Revealing signature, Class-leading technical ability, Gorgeous design and case, Excellent battery life, Harman-target tuning
No app integration, Forward upper-midrange, Unable to power the earphones on without the case
The M5 TWS joins the select elite of TWS earphones, offering class-leading resolution, a proper soundstage and very strong if not quite perfect balance.
Rising from humble crowd-funded beginnings to international notoriety in just a few years, ADV. has captured the market with their value-orientated products and unique designs that cater to audiophiles and average consumers alike. More so, the company has set out to merge these communities, implementing cutting-edge technology to bring high-end audio to the standard consumer and likewise, consumer convenience to audiophiles. The M5 TWS exemplifies this ethos, designed in-house from the ground up, it is somewhat of an outlier in the TWS space. Coming in at $199 USD, it sports a finely tuned sound designed to trace the Harman Curve alongside a unique housing design reminiscent of high-end wired monitors, the M5 TWS shows great promise. It supports the latest Bluetooth standard and Qualcomm’s high-res codecs to ensure that every link in the audio chain is strong. You can read more about the M5 TWS and treat yourself to one here.
Tech Specs –
Driver unit 6.1mm PHPC (Pressurized High-Purity Copper) dynamic driver
Sensitivity 95dB+/-3dB at 1kHz
Frequency response 20Hz – 20kHz
Music time Up to 32 hours (w/ case) / up to 9 hours (earphones only)
Charging time 2 hours
BT version 5.0
Connection distance 10m (33ft)
Input port USB-C
Battery 360mAh (case) / 40mAh x 2 (earphones)
The ADV. M5 TWS comes within a small, clean box that slides open to reveal the earphones nestled within the carrying case, all enclosed in protective foam. Just beneath are the accessories where ADV. offers 3 sizes of silicone tips in 2 styles, some shallower fitting tips similar to those included with Earfun’s Free and some more traditional tips similar to those provided with most in-ears. A pair of small memory foam tips are also included which provide a slightly more personalised fit as they conform to the ear. They aid isolation and enhance fit stability, making them my go-to. Of course, experiment with the tips to find which works best for your individual ear anatomy, for instance, despite getting a solid seal with both the medium and large silicone tips, the large tips were noticeably bassier indicating a better fit despite a similar in-ear feel. A USB-C charging cable is also provided to keep the case topped up.
3D Printed Housings –
While mostly used for custom earphones, ADV. leverage their foray into such form factors to create more ergonomic universals. Utilising 3D printing, which permits ADV. to finely contour their housings and referencing an extensive library of ear impressions, ADV. has created a housing that maximises comfort and fit for the vast majority. The finish is perfect, the clear coat is smooth and flawless with no bubbles or contamination. The M5 TWS carries the refinement of a consumer product and demonstrates that we’ve come far from the rough 3D printing of old.
PHPC Driver –
The M5 implements a pressurized high-purity carbon driver. We’ve seen this done before, the high tensile strength of carbon enables a thinner, lighter and quicker accelerating diaphragm while minimising modal distortion. A high mass voice coil that increases stroke alongside an enclosure that increases pressurisation should translate to strong bass extension while retaining strong treble extension. ADV. also puts emphasis on the housing design and acoustic filter system that has been used to create a sound that traces the Harman target curve. In my testing, this is not 100% accurate, however, the resulting sound is certainly very revealing and well-balanced.
High Res Codec –
By implementing Qualcomm’s QC3020 chipset, the M5 supports Qualcomm’s Apt-X codec in addition to AAC which both provides higher fidelity than standard SBC. HD is not supported, however, I am not aware of a TWS chipset that supports this feature at present. This is BT 5.0 chip that supports stereo plus (both earpieces paired in tandem in mono) in addition to independent pairing of each earpiece to either reduce latency or extend battery life. The chip has an in-built DSP and low power consumption that enables ADV. to hit their design goals more easily.
We’ve all likely heard of 3D printing before, yet it’s astonishing how quickly the technology has developed to now enable mass production of finely finished products. The M5 TWS is a delight to the eye with rippled faceplates underlying an immaculate high-gloss finish. The contours are smooth and refined, the design perfectly realised on a whole with none of the roughness of previous 3D printing processes. Their construction is wholly plastic but with vivid paintwork and a smooth finish that feels thoroughly premium.
