Wireless Bluetooth headphones are becoming increasingly popular, but the good ones tend to run over $100, and some, like the highly rated but expensive go for close to $400.
I was intrigued then when Mpow contacted me about reviewing its Mpow Cheetah Sport Bluetooth 4.0 headphones, an in-ear "budget" model that sells online for about $35. The pitch was that not only were they lightweight and sweatproof, but they featured "crystal clear stereo sound and didn't fall off your head," even with a strong shake.
I was skeptical about their quality, but I'm always looking for good bargain headphones, so I figured I'd give them a shot.
Design and features
Let's start with what I like about them. They are indeed lightweight and kind of wind up into a ball that you can easily stick in your pocket. While somewhat unusual looking, they're pretty generic in their styling and look like budget headphones. Their build quality doesn't inspire confidence that they'll hold up under rigorous use for a while, but by the same token, they don't seem poorly built.
After you unwind them, you hitch them to your ears and the stiff cord wraps around the back of your head. The exterior of the headphones has a glossy-black finish and the outside of the earpieces are emblazoned with the Mpow logo. I prefer it to thelogo, but it still screams "made in China" (yes, just about everything is made in China, but this product looks like it was bought off the shelf from a Shanghai wholesaler).
The other, potentially more serious issue is the fit of the headphones. With the included eartips -- there are three sizes -- I couldn't get the headphones to stay in my ears. The right earbud kept sliding out, which not only was irritating but it obviously had an impact on sound quality.
I remedied the situation by digging up a longer pair of eartips (watch the video to see what those look like). With a little longer anchor, so to speak, the headphones suddenly fit snugly and securely. It was a small alteration but it made a big difference. (To be clear, the headphones might fit your head just fine out of the box, but I can assure you that the headphones simply won't work for some people).
In terms of features, they're equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, which makes pairing with your mobile device easy (the wireless range is the standard 30 feet), AptX support (for devices that support it), and they have a built-in microphone for cell phone calls. Battery life is rated at 5 hours (adequate, but not great) and the headphones charge in about 2 hours.