The Wireless Wings!
PROS: slim TWS adapter design, decent sound quality, physical push button, BT5.0 with aptX, wireless charging case with Qi support, IPX5, up to 24h playback with a charging case.
CONS: mmcx only, no volume control, IEM + adapter is bigger than traditional integrated TWS.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Though not exactly pioneered but rather jumpstarted by popularity of original AirPods, TWS became a big deal in the last few years, giving many consumers a freedom to cut “umbilical” cord between smartphones and earphones, and to provide a True Wireless Stereo freedom without “umbilical” cord between left and right earpieces. Unfortunately, quantity overtook the quality, and audio market became flooded with cookie-cutter TWS earphones in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Even audiophile companies jumped on this bandwagon, replacing consumer grade drivers with better ones while trying to improve the sound quality.
Today, the latest Qualcomm chipsets offer a more robust BT5.0 solution for TWS application, including support of higher res codecs like aptX, though as far as I know LDAC is still not supported. This fully integrated solution continues to be convenient for consumers, but not so much for audiophiles. According to iBasso, they looked into TWS earphones, but decided to skip it in favor of TWS adapter (Cable Free CF01) with more room for the latest BT chipset and dedicated headphone amp, and higher capacity battery to power up both, giving audiophiles a freedom to choose which IEM they want to convert into TWS.
As a bonus, I also received their latest budget IT00 single DD iems which are good on their own, but scale up when paired with CF01. Thus, I decided to “pair” them up together in this review, covering both products.
Unboxing and Accessories.
CF01 arrived in an average size box, but what I appreciated the most was a detailed presentation of features on the front and a full spec on the back of the packaging sleeve. You don’t have to dig through the manual to find out about wireless charging or aptX support. But if you prefer, the manual was also included, along with a short usb-c charging cable.
Inside the box, you can find a larger size charging case with CF01 adapters sitting in their cradles. This case can be charged either from usb-c or Qi wireless pad. The adapters are held inside magnetically and stay secure even if you open the case and flip it upside down.
Also, the case is spacious enough to fit different IEMs along with adapters, and even has “air bag” padding for extra cushioning.
Design and Functionality.
The adapters are slim and designed to be worn behind your ears, with dimensions of about 1.5” long and 0.5” wide and the weight of only 6g each. The charging contacts are at the bottom of each piece, right next to mic pinhole. At the top there is a physical push button, easy to press with a nice tactile feel, but you do need to hold the adapter with thumb and index fingers to press it with an index finger. There is no need to do any tapping to control CF01. The button is sealed with a rubbery cover over the top to meet IPX5 waterproof rating and has indicator light next to it.
The heat-shrink earhook wire is pre-shaped, goes comfortably over the ear, and has an angled mmcx connector with sturdy rubbery housing mold for a secure grip when pulling the wire off to disconnect from IEMs. The rubbery housing also has L/R marking, and you can also distinguish each symmetrical earpiece by making sure “iBasso Audio” label is facing outside.
Of course, having mmcx only connectors has its limitation if you have a lot of 2pin IEMs. But it is not a show stopper if you are using short mmcx to 2pin adapters, like the one from OE audio. With the longer or angled adapters, the comfort of wearing CF01 could be affected, but using shorter ones works quite well.
Inside, iBasso used Qualcomm QCC3020 BT5.0 chipset with an additional amplifier chip and support for SBC, AAC, and aptX codecs. Each adapter has a battery which can provide about 4.5hrs of playback, and together with a charging case you can get up to 24hrs+ of playtime considering that case gives you additional 20hrs of juice. According to iBasso, it takes about 1.5hrs to charge the adapters and 2.5hrs for the charging case.
The pair up is activated automatically as soon as you take adapters out of the case. This is exactly the same process as you would find with any other pair of TWS earphones. And once paired, all you have to do is to make sure BT is enabled on your phone or dap, and CF01 will automatically connect once you take them out of the charging case. When you put them back, they disconnect and adapters recharge from the battery in the case.
Controls are very simple, either L or R button single press for Play/Pause or to accept the incoming call. To eliminate the discrepancy of double/triple click controls when skipping tracks, Left side double click will switch to Prev track, and Right side double click will switch to Next track. Triple click activates voice assistant on your phone, and longer press rejects the incoming call.
Pretty much, it functions similar to any integrated TWS pair of earphones, and while connected to either my Galaxy S9 or DX160 or DX220 MAX – the sound was very similar and the connection was solid in open space across 35-40ft area.