This is Genki Waveform, by Genki. If you haven’t heard about Genki before, they make a lot of Nintendo Switch accessories. I haven’t got a clue since I don’t own one, or any other last slash current gen consoles for that matter.
What’s in the box
My Kickstarter Special SNES themed Waveform comes in cardboard box that contains the Waveform, 3 pairs of silicon and foam eartips for the total of 6, with the medium silicon pair pre-installed on the unit, 3 pairs of wing tips, a USB-C to USB-A cable, USB-C to 3-pole 3.5mm aux cable, and to complete the package, a manual booklet. The packaging is almost 100% plastic free, aside from the plastic containing the cables and the box saran wrap.
As a part of the Kickstarter campaign, backers receives a black silicon sleeve that you can use to protect the case. Unfortunately, the sleeve covers the mic grill, so sometime I have to remove it if I need to use the case as a mic.
The all plastic construction is certainly not the most exquisite build that I’ve ever seen, one might even say it’s a bit too plasticky for the USD199 that I paid for. Maybe it looks better in black instead my SNES-inspired colorway. The plastic mold is of high quality, and the hinge seems to quite robust. Overall, the build is not exceptional, however, keep in mind that it’s probably not the reason why you are paying premium for the Waveform. The Waveform’s case and earbuds are slightly thicker than your typical TWSes. Here’s a size comparison between the Waveform, Huawei Freebuds Pro 2, and Mpow X3
As you can see, the inner part of the earbuds are a bit larger compared to others, and there’s a significant chunks of the bud’s exterior that will hang outside of your ears
So, why would I be interested in The Waveform? You see, the Waveform has a very special trick up its’ sleeve. The USB port on most TWSes’s cases are usually used only for charging. However, if you connect the Waveform case to a PC or console via the built-in USB-C port, you’ll activate Waveform’s hidden power. The case will now act as wireless dongle for Waveform earbuds. What’s even cooler, you can connect your phone via Bluetooth to the Waveform while in this mode, and have two audio source active at the same time. For example, you can have the Waveform connect to your PC and hear the game sound, as well as have your phone playing songs from Spotify. Genki dubbed this function “Dualstream”. In these modes, the connected case also functions as microphone. By pressing button “1” on the case, you can switch between the mic on the case or the earbuds’ mic.
When the mic on earbuds are active, the Waveform will switch to mono HFP/HSP bluetooth profile. More over, the included USB-C to 3.5mm aux cable that is included in the box can be used as an alternative, if your device is still has a headphone-mic combo jack . Just keep in mind that the Waveform can’t broadcast and charge at the same time, and since it will automatically switch to broadcast mode when connected to a device USB port, you can’t charge the case with your PC or laptop USB ports.
While High end gaming headphones, such as Steelseries Arctis Pro, and the recently released Nova Pro and Nova 7 provides similar function akin to Dualstream, I believe Waveform is the only TWS -as of the writing of this article- that has this capability. HyperX Cloud Mix TWS is the only other model that I know that can maintain both Wireless 2.4GHz and Bluetooth connections simultaneously, albeit you need to select which source is active and switch between them.
Aside from these headline features, Waveform is also capable of Active Noise Cancelling and pass-through mode. There’s only single level ANC, so it’s either on or off. A full range of controls are delivered through touch sensitive surface on each earbuds. You can turn the volume up and down, pause, play, skip and repeat tracks, and switch between normal, ANC, and pass-through modes. The case is also compatible with Qi Wireless charging standard, if you have one.
Mobile app for iOS, and later on Android were released a couple weeks after I received my unit. The app allows you to:
- Choose between EQ presets, or customize your own
- Battery level for earbuds, although there isn’t one for the case
- Switching ANC or pass-through mode on or off
- Firmware update, so far there’s only one, which deliver app compatibility to the unit.
- Rename the earbuds Bluetooth ID
Also on the app, you can find an option to enable multipoint that is greyed out for now. Genki claims the capability will be delivered later on through firmware update
Missing from the feature list are creature comfort stuff such as wear detection that stop and resume media playing when you take out or plug in the buds on your ear. Also, while the Kickstarter page mentioned that they are working on IPX4 or IPX5 rating, there’s no mention of actual rating at the product page on Genki’s website.
I’m not an audiophile, so I can’t really comment on sound quality. But let say, if my Zero Audio Carbo Tenore got 10, then my Freebuds Pro 2 would be 7.5, and the Waveform gets 6.5
When I first put the buds in my ears, I realize how bulky the buds are. The buds tend to plop off my ears every now and then, no matter the size or the type of tips I’m using. Installing the wing attachments and replacing the tip with L-size Spintip eartips resolve this issue to certain degree. Simply put, I won’t be able to use this during exercises.
