For the asking price, a solid set of sports-focused Bluetooth headphones
Finding a solid pair of headphones at an affordable price is more often than not, a tall order. Mpow, is a company who does focus on affordable audio solutions and has already brought to market a number of Bluetooth headphones, speakers, and other audio-related devices, and most of which are priced extremely competitively. Its latest pair of headphones are no different as these headphones are now available to buy online from Amazon, and can be picked up for as little as $20.99. Which is an astonishingly low price for a set of Bluetooth headphones.
The Mpow Bluetooth Headphones make use of Bluetooth v4.1 to establish a connection. Which means they are listed as able to make and maintain a connection to a Bluetooth-enabled device from as much as 33 feet away. Inside, the Mpow Bluetooth Headphones feature a 100 mAh battery which is listed to offer up to 7 hours of audio playback before needing to be recharged again. Alternatively, these headphones are listed as capable of retaining power in standby mode for as long as 220 hours. When the Mpow Bluetooth Headphones do need to be recharged, Mpow lists a 1.5 hour time-frame in which they can reach a full charge.
In addition, these headphones do come with an IPX7 certification which essentially means they are sweat proof headphones. Unfortunately, Mpow does not provide technical information on the actual drivers, frequency range, or any other audio-related aspect.
In the box
In the box, and besides the inclusion of the actual Mpow Bluetooth headphones, buyers can expect to find a charging cable, the user manual, one pair of memory foam ear tips, and three pairs of regular ear tips (S, M, L). In addition, this package also does come with a carry case included. Which is worth noting, as for the price these headphones are available to buy for, the case seems to be of a very good quality. Certainly one which will be durable enough to withstand day-to-day encounters, while protecting the headphones.
Design & Hardware
When it comes to a pair of headphones which can be picked up for as low as $20, questions will automatically be raised as to the quality of the design and the hardware. However these Mpow Bluetooth headphones offer surprisingly good value for the money. The first thing to note with the design is that these are ear hook headphones. So the user is required to position the hook around the ear. The obvious benefit of this design is that the headphones are far more likely to stay in place. Which helps considering this is a pair of headphones aimed at sport and fitness-focused buyers.
Hook design aside, the Mpow Bluetooth headphones make use of a flat cable to join the two ear buds together. This is a really typical flat cable which although not massively thick, does seem thick enough to be able to sustain long-term usage without the inside core breaking. One point to note is that this is a dual-colored flat cable with one side coming in black and the other, red. While this offers no functional benefit to the user, at this price, it is a design aspect which some may assume to be unnecessary. An aspect which does highlight that even with a pair of headphones priced as low as these, Mpow has still focused on the little details.
Back to the earbuds and both sides come with a fairly large backing panel which houses the Mpow logo on each. This is a little surprising as the left hand backing plate does not effectively do anything, while the right plate houses all of the controls. So the left hand plate, is simply aesthetic and presumably, designed to offer a uniformed look and feel. As for the right hand panel, this is essentially the only side you will need to actively engage with at any given time. Positioned on the underside of the panel is where you will find the microUSB port used when charging.
While on the top of the panel you will find two buttons, up and down. Which act as controls for both volume and track skipping. The positioning of these buttons is pretty well thought out. As their location is very close to the right ear, which makes it much easier to find and press either button when using the headphones. Compared to a button placement located at the rear, or underside of the headphones. Which is the case with a number of other products.
As for the main power button, well, that is actually hidden behind the logo on the right ear bud backing. So pressing the logo will effectively play, pause, power up and down the unit, as well as initiate Bluetooth pairing when long-pressed. Overall, the design of these headphones does suggest that Mpow has taken the time to ensure these are as good as they can be at this price. With Mpow considering many of the issues that users may have with such a product, and designing the headphones with a view to alleviating those issues before they have surfaced. These are not the most premium headphones available, but you would not necessarily guess they are as affordable as they are - based on their design.
