I would like to thank Mixcder for sending me the HD601 in exchange for reviewing them. I thoroughly enjoy getting to try new gear and review samples have made it possible for me to do more of that so I am appreciative of the opportunity. That having been said, I will give an honest and fair review.
The HD601 was offered to me by Mixcder after reviewing a handful of other Mixcder products. I have been impressed with most of their offerings as they have done a good job at creating products I think consumers will want. This is not an easy task in any field and less so in audio than some others. Having been impressed with their last Bluetooth offering the MS301, I jumped at the chance to try this new one. The HD601 is targeted squarely at the Beats crowd as it has a bass boost circuit and very Beats-esque styling cues. MSRP is $100 with a street price of roughly $65 US.
The Hd601 arrived in a brown box with the smiley face on the side only this one looked like it had been sat on by a 1000lb gorilla. The contents made the journey intact but you can see evidence of their travel misfortunes in the box front and box side photos.
Inside the box are the headphones, the manual, two cables (one Usb and one 3.5mm male to male about 1 meter in length), and a coupon reminding me to register my Mixcder product online to double the warranty. Luckily I haven’t had to use warranty service on a Mixcder product yet, but the added coverage is certainly welcome. The cardboard and plastic is pretty utilitarian and a pouch to protect these would be a nice add-on as many of the other sets I will compare the HD601 to later in the review do come with some form of case.
All the Bluetooth headphones I have tested have come with basically the same kit. A 3.5mm cable for using them as wired phones, a charging cable, a manual, and some have come with a carrying case of varying quality. When going back through my notes I found it telling that the models with $75+ price points came with carrying cases, below that point it isn’t offered so shouldn’t be expected.
The HD601 is predominantly plastic with steel reinforcing the band and the adjustments. The HD601 do not fold up as some others do. The cups on the Hd601 swivel 90 degrees in one direction and about 15 degrees in the other to allow for better fit. The pad and driver has about 15 degrees of movement on the horizontal axis inside the outer cups to allow for better comfort and fit. These should fit most people with a little adjustment of the band. The headband and pads are pseudo-leather and are well executed. The headband provides enough padding without being oversized and the cups are fairly shallow without feeling like they are suction cupped to one’s head due to excessive clamping force.
Controls are simple. On the left cup we have the USB connection for charging at the bottom and then a red LED toward the rear of the unit to show charging and completion. On the right cup, we have three buttons and a 3.5mm jack. At the very bottom is the 3.5mm jack, then as you travel up the rear face you come to the power/pairing/bass switch (yes that is all 1 button), then up to the volume decrease and finally to the volume increase button. The LED that shows blue when powered on or blinks for pairing is located immediately above the multipurpose button. There are no external hints that the microphone exists.
The multi-function button deserves some discussion as it is unique to this headset. A quick push of the button turns the power on or off and is announced in the headphones as power on or power off. When off, a long press of the button will turn on the phones and place them in pairing mode. Again, both the power on and the ready to pair are announced. The other function is a double tap of the button switches modes between normal and bass boost. This can be a bit tricky as too slow and it is interpreted as on or off. Unfortunately, this is the only function that is unannounced so you have to listen to something to know which mode the phone is currently in.
One complaint I did have at this point, because of the materials used, every button push is translated into the right earpiece and it is impossible to adjust the volume or bass boost on the unit without hearing it inside the cups. Any touch of the cups is translated into the earpiece so it seems no damping was used in the cups.
Mixcder lists these as charging to full in 2 hours from drained and working for 22 hours. The battery is listed as a 500mAh lithium ion cell. I tested the cell in mine and it measured 462mAh which is not atypical for a cell nominally rated at 500. I was able to average about 9 hours of use before the HD601 needed recharging but it should be noted that heavy use of the bass boost does reduce that substantially, and the bass boost works less well as the battery drains (more on that in the sound segment). While a 2.1 Amp charger would charge the headphone in 2 hours, it would be wise to use a slower charger and preserve the battery as quick charging will result in shortened usable life.
