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Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth Sports headphones review: Dirt-cheap Bluetooth sports headphones you'll either love or hate

At just $35 online, the Mpow Cheetah wireless sports headphones are some of the least expensive Bluetooth headphones we've reviewed to date. But you'll get what you pay for.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
4 min read

Wireless Bluetooth headphones are becoming increasingly popular, but the good ones tend to run over $100, and some, like the highly rated but expensive Beats Studio Wireless go for close to $400.

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Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth Sports headphones

The Good

Mpow's Cheetah wireless Bluetooth sports headphones are lightweight, water-resistant, and sound decent enough for how inexpensive they are. They're also equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, which makes pairing easy.

The Bad

May not fit some people securely; generic styling; track skip forward/back button is too small and hard to use; battery life (5 hours) could be better.

The Bottom Line

If you don't have a problem with their fit or finish, the Mpow Cheetah wireless sports headphones are a relative bargain at around $35 online.

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.

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The sweatproof Mpow Cheetah retails for around $35 online. Sarah Tew/CNET

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 the Meelectronics logo, 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).

MPOW Cheetah Sport Product Photos

See all photos

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.

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You have to unfurl the headphone before you put it on. It has an around-the-neck design. Sarah Tew/CNET

I thought the buttons were well-placed on the right earpiece, though the track skip forward/back button was too small and hard to operate by feel (and hard to operate in general). The call answer/end button, which acts as a play/pause button as well as the power button (you hold it down to turn the headphones on), is amply sized and well-situated on the top of the earpiece.

It's worth mentioning that a small blue LED on the right earpiece flashes when the headphones are paired. You won't notice it so much in brighter environments, but in a darkened room, it will be quite visible (a solid blue light would have been better).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

One of my big concerns when trying an inexpensive pair of Bluetooth headphones is the sound quality: It's usually pretty mediocre (by mediocre I mean muddy).

The Cheetahs, however, performed pretty well, especially for their low price. I wasn't blown away by their sound, but they offered relatively decent clarity and didn't overaccentuate the bass. I'm not going sit here and tell you they sounded incredibly accurate or natural, but I thought they measured up pretty well against Bluetooth headphones that cost twice as much and maybe more.

Personally, I wouldn't listen to them for long periods (I did experience some listening fatigue, which usually means there's some treble push -- for me, anyway), but think they'd be fine for workouts in the gym and runs outside.

Conclusion

The Mpow Cheetahs are a product that you'll either like or hate, depending on how they fit you. While I found a way to make them fit properly using a different set of eartips (that weren't included), I have to ding them for not fitting me properly out of the box. I also think some people will be put off by their generic styling.

Aside from those gripes, they're not bad budget wireless sports headphones. A couple of tweaks and perhaps the addition of some more sporty color choices (with a reduction in the size of the logo) and Mpow might really have something.

Editors' note: After my video review of the Mpow Cheetah posted, the company temporarily pulled the product from Amazon.com. It says the Cheetahs will go back on sale in late May or June.

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Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth Sports headphones

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 7Sound 6Value 6
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