Hey gang, Valkor here. Before the whole COVID situation exploded, I spent a lot of time in Japan, going every other month just about. Osaka is my favorite city and I truly enjoy my visit whenever I’m there. However, the biggest hurdle I have will always be the language barrier. I know some that help me get around. But I should spend more time learning the language. And while there are assistant devices that can help such as Google Translate. New company TimeKettle might have just what I’m looking for. And their product the M2 Real-Time Translator is a game-changer in how we communicate when dealing with different languages.
Let’s start with appearance; the M2 buds look similar to the Apple Earpods as they both have the extension from the earpiece. They don’t come with any rubber attachments, so they fit right in your ear from the jump. Each bud contains an indicator light that reflects when they’re charging, connecting, or when in use. The buds are contained in a shell-like container that’s different from the clamshell case I’m used to as this case splits apart, containing a bud on each side. Each side also shows which bud goes in where, so there’s less confusion when putting them back to charge. The case magnetically seals when you’re finished with the buds, which is cool as there’s less wear when opening/closing clamshell cases. Finally, on the outside of the case, you have the indicator lights that let you know when the buds are charging and when it’s topped up. And before I forget, the case also charges the buds when they’re not in use. So you’re never on the low when you’re out and about.
Now that that’s out of the way, let us dig into the meat of the M2, or rather the reason you’ll want to get yourself a pair–the translator! To test out how well the translator works, I picked lines from a Japanese phrasebook I keep on hand. It was nearly spot-on in its translation, but there were a couple of words that the M2 had trouble picking up (ie. eiga – movie and eigo – English). I don’t blame the device as it could also be me as I sometimes have trouble saying those words. Moving on, The M2 works alongside an app that gives you three different options when using the buds. The first option is a conversation; Once each person takes a bud, you’re able to hold a back-and-forth conversation with the app acting as the middleman. You start by tapping your bud, say what you’d like to say, and then the other person would tap their bud to respond. Repeat. It might seem clunky, but the app picks up your voice and accurately translates what’s being said in both audio and visual cues.
Next, you have the listening aspect of the headphones. The M2 can assist you when you’re out and about by translating what’s being said or spoken. In my neighborhood, there are plenty of shops where the workers speak little English. So, I have a tough time giving them a proper response. So, this was the perfect chance to give the M2 a shot, and it did an excellent job translating Spanish into English. And if I have a lengthy response, I can switch things around through the app so that the other person understands what I’m saying. This option with the M2 can also be helpful if you’re taking a language class and there’s little to no English involved. Using the M2 allows one to keep up without asking to repeat words or phrases. Finally, the M2 can listen to films or TV shows in another language and translate it! Now, I’m not making this a negative towards the product. But I tried it out, and it got messy. The app attempts to keep up with the on-screen goings-on, but sometimes it's way off on the translation. I’ll just stick with subtitles.
Last, the M2 can also act as a standard pair of headphones and being able to accept phone calls that you can control with just a tap of either bud. So, if all you want is to have a chill moment, you can settle back with these buds. And if a translation need arises, then you’ll be at the ready when the moment comes. There’s not much you can do as far as pause/play your music, or answer/end your call, but for me, I mainly use the controls on my device rather than the buds, anyway.
This is the first time having to test out a translator here in the cave. I wish it could have been under more preferable circumstances such as when I travel to Japan. But that won’t be for a while yet. It helps that I work at an airport because it opens up plenty of opportunities to aid those whom I usually have to track down someone else to assist me. So, how does TimeKettle's first outing in the Val-Cave fared? Let’s find out in the TOV Breakdown.
Planning a trip overseas, looking to learn a new language, or you just need a translator in general because you need one (for work, school, or any day), then I highly recommend picking up TimeKettle’s M2 Real-Time Translator. It’s easy to set up and straightforward in its use. Using it when carrying on a conversation, the M2 is fluid in how well it’s not only able to translate different languages but how well it’s able to keep up with a conversation. As a listening device, it picks up the other person’s speech and does well on the translation; It’s perfect to have with you when overseas, work, or school–just about anywhere where there is a need for a translator. The interface with the app is smooth; There’s definitely room for improvement, especially when switching between languages during a conversation other than tapping on the buds, or even when connecting to the buds (next section). But once things get started, you’ll then be ready for a world of fun. And that’s it in a nutshell–the M2 is so much fun to use because things just open up for you. You’re no longer limited to flipping through phrase books or trying to get Google Translate to get your point across. With the M2, you simply say what you need to say and the device does the rest. It really is that easy.
While still fairly new and not as perfect as it can be, I found a few issues with the M2. For starters, I had an issue connecting the buds to the app; You would think once you’re connected via Bluetooth that you’d be good to go. But no, you also have to connect through the app. There’s an instruction screen you have to swipe through, but there’s also supposed to be an option below that to connect. I only got it by placing the buds back in the case and removing them to get the option to appear. Next would be general listening; during a conversation, there’s no issue because each person knows that there’s translation being done, so speech is slowed slightly. However, when listening and the other person speaks too quickly, then the M2 stumbles words get jumbled causing mistranslations. This doesn’t happen too often, and I learned that when I asked the other person to speak a little slower, there’s no issue. I can see this option only getting better as the app improves. Also, I don’t recommend using the device as a translator to watch movies and shows. The speech is too quick sometimes for the device to keep up. Plus, it’s too much work having to look at your device to see what’s been said. Next, I’m not a fan of using these earbuds as headphones or listening to music or watching films. There’s too much treble and not enough bass. Plus, things get distorted at higher volumes. They’re not the worse I’ve used for listening, but other than the translation aspect of the buds, I probably wouldn’t use them for anything else. Last, if you’re going to share buds with someone else when holding a multi-language conversation, then you might want to keep alcoholic wipes handy. Not so much for COVID (but very much so), but for sanitary reasons.
This review might seem like a lot to unpack with the good and the bad, but the short of it is if you’re looking for the right tech companion for your international journeys or something you can use when out and about, then I recommend the TimeKettle M2 for your translation needs. There’s room for improvement and I can see things only going up from here on out. And I'll even go so far as to update this review as the app improves. As it stands, the M2 is great for holding a conversation with a new friend and it makes the perfect aid for your translation needs. I highly recommend it. So, out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving the TimeKettle M2 a solid 4.