There’s no shortage of Bluetooth earbuds these days. It’s great to have plentiful options, and it forces manufacturers to price aggressively. Couple that with the fact that the wireless technology and entry-level acoustics have come a long way, and you’d be surprised at the quality you can get at little cost.
That brings us to Mpow’s standout offering in this field, the new S6 earbuds. The company passed us a pair to try out, and we were immediately left impressed with the features you get for only $24, such as above-average IPX6 water/dust resistance and the higher-end CSR8645 Bluetooth chip (which has higher-fidelity aptX streaming support). This Synopsis sums up our experience and the details one should know.
Mpow is a renowned maker of great value tech accessories, so we were expecting great things from their new affordable S6 wireless earbuds. On the surface, the buds take a familiar form for this price range. This is typical practice. Where the sizable value usually comes is in the proficiency of the internals, and based on the spec sheet, the S6 pack the best you can get in a Bluetooth earbud right now.
- Solidly constructed metal chassis
- Great fit
- Robust IPX6 water/dust protection
- Top-notch Bluetooth chip with AptX support
- Healthy battery life
- Notable sound quality (especially for price)
- Basic design
- Cheaply made carrying pouch
- Basic ear tip selection (and no foam tips)
- Laid-back sound
What it’s like to use
- At the low $24 price, we expected an essential take on a Bluetooth earbud from the Mpow S6. This is certainly true on the surface. Its cylindrical and angled-nozzle earpiece form follows that of many in this class.
- However, others don’t usually sport a metallic build. We were pleasantly surprised to feel a sturdy and cold-to-touch shell in hand. Mpow keeps the styling minimal; it’s all a stealthy, matte black finish. The only frill you’ll catch is a small, ridged metal cap at the ends with Mpow’s logo.
- Speaking of which, bring the caps of both earpieces close together and you’ll find that they’re magnetically attracted. This is always a nice touch. It keeps the headphone cleanly stowed rather than a tangled mess when you go to use them again.
- It’s hard to miss those sizable ear fins wrapped around the center of the earpieces, meant to hug the inner ear for an extra secure fit. Like the ear tips, these are a silicone bit that can be removed. Also like the ear tips, there’s three sizes of fins included in the box.
- While we’re on the packaging, you’ll get the typical USB-to-microUSB charging cable and carrying case. Actually, the case is more like a pouch, held closed by a stiff wire on one side that you flex to open. Mpow should’ve put this wire on both sides, because the loose lip leaves a gap that the contents can slither through. We also weren’t a fan of the pouch’s material. It feels like a cheap, thin neoprene fabric that we’re unsure will hold up.
- Going back to the headphones, the adjoining wire is a solid, rubbery sheathing. We’re glad that Mpow made the cable mindfully thin. The wire will rest behind on your upper back, so it’s important to make it feel like it’s barely there (which S6 succeeds at).
- Lastly, in-line towards the right earpiece is your typical 3-button playback remote. It’s plastic and lightweight (so non-invasive), except for those tiny, easily-distinguishable rubber buttons. This is also where the microUSB charging port lives.
- One of the most important aspects of an in-ear headphone is its fit and ear tip seal. We’re glad to report that the S6 passes with flying colors. The length and angle of the nozzles are perfect. The ear tips fit in deep and have just the right flex for an immaculate seal. This makes noise-isolation above-average for this class of earphone. We also found the substantial earpiece chassis to serve as a nice handle to make insertion and seating effortless. An ergonomic job well done.
- The ear fins fit naturally in place and are not invasive or uncomfortable. The earpiece length isn’t short, so you’ll notice that they stick out from the ear a bit. But this doesn’t hinder the security of the fit. Even with exercise, they never fell out or felt like they would.
- Usability is as expected of a Bluetooth earbud. The 3-button remote is the interface; long press the main, middle button (served for play/pause of playback but also power, pairing, and answering/ending phone calls). The earbud will first boot in pairing mode, then simply connect and get playing.
- Additionally, the top and bottom buttons are primarily for volume adjustment, but also easily move forward or back in tracks with a long-press. We like how easy it is to feel for and find the button you want. A lot of manufacturers surprisingly fail at this ergonomic detail.
- The headphone’s Bluetooth connection is solid. You can walk around or work out with phone in pocket without worry about signal hiccups or drops. There’s also a suitable range if you set the source down and walk about. It’ll take several feet away until it starts to struggle.
- While we typically see IPX5-level water resistance in wireless earbuds of this class, so we were surprised to see Mpow take it a step further with IPX6. Though, things aren’t technically “waterproof” until you get to IPX7, the fact that the S6 can take a bit more of a water beating without giving out is still appreciated. In addition, with regard to battery life, the S6 fare a little better than most, able to reach 9 hours of play.
- We were glad to see that Mpow chose a Bluetooth chip that has support for aptX. Many smartphones today support the wireless audio codec, which allows for more bandwidth through Bluetooth and thus, more detail (in theory, at least).
- So do things sound good in practice? Yes, for the most part. These are a pair of wireless earbuds that punch well above their low price tag. The extra detail in music is appreciable.
- The resolution isn’t the only good part. The S6’s drivers are plentiful competent in producing a pleasing, musical sound. Its liveliness is enhanced by the notable dynamics that we weren’t expecting at this price-point. The soundstage isn’t as wide as you’ll get in higher-end earphones, but in what space the S6 does have, it utilizes it well. The mid-range and treble, in particular, have engaging, dimensional play around your head.
- Getting into the nitty-gritty, the sound signature is largely a laid-back one. Meaning, there’s a slight distance to notes and vocals, and not as clear as they can be. But decent for this class.
- Bass is a little on the bloaty side, so there’s a slight muddle in the transition to the mids. However, we appreciate that the mid-bass isn’t overdone. The ranges are pretty balanced, so you don’t have one overtaking another. At the very low-end, the sub-bass is present and well-defined, though subtle.
- We’d call the sound signature U-shaped – the mids are slightly recessed compared to the rest (but better than the typical V-shaped curve). Additionally, we didn’t find the mids as well-defined as the treble. It’s certainly passable, and the aptX details does give it a leg up, but this is another limitation of the low-end price. The treble, on the other hand, is noteworthy. It has a nice, bright reach and details are excellently captured.
There’s no getting around that the Mpow S6 are quite a bargain. It’s pretty stellar how much you can get for your money these days, and how far low-priced Bluetooth earbuds have come up in quality. We won’t say that there’s no reason to pony up for a more expensive pair. These aren’t the very best in wireless earbuds, but they’re not meant to be. They’re meant to get you most of the way to an ideal pair, and to be headphones you can rely on despite paying little. In this respect, they totally succeed.
Also See: Best True Wireless Earbuds