So I went looking for cheap gym headphones that I wasn’t afraid to lose or break and bought a mass of different options for next to nothing off AliExpress, so this will be a small series of reviews of what I got.
This review will set out to answer whether it’s worth buying cheap headphones (yes) or spending more and getting something worthwhile (also yes) and what you should do with your hard earned cash (whatever you want).
This is absolutely the first thing that should be mentioned, because it’s crazy. $14NZD at the time of purchase.
Technically $7.68USD+GST from AliExpress, which right now would be $13.97NZD.
For new wireless bluetooth earbuds, with touch controls and an external charging case that actually produce sound that resembles what’s coming out of my phone. Incredible.
I’m not a headphone reviewer, I haven’t tried a thousand different types, nor many flavours of ear buds. I have tried good and bad headphones, and I can hear the difference. I also now favour active noise cancellation (ANC) as found on my Bose QC3 corded headphones (for all intents and purposes I also prefer corded headphones).
So this review is VERY subjective, and some of the “features” I don’t even know if they make a difference (such as bluetooth versions). I’ll mention them, b ut I’ll also clarify that I have no real frame of reference to determine whether it matters. It is just a review from someone meeting the earlier criteria, cheap for the gym and whether I would recommend them for my purpose.
In line that with that disclaimer, I’m only going to mention features I actually think are relevant, why I think they’re relevant and I’m going to rewrite them in plain English.
- Bluetooth 5.1, supposedly this should lower latency and improve the connection vs older versions. I have no way to verify this.
- True Wireless Stereo (TWS), this is an actual benefit, both pieces independently connect over Bluetooth but report as a single device. This means you can use them both, one or the other separately in parallel. There’s no main device, which establishes the connection then forwards to the other.
- Type-C charging, another real benefit as micro-USB is becoming uncommon.
- 5-6 battery life and around 5 charges in the case, this I haven’t verified, since I wear them at the gym so they get about an hour use max, but in the five months I’ve owned them I’ve probably charged them 3 times in total, so I would believe it.
- Bluetooth range >10M, this I would also believe. I have walked more than 10M away from my phone whilst at the gym and have never had signs of connectivity loss.
- Touch controls, the controls respond well, but I can never remember what does what aside from volume so just use my phone/watch to control the rest. You’d probably get used to it.
Other than that, there are plenty of offered specs around driver sizes, frequency response etc but honestly in this sort of form factor it’s unlikely they’re comparable. If you need to know that information you can find it in five seconds flat with a quick Google.
The physical build quality is excellent.
- The plastic feels good in hand
- The case hinge is magnetised, which both keeps it closed and offers a satisfying snap
- The charge port is easily accessed
- The headphones fit well, and the headphone charging system doesn’t look like it would break
- They do not feel like a cheap device
- Extra plug sizes are included so you can get a good fit
The software works well, but the audio feedback for the controls has one fixed volume so can starkly contrast against music if the volume is low.
Also as mentioned I haven’t been able to wrap my head around the touch controls aside from the volume, that may just be me.
In usage, you can pull one from the case, or the other, or both and they both connect seamlessly to your device. No hesitation, no annoyances, no loss of pairing. Pull them out and they work, put them in and they stop. This is expected behaviour, and there was nothing annoying here as you would expect at the price point.
Looking at them, I find they’re a physically attractive device when compared to alternatives, with a range of colours available in both monochrome and pastels.
But all in all I would rate them highly for build quality.
The sound quality is absolutely adequate. Which doesn’t sound like a good thing but that is to say that I wasn’t wowed by the sound, but at the same time I was happy to use these long term. If you then combine that with the price point, I would say the sound quality was excellent.
As a point of comparison I have a set of Bose QC3s with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), corded into a EPOS GSX300, and I find the sound quality on those excellent, and these are nowhere near that. But they’re not ANC, they were $15, they’re a fraction of the size and they have to incorporate a mountain of fine electronics and a tiny battery into a tiny body, limiting the wattage they have to play with.
With the exception of the ANC, a huge portion of the lesser sound quality is due to the form factor, and for their purpose (convenient gym earphones I’m not worried about losing) they did a great job. There was some bass, the audio was clear but I didn’t feel like I would be getting a big step up moving to another set of earbuds.
However, on the note of ANC there was a lot of leakage into my ears from the outside world, and I’ll actually review another set I would recommend upgrading to. The gym is LOUD, and I found myself running these at almost maximum volume when in the normal everyday world I tend to run headphones at the very lowest setting.
So I would suggest the lack of ANC is a notable point against these headphones, but not a must if your budget is slim.
Honestly I was blown away when I got them, I had set very low expectations due to the price I paid for them, and you would be hard pressed to spot them as being cheap devices compared to what you find elsewhere.
- The sound quality is hitting well above their price point.
- The build quality is excellent
- There are no real annoyances
- They work as they should
For my intended purpose, they were an excellent choice. If I lost them, I was not out a great deal of money. If they broke or got wet, it wasn’t a big problem. And they worked well and overrode the music choices and noise at the gym.
My only complaint, and only because I have been spoiled, is the lack of ANC, which meant I was actually blasting my music in the gym to hear them normally. If that matters to you, then I would probably consider upgrading exactly like I did, and there’s a review forthcoming for the same but different headphones with ANC at more than twice the price.
All in all, a big recommendation to the Lenovo LP40 Pro earbuds for cheap, good earphones for use in harsher environments. From these I have learned that it is sometimes absolutely worth buying cheap headphones.