TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Better than you think
There has never been a better time to shop for earbuds. No matter what your budget is, you can find fantastic true wireless buds to keep you entertained at the gym or on your commute. The mid-range category, in particular, has seen some real competition, with heavyweights like Amazon and Google throwing down with budget-conscious brands like Anker and Tribit. You’d be forgiven for not counting TCL among the bunch — it’s stuck mainly to affordable neckbuds in the personal audio category. With the MoveAudio S600, however, the company is looking to bring some premium features to a price point that won’t break the bank.
With active noise canceling, six microphones for voice calls, and up to 32 hours of listening time on a single charge, TCL’s latest earbuds look mighty impressive on paper. $99 seems to be the sweet spot for earbuds these days, and the S600s are going up against some formidable challengers. That raises a question: is there room for TCL in the market right now, or is it too little too late to join the fight for TWE dominance?
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
As with any stem-equipped earbud, it’s easy to compare TCL’s pair to the AirPods. The S600s look a lot like a cross between the plain and Pro variants of Apple’s popular earbuds, offering in-ear silicon tips with a long stem hanging from the plastic bud. For some, the white set may look too close to an AirPods clone, but the gray color I’ve been testing sport a unique enough look. The metallic stem is destined to grab the attention of anyone passing by, but the bud itself is much duller, with a glossy plastic that nevertheless managed to avoid ear wax build-up during use.
Compared to other modern wireless earbuds, TCL’s case is considerably larger. It’ll fit in your pocket, but you might be better off throwing it in a bag. Aside from its bulky appearance, the case itself looks nice. The chrome accents add a premium touch while complimenting the package as a whole.
Unfortunately, the way the stems are centered in the case made taking the S600s in and out uncomfortable. Though the included magnets help keep the buds in place, pulling them out and twisting them into the right direction in my hand proved to be a challenge.
I’m pulling out the right earbud, which has to be spun 180° in my hand before it reaches my ear.
As for the buds themselves, I found them surprisingly comfortable despite never getting a perfectly tight seal with my right ear. No matter which tip I equipped, the earbud always felt either too loose or too tight, with the latter causing a congested feeling. Likewise, if my jaw moved at all — while eating or talking, for example — it would eventually start to slip out of my ear altogether. Fit and comfort will always be subjective, so many of our readers may find the buds lock into their ears perfectly. For me, it’s close enough that I never felt frustrated.
One design choice I did appreciate was the complete lack of branding on the earbuds themselves. While the case includes a small TCL logo along the hinge, you won’t find any awkward labels squeezed onto the headphones. Everyone from Sony and Jabra to Amazon and Google is guilty of this, and I hope companies follow TCL’s lead with future releases.
In the box, you’ll find the buds themselves, alongside three additional pairs of replacement tips, a USB-C to USB-A charging cable, and the usual array of literature.
Sound quality, features, and battery life
My first impressions of TCL’s new earbuds were very positive. These sound excellent and well-balanced to my ears, from Spotify’s personalized “Release Radar” playlist to any of my queued-up podcasts. Voices stood out without getting muddled or buried under instrumental tracks, with highs and mids especially present in the mix. Unfortunately, while TCL’s buds do provide a balanced, pleasant sound, the bass just never had that punch I was seeking. And without an equalizer, it’s impossible to tweak the sound to my liking.
Beyond their great sound quality, the S600s bring advanced features like wireless charging, Google Assistant, and even active noise canceling to a pair of headphones for under $100. The wireless charging actually caught me off-guard at this price.
The most exciting feature here is ANC. Most earbuds equipped with noise-canceling barely manage to attenuate loud noises, but TCL’s pair is surprisingly good. While it doesn’t block out as much ambient white noise as my Sony XM3s, it actually did a better job at covering up background audio. I was able to sit in my living room while my partner watched television without getting distracted. Some of this is likely thanks to its in-ear tip design acting as earplugs, but even so, the difference between its “Noise cancellation” and “Off” settings was night and day.
Transparency mode uses the S600’s six microphones to allow for passthrough audio, and it’s not bad. A small amount of hiss aside, it’s totally usable for having a quick conversation with someone. Call quality from my end, I was told, sounded fine. However, your mileage may vary in windier situations than my desk chair can provide.
The touch controls are hit and miss. When pausing or playing audio or shuffling between noise control settings, I found them accurate enough. However, the loose fit meant constantly fiddling with the earbud, which inevitably would activate the touch controls, no matter how careful I was. Eventually, I trained myself to use the stems as much as possible to readjust the placement in my ear, but I still slip up on occasion.
Finally, battery life is excellent. Even with ANC enabled, I’ve only been charging the case once a week, with a couple of hours of use each day. You’ll get even more playback on a single charge if you disable noise canceling, but with how good it is, I wouldn’t suggest it.
Should you buy it?
Yes. I found plenty of nitpicks with TCL’s latest pair of earbuds, but at the end of the day, that’s all they were — nitpicks. The more I used this pair of earbuds, the more I found myself reaching for them over my personal pair of Jabra Elite 75ts. No matter what minor complaints I may have had about the S600s, I never felt frustrated or annoyed while listening to music or podcasts, and their exceptional battery life guaranteed they’d still be charged when I picked up the case.
If bass above all else is important to you, you might want to look elsewhere. For everyone else on the hunt for high-end features in a low-cost pair of headphones, one more potential purchase just got added to your list. Move over Amazon, Google, and Samsung — TCL is coming for the mid-range crown.
Buy it if…
- You’re looking for high-end features without breaking the bank.
- You want a pair of buds with well-balanced audio
Don’t buy it if…
- You need bass-heavy headphones, or want to customize your own audio settings.
- You can’t stand earbud stems.