Pros: Good in-ear fit, Long battery life, Built in microphone and controls, Included carrying pouch, Strong noise isolation
Cons: Some slight connectivity issues, Not comfortable when lying down, Average sound quality
Overview and Unboxing
Wireless headphones are becoming the new standard for mobile audio. Just walk around a college campus and you'll see a large portion wearing them as we become a more and more mobile population. There are several established brands like Beats and Jaybird and while their products are undeniably high quality, they don't have much to offer customers that don't want to spend a fortune. That's where companies like MEE Audio are positioning themselves. I checked out their M9B wireless headset a while back and was pleasantly surprised at how it performed considering it was less than 1/3 the price of its competition. Today I'll be checking out the next generation X7 headset.
Fitting a decent pair of speakers, a long-lasting battery, a microphone, and a Bluetooth radio into a tiny package you can wear on your head is no small feat. From the outside packaging, the X7 appears to have a lot going for it though. They are clearly molded after in-ear modules to give a better fit than standard ear buds. The marketing also lists the playback time as 7.5 hours per charge which isn't quite as high as some of the big-name brands, but those also cost 3 times as much so that's understandable. Along with the blue accents (the X7 also comes in red), the only other thing that stands out is the inline controls and microphone. I was a little hesitant at first over the quality of the microphone since they are designed to be worn behind the head; the opposite position of where your mouth is.
Inside the package is the standard quick start guide that explains the Bluetooth pairing process and in-line controls. We also get a nice fabric carrying pouch, some additional ear tips, a short charging cable, and the headset itself. I liked the carrying case. It would have been easy to leave it out in favor of a cheap plastic bag that would get thrown out or broken but that wasn't the case. The charging cable was also just the right size. For headphones, there's no reason to include a long cable, especially since you can't use the headphones while charging them. All three sets of included ear tips are the same rubbery style. They were really, really hard to get on and off though but once you find the pair that fits, you shouldn't need to replace them too often. Unfortunately there weren't any foam tips provided but for a headset designed for working out, that's to be expected.
Usability and Audio quality
If you've never worn in-ear monitors, putting on the X7 may take a few tries the first time. Once you figure out how to slide them into the ear chamber, it's easy from there. I almost found them easier to put on than standard ear-buds since they never tangle and they slide in to your ear very easily. Once in there, they're not going anywhere either. You could run, jump, mow the lawn, and do just about anything else and they won't fall out. This is due in part to the stiffened ear guides that hold the cable into shape over your ear. You may need to re-adjust the ear pieces every so often if you are moving around a lot, but I never once had them fall out. With the included cable clip, the length can be tightened to fit your head size perfectly.
If you decide to take a break and lie down though, it's a different story. I found the shell of the earpiece pressed sharply on my ear making it somewhat uncomfortable to rest my head on its side for an extended period. This is the nature of in-ear style headphones though so it's not a huge deal. Because there's so much contact and they fit so snugly, noise isolation was excellent. I used them when flying and that makes the trip very easy. They're not quite as good as standalone noise isolating headphones, but they do a great job.
Moving on to audio quality and the user experience now, I had a few issues here. The first thing to do when setting up the headphones with your phone is turning them on and pairing. The power-on process takes longer than expected since you must hold the power button for a good 5-10 seconds each time. After that I had some slight connectivity issues with Bluetooth and my phone. The headphones would connect just fine and be recognized by my phone, but the audio would still play through my phone's speakers. To get the audio to work, I had to go to my Bluetooth settings and manually disconnect and re-pair with the X7. Granted, this only takes a few seconds, but I would have expected it to work right away on the first try. I would say it only worked correctly without me having to do this about %25 of the time.
Considering audio quality isn't always the biggest feature of wireless headphones, the X7 didn't sound too bad. Right on their website they say "deep enhanced bass" and this was clear when performing listening tests. Bass was definitely present and slightly boosted, but not too overpowering usually. Unfortunately, the highs were a bit lacking and just didn't speak too much. For modern pop music though, you might not even notice. The mids were by far the worst of the three ranges. The soundscape got muddy and it was hard to differentiate some instruments like the bass drum from the bass guitar. The overall stereo image though was pretty good for this class of product. It was rather wide and doesn't sound especially like it's coming from inside your head. Nothing terrible but not audiophile grade either.
I’d say battery life was good. With normal to heavy use I would typically charge the X7 about once or twice a week. Your millage may vary though depending on how much music you listen to. The audio range was impressive as well. I would put it at about 30 feet and that was through 3 walls too. You're definitely fine with setting down your phone to walk around and do some work or exercise. The built-in controller is nice as well. The buttons control volume with a single tap and perform track skipping with a long press. As for the microphone, since it's behind your head you do sound different than normal but nothing too bad. I almost never had to repeat myself because they couldn’t hear or understand me, although people reported it sounded like I was in another room when talking on the X7.
If you're looking for a pair of Bluetooth headphones, you've probably seen the competition. There are very similar products that $100-200. They may have a slightly better user experience or battery life, but in the end, it doesn't matter too much. If you're out and about with them or doing some work, they're great to relax with and zone out any distractions. They sound fine and feel nice and light on the head. My single biggest complaint is the Bluetooth connectivity issue but that could just be a defective unit or a glitch with my Nexus 5X. All in all, the X7 Stereo Headset from MEE Audio at $60 is a great buy for a budget Bluetooth headset.
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