Often, a headphone collaboration with a luxury car company means some fairly average headphones get a racing stripe and a much higher price tag for no discernible reason. But these $499 T5 II True Wireless Sport McLaren edition headphones from Klipsch not only justify their $50 price increase over the base sport model (they have a wireless charging mat), but they’re actually just really good.
The McLaren Design
The first thing I noticed upon opening the box was just how premium it all felt. There was a nicely illustrated instruction booklet, as well as a little book that was filled with pictures of the McLaren racing team, talking about the collaboration and the journey of the car company. There’s also a membership card, and some QR codes that take you to a playlist as well as some ambient sounds from the McLaren garage. It’s something super fans will really appreciate, and it adds to the experience.
Further in the box is the surprisingly beefy charging case for the headphones. The reason for its large size isn’t just the extra 24-hours of battery life stores within, but because it’s waterproof for some reason. The charging port is on the inside of the case, and there’s also a desiccant in the lid, which can supposedly be reactivated after use by being briefly microwaved, according to the manual.
It’s quite nice that the case and headphones have a dust and waterproof rating of IP67, but I can’t imagine many situations when that would be useful? Do people swim with true wireless headphones? How grippy are their ear canals? I wasn’t able to test this, due to my apartment building’s pool being closed due to Melbourne’s Covid restrictions, but I have tested other true wireless headphones while swimming, and I’ve never found a pair without ear hooks that didn’t fall out at least once. But hey, maybe some people have the ears for it. Or maybe it’s for yachting? Or paddle pools? Spas? It is unclear.
Also, in the box is a lot of ear tips and wings. There really is something for everyone with six total pairs of silicone ear tips, and a pair of isolation foam tips. Because of that, I was able to get a really good fit fairly easily. They’re really comfortable, and stayed in fairly well through all my stress tests of running and enthusiastic drumming.
Lastly, rounding out the box is a small but nicely designed black wireless charging mat.
Throughout all the items in the box is the theme of black and orange. The ear tips are orange on the black buds, and the charging case has an orange racing stripe contrasting against the carbon fibre appearance of the black under the waterproof plastic. Orange can go a few different ways, and while I kind of wish this orange was a bit more vibrant, the slightly washed out, unripe orange appearance looks really nice.
The Klipsch Sound
The most important part of any headphones, though, is the sound, and, as you would expect from $500 headphones, these have nailed it. I found I had to have the volume in my Music app up a bit higher than usual, but the sound just filled my ears. The bass is strong, but not overwhelming. To get this strong and clear of a bass response the ear buds are normally much larger, so this is quite impressive.
On a song like ‘Can I Go On’ by Sleater-Kinney, the spaces between the sounds were allowed to stand, while the tingle of the hi-hats felt distinct from Corin Tucker’s voice and the deep bass guitar.
A song like ‘At War’ by Conquer Divide is pretty challenging for any speakers to truly nail because it has so much going on. While on some headphones it can just sound like a cacophonous noise, and either Kiarely Castillo’s clean vocals or the double kick gets lost in the chorus. But on these headphones all the individual beats and notes still came across clearly.
If classical is more your thing, Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ came across exactly as bright and as joyful as I’d expect from premium headphones, with each part of the orchestra being able to properly shine.
‘Chasing Twisters’ by Delta Rae is usually my most challenging test for headphones. Some headphones can reproduce notes fairly well, but somehow strip emotion from songs. It’s the difference between a pair of headphones that make you say “ooh, this sounds good” and ones that have you wanting to dramatically mime along with the song while fighting back tears or the drive to revolt against society’s ills. The T5 IIs managed to convey the rage, furiosity and desperation of this song very nicely, passing the test.
Charging and Controls
While it’s a bit weird to have to open the case to charge it if you want to plug it in to the USB-C port, I adjusted pretty quickly. The charging pad worked perfectly for wireless charging, and the whole experience was seamless and good.
The controls are basic and easy to get the hang of – there are buttons on the ears and you press them to pause/play and skip/go back.
These are great headphones, and a collaboration worthy of the McLaren branding. While the sound quality of the headphones alone don’t put these in the $500 category, the added inclusions of the waterproofing and the wireless mat probably puts the overall package close to that bracket. I don’t think anyone who buys these will be disappointed (particularly if they manage to get them at a slight discount). If you’re not a McLaren fan and don’t need a wireless charging mat, they’re also available in a regular sport edition for $450, and just a normal true wireless edition without a wireless charging waterproof case or ear wings for $399.