The Hd601 is one of a very few headphones on the market that supports the latest Bluetooth standard (4.2) with AptX. Pairing is made even simpler with NFC. I was able to use my HTC phone with NFC to touch the hd601 and instantly pair them. I was able to use the headphones within 50 feet of the Cayin N3 or HTC source without a single hiccup and no interference from other devices. I can say openly that I have not had this kind of coverage with any of the non-4.2/AptX Bluetooth models. Some are better than others but none have performed as well as those using AptX. Mixcder has done a good job on the Bluetooth implementation and I suspect that they have re-used the excellent design from the ms301 as it worked exactly the same way during pairing and use.
The Hd601 is a closed back design and isolation is as good as expected in such a design. It should be noted that some advertising material states that the hd601 has a noise cancelling microphone and some will misread this as the headphone has active noise cancelling. It does not have any active noise cancelling for the drivers. The microphone does resist wind better than some but again I suspect the noise cancelling mentioned is passive and due to the fact, the microphone is not exposed.
I paired the hd601 to my HTC m9 with USB Audio Player Pro, my Dell laptop using Foobar, and to a Cayin N3 with current firmware (Huge N3 fan, if you haven’t tried one, you should). Listening was done with mostly Flac with a few 320bit Mp3s thrown in for good measure. Once I had done my Bluetooth testing, I tried both devices with the provided 3.5mm cable to see if the sound was different when wired than when on Bluetooth.
The sound without the bass boost is a Deep V shape that is solidly on the warm side. I had hoped these would be a more neutral tuning of the ms301 with a switch to add back the V shape if you wanted a more consumer sound profile. Instead these have a solidly V shaped signature with bass boost off and an absolutely cavernous bass with the boost enabled. The first time I put the Hd601s on, I thought I had mistakenly enabled the bass boost. Then when I did hit the button twice to enable it, it absolutely boomed.
Bass: This is certainly the target of these headphones, and they annihilated the target. These can be thought of as Bass+ and Bass+++ depending on the boost circuit. Good bass extension and lots of sub-bass make these as close to a wearable subwoofer as anything I have tried. The bad news is, the bass isn’t perfect. It has a fairly large mid-bass hump and bleed into the mids is prominent. With the bass boost enabled, bass gets very loose and muddy. I found that they do react well to equalizer, and was able to tighten up the bass quite a bit without losing much of the low bass or sub-bass impact. These definitely are not a neutral tuning, nor can they be made into one. If you are looking for something close to neutral the ms301 comes a lot closer. For something fun to listen to with lots of bass push, these are a more consumer friendly tuning.
Mids: Even with the mid-bass hump and the bass bleed are well presented. I found them better when wired than when in Bluetooth mode. With a little EQ, to remove bass one is able to focus on the mids. Once EQ’d to my liking, vocals and instrument separation are good but I kept having an issue with female vocals being veiled. This is partially due to a pronounced 5k spike that I EQ’d out. Without the eq, the vocals were less veiled but the 5k spike was annoying. With the spike eq’d down, upper range vocals took a hit commensurately.
Treble: is rolled off pretty substantially. This profile makes long listening sessions easy as they cannot be classified as bright or sibilant. I tried a few vocals that are often piercing and the laid-back sound on these had no problems with sibilance or strident treble. I found myself using the EQ to push the treble a up a bit to get a bit more life and air in the sound. It does respond to EQ to a point, but at the upper end the driver just doesn’t have the extension to do much. I didn’t find a lot of sparkle and cymbals were not as well rendered as on the Ms301.
Soundstage is pretty typical of a closed back design and can feel a little claustrophobic.
The headphones worked well for making and receiving calls. The microphone was less sensitive to wind and outside noise than some others I have tried.
