The fact that the Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi is not only responsible for smartphones, some of which offer an outstanding price/performance ratio, has probably been known to many of our readers for some time. The headphones of the company, which recently registered its record-breaking IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange, have especially proven more often in our tests that sophisticated sound does not necessarily come along with an equally demanding price.
In addition to a large number of wired headphones, Xiaomi only had a manageable number of models with Bluetooth functionality in its portfolio. Moreover, these have not really convinced us so far and have not yet reached the outstanding level of the Xiaomi In-Ear Headphone Pro HD, for example.
To change this, Xiaomi has now added the brand new Xiaomi Mi Bluetooth Neckband Earphones, which with the aptX and AAC codec should ensure optimal sound quality on every playback device. In addition, the manufacturer is using a new design which differs from the previous one and is oriented towards popular competitor models such as the BeatsX or the new Meizu EP-52, with the special feature that the two earpieces are not connected by a simple cable but have a thicker but flexible neck strap between them which accommodates all the electronics and the battery.
Whether Xiaomi can again provide a price-performance tip with the Mi Bluetooth Neckband Earphones and whether the model can stand out from the wide range of other models, we found out in our test.
Scope of delivery
In addition to the Xiaomi Mi Bluetooth Neckband Earphones themselves, a short Micro-USB to USB cable and further silicone attachments for the earpieces are included in the elegant packaging with plastic window. Including the already fitted earpieces, you can choose between four different sizes, which should ensure that the majority of users find the ideal fit for their ears. At this point we recommend to try all attachments in order to find the optimal size and to enjoy the best possible sound quality.
A transport bag or other extras such as, in some cases preferred, foam attachments are not included in the scope of delivery, but this can be coped with in view of the price.
Xiaomi remains true to itself in the build quality and design of the Mi Bluetooth Neckband Earphones and relies on the tried and tested design with high-quality aluminium and plastic elements which we already know from other models of the manufacturer, such as the USB-Type-C In-Ears. Our test model is the dark grey version, which has a light anthracite shimmer in aluminium, but the headphones are also available in a light grey version.
As expected, we again find an outstanding quality, which is unparalleled in this price range. The slightly matt and slightly flattened neckband lies comfortably on the skin even at higher temperatures and during extended listening sessions and ends seamlessly in aluminium sections. The left of these also houses three aluminium buttons which have an excellent pressure point and are used to switch on the headphones and control the playback. Below this, hidden behind a rubber cover, is also the Micro-USB connector for charging the headphones.
Filigree cables lead from the neckband to the earpieces, which are made of aluminium on the outside. Unfortunately, the manufacturer does without a bend protection at the transition of the cables to the neckband and therefore we recommend caution during transport in order to not damage them too soon.
To increase comfort, Xiaomi uses plastic on the inside, which is more comfortable to the ear than aluminium. Both earpieces have a magnet at their outer ends that allows the headphones to be worn like a necklace around the neck while no music is heard.
At 40 grams, the Mi Bluetooth Neckband Earphones are pleasantly light and have never disturbed me during the test, even when worn for long periods. An advantage of the construction in direct comparison to other Bluetooth headphones with ordinary cable: the headphones always fit firmly and securely even during sports and no exact weight distribution is required to prevent the individual earpieces from falling out. They are also of average size and should rarely cause pain during the use. However, they are not suitable for sleeping sideways, for example.
Xiaomi once again delivers premium quality in the mid-price segment and stands out from the significantly more expensive competition. Only the missing bend protection caused us some discomfort, but with a cheap transport bag you should be on the safe side.
Let’s get to the most important characteristic of a headphone: the sound. To put the Mi Bluetooth Neckband Earphones through their paces, we used a OnePlus 5T and an iPhone 7 for the test. Using both smartphones was a conscious decision to use both the aptX and AAC codecs. Please note that aptX is only supported by Android devices and AAC only by iOS devices. The systems are not compatible with the other codec. Both transmission techniques are aimed at improving sound quality via Bluetooth and one thing has to be said from the outset: the effect is clearly audible!
