Hands-on review: Tozo Golden X1 true wireless ‘Hi-Res Audio’ earbuds
Image credit: Tozo
Golden earbuds for 'golden ears' listening.
As Tozo Acoustic Lab's first 'high-end' offering, the Golden X1 true wireless earbuds represent an excellent inaugural step down the premium path.
Shooting for the 'Wireless Hi-Res Audio' market, Tozo has positioned the Golden X1s as a high-end mobile listening experience. HD audio is a growth area for headphone manufacturers, as consumers demand better-quality sonics for everything from music to film and TV streaming and gaming, be that from in-ear offerings or over-the-ear hi-res headphones, such as 1More's Sonoflow.
For the Golden X1s, Tozo has taken a hybrid design approach to sound reproduction, featuring its own-design polymer composite 12mm dynamic bass/midrange driver paired with a customised Knowles Electronics-designed balanced armature driver for the high end. This 'dual-speaker' approach helps the X1s deliver what the company describes as an "ultra-wide" 12Hz-44.1kHz frequency response (e.g. from very low to very high) to justify Sony Japan's official Hi-Res Audio certification, plus support for LDAC audio files and active noise cancelllation (ANC). All told, the Golden X1s certainly seem well-equipped to fight for the title of premium TWS earbud champs.
Priced at around £150, they've got to be very good, at the very least, to justify that kind of price tag. Decent-sounding TWS earbuds for the less fussy/analytical listener can be had for under £50 these days, even including decent ANC.
Fortunately, the X1s are very good. Maybe even excellent. They sound superb on all sources, making even the weakest lo-fi MP3 files sound better than you've probably ever heard them before. As you step up the file quality to 16-bit/44.1kHz 'CD quality' files, the sound markedly improves. Once you get into the realms of HD FLAC and 24/96 Hi-Res Audio files, it's hard to hear any serious flaws.
They are only stereo, not spatial, although the paucity of true spatial files at this moment in time (and probably for a good while yet) renders that objection moot. The stereo picture is comfortably wide without being extreme, so well-mixed stereo recordings sound good and the intentional panning and motion of sounds across the stereo field can be enjoyed as the artist intended, even at their most extreme ('Electric Ladyland', we're looking at you). Perhaps there's a fairly 'horizontal' presentation, in terms of arranging the instruments from L to R across the inside of your head, which sacrifices a little sense of three-dimensional depth, but this would be hyper-critical. Mono recordings are also delivered with all the direct sonic punch you'd hope for.
The rich and unique tone of specific instruments in a mix is conveyed well, from a vintage jazz trio or quartet, via the swinging '60s and '70s punk, to more modern bangers in rock and dance music. At time of writing, The Thelonious Monk Quartet is jazzing its way through 'Monk's Dream', by way of a 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC file, and it sounds great. Drums over on the left, piano over to the right, saxophone and bass more or less down the middle. Articulation of each instrument is nicely defined, with dynamic realism. Earlier, Aretha Franklin's 'Atlantic Singles Collection' at 24/96 sounded equally glorious. The Rolling Stones' 'Living In A Ghost Town' Covid-era single at 24/88.1 revealed plenty of subtle detail in the mix, with all those dub echoes on the guitar lines and high-frequency percussive sounds, and there was no arguing with the classic bassline throb from Queen's 'Another One Bites The Dust' felt at 24/96, delivered by the X1s with plump authority. Exploring the new Queens of the Stone Age album in HD FLAC has also been a fresh delight.
During our testing, we've never felt disappointed by the X1s response. Bass is fat and firm. The mids don't dominate or collapse. Treble isn't spiky or unpleasant. The X1s are a very engaging, enjoyably listen, including over long periods.
Wearing them on several long train journeys (the battery life is capacious), we never felt ear fatigue even after several hours. The X1s also go loud, with a lot of clean headroom, meaning you can crank them up to unhealthy listening levels and still get a distortion-free listen. Don't do that: we're just saying. Perhaps the sound doesn't bloom and swell quite as much as you'd like, or expect, when you turn up the volume, although results seemed to vary from file to file, according to resolution. It's always a good sound, all the same.
