Last week, Xiaomi surprised Mi fans in Malaysia by releasing its Xiaomi Mi In-Ear Piston Earphones to the market here. The premium quality piston earphones which retails at a super affordable price tag of RM50 was all the rage in the audio-savvy community.
Like every other Xiaomi device, the 2,000 units of the golden earphones sold like hotcakes in the flash sale and were all sold out within minutes. However, I managed to snag a spot in the queue and placed my order with a purchase.
I was interested in seeing how good these supposedly premium in-ear earphones offered, especially given the low retail price of RM50. How does it fare against in-ear earphones that are a lot more expensive from other established audio brands, or would it just match a regular pair of earphones that usually comes out of the box with most smartphones?
Upon unsealing the compact box, I was immediately greeted with a minimalist carrying case, and some illustrated guides on using the earphones which are printed onto the one-piece cardboard box. In my opinion, that should be the way to go rather than some pesky folded instruction manuals.
Despite being made entirely out of plastic, the carrying case just screams premium. From the symmetrical rounded edges to the simple transparent cover, it is designed to be seamlessly compact in an elegant way. Xiaomi even claims that it is suitable for being a gift box itself.
Inside, you will find the earpieces, the control module, and the 3.5mm jack displayed neatly in a nifty rubber square housing that you could use for easy portability of the Piston earphones. Uncoiling the earphones may be a bit tricky at the first time, so you might want to do it delicately.
Design & Build
The first thing you would notice about the entire earphones is the Kevlar braided cords. Xiaomi’s claim that these are tangle-free cables, which holds true as the braided part of the cable rarely tangled up throughout my use. Personally, I prefer this anti-tangle finish over the flat cables found on a lot of earphones offering flat “tangle-free” cables. However, it would be better if Xiaomi have the Kevlar braidings up all the way to the earpieces.
These gold-plated earphones are also textured with a grill-like design finish. Without a single piece of plastic in the outer shell, the earpieces boast a perfectly cut aluminium casing that contributes a solid heft and sturdiness to the overall feel of the audio accessory.
It is not without faults as both ends of the Kevlar braided cord tends to get fuzzy with sprung out threads. This really puts the wires’ lifespan into question, despite being made of Kevlar. In addition, the Piston earphones are not quite suitable for sports use as sweat tends to be absorbed into the braided part of the cable. While it may not be a big issue, there are doubts over the long-term effects.
Under the rubber housing in the carrying case, you will find three sets of different sized silicone ear buds that you can switch to suit your ears. Xiaomi also includes a holding clip to prevent the cords from swaying everywhere while moving.
To start things off, I am not an audiophile, so I will be approaching this review section without delving into too much technicalities. Given the price of these earphones, I suspect many of those who buy them would probably be in the same boat as me. Prior to owning the Xiaomi Piston Earphones, I was switching between brand named earphones, but mostly using the generic Samsung in-ear earphones that I got from a Galaxy device. The new earphones definitely gave me a breath of fresh air as it is far better sounding than most of the previous ones I had.
The Mi earphones uses beryllium diaphragms that is said to allow for better low bass and a high treble performance. This is only something you would get out of earphones that cost at least twice the price of these Pistons – one of the reasons why these RM50 earphones are getting all the hype that they are getting now.
After a very short burn-in period, I took it through all walks of my usual music genre — rock, pop, R&B, and even a collection of instrumental soundtracks – they all sound exceptionally crisp to my ears.
The earphones offer great clarity in high and deep tones, but I personally am not pleased with the bass level of the earphones. I don’t think it is high enough to catch up with treble ends of the tones in most music that I listen to. To counter that, I resolved in using software equalisers to amp up the bass.
Relating to my experience above, every Xiaomi smartphone comes with a built-in sound enhancer that supports preset optimal audio settings for different earphones, including the Xiaomi Piston Earphones v2.1, of course. This definitely makes it easier for the average consumers to get everything set up to sound like it should with minimum hassle. That said, you can further customise the audio quality to suit your tastes with the equaliser, as I did.
With Xiaomi’s track record for offering products with great bang for buck, the Piston Earphones v2.1 are no exception. There are no earphones that offers such combination of sophisticated build while still giving great value for money. It is definitely a no-brainer to consider it if you are looking for a new pair of earphones, especially if you’re not an audiophile who is willing to spend significantly.