“Regardless of so-so ANC, their modern design and nice sound make for an interesting bundle.”

Lovely design

Comfy match

Unbelievable sound

Superb battery life

IPX5 water resistance

No app for EQ or management tweaks

No wi-fi charging

Mediocre ANC and transparency

Mediocre name high quality

KEF is among the most famous names in hi-fi, due to audio system which have impressed reviewers and lovers for years. The corporate’s wi-fi LS50 bookshelf audio system are a terrific instance of what occurs if you merge basic acoustic know-how with modern expertise. So it was with nice anticipation that I took supply of the corporate’s very first true wi-fi earbuds, the $230 KEF Mu3. With heavy competitors from Sony, Bose, Jabra, Sennheiser, and Grado, did KEF carry sufficient of its top-flight audio engineering to the Mu3? Let’s have a look …

What’s within the field?

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Inside KEF’s all-cardboard and simply recyclable field, you’ll discover the Mu3 inside their charging case, a USB-C charging cable, three additional sizes of silicone eartips (plus the default mediums put in on the earbuds), and quick-start documentation.

Design

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Let’s get one factor clear instantly: The KEF Mu3 are drop-dead attractive. Each the earbuds and their charging case seem like sculptures solid from extremely polished aluminum. They’re clean and glossy, and in case you depart the charging case in a extremely seen place like a espresso desk, desk, or kitchen counter, I assure individuals received’t have the ability to withstand selecting it up simply to really feel it.

For many who like getting misplaced within the particulars of their favourite tracks, the Mu3 are very happy to oblige.

The eye to element continues proper right down to the hinge mechanism. Most charging circumstances have flimsy lids that really feel like they may break in case you’re not cautious. When their magnets aren’t holding them within the closed place, they flop round worryingly. The Mu3’s lid feels luxurious by comparability, with a hinge that jogs my memory of a laptop computer display screen — it stays put in any place from all the best way open to totally closed.  With its aluminum-looking end, it’s mainly the MacBook Air of charging circumstances.

Sadly, the case can be form of cumbersome, so regardless of its sensuous curves, it’s not very pocketable. However that’s OK — KEF seems to have used a tricky clear outer layer on the plastic, and I believe it’s going to resist scratches attributable to different objects.

These earbuds even have a really acceptable IPX5 water-resistance score, which ought to shield them from something however precise immersion in water.

Consolation and controls

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The KEF Mu3 include 4 sizes of sentimental silicone eartips, which ought to imply that almost all of us will be capable to get an excellent seal. And right here’s some precious recommendation on that entrance: If you happen to really feel the necessity to cram the earbud deep into your ears (which is feasible given their small measurement), you’re in all probability utilizing the improper measurement of eartip.

They didn’t budge in any respect and have been very comfy even after a number of hours of steady use.

Pushing them in too deep is not going to solely trigger discomfort, however it additionally reduces each sound high quality and noise-canceling effectiveness. I found that the arduous approach. I additionally discovered that with the most important eartip, I used to be capable of gently insert the Mu3, they usually didn’t budge in any respect and have been very comfy even after a number of hours of steady use.

KEF has employed bodily buttons on the Mu3, and that’s undoubtedly an excellent factor. Contact controls will be finicky at one of the best of occasions, and I a lot desire actual buttons after they’re accessible.

These buttons are simple to press, however surprisingly, the correct button had a extra pronounced click on response to it than the left.

With a mix of single-, double-, and long-presses, you possibly can management the whole lot aside from skipping again a monitor. However there’s no option to customise these gestures by way of a smartphone app as a result of KEF hasn’t created one for the Mu3.

There aren’t any put on sensors both, so pulling out an earbud received’t robotically pause your tunes.

Sound high quality

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

The KEF Mu3 are pleasant to hearken to. Their vivid and clear highs, exact midtones, and expertly executed bass result in surprises with each new monitor you hearth up. There isn’t a hint of the muddiness that always hampers lesser earbuds. Throwing on instrumental jazz requirements like Dave Brubeck’s Summertime or Duke Ellington’s St. Louis Blues helps you recognize the sheer musicality of KEF’s tuning, to not point out the soundstage, which is so tightly managed that you simply really feel like you possibly can measure the space between devices right down to the inch.

