We previously reviewed a pair of the more upmarket Mixcder headphones before (and yet we’re still not sure how to pronounce the company’s name: Mix-der? Mick-cider? Mick-se-der?) in the form of the wireless, noise-cancelling E9s.
The HD901s on test here are a different proposition. Despite the aurally alluring name, suggestive of a high-end, high-def product, these cans are in fact decidedly cheap and cheerful. A cut below, you might say.
That’s not to suggest that they are unworthy of your time, money and ears – far from it. However, it behoves us to be upfront about their shortcomings. You can tell where the corners have been cut, if that sort of thing bothers you. If you’re in the market for an audiophile set of master-quality, critical-listening headphones, these are not they.
However, as we’ve said, the HD901s are both cheap and cheerful – a perfectly acceptable state of affairs for most of us. Walk into a relationship with these ear goggles and your eyes (and ears) open and the chances are that you’ll come up smiling.
First things first, what are they? Rechargeable Bluetooth or wired connection (micro USB and 3.5mm cables included), over-ear, foldable, lightweight stereo headphones, which come with a 12-month warranty. There are no ‘premium’ materials here: no lambskin leather, no titanium skeleton, no memory foam padding. It’s your basic 21st century, predominantly plastic construction. RRP: £20. There’s your cheap.
As for the cheerful: the sound is good – not stellar, but totally fine for a pair of travelling commuter headphones and more than loud enough to block out your fellow passengers (even the baby ones). They’re pretty comfortable, with adjustable arms both sides in order to accomodate the larger melon, plus padding on the naturally angled earpieces and on the underside of the headband, although they’re nothing like as lushly enveloping and pampering as more expensive headsets. The battery lasts for days at a time, with reasonable use, between charges. They’re lightweight, weighing less than 5 ounces. They fold, not ultra-small, but at least in half so you can stash them in a bag or suitcase without much faff. And they do look kind of cool, with minimalist black styling and brushed aluminium ear discs.
Mixcder also seems to care enough about its products and customers to throw in a sweetener, something that differentiates its products from the morass of me-too ware with which it competes at this level. With the HD901s, that means 40mm drivers in the headphones (nice) and a TF/Micro SD card slot for playback of MP3 music files.
With a suitable card in the left-ear slot, you can actually use these headphones as a standalone music player, no smartphone required. Load up an SD card at home with music from your library, then hit the road, the hills, the beach, the gym, your jogging circuit – wherever you want to go – and you could leave the phone at home. Or at least save your phone’s battery.
The controls on the headphones are only your basic play/pause, skip forward and skip back, so you have to largely accept the running order of your music as determined by the order you dragged the files onto the card, but it’s still a neat touch that you might find more uses for than you know. It’s a little like having one of the original Apple iPod Shuffles on your head, only without the shuffle mode. Press go and let the music play.
The sound, as noted above, is decent and definitely improves with use over time. It also varies according to the mixing/mastering quality of the music you’re listening to: well-executed productions always came across well. The 40mm drivers help here, with the bass noticeably present and solid (although perhaps not as ‘superior’ as Mixcder claims) and enough pleasing detail across the mid and high ranges. The stereo picture was also sufficiently precise and revealing not to be a disappointment.
The HD901s are really a pair of headphones for those situations where you want to be able to listen to good quality audio, without also worrying if you lose them, forget them, or otherwise find yourself parted from them.
It’s hard to be overly critical of a pair of decent wireless headphones that cost less than the average price of a pizza for two. The HD901s could easily slot into your life as deftly as they’ll fit into your suitcase or work bag.