The outer faces house touch-sensitive panels in their centres that worked fairly reliably for me, even when running. They are on the more sensitive side and I would occasionally power off the earphones when re-adjusting the fit which is aggravating as they cannot be turned back on without being placed in the carrying case. That said, accidental actions are minimised as all of the gestures require more than one tap besides power which is a 7-second hold. I found gestures to work best with firm, rhythmic taps. There are no IR sensors so the earphones are unable to sense whether they’re in the ear. Finally, the M5 offers IPX5 water resistance making them sweat-proof if not submergible.
Fit and Isolation –
All of ADV.’s research has paid off with regards to the earphone’s fit and comfort. The earpieces are compact if fairly wide. They protrude slightly from the ear though they’re certainly a far cry from Sony’s WF earphones. They resemble a faux custom shape as seen on audiophile monitors, with a rear protrusion that locks into the antihelix and a protruding nozzle promoting a medium depth fit. I would personally have preferred a slightly deeper fit for a stronger seal as the earphones lack any stabiliser fins. That said, this does aid comfort as there is very minimal pressure on the ear during wear.
They are not fully sealed, however, in return there is no driver flex and isolation is very good for a vented dynamic driver earphone. They are sufficient for general commute and public transport but may struggle with air travel due to their vented design. As the earphones are quite wide, possess a medium depth fit and lack a stabilising fin, they are slightly less stable than some competitors with such designs. Their lightweight construction mitigates most issues during daily use, however, I did struggle to maintain a consistent seal while running with the stock silicone tips. The included memory foam tips handily alleviate this issue which, in combination with their water resistance, makes them suitable for workouts too.
Snazzy Case –
The cylindrical CNC aluminium charging case is among the most unique solutions on the market. Build quality is tremendously good while keeping weight down. I can’t stress how satisfying the lid action is; it sits on a spring-loaded slider with a textured portion at the front that aids tactility. Though this does make the case thicker and therefore, less pocketable, I do vastly prefer it to the normal hinge mechanism offered by competitors as it provides more drop protection. As most hinged cases close magnetically, one drop and the earphone spill onto the floor – the M5 TWS case doesn’t have this issue. The earpieces are seated magnetically and charge via gold-plated prongs. 4 status LEDs on the exterior of the case denote the remaining charge in the earpieces when placed inside the case then subsequently the charge remaining in the case itself.
The case charges via USB-C and offers just over 2-full charges. As it has a metal construction, it does not support Qi wireless charging. One main gripe, the earphones have a very snug fit within the case, so the lid can graze the faceplates and potentially cause scuffs long-term; though I did not experience this during my 3 months of testing. This also means the earphones struggle to fit within the case when equipped with third-party ear tips meaning users will be limited to those included. For instance, though the Spinfit CP360 fit me perfectly, the lid was pushed ajar when closed as they increased the width of the earphones. Additionally, as the earphones are so smooth, they are a touch slippery and can be difficult to remove from the case and ears. To me, the excellent protection and sliding mechanism that provides greater drop protection are worth the small detriment to tip choice and pocketability though it is something to consider if you struggle to find a snug fit on IEMs in general.
Connectivity & Battery Life –
The Qualcomm chip optimises usability with an intuitive pairing process and automated reconnection. Upon removing the earphones from the case, they immediately enter pairing mode or auto pair to the last connected device if available. More devices can be paired in a similar fashion. Range ranked well among the TWS earphones in my possession, holding a strong connection through 2 room with double brick walls where most start to cut out intermittently. Otherwise, I experienced no dropouts or interference when using the earphones within Sydney CBD where connection issues tend to be most prevalent. Latency was average over a normal connection, with minor lip-sync offset. Qualcomm’s true wireless stereo is available to mitigate this on supported devices which makes them suitable for movie buffs and gamers. As aforementioned, they are also able to pair independently, potentially doubling the battery life when used in mono.
