The TCL MoveAudio S600 wireless earbuds are launching into a challenging market with seemingly every tech company producing a pair of wireless earbuds.
However, affordable wireless earbuds with hybrid active noise cancellation (ANC) are nowhere near as common and that is exactly what TCL offers with the MoveAudio S600. While top contenders from Sony and Bose are more $300 and the aging AirPods Pro are still over $200, TCL managed to come in at under the $100 mark.
- Our expert picks for the best noise-cancelling headphones
- Check out our Apple AirPods Pro review
- …and our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
While the TCL MoveAudio S600 won’t unseat any of those options as the best wireless earbuds with ANC, at half to one-third the cost, they are a strong option and hold their own against the best budget models.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Availability and price
The TCL MoveAudio S600 are available for $99 from Amazon. You can choose from a black, grey, or white finish. In the box with the earbuds are five sets of ear caps for a more customized fit, a wireless charging case, and a short (7-inch) USB-A-to-USB-C cable.
The TCL MoveAudio S600 are an excellent value at $99. They stack up well against any of the more affordable best wireless earbuds like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air Pro 2, the Amazon Echo Buds 2, or the Anker Soundcore Life P3.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Design and comfort
TCL’s MoveAudio S600 use the now-common stem design, which will naturally draw comparisons to the AirPods. However, TCL’s design makes a couple of notable departures that are universal improvements over Apple’s version.
I’ll admit it. I don’t love the glossy plastic housing on the earbuds charging case any more than I do on the AirPods. I chose the white MoveAudio S600 for my review as I thought it would avoid showing fingerprints better than the black or grey, and that theory has held up. However, a matte finish like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro avoids the issue entirely.
The TCL MoveAudio S600 features an aggressive angle relative to the stem that helped them sit better in my ear than most stem earbuds. AirPods, for example, fall out of my ears with even fairly minimal movement, while I wore the TCL MoveAudio S600 when running and biking without any issues. The custom tips are partly responsible here too, helping to lock the earbuds in place comfortably.
For those who want to use the TCL MoveAudio S600 for exercise, the earbuds offer IP54 dust and waterproofing. This means that they will hold up to sweat or a splash without a problem, but can’t be submerged in water. The wireless charging case doesn’t have an IP certification, so you’ll want to keep it clear of any water exposure.
While the plastic will scratch if you drop the case or earbuds too often, the earbuds’ minimal weight should keep them safe and the case is surprisingly robust. I also prefer the drop-in design that this case uses over the slide-out that you get with the Liberty Air 2 Pro. At 2.6x 2.2 x 1.1 inches, the wireless charging case isn’t as diminutive as the AirPods charging case (1.74 x .2.11 x 0.84 inches), but it is thinner than many of its affordable competitors. The magnetic closure also holds solidly, so a tumble for the case won’t have your earbuds popping out.
From a functional standpoint, I appreciate the design of the TCL MoveAudio S600, but I’d love to see them shift to a matte finish and the case should be downsized.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Controls and digital assistant
TCL MoveAudio S600 uses touch controls on both earbuds, utilizing taps and presses on the earbuds for various commands. By default, the left earbud triggers your digital assistant (Google/Siri) by pressing and holding, a single tap stops Google Assistant, and a double-tap will let you listen to notifications. The right earbud is set to toggle between noise cancellation and transparency when pressing and holding for three seconds. A single tap will play/pause audio, a double tap will skip to the next song, and a triple tap will go back to the previous song.
Controls are customizable in the TCL Connect app (more on this later), but the touch controls are among the best that I have used on any earbuds. Even a light tap or press will trigger the appropriate command, which is great because having to heavily tap on something in your ear is an unpleasant experience. Controls were also reliable; I never found myself repeating commands to get them to work.
The TCL MoveAudio S600 also feature in-ear detection. This will pause your music if you remove one or both earbuds during playback and resume when you place them back in your ear(s). You can use either earbud alone as well.
Google Assistant and Siri are both compatible with the TCL MoveAudio S600. I had no issues with the mics picking up my instructions. When using the touch controls, you need to keep pressing on the earbud until you are done talking to the assistant, which can be irritating if you are dictating a longer text or email. If you trigger the assistant from your phone or by saying “Hey Google,” you get around this issue.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Active noise cancellation and transparency mode
TCL’s active noise cancellation is better than I was anticipating. My Sony WF-1000XM3’s outclassed them, but it was closer than I imagined. TCL is doing it right with hybrid ANC that uses the interior and exterior mics to cancel outside noise and, for $99, I was thrilled with the performance.
My office can get pretty hot during the summer so I have a fan running regularly. The TCL MoveAudio S600 almost completely eliminated the sound of the fan at its low and medium setting even with no audio playing. It doesn’t, of course, eliminate everything –– my staccato typing still came through, just slightly muted. However, adding music to the mix, I blocked out the fan on high and my typing at just 40% volume, which is much better for your ears than cranking your music up to drown out the noise.