For many who like getting misplaced within the particulars of their favourite tracks, the Mu3 are very happy to oblige.

After I first popped them in, I used to be dissatisfied with the bass, frightened that in an effort to attain that so-called “impartial” or balanced EQ, KEF had gone too conservative with the low finish. Seems I had merely wedged the earbuds too far into my ears.

As soon as I discovered my mistake, I found that not solely is there loads of bass on faucet however that the Mu3 are capable of deploy that bass selectively, hitting you with a deep resonance solely when it’s referred to as for.

The transparency (ambient sound) mode doesn’t let in as a lot sound as I’d like.

I believe the Mu3 are nearly good in relation to EQ, however listening experiences being the subjective issues that they’re, you must know that the dearth of an app means there’s no option to rebalance the sound signature if it’s to not your liking.

Noise cancellation and transparency

Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Energetic noise cancellation (ANC) has develop into an ordinary function of high-end true wi-fi earbuds, however there’s nonetheless fairly an enormous distinction by way of how every mannequin performs. The Mu3 ship a noticeable discount of low-frequency noises when ANC is engaged, however it’s a far cry from the cone-of-silence provided by the Apple AirPods Professional, Bose QuietComfort Ear Buds, and the Nuheara IQbuds2 Max.

Equally, the transparency (ambient sound) mode doesn’t let in as a lot sound as I’d like. Conversations are definitely simpler with it on, and also you do get higher situational consciousness, however it’s not that magical “hey, it’s like I’m not carrying earbuds” sensation that these different fashions ship.

With out an app, there’s no option to dial in both perform, and no option to change the ANC set off motion. A single press on the left earbud controls noise cancellation, however it forces you to toggle between three modes (ANC, off, and transparency) as an alternative of letting you swap between ANC and transparency that are actually the 2 most used modes.

Battery life

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KEF actually stunned me right here. Most true wi-fi earbuds — even actually costly ones — often clock in between 5 and 7 hours of battery life per cost. However the Mu3 ship 9 hours — and that’s with ANC turned on. That’s not the longest time by any means, however it doesn’t need to be. With one other 15 hours within the charging case, you get a full day of use earlier than needing to plug in with the USB-C charging twine.

Higher but, additionally they have a five-minute fast-charge system that offers you an additional hour of playtime. My solely actual disappointment is the dearth of a wi-fi charging choice. When KEF initially introduced the Mu3, wi-fi charging was among the many listed options, so this may increasingly come again in a future model.

Name high quality

I’ve observed a powerful correlation between a pair of earbuds’ ANC/transparency efficiency and their name high quality, and the Mu3 aren’t any exception. They wrestle a bit to maintain your voice from getting misplaced amid competing background noises, and there’s a raspy, skinny high quality to the sound that does get picked up.

They possible do significantly better when indoors, however exterior, the place lots of calls appear to occur on earbuds, the Mu3 ought to solely be used sparingly.

Our take

Although they lack among the options we’ve come to anticipate on true wi-fi earbuds at this value, the KEF Mu3 are fantastically crafted, sound wonderful, and have a beneficiant battery life.

Is there a greater various?

Nearly as good because the Mu3 are, you’ll discover extra options with comparable sound high quality and costs from these rivals:

The $230 Sony WF-1000XM3 have app-supported EQ, tunable ANC and transparency, longer whole battery life, higher name high quality, assist for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and customizable controls

The $230 Jabra Elite 85t have app-supported EQ, wi-fi charging, tunable ANC and transparency, customizable controls, a find-my-earbuds function, and higher name high quality, however they don’t sound fairly as crystal clear because the Mu3.

The $230 Grado GT220 sound similar to the Mu3 they usually cost wirelessly, however they don’t have ANC or transparency mode they usually’re significantly bulkier.

How lengthy will they final?

The KEF Mu3 seem like constructed very effectively with high quality supplies. KEF backs them with a two-year guarantee, which is best than many rivals. Whenever you add of their IPX5 score, I believe they’ll final for a few years if correctly cared for.

Do you have to purchase them?

Sure. The Mu3 ignore lots of bells and whistles, focusing as an alternative on stunning design, a cushty match, excellent sound, and nice battery life. However so long as you’re OK with this trade-off, they supply a terrific listening expertise.

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