The X1's earbud fit is nice, with multiple silicon eartips supplied. Tozo earbuds actually have a very slightly squared-off shape to them, which seems to fit the human ear canal snugly without causing discomfort after several hours. Tozo actually suggests trying different eartips for each ear, for the optimal fit, and sure enough our best result was when using one tip slightly larger than the other. Who knew?
We always ran the X1s with the ANC turned on. There isn't a lot of difference in the sound reproduction either way, unlike some other headphones and earbuds which always sound better with the ANC on. The X1's six-mic ANC is not a total shutout, even if you chose the maximum option, so you will still faintly hear train announcements, the background babble of conversations near you and such like, but much of the low rumble of the outside world will be cut. When you turn it off, the difference is clear. Sometimes in the silence between tracks you can hear the ANC 'pulsing' as it detects and cancels ambient sound, but this operation never distracts from the music once the next song starts.
There is the usual suite of tap, double-tap, press and hold etc controls on both earbuds (which are also customisable), so that's another set of finger-instructions to memorise. Ideally, we need the EU to mandate one set of tappity instructions for all headphones, just like they've done with the USB-C jack. Dare to dream. Maybe in another 10 years' time?
There's also an app to accompany these earbuds, with a set of tools for tuning and tweaking the X1's sound, including options to intensify the ANC, create custom EQ curves and a listening test for true personalisation for your specific ears. We still haven't felt the need to alter the character of the X1s straight out of the box, even after a month of listening, but perhaps in time we might experiment. The X1's signature can always be restored to factory settings if you don't like the personalised results. Everyone's mileage varies when it comes to eyes and ears, sight and sound.
One behaviour the X1's earbuds don't have is proximity control, whereby if you take one earbud out the playback pauses. This is nice to have, but you won't get it here. The compromise solution, when you need to actually talk to people, is to tap the earbuds into Transparency Mode. Either earbud can also be used individually, if you want or need to keep one ear permanently wide open to the world.
The Golden X1s are very good earbuds. The Grell TWS/1 earbuds we reviewed previously also sound fantastic, in the Hi-Res Audio realm, and are probably that bit better than the X1s, although the Bluetooth connection of those has proved somewhat temperamental (to be fair, the most recent firmware update appears to have smoothed out this issue). The X1's Bluetooth 5.3 connection has been as solid as the proverbial rock, no matter how much we've moved around or where we've stashed the phone, be it in a shoulder bag, coat or jeans pocket. Out of the case, they connected so reliably and instantenously every time that they were always ready to go before we'd even got them anywhere near our ears.
Charging is done via a svelte and smooth Tozo-branded plastic case (black with gold accents, to match the earbuds), which houses a 500mAh battery to complement the 55mAh battery in the earbuds themselves. It's a nice little charging case, with an LED display inside that displays the percentage of charge remaining, plus a colour-changing light on the front as a further indicator of battery health (e.g. when it drops below 20 per cent, it changes from white to orange).
Recharge time from zero to hero is approximately two hours, using a USB-C cable. The case is also Qi wireless enabled. Stated playback stamina for the earbuds is five hours with ANC on full, 8 hours with none. Incidentally, the earbuds are also IPX6 rated for water resistance.
Not being a 'big name' (yet) in the consumer audio sphere, Tozo has done the right thing with the Golden X1s in creating a product that has the aural chops to stand up to, possibly even knock out, some of the big boys' offerings, which typically cost £100 more (or more) than the X1s. Undoubtedly, the likes of Apple's AirPods Pro offer additional functionality, related to various iOS apps, and that kind of tight and wide integration carries a premium. If you're in the market simply for an excellent-sounding pair of true wireless, Hi-Res Audio-capable earbuds, tuned to deliver the best audio of which they are capable, Tozo's Golden X1s are right up there.
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