I have no problem receiving call with in-ear microphones and or speaking on a Team meeting through the on-case one. The same unfortunately can’t be said by said some of the fellow recipients of the Kickstarter campaign rewards, as there have been a lot of complain about the very silent buds and case mics. Genki promises fix via firmware update
ANC quality is unfortunately nowhere comparable to similarly priced TWS’ such as Sony XM series, Huawei Freebuds Pro series, or upper model Galaxy Buds. I believe this is partially caused the fit issue, since due to its’ awkwardly huge size, getting proper seal on your ears is near impossible, and without it, I was barely able to differentiate whether the ANC is on, off, or whether the pass-through mode is active
Other problems that I discover:
- Earbuds not syncing. Sometime only one bud connects, and I need to reslot the other bud back in the case, and take it out again for it to re-initiate connection
- Not all USB-C cable works with case connection. It works with my Baseus 100W cable, while Apple USB-C cable is no go. Some will allow you to switch to case connection mode, but will produce an annoying low ringing sound from the earbuds.
- Case connection is fiddly. I have buzzing tone for weeks when the case is connected to my PC. On other occasion the waveform case connection will disconnect and reconnect repeatedly. Both issues have since magically resolved after sometime.
Now, on a more positive notes. Simply put, Dualstream is great. While the case connection mode and Dualstream are primarily aimed at gamers, I mainly use it for Zoom and Ms Team meetings when I’m working out of the office.
Not so much about having the ability to stream from two sources at the same time, but it eliminates some of the inconveniences that I have with the usual Bluetooth multipoint pairing. Switching from one connected device to another and back are not always instant, and you can’t really control whether you want to switch or not. In linux, my XM4 would stay at HSP/HFP profile, even when I have finish my call, and must be manually switch back to A2DP. Dualstream eliminates this issue as no switching is necessary, most of the time, as incoming stream from one device will not disrupt an on going stream from the second device. You can even receive a phone call on your phone, while listening to Z Reviews rambling about Rode NTH100 on Youtube on my laptop. It’s friggin incredible!
The Waveform is very much a gen 1 product. It’s definitely cutting edge, but Genki has a lot of homework refining and smoothing the kinks out their first ever TWS. it was a commendable first effort, but even for the kickstarter price of USD199, I’d say the Waveform is a hard sell for most people that does not need or want DualStream. It lacks the refined quality and features such as adjustable ANC level, wear detection, and auto play/pause that the more seasoned makers such as Sony, Sennheiser, Samsung, or Huawei have. After sale service is also one thing that you need to consider if you want to spend your money on the Waveform. Genki has a Discord server that you can join in and send in request for support that some, if not most are then redirected to email. My 2 emails about my case connection issue were left unanswered. Luckily for me, the issue was resolved by itself after sometime.
However, I back the project campaign, knowing fully that this is the risk that I’m getting into. I would like to make sure that Genki get the chances to realize their idea, and hopefully refine and rework some of the kink out of the Waveform, and release an updated Waveform 2. Or maybe perhaps other maker would take notice and look into the idea when they discover what Genki has done with the Waveform.
For now, I’m enjoying the Waveform, and it is currently, the TWS that I carry around on my pocket on daily basis, replacing my FreeBuds Pro 2. Would I recommend it to anyone? If you think you’ll be benefited from Dualstream, have another pair of TWS or headphone as a fallback if your Waveform breaks, and you are comfortable with purchasing from a brand that might not have local presence where you live, and will require you to ship back your unit if it stops working 2-3 months after you purchase it, then yeah! The case connection mode is a lot of fun and super useful. I got to keep a song on Spotify in the background while in a meeting or a game session in stereo, and got to use the mic too!
…Otherwise, with the amount you’re spending, which is USD249 for retail, maybe for now, you should look for more pedestrian option. Huawei just released their updated Freebuds Pro 3, which seems to better in a lot of ways compared to its’ predecessor, or Sony WF1000XM4, considered to be the TWS with the best combination of ANC and sound quality. If you’re looking for TWS with dedicated connection dongle, there’s the Epos GTW 270 Hybrid, the upcoming HyperX Cloud Mix TWS, and Jabra Evolve2 Buds that is laser focused on productivity use.
I really hope Genki will refine and rework the Waveform shortcomings and improve their customer support. I would definitely back Waveform 2 if they decide to do it.