I have had some very disappointing experiences with true wireless earbuds. On the one hand, I love the freedom afforded by the utter lack of cables. On the other, the dropouts and lagging are unbearable. As an early adopter I am rather used to tolerating glitches and bugs, but I draw the line at my music bombing out mid-groove.
It wasn’t like my first go around with true wireless earbuds were a discount model. The Sony WF1000X were widely considered to be the best on the market at the time. After countless software and firmware updates I finally gave up. They live in the bottom of my junk drawer now.
My wife’s love affair with her Airpods has made me insanely jealous. They pretty much always work. Recently my kid purchased the Airpod Pro set. I liked them so much that I was considering getting a pair of my own and dealing with their limitations when paired to an Android phone.
Before I crossed the streams, I decided to research the current generation of non-Apple offerings. The successors to my Sony WF1000X, the WF-1000XM3 are very highly rated, but given my frustrations I wasn’t prepared to take the chance on Sony again. The new Amazon Echo pair looked promising and were in my cart.
Before checking-out I was reviewing one last article and it mentioned a brand I had never heard of before. The author had been surprised by the inexpensive MPOW X3 earbuds. I looked up a couple more reviews of them and decided to pull the trigger. For a quarter of the cost of Airpod Pros and half the Echo’s price, they were worth a try.
The charging case is a direct rip off of Apple’s, but a little narrower and thicker. The corners are rounded but not tapered and as a result the MPOW case is more noticeable against your leg while it is in your front pocket. It has nice grip grooves that run up the side and the lid snaps shut with a satisfying click. It is held closed with a magnet that doesn’t seem as strong as the one on the Airpod’s case, but it does the job just fine.
The earbuds themselves will also look familiar to Apple fans, all though the MPOWs are black. They are shaped to twist lock into your ear. You start with the stems pointed straight down and then rotate them toward your chin until they snug up. It feels a little odd the first time, but works really well. The buds stay put on the treadmill and on the street. Speaking of working out, these earbuds are IPX8 rated and should hold up to sweat with ease.
My problem with the Sony WF1000X was the drop outs. They would never stay connected consistently. Even with my phone sitting on my desk a couple of feet away, one side or the other would drop out in the middle of my music. The MPOWs have never done this. Not even once. Yesterday while cleaning the house I was working in a bedroom and had left my phone in the kitchen. It took me a bit to realize I was a good twenty-five feet and several walls away but my music was still sounding great. There is no noticeable lag when watching Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO Max, or YouTube. I did pick up on a very slight (fraction of a second) lag while playing CoD mobile but it is minor enough to live with.
The MPOWs have an impressive sound profile. The bass is punchy and the highs are clear. Once I tuned my phone’s EQ to my preferences I was surprised by how much I enjoyed just listening to them.
The active noise canceling is not perfect but is more effective than I expected. I stood outside next to my air conditioner and fired up a podcast at low-mid volume with ANC off. I could barley make out the words over the fan’s hum. I touched the right earbud to enable ANC and the experience flipped. I could barely hear the fan. It doesn’t make external noise disappear, it lowers the interference so that the audio you are playing comes through clearly.
I’ve used them on a couple of Teams and Zoom calls as well as in multiple phone calls. They have mic noise cancelling as well as ANC and it works. They won’t be my go to for calls and meetings but, if I already have them in I won’t be nervous to answer. You can use the right earbud as a standalone headset, just put the left one back in the case.
Just for good measure I paired them with my Surface Book, Surface Go, an iPhone, and an iPad. They worked and sounded fine with all of them. The earbuds go into pairing mode each time you remove them from the case and try to automatically connect to last device you were using them with. They are not multi-device capable, no true wireless headsets are yet. The device switching doesn’t work all that well in my opinion, even the Airpod Pros struggle here. I’ll leave mine paired to my mobile and call it good.
There’s no wireless charging and they don’t support aptX but neither of these features mattered much to me. I like that they are USB-C because who wants to carry more cables? They’ve earned a place in my pocket, I don’t leave home without them. If you’re looking for a decent pair of true wireless Bluetooth earbuds give them a try. I think you’ll be surprised what you can get for sixty bucks.