Xiaomi got itself a name in the portable audio market thanks to its Piston line of in-ear headphones, which has been praised by public and critics alike. The Chinese firm’s newest endeavour in the audio market is the Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset, a product specifically targeted at fitness-conscious consumers and also connected to the ever-growing range of fitness devices marketed by the company.
Disclaimer: I got a sample from GearBest and I am not required to send it back. You can buy one on their website.
|Earhook design prevents them from falling off
Mid-centric tuning with a lively sound
Good value for the price
|Comfort and isolation are not top-notch
Short battery life
Microphone not up to the task
Voice prompts in Chinese
Packaging & Accessories
Xiaomi is not a company to spare its products a few accessories and the Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset are well-equipped with a slew of options: the eartips come in five different sizes, and there are a clip and a manual (in Chinese) in the box. There is no case or bag, contrary to the Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro.
Design & Comfort
Xiaomi has lots of experience in manufacturing fitness-related accessories and its Mi Band fitness trackers are among the best on the market. The Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset are shaped after the wristbands, with the housings that share the same plastic body with an aluminium plate on top of it.
To help the headphones stay in place, there is a semi-rigid earhook on each earpiece. Contrary to what I believed and a bit counter-intuitively, however, I found out the most comfortable position requires a slight rotation so that the earphones are slightly tilted forward (and the hook’s top is not against your ear). This is due to the earhook pressing against the pinna, which is greatly diminished with a slight rotation. This may not be true for everyone as ears’ shape and size are different across each individual, though.
There is a remote with a microphone and a single button on the right side of the cable; the other buttons are on the right earpiece, where volume buttons the micro-USB connector lie. The position of the buttons is really convenient, although it takes a bit to getting used to it – the number of times I looked for them on the remote is countless.
The Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset leaves a lot to be desired in terms of isolation: its peculiar shape does not allow me to get a good fit and therefore good isolation. This is not completely negative, though, as it allows the listener to continue to hear what happens around them (this may truly be the proverbial feature that is not a bug).
Both comfort and isolation are heavily influenced by the shape of the earphones and the eartips. While the design can’t be changed, the eartips can – in fact I put a pair of Comply Isolation foams on and it dramatically changed both sound and comfort. Although they still don’t fit perfectly, they isolate much more than the stock tips. The latter are uncomfortable and completely inept at providing just the basic isolation needed for the low frequencies to be audible. Once again I remind you that your mileage may vary!
Since sweating is a common event when working out, water resistance is a must on headphones of this kind. Xiaomi provided the Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset with IPX4 certification, meaning it will resist sweating or light rain.
Extra Features & Battery Life
Volume control is independent of the phone’s volume. Since volume is just a parameter when using Bluetooth, the headphones just disregard the settings they receive from the phone and apply their own. In my case this has positive effects as the control on the Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset is finer-grained than that on my phone.
A voice informs the user about the headphones’ status, but it only speaks Chinese. It’s intuitive enough to be understandable even if you don’t speak Chinese (I don’t!), but this can be a problem for some people and it needs to be considered before purchasing the product.
There’s no word on aptX support, so I assume the technology is not supported. The SBC codec is then used, which brings about just decent quality.
While the battery has good capacity (100 mAh), it can’t power the headphones for more than 4~6 hours. That’s not bad, but it isn’t jaw-dropping either and it is actually a bit disappointing considering the size of the housings (which is way larger than that of the Creative Outlier Sports).
The microphone performs poorly and cannot realistically be used where there’s noise. The position on the cable has partly to do with this fact as it is not ideal. I can’t really recommend these headphones for their call capabilities.
Being these Bluetooth headphones, I could not run a full-fledged burn in process. I estimate I played ~40-50 hours of music. I used my Lenovo Vibe Shot smartphone loaded with FLAC files and my desktop PC to drive the earphones.
Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset
||20 – 20,000 Hz|
There’s an audible background hiss which plagues the sound. It is most notable in silent moments, but its volume is low enough that it isn’t clearly heard when the music is playing.
The sound as a whole is fairly open and spacious, which is quite unexpected since they’re closed-back. Instrument separation is beyond expectations in this price range of the Bluetooth sports headphones category; there is a clear separation between bass, midrange and treble, almost without spills.
When using the stock tips I found the sound becomes thin and loses impact and presence both in bass and midrange. As I already stated this may well be a personal issue caused by my specific ear size or shape, but I think it is worth mentioning anyway. The Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset have a (more or less) neutral sound, in contrast to the bass-boost trend that’s going on in this market, which also results in lacking bass if isolation is not perfect. That is some common ground with the HiFiMAN RE-00, although bass is a bit stronger here.
Isolation issues aside, bass lacks depth, even when sealing eartips are used. Although they won’t hold up against higher-tiered products, they distance themselves from the mass of similar-priced Chinese headphones commonly found all over the Net in a positive way. Bass is is balanced enough and, despite being relatively shallow, it has good impact and does a good job keeping the rhythm up. I admit I like a bit more oomph when working out, but when it comes to sound fidelity the Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset is definitely worth more than their price.
Midrange is forward and centre and is very energetic. As a consequence voices and guitars have an “in-your-face” presentation that highlights them and makes them the centre around which everything else gravitates. It makes pop and rock satisfying and engaging, but there are issues, too: there is a spike in the upper mids that makes sibilance hard to ignore. Details are rich and tone is natural, just a bit warm. As a practical example, vocals, guitars and flutes are well portrayed in Fine flowers in the valley by Shantalla, where they blend without losing their identity.
Treble is a fine companion to midrange in that it has good presence and a forward presentation, which brings them just behind the mids. The two blending in results in a bright sound which leans more towards the higher part of the spectrum than towards the lower one. While extension isn’t exceptional, resolution is decent enough for a sports headphone. You won’t hear all the minute details, as there seems to be a bit of a veil.
Given all of the above, I do not recommend these headphones if you’re looking for strong bass. If you listen to pop, rock and other mid-centric genres, though, the Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset may be a valid option.
The Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset is way lighter on bass than the Creative Outlier Sports, but its sound is way more detailed and refined. From an audiophile perspective, the Xiaomi are better headphones thanks to their balance and better detail. When looking at the typical usage, though, maybe the Outlier Sports can better suit the taste of most people thanks to their emphasised bass. The Jabra Sport Pace headphones have a more V-shaped sound, thus their bass and treble is more pronounced. Overall sound quality is comparable, as detail, instrument separation and soundstage are similar. It then all boils down to taste.
If I were to judge the Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset looking just at the sound quality, I’d give them a solid 8.5. It’s balanced, engaging and lively, with a sound signature that will make most music sound great. Headphones are not just sound, though: battery life is a bit disappointing, comfort could be vastly improved, the microphone is lacking and voice prompts are in Chinese only.
They’re well-built and their design sets them apart, but is this enough to make them appealing? Short answer: yes. Their ~$30 price pits them against headphones that are often way less enticing – be it for build quality, sound quality or a combination of the two. The competition from more widely-known brands is double or even triple the price! I feel comfortable recommending these headphones if you want to spend less than $50, but I also suggest you to consider the flaws I pointed out to see whether they cover aspects important to you.
The Xiaomi Mi Sports Bluetooth Headset retails for ~$30.