One drawback to the TCL MoveAudio S600’s ANC is that I can detect it when I’m not playing audio. It’s soft high-pitched background noise, similar to what you hear if a TV is left on in the room without anything playing on it. I didn’t notice this when I had any audio playing, so this is only a concern if you are hoping to use the earbuds to suppress noise without audio.
If you are using the TCL MoveAudio S600 outdoors and want to hear what’s going on around you, the ANC can either be disabled or you can turn on transparency mode. The former will leave you with passive ANC from the seal created by the earbuds and the silicon tips, while the latter will slightly augment noise from outside with the mics. It makes me feel a bit safer, particularly if I’m biking.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Audio quality
The TCL MoveAudio S600 deliver balanced performance that make them a great fit for different content. However, they come up short when it comes to bass-heavy music. There was just no punch or reverberation from the 10-millimeter drivers when I played songs with deep bass. And there is no EQ available to help you tune things to your preferences.
While that is understandably a dealbreaker for some, the audio performance is otherwise excellent, so it will very much depend on your listening preferences.
I found the soundstage impressive for earbuds with the MoveAudio S600 delivering a strong three-dimensional sense in some of the film soundtracks that I listen to while I work. The “Ragnarok Suite” from the Thor Ragnarok soundtrack hit hard with its crescendoing orchestra while the ethereal vocals and more delicate string sections shined through.
I gave them a shot at “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins and the snare lead-in and vocals were flawless with the soft backing vocals, which are sometimes drowned out, coming through cleanly. I wasn’t sure how it would do with the drum solo, but it did not disappoint — the percussion holds up just fine.
While I wouldn’t put the MoveAudio S600 audio quality on par with some of the pricier wireless earbuds or the best wireless headphones, for a pair of sub-$100 wireless earbuds with ANC, they are outstanding.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: App
The app will present you with a list of your available TCL devices when launched. Tapping on the MoveAudio S600 will bring up your options and display the battery life for the case and each earbud. The settings available include the current noise control (Noise cancellation, transparency mode, or off), touch functions, and wearing detection.
Touch functions let you change the behavior of the controls on either the right or left earbud. You can select playback controls, noise control, voice assistant, volume control, or no operation for each earbud. The customization doesn’t get more granular than that though. For example, you can’t change what a single tap versus a press and hold does on the volume control.
Wearing detection is a feature you can toggle on or off. I find it handy and reliable, but if you want to remove an earbud without having the audio shut off, you can change that.
The only other options are in the overflow menu in the upper-right corner. Here, you can delete the device from your TCL Connect app, update the firmware, and view FAQs or the user manual. I wish the app offered you EQ settings, but it is cleanly laid out and works well nonetheless.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Battery life and charging case
TCL lists the S600’s battery life at 6.2 hours with ANC on. I got within about 15 minutes of the six-hour mark, so it’s not far off. That’s just about identical to what we saw with the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro (5.5 hours) and well beyond what you get from the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours). Turning off ANC should give you up to eight hours on a charge according to TCL. I would count on it being slightly short of this based on some testing.
The charging case will top up the earbuds three times, so if you are fully charged, you would in theory have 32 hours of ANC-off audio or roughly 24 hours of ANC-on audio. It’s fantastic to have that kind of longevity without having to plug in or drop the wireless charging case on a Qi pad. However, I would give up some extra battery in the case to make it smaller.
If the case is completely dead, it takes about two hours to charge up fully via USB-C; although you can get an hour of battery life in 10 minutes. Wireless charging is considerably slower at roughly half the wattage and twice the time (nearly four hours). Given the incredible battery life, this shouldn’t be an issue. Even if you listen for six hours a day, that should only require charging them up about twice a week.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Call quality and connectivity
The TCL MoveAudio S600 delivered some of the cleanest call quality of any headphones or earbuds I’ve used recently. I had no complaints even when straying away from my phone and moving around my house to get things done on calls. The earbuds feature six mics used for active noise cancellation, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they work well for calls too.
The Bluetooth 5.0 connection held up when I was at least 30 to 40 feet away with plaster or drywall between my phone and the earbuds. The concrete walls of my basement office were enough to overwhelm it though. At around 15-20 feet away the call or music would start to break up.
TCL MoveAudio S600 review: Verdict
Excellent battery life, surprisingly effective ANC and reliable controls all make the TCL MoveAudio S600 a standout option when compared to many of the budget options out there.
However, there some trade-offs were made to get to that sub-$100 price point. The glossy plastic build doesn’t look premium, bass performance is weak, and the ANC doesn’t again hold up to the best from Sony, Bose, or Apple. But, if you are just looking for something that will reliably shut out the world so you can listen to your music without damaging your hearing, the MoveAudio S600 deliver for substantially less than the most popular models.