- Listen to your music while enjoying full situational awareness.
- Surprisingly rich audio quality.
- Suitable for driving and biking.
- Comfortable, secure fit.
- Clear call quality.
- Everyone around you can hear what you’re listening to.
- Relatively short battery life.
- Awkward controls.
If you’re in the market for a new set of wireless earbuds, one can look much like the other. They sit in your ears, they have a charging case, and they may or may not have silicone tips. Of course, this is a gross oversimplification. Different earbuds come with a variety of features, most of which have nothing to do with the form factor. The point being, the earbuds sit inside your ears. This means that, at least to some extent, they’re blocking out outside noise. Sometimes, this is a good thing. If you’re trying to sleep on an airplane, you want to exist in your own personal bubble of silence.
But if you’re running or biking, you want to be aware of your surroundings. You wouldn’t drive a car with earbuds in. Why would you ride a bike that way? You wouldn’t. At least, you certainly don’t have to. The Mu6 Ring Open Ear Air Conduction Bluetooth Headphones, for example, are designed so you can hear your surroundings.
Now, we should clear up what these headphones are and aren’t. What they are is a solution for people who don’t want their earbuds to drown out outside noise. What they’re not is a solution for the hearing impaired. This can be confusing, since “air conduction” is a term commonly used for hearing aid technology. In this case, what air conduction means is that there are no buds in your ears. The sound is being conducted through the air from the speakers to your ears. If you’re hearing impaired and need a pair of earbuds, there are much better options. Consider the LOKMAT Bone Conduction Headphones. These sit on the outside of your head, and send vibrations through your skull to your inner ear.
Now that we know how they work, it’s time to see how the Mu6 Ring earbuds perform. We’ll start by talking about the physical design – how they’re built, and how they fit. Next, we’ll move on to the battery, charging, and Bluetooth technology. Finally, we’ll take a look at the quality of the audio itself, and see how it compares to traditional earbuds. Let’s dig deeper, and see what we uncover!
The Mu6 Ring Open Ear Conduction Bluetooth Headphones don’t look like headphones. At first glance, they look almost like a visor… until you notice there’s no bill. The main headphone body consists of a flexible, rubbery band that wraps around from one temple to the other. It’s surprisingly comfortable to wear, with silicone pads at your temples for cushion. The fit itself is a simple tension fit. It’s gentle, but it’s enough to keep the lightweight headphones from flying off. The design is attractive, with a black inner surface, and a blue outer housing. This provides a cool contrast when viewed in the right light.
The speakers themselves are mounted at the front, and are designed to pivot 120 degrees. This gives you a fair bit of freedom in how you wear the headphones. If you’re getting uncomfortable, you can turn the strap over the top of your head, for example. You can also adjust the angle to improve the audio quality. Not everyone’s ears are shaped the same way, so different angles will work better for different people.
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The speaker housing sections are rounded at the ends and mounted on hinges. The speaker openings themselves are small and rectangular, located towards the front of the housing. They’re easy to identify and adjust as needed. One thing we didn’t like was the blue LED on the right side of the headband. It’s not excessively bright, but there’s no way to shut it off. If you’re trying to watch a movie in a dark room, it gets annoying in a hurry.
The volume controls are located on the right side, and are easy to reach with your right hand. However, the design choice was a bit odd. Instead of separate buttons, Mu6 chose to use a single long, rocking bar. If it were just a volume control, this would make sense. However, the same bar is used to control your smartphone functions. This is clunky to say the least. For example, it’s easy to accidentally hang up on someone when you’re trying to adjust the volume. This problem would be easily solved by adding a second control bar or button on the left side. Why Mu6 didn’t do that is a mystery.
The Ring Open Ear headphones have a water-resistance rating of IP55, which equates to sweat-resistant. They can withstand a heavy workout or some rain without trouble. Anything more than that, and they’re liable to fail. This is actually quite impressive for headphones with this design. Remember, these aren’t traditional earbuds! These have speaker holes, so any amount of water resistance is a plus. A Micro USB charging cable is included in the kit, so you’ve got everything you need to get started.
