Current testing methodology is v1.2
July 7, 2022
7.05 x 4.02 x 1.85 in
Timekettle M3 Translator earbuds
While not perfect for fluid conversations – these things really work
Color me surprised, these Timekettle M3 translation earbuds really work.
While they might not keep the conversation flowing in an interupted fashion, they are enough to get yourself out (or in) of any situation that arises.
With 3 different translation modes you’re sure to have one that suits the situation your in.
I tried these on a few different foreign language speakers around the city and was impressed that, while it wasn’t perfect, it was very impressive.
You can even go ‘offline’ with downloadble translations.
One of my gadgets of the year.
Want to upgrade to something more natural? You can check out the Timekettle WT2 Edge.
Want to get creative? Try watching TV with them in listening mode.
- Battery: 50mAh
- Charging Time: 1.5h
- Battery Charging: USB Type-C
- Connection: Via Bluetooth
- Bluetooth Connection Distance: 10m
- Smart Sentence Segmentation: RNNVAD（Recurrent Neural Network Voice Activty Detection）
- 40 Languages（93 Accents): Arabic / Bulgarian / Cantonese / Catalan / Chinese / Croatian / Czech / Danish / Dutch / English / Finnish / Fillipino / French / German / Greek / Hebrew / Hindi / Hungarian / Icelandic / Indonesian / Italian /Japanese / Korean /Malay / Norwegian / Polish / Portuguese / Romanian / Russian / Slovak / Slovenian / Spanish / Swedish / Tamil / Telugu / Thai / Turkish / Ukrainian / Urdu / Vietnamese
- 8 Languages Offline Translation: Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Russian, German English ⇆ Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Russian, German
What’s in the Box?
- Timekettle M3 earbuds
- Charging case
- USB charging cable
- 3 different sizes of ear tips
- User manual
- Quick start guide
- X30 Fish card
Stuff I like
- They work! That’s a pro
- Smart design with the splittable case
- Decent sound and ANC in music mode
- Loads of languages and accents to choose from
- 3 translation modes – smart design
Stuff I like less
- Translations can be a little spotty but you get the gist of what the other person is saying
- Not realtime but fast enough
Comparable products to consider
More powerful processor allows for faster duplex conversations, offering a more natural exchange but still a tad stunted – impressive, but don’t expect perfect conversation.
I don’t say this in any boasting way, because, to be honest, long-distance travel for work is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds.
But in the decade before COVID struck, I traveled 1.4 million km, spent nearly 1,900 hours in planes, traveled to 22 countries, and visited 53 cities.
In the context of the Timekettle M3 Translator earbuds, you can appreciate that I went to a lot of cities that were certainly not English-speaking first.
A lot of my work took me through Asia, Europe, and the USA.
In Asia, I spent time in Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong mostly. And in Europe, went anywhere from Amsterdam to Venice to Hungary.
On all those trips, I was usually looked after by people in the company who could speak English and help me to navigate all of the situations that I got myself into.
I would sometimes venture out to restaurants if I’d been to them before and I knew what I wanted to order, and you get pretty good at learning what you need to learn very quickly when you’re traveling on your own in a foreign country.
It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it makes you step out of your comfort zone, and really immerses you in other cultures, which is amazing.
But there are those times when you’re a little bit worried that you don’t know what you’re doing, or perhaps you go to buy a ticket at a ticket station, and no one there speaks the local language.
Maybe you’re flying into an airport that you haven’t been to before, and then you need to somehow connect with a bus or train, and you’re not really sure how you’re going to navigate that.
There’re so many scenarios and situations when you’re traveling to a foreign country that have the potential to leave you in a situation where you can’t be understood, and you can’t understand the locals.
Apple tends to ship with a translation app, and Google, of course, has a pretty good translation app as well, but there is nothing that has impressed me more than the Timekettle M3 Translator earbuds, and that’s why this year, they certainly get the MLC 2022 Best Translation Earbuds award.
Timekettle has been around in the translation earbuds market for a little while. They’ve been through a couple of different models of earbuds over the years, and the current models are the M3 and the WT2 Edge, which are slightly more expensive models but have a few differences from the M3.
Key differences between the M3 and WT2 Edge Timekettle Translation earbuds
The main difference between the M3 and the more expensive WT2 Edge is that the Edge is kind of designed more for a proper duplex conversation between two people. It does its best in real time to allow people to have a conversation back and forth, using the earbuds as the translator.
So, if you want to spend a little bit more, then the processor in those is a little bit more powerful and might do what you need it to do. The M3, which I’ve just reviewed, has really surprised me.
Do the Timekettle M3 Translation earbuds work?
I absolutely expected these to fail, but they have done anything but, so I can understand why they’re getting so popular.
The M3 comes with 40 languages available to it, and up to 93 accents.
Not only are you going to get, for example, English, but you’re also going to get Australian accents, New Zealand accents, American accents, and British accents.
And then, with some of the other foreign languages, they too have local accents, which this allows for.
The three languages I tested mostly on this were Chinese, Finnish, and Spanish. And with each translation, I had a smile on my face at the efficacy of the translations that came back.
And they’re normal ANC earbuds too?
I’m just going to state this really early on before I forget, and that is that these are also active noise-canceling earbuds.
So, you can be listening to these and enjoy your favorite music, and then quickly switch over to translation mode at any time.
You can also enjoy the active noise canceling, and if you want to take phone calls on these, you can do that too, with the built-in microphones. The sound quality on these was actually better than I expected as well.