On a less positive note, a slight background hiss is audible on low-volume listening and there is no app or eQ support which means should the user want to adjust the sound, it will have to be done independently on each source device. Otherwise, it’s a simple and focussed audio-centric experience. Each earpiece contains a microphone with cVc noise-cancellation that faces towards the front, covered beneath a stylish metal grill. I found that noise cancellation was on the more conservative side and wind noise was reported to be quite prevalent during calls. In quieter environments, the M5 TWS delivers above-average call quality with ample volume and clarity, however, recipients did note that my voice sounded slightly distant. This is likely a result of their adoption of omnidirectional mics that tend to be more prone to background noise, this can easily be revised in future ADV earphones.
The M5 TWS offer a very generous 9hrs of battery life and real-world testing confirmed this with just over 8.5hrs of listening time at medium/low volumes. As aforementioned, the case extends this to a total listening time of 32 hours. The case also supports fast-charging, offering 1.5hrs of listening time after 15 minutes of charging. Such a performance is highly competitive, especially as the earphones have such a compact form factor. The faux custom design is certainly adopted for a reason as it permits the maximisation of internal real-estate without hampering ergonomics, and here the space has been put to good use.
Harman Curve –
The Harman Curve is definitely somewhat of a buzz word these days; in a nutshell, it is a subjective definition of neutral and a progression of the diffuse-field curve who’s most iconic realisation was by the Etymotic’s ER4 earphones. It was pioneered by Dr. Sean Olive, acoustic research fellow at Harman international who introduced a scientific approach to audio. He blind tested a wide range of listeners who gave subjective impressions on various sound signatures. Dr. Olive used a single model of headphone to standardize seal and ergonomics while simulating other models through an eQ. The listeners were then able to tweak the sound via bass and treble dials to their liking. Dr. Olve collected the results and sorted them based on the experience of the listener, age, gender and cultural background. Accordingly, he was able to find the exact signature that most listeners would prefer based on form factor and age. This isn’t a perfectly linear sound, but surely represents a sound target and the style of sound that is commonly preferred by the majority of trained listeners. Read more here.
With that said, the M5 TWS does indeed present a well-balanced sound, however, to my ear it is distinctly on the brighter side. Tone aligns with their reference focus, being neutral, and immaculate throughout. Lows maintain convincing weight and dynamics with sub-bass emphasis while a more even metered mid and upper-bass contribute to the neutrality of the M5’s tone. The midrange is clear and revealing, rising to a prominent 3KHz hump that enhances vocal clarity and presence. Meanwhile, the treble is fairly accurate with a crisp detail presentation and just a slightly brighter background. My most preferred ear tips were the memory foam tips that provided a slightly warmer and smoother sound in addition to the best fit for my ears. I listened predominately from my Google Pixel 4 connected over apt-x.
Where I am usually not a fan of micro-drivers, ADV.’s implementation provides some of the best extension and depth I’ve heard from this driver type, missing just a little physicality at the very bottom. Nonetheless, alongside moderate emphasis, sub-bass has good weight, providing a firm slam and rumble while also serving to increase the fullness of bass notes in general. Meanwhile, mid-bass and upper-bass are neutral in quantity and nicely linear, contributing to a neutral tone and high separation that form the foundation for the M5’s super-clean low-end.
Driver control is also on the higher side with just a slight loss of razor-sharp definition within the sub-bass where a hint of muddiness creeps in. As the mid and upper-bass are neutral, there is good resolution through these ranges and no loss of definition. Decay is very swift for a dynamic earphone, which contributes to high detail retrieval and a pacey presentation that keeps up with complex compositions. As the ADV. M5 TWS focusses on bass weight over punch and warmth, its sound is also quite dynamic. Its cleanliness through the mid-bass combined with the agility of its transients contributes to standout detail retrieval. Though sub-bass heavy tracks can challenge this earphone, its balanced and technically proficient presentation is a breath of fresh air in the TWS space.
Clarity and openness are both defining traits of the M5’s presentation and this is likely the most revealing midrange I’ve heard from a TWS earphone yet. That said, I would not consider it perfectly neutral or natural. As both the lower-midrange and upper-bass occupy a neutral quantity, vocals are imbued with accurate body and are neutrally toned. However, as the centre midrange climbs progressively, approaching a prominent 3KHz hump, the presentation is skewed towards the brighter side with enhanced vocal forwardness. As such, this can be considered a vocal-forward earphone despite having some degree of sub-bass emphasis. Conversely, this does operate in accordance with the Harman Curve to compensate for the lack of pinna gain for the in-ear form factor.
