Xiaomi has really been branching out as of late, producing not only great budget smartphones but also powerbanks, wearables and now their very first set of premium headphones which was announced earlier this year alongside the Mi Note.
The company’s first foray into audio was with their Piston in-ear earphones, of which the second generation Piston was launched not too long ago sporting the same styling as the Mi Headphones. The Piston is priced very cheaply too at RM 50, following Xiaomi’s tradition of having insanely cheap prices.
What’s in the box
Aside from the headphones, you also get a hard carrying case on top of a microfiber drawstring bag, which is a plus point considering a lot of headphones at this price tends to get a soft pouch at very best. The headphones also comes with a 3.5mm airplane adaptor, 1.4m Kevlar braided audio cable with volume control which terminates in a 3.5mm jack and a 3.5mm to 6.3mm gold plated adaptor.
The audio cable also features a microphone behind the volume control as the headset is designed for mobile users, so it can be used to take calls as well. I don’t entirely like how the headset features a dual-wire design because it feels rather cluttered, but they can at least be removed for storage.
To top it off, you get not one but three replaceable ear cushion kits which consist of an on-ear foam cushion, on-ear soft cushion and finally an over-ear soft cushion configuration which are made for different listening styles. For this review we are using the on-ear soft cushion only, but how’s that for a whole lot of kit?
[nextpage title=”Build Quality”]
As far as looks go, the Mi Headphones look really classy straight out of the box.
It has a slim, foldable design with machined aluminium grilles as well as accents in retro gold, a pretty bold design choice considering it’s the only colour option available and most brands tend to go the safe route by either sticking to the classic red, silver or black combo or the other extreme by having only chic and bright colours favoured by brands like Beats and Skullcandy.
The band is made of padded PU leather stitched with red and the cans are made of the same stuff, albeit the latter has perforations in it to, presumably make them cooler when worn, no pun intended. The folding design also makes it easy to store in the case, and the case itself has individual pockets for all the accessories should you decide to take them all with you.
Also, the headset features a 45 degree swivel to make for a more comfortable clamp, but watch out ladies, like many headsets that have these hinges, they have a habit for chomping off errant strands of long hair.
With such a slim profile, the headphones are surprisingly solid feeling though the outer grilles do look like they would get dinged or scratched easily but all that should be easily avoided as long as you’re not being overly rough with them. They’re nowhere near chunky either, we wore them for the whole day and thanks to the open design, our ears didn’t melt off with the Malaysian heat.
Under the hood
The most evident thing that sets the Xiaomi Mi Headphones apart from the rest is that it comes with a larger than average 50mm diaphragm with a 2 micron thick acoustic membrane. This is to give it better bass capabilities and sensitivity than the average headset, most of which have drivers at 40mm. However there’s no mention of the Mi Headphones possessing neodymium magnets in its drivers but that could be a factor in how they managed to make it cheap.
In terms of general specifications it shares a lot of similarities with Razer’s Adaro Stereo headset, with the major difference being the magnets and the lack of a microphone, as the Mi Headset appears to be targeted at people who are more casual audio enthusiasts who want something more premium.
[nextpage title=”All about the Bass”]
To ensure we got the full range of sounds in, we tested the headset using Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody so we could sample all the necessary tonal differences as well as Nightwish’s Scaretale to test it against some strong bass.
It was pretty obvious that the headphones are made with focus on bass, from the moment we popped it on.
Generally speaking the Mi Headphones do fairly well, with strong highs and relatively warm bass, but for some reason the bass didn’t seem as rich as advertised by Xiaomi. The headset does well in producing lower range sounds, which is good, but it sounds muddled with songs that have a lot going on in the background; like the headphones are attempting to accommodate for everything which results in muddy bass. To make matters worse, the clarity seems to be somewhat lacking as we expected crisp clarity but instead got something that was just about average. This may be good or bad depending on your preferred setup, but as someone who prefers clarity over bass power, this is a bit of a disappointment.
There’s no doubt that the surround sound works either, but there is a lot of sound leakage on top of noise isolation which is present, but barely there. It was actually rather annoying to hear the awkwardly muffled sounds of traffic leaking into the headset while listening to loud music. The leakage would likely be lessened with the on-ear cushions however.
We also tested the Mi Headset against a couple of its competitors set in the same price range, namely the Jabra Move which is priced at RM 369 and the Razer Adaro Stereo which is priced at RM 379. In terms of audio quality, the Mi Headset actually did better than the two above with the exception of bass handling which was managed better by the Razer Adaro Stereo, though it had issues with overblowing the volume. As compared to the Shure 145 we reviewed recently, the Mi Headphones rather pales in comparison in terms of audio quality though it makes up for it in comfort and style.
[nextpage title=”The Verdict”]
Given the RM 319 price tag, there really isn’t too much you can complain about, given that there are much more expensive headphones out there that don’t deliver nearly as much for what they’re worth.
It’s not the best of it’s price range but it’s very close to the top with premium looks and pretty decent sound to boot, because Xiaomi’s offering has a lot of good value for what you get, considering a lot of the enthusiast brands tend to be lacking in looks albeit not in sound quality.
For those with fussier palettes but still want to spend roughly around same amount of cash, you might want to go for more audiophile centric brands like Audio-Technica or maybe Sennheiser for better clarity and more stable bass, though they may not be packing the Mi Headphone’s good looks and extra goodies you get out of the box.