Review: MPOW Magneto
Bluetooth headphones are often a polarizing product with technology writers—the cheapest ones are usually junk, and even the higher-end ones suffer from poorer sound quality than a simple, wired pair. There’s also the added bulk, as the battery has to go somewhere. MPOW’s Magneto aims to counter these complaints by mixing a reasonable price with the newest Bluetooth technology in a stylish design.
Priced at $43.95 list (available for about $30 on Amazon, MPOW’s primary reseller), the Magneto certainly looks a bit different from traditional Bluetooth headphones. It does away with the clunky plastic battery band that typically rests on your neck (as seen on the LG Tone series as an example), and instead packs smaller batteries in the earbuds themselves. While they are a bit bigger than Apple’s EarPods, the added size won’t make it look like you’re attempting to wear Google Glass, and don’t feel noticeably heavier than other products. They are a mix of attractive matte black plastic and shiny silver panels with a circular texture on them, not unlike what you’ll find on some audio equipment.
Due to the added size and weight, the Magneto can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach of Apple’s EarPods and includes different sized inserts for your ear canal. There are three sizes and it’s even encouraged to mix and match to find a perfect fit. The same goes for the stabilizers that fit on the outside of your ears. These small rubber “wings” attach just on the outside of the portion that goes into your ear and keep them from moving around at all. In use, there is some trial-and-error to find inserts and stabilizers that fit your ears without causing a bit of soreness after long periods of time. A flat audio cable connects the two earbuds and a small three-button inline remote on the right side round out the overall design of the product.
Even then, you can make an attractive audio product, but if it sounds bad, what’s the point? In my few weeks of testing, I found Magneto to sound very good. In testing, my base line was Apple’s EarPods, since almost everyone knows what they sound like. As a wired version of the Magneto doesn’t exist, I really can’t tell if the sound differences are due to them being sonically different or the way Bluetooth affects the quality, but I did find bass to be a little less. I also had a few skips, mostly when initially playing music, but nothing that made it a frustrating experience. CVC 6.0 noise cancelling technology is included for reducing outside noises and improving microphone audio quality. They also include the apt-X codec, which I was not able to test, due to living in iOS land. I suspect that Android or computer users will see improvements from that, too.
Magneto includes Bluetooth 4.1, which helps with battery life and improves connectivity. I was able to pair them quickly and they do report their battery level right in iOS. They seemed to reach their advertised eight hours of battery life through my unscientific testing, and recharging is done through an included micro USB cable (you’ll need to provide your own USB charging port, however). The inline remote’s buttons are mostly intuitive: the outer ones adjust volume and skip tracks when held down, and the middle button acts as a play/pause/power button. The iPhone’s volume controls also adjusts these when connected. To bring up voice controls (aka Siri on iOS), you must hold the middle button and the volume up button, which felt a bit awkward, although there’s not many other ways to cram so many functions into three buttons (wired remotes don’t have to worry about power controls).
Apart from standard Bluetooth headphone features, there are magnets in each earbud, which hold the two together when not in use. This is what gives them the name (sorry, Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender). Putting them together also pauses playback and ends phone calls, and pulling them apart unpauses playback or answers calls. I liked this feature, although I thought a power on/off function might be better‐it seems the intent is to leave these on for long periods of time while using them or when you might be using them. That will take some adjusting for me, but it makes sense as battery life is improving, especially during standby (MPOW offers up to 175 hours of standby and, while I wasn’t able to test this claim, I can believe it from the limited standby testing I was performing).
There are a few limitations with these headphones, outside of anything related to Bluetooth itself. The first is that, unlike some of the other Bluetooth audio devices that have been featured on this site, these only appear to work with one device at a time. This should be fine if you plan on using it with just your phone, but if you frequently switch between iPhone, iPad, Mac, and/or Apple Watch, it’s something to be aware of. Additionally, these are not the model intended for exercise—they should be okay, but MPOW offers some sweat-proof models that will withstand any additional wear or tear better.
As a whole, the MPOW Magneto headphones sound pretty good, have a number of nice features, and are relatively inexpensive, often costing in the ballpark of lower-end wired headphones. If you’re looking for an upgrade to the stock EarPods, or want to try the world of Bluetooth headphones, they are an excellent choice.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
MPOW’s Magneto mixes compact design, good build quality, and impressive audio quality for a low price that can easily serve as an upgrade or replacement for your old earbuds.
Pros: Inexpensive, good sound, good design, battery life as advertised
Cons: Single device pairing, may require trial-and-error adjustments for best fit