To my ear, it is slightly overdone and timbre isn’t perfectly accurate as a result. Nonetheless, the net result is clear, delicate and intimate if somewhat intense vocals. The midrange is highly defined, layered and revealing though female vocals consistently hold precedence over male. As the earphones return to linearity around the 4KHz region and remain impressively neutral through the lower-treble, vocals are appropriately articulated and devoid of rasp, thinness or sibilance. They are presented with ample density and smoothness so as to mitigate the effects of their increased brightness and clarity. Altogether, the M5 TWS is relatively forward and very revealing, though it has been well-executed to avoid overly skewing timbre. This is obviously not an earphone for those preferring a warm and smooth sound, rather it is energetic and moderately forward.
Though the midrange is bright, the high-end is quite accurate and linear so as to promote a non-fatiguing sound. Lower-treble sits in line with the bass and sits just slightly behind the upper-midrange. Instrumentation is very crisp with thinner body but ample texture nonetheless. They can sound more aggressive as a result, though treble isn’t sharp or metallic either. Foreground detail retrieval is excellent with precise attack and slightly truncated decay that saps that last iota of texture from instruments like cymbals. Treble then extends linearly before gently rolling off through the middle-treble with just a hint of sparkle from the highest octaves.
As a result, the background is quite clean and doesn’t glare over the earphone’s foreground detail presentation. There is a moderately high perceived sense of distance and width but, as with most TWS earphones, background detail retrieval is just average and there is no upper-treble sparkle or micro-detail. Nonetheless, the M5 TWS has the highest resolution of any TWS earphone I’ve tested so far. They are resolving of small details by combination of a linear treble tuning and an agile driver. Extension performs with the best in the category delivering impressive headroom and detail retrieval. Of course, wired performance cannot be expected here, but the M5 TWS is impressively resolving for its class.
With such characteristics, it comes as no surprise that the M5 TWS crafts one of the widest presentations for a TWS earphone, extending beyond the head with the ability to project a good amount of depth too. Imaging is standout, vocals possess a stable centre image, layers aren’t especially well-defined, however, the M5 has very sharp directional cues and swift transients that provide a keen sense of direction. Their similarly excellent separation emphasizes this quality, with neutrally sized notes within a spacious stage permitting the listener to easily discern space between instruments and focus on small details. As the upper-midrange is quite forward, vocals can occasionally overshadow background details in the midrange.
Lypertek TEVI ($90): The TEVI is, to my ear, slightly more balanced than the M5 TWS but at the cost of technical ability and separation. Bass extends better on the M5 TWS, delivering more defined slam and rumble. Both are tuned similarly, the TEVI has a touch more sub-bass, the M5 TWS a touch more mid-bass. Both are also well-controlled and highly defined, the M5 TWS has the edge technically with quicker decay and greater detail retrieval. Both feature forward centre midranges, however, the TEVI has lower emphasis and isn’t as bright and forward as a result. As its upper-midrange is slightly attenuated, the TEVI is denser, smoother and more natural but also drier. Meanwhile, the M5 TWS is more vocal forward, revealing and delicate. Both are neutral in tone and exceptionally clean. The M5 has a more prominent lower-treble, making it a crisper and more detail forward, it is the more detailed earphone by a fair margin. The M5 is more linear through the top-end and has better extension with more headroom and air. In turn, the M5 also has a substantially wider soundstage alongside better separation and layering. Both image accurately, however, as the M5 has more space to play with, its presentation is more involving.
Samsung Galaxy Buds ($149): A $50 premium brings superior technical ability and build quality. Both are voiced similarly as both target the Harman curve. That said, the Galaxy buds traces this more accurately with a slightly warmer voicing whereas the M5 TWS is slightly brighter and crisper. The M5 TWS has better sub-bass extension with more slam though it has less bass overall with the Galaxy buds being fuller and warmer. The M5 TWS is noticeably tighter with quicker decay and a cleaner mid-bass, creating a more defined and detailed but also leaner presentation; where I find the Galaxy Buds a bit sloppy and ill-defined. The M5 TWS has a brighter and more upfront midrange where the Galaxy buds are more even between bass and midrange with more body. Both are actually very similarly tuned through the midrange, but as the M5 TWS has less bass, it sounds brighter. As the M5 has slightly bolstered lower-midrange body it doesn’t explicitly sound thin but is certainly thinner than the Galaxy Buds and with a more neutral tone as opposed to a light warmth. The high-end is where the M5 TWS differs most. It has a crisper and more aggressive lower-treble. In so doing, it sacrifices a touch of instrument body and smoothness. However, the M5 TWS is noticeably more detailed and extended with a lot more air and headroom. It has a substantially wider soundstage and better separation, imaging also seems sharper to me.