So, in terms of a traveling partner, you get earbuds with active noise canceling, the ability to take phone calls, and a translator in your ear. In addition to the 40 languages and 93 accents, the translation time is around 0.5 to 3 seconds!
After using this at home, in the office, and trying it out on different people, it certainly has been true to the 0.5 to 3 seconds translation time.
Watch the video above where I demonstrate a quick Spanish translation using the Speaker mode.
Sometimes it happens faster, and sometimes it happens a little bit slower, but when I say slow, it doesn’t feel slow. It feels really quite fast.
There are 13 offline language modes available for the Timekettle M3 Translator earbuds as well.
So, if you’re traveling and you lose your internet connection, you can have locally-stored language packs available to you. You need to check out the website for more information on how those work.
Typically, you will get what’s called a Timekettle Fish. Scratch the pin code and redeem it for offline language packs.
This means if you’re really going off-grid, it will give you a lot of confidence that you’ll still be able to order your favorite dim sum wherever you end up.
Build quality and design
The build quality and design of these are super smart.
I’ll get into the three core usage modes that you use with the Timekettle M3 after this, but I just want to point out that the case for the M3 literally pulls into two. See the video above for the demo.
It’s a magnetic case, which is also a charging case, and there are three LED lights on the front of both sides of the case so that you can see the status of each earbud.
It’s very important to understand that these earbuds operate independently, and therefore, you will want to know when one is going flat more than another.
When you put the two halves of the case together, they snap tight, with a strong magnetic connection, which is very cool.
Translation and Usage Modes
There are three modes built into the M3 on how you can use them, which is awesome because it provides you with pretty much the solution to any scenario you’re going to be in.
The three modes are:
- touch mode
- listen mode
- and speaker mode
1: Touch Mode
In touch mode, the reason for the earbuds separating into two separate cases becomes apparent.
You literally snap it in half, hand one of the earbuds to the other person, and put one of the earbuds in your ear. When you want to talk, you tap the side of the earbud and you talk, and when you stop, it translates it for the other person in their earbuds.
And when they’re ready to talk, they can tap their earbud and talk, and then it translates it into your earbud.
This allows for a more natural conversation mode. And while you still need to do a little bit of pausing in between, to allow things to just flow well, it works surprisingly well.
This would definitely suit people who might have in-laws or family from another country who may not speak their own language, and who want to be a little bit more involved in a conversation. They could share these earbuds and connect directly with each other first the first time.
You could walk into any situation, and perhaps even a business meeting, or a shopping experience overseas, and allow this M3 to manage the conversation for you.
2: Listen Mode
Listen mode is really where you wear both the earbuds in your ears, and they listen continuously to what’s being said around you and are translated into your ears as fast as the earbuds can do it.
In addition to it translating into your ears, it also records a script that is automatically saved, and you can come back and review that script later if you want to.
This listen mode might be suitable for you in places where you would just like to constantly be trying to understand what’s happening around you, and could also be good if you’re sitting in overseas meetings and just listening to what’s being said.
This mode obviously doesn’t offer any two-way communication and is really designed as a one-way translation situation only.
3: Speaker Mode
The third mode is speaker mode, and I found this to be the easiest to execute because you don’t have to hand someone an earbud and for them to look at you sideways sometimes as to what you were trying to do.
Speaker mode allows for short questions and answers, and two-way interpretation, and uses your phone as the intermediary. When you open the app, the screen splits in two.
On one side, you will select your language, and if you face the phone in the other direction, then you can select the language that the person will be speaking to you.
When you press record, the other person speaks, and that translates it into the earbuds, and you can reply in your local language, e.g., English, and then it will not only speak the words to the other person but also write them on their half of your phone so that they can both listen and read the translation.
When you watch the video above, you’ll see that I do make an effort with ordering a white, or a coffee with milk if I was in Spain, and you will see that on the other side, it translated to, “Cafe con Leche por favor,” and also says that out loud for them to hear.
This is perfect in restaurants or in situations where you might need to ask a quick question like, “Which way is the airport? Do you know where the bathroom is? I would like to order a ham pizza. Can you help me with my bags?”
And then, of course, you can change any of those translations to any of the 40 languages at any time. It really was so good that I couldn’t stop smiling, and I’m looking forward to taking this overseas.
So, in a nutshell, the Timekettle M3 Translator earbuds have really surprised me.
They’re not perfect.
They don’t always provide a perfect translation, but they provide a translation that is either good, correct, or close enough that you understand what each member of the conversation is saying.
The wide range of languages available, the ease of use, and the good quality build, with decent battery life, plus the offline mode means that you could throw these in your bag for any trip overseas and feel confident that whatever situation you get into, you’re going to be covered as long as you’ve allowed for the language of the country that you’re traveling to.
Honestly, color me surprised.
I went in as a non-believer, but I’m certainly coming out feeling like I can’t wait to see where they go from the M3 because eventually, I really do believe that we will travel to foreign countries with these things in our ears, and not really bother learning other languages in the future.
When we need to travel, we’ll just have one of these units to do the translation for us.
Also, consider the WT2 Edge if you want to try something more conversational. For me, the M3 will be just right.
If you’ve got any questions, please fire them away in the comments below.
I know there’s a lot in this review, but there was a lot about these that was worth talking about. That’s why they won the MLC 2022 Best Translation Earbuds.
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.
This post was last updated on 2022-12-11 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.