Battery & Connectivity
Of course, no pair of wireless earbuds is complete without a good battery. So, how long do these last compared to ordinary earbuds? First, let’s be clear about what we’re comparing them to. Ordinary earbuds generally have a smaller form factor, with limited space for batteries. Therefore, the life can oftentimes be quite short. On the other hand, ordinary earbuds also come with a charging case. As a result, the total battery life can sometimes be quite long. The Ring Open Ear headphones are better compared to head-strap earbuds, which have larger batteries and no charging case.
In this regard, they come up a bit short. The total rated battery life is nine hours, which assumes playback at medium volume. At full blast, anywhere from 6 ½ to 7 hours is more realistic. This would be just fine for ordinary headphones, since you’d have a charging case. But it falls short of what we’d expect from similar head-strap earbuds. Then again, these are relatively loud speakers, and require a fair bit of power. The Micro USB charging also disappointed us, albeit to a lesser extent. Yes, USB Type-C is the new norm, and is a bit faster. But Micro USB will still charge the headphones in about 90 minutes.
These headphones connect to your smartphone or MP3 player via Bluetooth 5.0. This is the current wireless standard, used by most modern devices. It has three main advantages over older Bluetooth versions. First off, it provides a higher-bitrate connection, so your music will sound better. Second, it allows for lower latency, which means less lag between what you see and what you hear. Finally, the connection is more stable. You don’t have to worry about your music randomly cutting in and out. Moreover, pairing is easy. We didn’t have any issues getting these Mu6 headphones to work.
The Mu6 Ring Open Ear headphones offer surprisingly rich sound. Given the design, we’d expected the music to be tinny. In fact, audio is clear across all frequencies. Highs are shimmery, bass is punchy, and the middle frequencies don’t suffer from interference. The soundstage is also quite good, an amazing feat on such small speakers. Now, these aren’t “bass boost” headphones and they aren’t engineered for maximum punch. They’re designed with a balanced EQ, for listening to a wide variety of music.
As we discussed already, the main point of this outside-the-ear design is to improve situational awareness. The obvious benefit is that you can easily tell what’s going on around you. For instance, if you’re riding a bicycle in traffic, you’ll be able to hear vehicles approaching. At the same time, though, you’ll want to remember that this comes with its share of issues. First, there’s no type of noise cancellation. If you want to block out ambient noise, there’s no way to do so. Second, there’s nothing keeping your noise blocked in. This makes the Ring headphones a poor choice for quiet environments like offices.
If you need noise cancellation, Mu6 provides other options. The Mu6 Space 2 Headphones are a good example. They provide active noise cancellation to block out almost any outside noise. That said, they’re over-the-ear cans. They’re not suitable for physical activities, or for activities that require situational awareness.
As for call quality, the Mu6 Ring headphones perform very well. They utilize, copper, paperless voice coils, which pick up less interference from the environment. Under most conditions, the person on the other end won’t have any trouble hearing you. That said, keep in mind once again the open design. Other people in your vicinity will be able to hear both sides of your phone call. As a result, it’s a poor choice for carrying on private conversations, at least in public.
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As you can see, the Mu6 Ring Open Ear Air Conduction Bluetooth Headphones aren’t your average earbuds. Let’s start by acknowledging that this is a great concept, and that the physical design is well-executed. Any time we hear about something that clamps on your head, we’re automatically skeptical But Mu6 engineered a comfortable headband that won’t cause discomfort even during extended wear. Another thing we appreciated was the ability to pivot the speakers 120 degrees, and adjust the headband accordingly. This means that if you do start to get uncomfortable, you can switch your headphones to a different position.
We were somewhat less impressed with the battery life. Without a charging case, we’d have liked to get at least 10 hours between charges, preferably 12 or more. That said, it’s understandable with these speakers that the Ring draws a lot of power. The awkward controls were somewhat less forgivable. On the other hand, the audio quality is excellent, especially considering the unique design. You’ll actually be able to enjoy your music, even while you maintain awareness of your surroundings. If that’s what you need, the Mu6 Ring is a solid choice.