With an asking price of <$60 on Amazon and an MSRP of $99, I decided to compare the hd601s to other Bluetooth headphones I have in my stable of similar pricing. I ended up with the Edifier W855BT ($100), The Cowin E-7 ($79), the Meelectronics Matrix 3 ($109), the Mixcder ms301 ($99), the Syllable G700 ($84), the Bluedio T4 Turbine ($50) and my daughters Zealot B5 ($36) as my sampling to compare the Hd601 with.
Let’s start with the Zealot B5 and get it out of the way. Other than having a built in Micro-sd card slot so you don’t need an external player the B5 has nothing going for it. The sound quality was poor as was the battery life. They were uncomfortable as they overheated my ears very quickly. I tried to play Flac files directly from the player but it does not support them or any card over 16gb so really is not a viable option. If you like your music to sound like it is coming from the bottom of a pit, grab the B5, otherwise look elsewhere. (In fairness, I knew this going in but some will buy the cheapest thing they can find and these are it.)
On to the Bluedio T4. Unlike the Hd601 the T4 does not have AptX and showed extreme issues with latency. They were ok for music with a similar Deep V profile but were unusable for gaming or theater due to latency. I also found the on-ear style of the T4 to be less comfortable and overly hot on ear and extended listening sessions were simply not possible. Bluedio does advertise the T4 as having active noise cancelling but isolation was not noticeably better than the Hd601. Again, the Hd601 easily outclassed the T4.
The Syllable G700 was a very similar experience to the T4. Deep V shaped profile, poor battery life, uncomfortably hot pads and excessive clamping force. The lack of AptX again showed its ugly head in the form of latency and gaming or theater use would be problematic. They do sport ANC but with it enabled, there was an audible hiss which made it less than usable.
Next up was the Cowin E-7. These have good active noise cancelling. For the first time, I can say I could tell a positive difference with the ANC enabled when compared to without it. The bad news is that was the only positive on these. They have a large mid-bass hump and no treble at all. These made me rethink some of my initial comments on the Hd601 as the 601 is definitely bass heavy and treble light but the Cowin is bass heavy and treble non-existent. The E-7 also weighs more than double the Hd601 but only offered comparable battery life. Again, I’d easily take the Hd601 instead of the E-7 given the option.
Next up is the Meelectronics Matrix 3. As the most expensive headphone in the comparison, you would expect them to do well and in many ways, they are similar to the Hd601. Both have AptX, both have 40mm drivers, both are bass heavy, both sport good isolation, both have similar construction. The Matrix 3 has a sound profile that can best be described as a \ shape. The V with the treble half cut off. To me, the matrix suffers the same issue as the E-7 and didn’t respond as well to EQ as the Hd601 did. While the two share many similarities, the Matrix has less treble and costs twice as much – I give the win to the Hd601 on those two points.
Next up is the Edifier W855Bt. To me, this is the biggest competitor to Mixcder with good bass and a shallow V profile. They ship with a nice carrying case, they run Bluetooth 4.1 with AptX so latency isn’t comparatively different. The w855bt tuning is definitely a shallower V than the hd601 and I found it does not respond as well to EQ in the lower range. The Hd601 can be tuned to be either an absolute cannon or a milder V with a very consumer friendly profile. The W855bt could not be made into the cannon as it lacks the extension in the low registers and doesn’t have the bass punch even with EQ maxed out. The other issue I found with the W855 was weight. The hd601 was more comfortable to wear for extended periods due to its lighter construction.
Conclusion: Mixcder now has two solid offerings. While my tastes lean to the sound profile of the Ms301, I can see the market for both products. The Ms301 is the more balanced premium market product and the construction and price reflect that. The Hd601 is the more consumer market product and when compared with the products in the Beats line, it should compete well. The 601 has similar styling cues with the red and black design, a similar sound with the Bass forward tuning, and a price tag of a little less than half of most Beats products. If you are in the market for a wearable subwoofer that reacts well to EQ in the low and middle registers and has very ear friendly treble, these are certainly worth a look. For me, they won’t replace my top picks, but when the EDM or Techno stuff comes out, boy are they a fun listen.