Inside the two earpieces there is a hybrid configuration with a dynamic and a balanced armature driver, which we already know from the Xiaomi Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro HD. The difference between the two techniques is that dynamic drivers can have a stronger bass response and are able to reproduce a wider frequency spectrum, but are inferior to the balanced armature drivers in their detail accuracy. A combination of the two is therefore used to add up the respective advantages. The dynamic driver is responsible for the mid and low frequencies and the balanced armature driver is responsible for the reproduction of the high frequencies.
In order to cover the possibly widest range, we used the Mi Bluetooth neck band with music from all genres during the test in order to be able to test the headphones thoroughly. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned here that sound is always subjectively reflected and must also fit personal preferences.
Already with the first sound test with current pop music, which often relies on electronic elements, the bass accentuation of the headphones is directly noticeable. A pleasant warmth fills the room and the distinctive foundation is fun, but proves to be somewhat sluggish and is therefore not suitable for very fast bass salvos. In the middle, the “bathtub” tuning already known by Xiaomi is confirmed, symbolizing elevated depths and heights. The middle frequencies are reduced in relation to the rest of the sound spectrum and voices can therefore sometimes fade somewhat into the background with bass-heavy music. A good example are songs that are accompanied by an acoustic guitar: if the guitar plays lower notes at the same time, the voice can fall behind. For the price range especially, this is not to be regarded as too dramatic, as we only know headphones from higher price segments that master this discipline better. In the heights the balanced armature drivers pay off and prove their strengths all along the line. Cymbals or hats sound excellent and have a high degree of detail, which is certainly also due to the high-quality codecs. We could not hear a sound difference between aptX or AAC.
All in all, the Mi Bluetooth Neckband Earphones sound very similar to the Xiaomi Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro HD and our impression of sound is therefore equally positive! The headphones are incredibly fun and are particularly suitable for music with a higher bass content, such as pop, hip-hop or electronic music. Xiaomi delivers incredible performance again and so far we don’t know of a Bluetooth headset that delivers such good sound quality in this price range. The headphones turn out to be an insider tip also for iPhone users, because in this price segment headphones with AAC support are rare and the sound difference to transmission without the codec is clearly noticeable.
Operation & connectivity
The operation of the Mi Bluetooth Neckband is intuitive and similar to other models. As already mentioned above, there is a volume control on the left end of the neckband as well as the standby button, which also serves as start/stop button for playback. The keys are clearly separated from each other in such a way that operation is also very easy.
To turn on the headphones, hold the standby button until a female voice says in Chinese that the headphones are now on and a small blue LED next to the button briefly lights up blue. To connect a new device, hold the standby button again until the LED flashes blue and the voice confirms the status again. The connection to the headphones was always established quickly and reliably during the test and switching between several devices was also never a problem. We were also impressed by the speed at which the headphones connect to a “familiar” device after they were switched on.
Even during playback, the connection always showed its best side and there never occurred any disturbances in the test. Even at a greater distance from the smartphone, the headphones kept a stable connection and you can also use them in the next room. We could confirm the maximum distance of 10m given by Xiaomi in the test.
The Mi Bluetooth Neckband headphones use Bluetooth version 4.1, so they are compatible with almost all smartphones on the market and a test with Blackview P10000 Pro was of course no problem. A nice feature is that the headphones communicate their battery status via Bluetooth. This is displayed in Android from version 8.1 on, as well as in iOS, but can also be displayed using the BatON app in earlier Android versions.
Fortunately, Xiaomi didn’t skimp on the microphone and the callers enjoy good voice quality.
The battery life of the Mi Bluetooth Neckband is at a good level and allows constant listening to music for approx. 8 hours at average volume, thanks to power-saving Bluetooth 4.1. To fully charge the battery, the headphones need a good two hours with 1.0A at 5V.
Unfortunately, however, towards the end of the battery life, an announcement regularly points out the low battery status. We would like it very much if it would be possible to disable this function.