cheaper Sennheiser Sport TWS which offers about the same package for under Rs 10,000.

Yamaha TW-ES5A

₹ 15,700
7.9

DESIGN

7.5/10

BUILD

7.5/10

ERGONOMICS

8.0/10

APP

8.0/10

AUDIO PERFORMANCE

7.5/10

BATTERY LIFE

9.5/10

VALUE FOR MONEY

7.5/10

What Is Good?

  • Good fit
  • Sweat and water resistant
  • Long battery life
  • Tons of spare ear tips & fins
  • Listening Care feature is thoughtful

What Is Bad?

  • No ANC
  • Flat sound
  • Pricey
  • Looks dated & bulky