Sennheiser Momentum TWS ($250): The MTW is more V-shaped and a lot warmer. Bass extends similarly well on the Momentum, however, there is more emphasis throughout, especially with regards to mid-bass. It has fuller, thicker notes that command more weight and space but also less control so texture is a lot smoother, missing small details compared to the more balanced, defined and quicker decaying M5. Mids follow suite, they are more laid-back on the MTW, more full-bodied and also warmer. The M5 TWS is substantially brighter through the upper-midrange delivering a lot more clarity and transparency. Meanwhile, the MTW is more powerfully voiced and easier to listen to for long periods of time but is also vocally recessed. Both earphones have a crisp lower-treble, it sounds more forward on the MTW by contrast to its less present midrange. The MTW has more instrument body where the M5 TWS is crisper and more resolving. The M5 TWS extends further, the MTW has a black background where the M5 TWS is brighter with a lot more headroom. It has a wider soundstage and more separation than the MTW, both have defined layers, however.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus ($250): The MW07 Plus is more U-shaped but similarly is tuned for clarity. The MW07 Plus offers superior bass extension with more physical slam and rumble. It has more bass emphasis throughout and is slightly warmer with more mid-bass focus. It has great driver control but doesn’t match the quickly decaying and more neutral M5 TWS in terms of fine detail retrieval. The MW07 Plus actually has a similarly tuned midrange, building in emphasis through the centre midrange to 3KHz focus. However, as its bass is more present, it is a fuller and slightly warmer presentation. Furthermore, the MW07 Plus has a sharp dip at 4KHz which makes it a lot smoother and mitigates its forwardness. Meanwhile, the M5 TWS is more revealing, even clearer and also more resolving. The MW07 Plus has a warmer lower-treble that is similarly crisp but has a darker background and more instrument body. Meanwhile, the M5 TWS is thinner and more aggressive with more headroom and air. The M5 TWS has better extension yielding higher resolution and aiding sparkle and background detail retrieval. This grants it a wider soundstage than the MW07 Plus, however, its layers are not so defined.
What once was fairly sparse market has now become so diverse that it is hard for consumers to navigate, an issue only further exacerbated by its youth. And yet, though only on their second generation of TWS earphones, ADV. Sound are already aiming their sites at the heavy-hitters, going toe to toe with premium offerings from companies with substantially higher marketing budgets. This isn’t fully represented by my comparisons, they are my honest words, yet they do not paint an accurate picture. This is because, my comments about the M5 TWS are in reference to earphones that aren’t especially balanced, making the M5 TWS an outlier. For this is a true audiophile wireless earphone and ADV. even traces the Harman curve to ossify their intentions. Furthermore, the M5 TWS offers all of the main conveniences of a top-tier TWS earphone; excellent battery life, stable connectivity and water resistance. It isn’t perfect, the midrange is a bit intense (but you can equally blame Harman for this) and the fit isn’t quite as locked-in as competitors with stabiliser fins. Should the user not like their sound out of the box, they’ll be confined to the eQ built into their music app of choice. Regardless, if you’re jaded by the V-shaped, sculpted wireless earphones out there, the M5 TWS joins the select elite of TWS earphones, offering class-leading resolution, a proper soundstage and very strong if not quite perfect balance.
The M5 TWS can be purchased from ADV. for $199 USD. I am not affiliated with ADV. and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.
Track List –
Anomalie – Metropole Part II
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Blazo – Colour of Jazz
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Daniel Caesar – Freudian
Daryl Braithwaite – Rise
Dirty Loops – Next To You
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Jimi Hendrix – Axis: Bold As Love
Kanye West – Late Registration
Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
Missy Higgins – The Sound of White
Radiohead – Kid A
SOLE – Slow
SiK-K – iffy
ZICO – THINKING Part.2