Sound Quality & Performance
As with any audio-related product, quality matters. When it comes to the Mpow Bluetooth headphones, the quality on offer is certainly good for the cost involved. At this price, these never are going to be the best-sounding headphones on the market, but the variance and range is solid for the price. The main issue these headphones have is when they are used at higher volume levels. At which point the drivers do start to struggle with dealing with the increased bass production. While this is less notable with less bass-heavy tracks, it will be apparent when playing anything that involves detailed bass. It is also worth noting that at times, and again when at the maximum volume, the top end does come through a little sharper than what would be the ideal. So once again, very top-heavy tracks will sound a little more piercing compared to what might be encountered on other headphones. These are just that little bit extreme at the two ends. However, it should be pointed out that this is only when listening to these headphones at top volume and to be fair, the top volume is surprisingly loud. So there is a good chance that most users will opt for a volume that is below the maximum. Speaking of which, where the sound quality does shine through is when played at a medium volume. At this level, the sound output is fairly well-balanced and does provide a good listening experience overall. Again, when taking into consideration the price, the value on offer with the sound quality is very good.
In terms of their general performance, there are no major issues to speak of as the Mpow Bluetooth headphones perform very well. These are a fairly lightweight option and their general style and design results in an overall comfortable experience when worn. When tested (most of the time for substantial periods of time), the headphones performed flawlessly with no major or notably issues in terms of their connection. More on this in the next section.
Battery Life & Connectivity
Battery life is always a concern with products like this, as these headphones do not offer the ability to connect via a wire to a device when needed. Therefore, when the battery is out, the headphones are effectively useless. However, when it comes to the Mpow Bluetooth headphones, battery life is more than sufficient. Officially, Mpow states that these headphones can last up to 7 hours per charge. On most occasions, these manufacturer guidelines are a little exaggerated - or at the very least, should be considered the absolute maximum that should be expected under the ideal conditions. Which is largely the case here with the Mpow Bluetooth headphones, although they do consistently last a significant length of time.
For reference, testing these headphones involved the headphones connected over Bluetooth, with music streaming from Google Play Music, and with the volume set to the maximum. Therefore, under Bluetooth streaming conditions, the testing was deign to identify the absolute longest the headphones would last in a single steaming session. Under these conditions, the Mpow Bluetooth headphones were repeatedly found to offer anywhere between 5 and 5.5 hours before running out of a charge. As the testing did include the volume set to maximum, lowering the volume will likely result in longer levels of usage, and likely push these headphones much closer to that suggested 7-hour time-frame. Likewise, when it comes to recharging Mpow officially list a 1.5 hour time-frame needed to gain a full charge from empty. This will slightly vary depending on how you charge the headphones. For example, the Mpow Bluetooth headphones come with a (very small) microUSB charge lead and depending on whether you charge directly through a wall socket or through an additional USB device will effect the recharge time. As an example, when charged via a USB charge hub, it took approximately one hour and fifty minutes to regain a full charge.
In terms of general connectivity, again there is very little to criticize these headphones on as they were able to establish and maintain a connection with ease. Quite often headphones at the more affordable level suffer in this regard. Resulting in the headphones dropping out fairly often. This was not the case when the Mpow Bluetooth headphones were used in a close proximity to a connected device. Although, the same cannot really be said for when connected over longer distances. Officially, these headphones are rated to offer a connection up to 33 feet (10 meters) away. This should be considered to be the maximum distance, as once the user gets beyond 5-6 meters away, the headphones do start to encounter connection issues. However, within a close proximity, the Mpow Bluetooth headphones perform extremely well.
The Mpow Bluetooth headphones are designed to be affordable, offer solid battery life, and perform well. Generally speaking, these headphones tick all of those boxes. The sound quality is certainly not the best you will find on a pair of headphones, and is the one clear area where improvement could be made. However, for the price that these are being sold at, and the quality of the product you are getting in return for that price, this is an easy product to recommend. If you are looking for a pair of splash-proof Bluetooth headphones, and ideally do not want to pay much more than $20 for them, these will certainly fit the bill.