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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Xiaomi Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro review: Enjoyable with ANC

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What’s cool in the world of earphones these days? True wireless earbuds? That’s so 2020. Wireless charging? It’s done and dusted. ANC? Yes, you need to have that in your new earphones to mix up with the crowd. ANC is all the hype these days, especially in the affordable end of the wireless earphones segment. And when there’s a new trend, you can’t expect Xiaomi to sit it out. It just came out with the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro. Also Read – Redmi Note 10 Pro Max vs Xiaomi Mi 10i: Is the Pro Max worth saving a few thousands?

Unlike its rivals, Xiaomi did a neckband-style pair of wireless earphones. This allows the company to sell it as one of the cheapest ANC-equipped wireless earphones of its kind. At Rs 1,799, I find it unbelievable to have active noise cancellation in your ears drowning the ambient world. It claims good battery life and is resistant to splashes of water. Also Read – Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, OnePlus 8T, Samsung Galaxy S21: Phones with 120hz screen refresh rate

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Surely, there must be caveats. To find out, I tasked myself living with the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro for two weeks, and here’s my take. Also Read – Smartwatches see surge in demand in 2020, earwear becomes top category

Before that, here’s some unmissable feedback for Xiaomi – please hire a better product naming person. Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro – that’s unnecessarily long. There’s no need to input SEO-optimised keywords in your earphones’ name. How about Mi Buds Pro for a name?

Build, Design

When you are promised ANC-laced audio at RS 1,799, it is obvious to expect compromises in the build quality. Xiaomi has indeed compromised here. The Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro is built to the price and it feels that way throughout its skin. The immediate giveaway is the cylindrical plastic element – it scratches easily and has cheap buttons along its length. You can feel the compromised plastic from the texture of the buttons.

The ANC key is oddly placed to face your neck and is difficult to hunt at times. The key placements, however, are done cleverly and you don’t need two hands to do any task here. The uninspiring finish continues to the rubberized neckband section and the cables leading to the earbuds. The fit-and-finish is certainly unimpressive but it is a very comfortable pair of earphones to wear. I wear it throughout my busy work schedule and never do I feel the need to get rid of it.

The tiny LED indicator is barely visible and the presence of a micro USB port sitting under a rubber flap is disappointing. A USB-C port should have been here, given that budget phones these days have also moved to USB-C. Kudos to Xiaomi for giving this pair of earphones an IPX5 certification for protection, and for including a charging cable in the package.

Xiaomi Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro

The earbuds themselves offer a reassuring fit. Due to the nature of neckband-style wireless earphones, the cables joining the earbuds pull down the earbuds when there’s vigorous jaw movement, i.e., while talking or chewing. The earbuds stick to each other magnetically but they don’t turn off the power. You have to resort to the buttons for powering it on/off, and having playback controls.

When it stays inside, the silicon eartips are comfortable. I did not face any irritation, even after wearing it for four hours at a stretch. I appreciate the clever design of the eartips to prevent ear wax build-up on the speakers – it helps my case as a germophobe to keep my wearables spotless clean.

Audio performance

The build quality isn’t the nicest, especially by Xiaomi’s standards. But you are not investing in the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro for its build quality; you seek ANC. Be assured, you get your money’s worth here.

Xiaomi Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro

Xiaomi offers an entry-level version of active noise cancellation rated at 25db. In layman’s English, this basically means that activating the ANC system will reduce most ambient noise elements by a factor of 25 decibels. That’s not a decent number in the world of ANC-equipped earphones but you aren’t paying a premium here too.

Does it work? Yes, it certainly does to a great extent. I wear the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro for a majority of the time in my office workspace and it did its job as advertised. Activating it drowns the usual hum, the blow of the air conditioning systems, distant chatters, and blaring TV speakers of a newsroom. Mind my usage of the word “downs”. You can still hear these noises when nothing is playing.

Xiaomi Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro

Kick on some tracks at 40 percent volume and there’s a sense of disconnection to a larger extent. I was able to hear the rattle of keyboard, the rattle of my colleague’s keyboard, female chit-chat, and smashing almirah doors. However, the drowning helps you take your mind off the noise and put it on the audio.

As someone whose ears are blessed to be accompanied by high-end audio gear every month, the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro sounds fine. After coming from the Oppo Enco X, the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro sounds as if it has a limited soundstage, i.e., it focuses too much on the low-end frequencies.

Xiaomi’s tuning brings out a bloated mid-frequency signature with amped low-end frequencies. This makes for amplified bass – you may either like it or hate it. On a personal level, I enjoyed listening to my favourite tracks with enhanced bass. However, the lack of punchy highs is missed. This isn’t a pair of earphones for audiophiles.

Xiaomi Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro

Get this as an example. In AR Rahman’s Dil Bechara, the vocals along with background score sound boosted, with decent levels of bass for the drums and other instruments. The lack of the highs does drown some high-pitches instruments here. It is the same case for international slow numbers – tracks with instrumentals don’t sound the best here.

Take out a Bollywood party playlist and that’s when you will most enjoy it. If a song is supposed to make you groove with its bass, the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro is at home. If you have access to a pair, just try tuning into Nadiyo Paar (Let the Music Play) from Roohi. The low-end is meaty with a strong bass output and I bet you will start moving a leg or two. I guess this is where the “Pro” part in its name is justified.

When you are not listening to music, the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro does its job decently as a hands-free device. My callers had no issues hearing me out even while outdoors. The ENC feature is effective in cutting down wind noises and keep the focus on my voice. The robotic touch to the voice is still there.

I did not face any issues with connectivity during my time with the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro. Even while taking earphones to another room, the connection stayed stable. There’s no companion app to alter audio profiles or change the levels of ANC. Unlike most ANC-equipped earphones, there’s no transparency mode on this one.

Battery

Xiaomi Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro

Xiaomi claims up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge and I managed to achieve similar levels of endurance. In the last two weeks with an average of three hours of daily listening at 30 percent volume, I had to charge after 12 days. This usage included listening with ANC enabled and taking lots of calls (30 minutes per day approximately). I am not glad to carry a separate micro USB cable to charge the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro but it takes only 1.5 hours for a full refill.

Verdict

Most of you are interested in the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro for its ANC and the very low price of Rs 1,799. If you seek it for the ANC alone, I can confidently recommend the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro. The ANC is limited in its capabilities but at Rs 1,799, I wonder if there’s anything better available in this range. The noise-cancelling works as advertised.

If you aren’t in it for the ANC, the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro is an enjoyable pair of earphones to live with. It does not have audiophile-grade performance on offer but the emphasis on bass and mids does make it a nice pair to pump up the mood. Bollywood lovers should definitely give this one a try. The battery life is great for an ANC-equipped earphone. The strong performance makes me ignore the tacky build quality.

At the moment, the only viable competition to the Xiaomi Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro comes from the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z and Oppo Enco M31. While these two sound a bit nicer to my ears, the presence of ANC makes me align towards the Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones Pro.





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