Wireless headphones aren’t exactly our normal product review here at AndroidPCReviews.com. You can’t play your movies on them. They don’t run Android or Chrome. Actually, they don’t really run any OS. But, when one of the biggest Android TV box manufacturers brings out a new set of Bluetooth headphones, we pay attention.
In case you missed our previous article, MINIX announced a new set of wireless Bluetooth headphones this past week- the MINIX NT-II – and they were nice enough to send me a pair to review.
Why wireless headphones?
First, why should we care about wireless headphones?
Wireless headphones are a bit of a departure for MINIX, but the new NT-II isn’t their first pair. They actually replace the NT-I and offer similar performance. It still includes a 10 hour battery life, internal microphone and NFC support. But they also offer a whole host of new features like a new folding design, soft-shell case, and an integrated 3.5 mm jack just in case the battery runs out.
The design has also been subtly improved. Gone is the glossy black finish of the NT-I. In its place is a more modern looking matte black finish. The MINIX NT-II headphones come in only one color at the moment. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have any color as long as it’s black.
If you’re thinking about picking up a set of wireless headphones but don’t want to spend the equivalent of a car payment on a pair of Beats or Bose headphones, then the MINIX NT-II headphones might be a good option.
At $50, you can buy a pair of NT-II for yourself and three of your closest friends before you can buy a set of wired Beats headphones. But nobody buys those flashy headphones for sound, right?
Personally, I don’t care about using headphones as a fashion statement. If I want to accessorize, I’ll buy a watch. Headphones are about getting the best sound possible for your music without spending a fortune. Leave the pretentious style to the Apple fanboys.
Unboxing and first impressions
MINIX normally has really good looking packaging and even though this isn’t a minipc, this is no exception.
Inside the box, everything is tucked away inside the protective softshell case. The case looks similar to the carrying cases for Oakley or Maui Jim sunglasses. Open the case and you’ll find the headphones are neatly folded, taking up about as much space as a paperback book. There’s also a 3.5 mm headphone cable, a USB cable for power and a set of basic instructions.
The NT-II headphones are finished in a mixture of grey and black textured plastic that has an almost-rubbery feel. There are chromed plastic accents over each ear. This is a big improvement over the glossy stickers on the NT-I which some users thought made them look cheap.
On the over-the-head portion of the band there is a cushy padded bottom with just enough texture to it to help it stay in place. The band is both flexible and adjustable, and expanded nicely to fit my egg-shaped head. Overall, there’s 1.25″ of expansion on each side of the band.
The earphone-area is padded, much the same as you’ll find in many of the smaller studio monitor headphones. The fit over the ears was comfortable, if a little tight. I cam to appreciate that snug feeling later, but I’ll get to that during the testing section.
Maybe I’m getting older, but every time that a device is easy to set up, I’m impressed. To me, manuals should be some place you go to find out about the hidden features, or cool tricks – not to find out how to do basic functionality.
MINIX may be a tech company, but they understand how a user interface works. Getting the right control layout is essential for any wearable device – especially if you’re going to be pressing buttons without looking at them.
The controls on the MINIX NT-II are well laid out and simple. There’s a center multi-function power button with volume buttons above and below, and fast-forward and rewind buttons on either side. The micro-USB jack is on the bottom of one of the earpieces, along with two LED status lights.
All of my devices that I used the MINIX NT-II with are NFC compatible – my Nexus 5 smartphone and my Acer Chromebook, so setup was painless. In the Nexus 5’s case once I enabled Bluetooth, I put the headphones into pairing mode by pressing the power button for 6 seconds. The phone found the headphones and did the rest.
Get your App on
I tested a few different apps in order to try to get a feel for button compatibility. I wasn’t worried about the sound yet, but I wanted to make sure that the basic functionality would work no matter what app I tried.
I tested the NT-II with Google Play Music, Spotify and Audible, as well as playing some locally stored music on my phone. The buttons all worked perfectly, which didn’t really come as too much of a surprise to be honest.
What did surprise me was that I was able to use the integrated microphone to give voice commands to the “OK Google” launcher.
The reason why it surprised me was that the voice recognition can be a bit spotty, especially when I’m using my Jawbone Bluetooth headset. I’ve gotten used to having to repeat myself so that the app can pick up exactly what I’m saying.
There was only a couple of instances where I had to do this with the NT-II. I know, voice recognition should be perfect, especially with as much as I use it. But let’s try to live in the real world. For the voice quality to be that much of an improvement over a dedicated headset is pretty impressive to me.
But how does it sound?
Enough of this. We get headphones to listen to music, right? How do they sound?
Well, after I charged them for about two hours (faster than the three hours MINIX says it should take), I grabbed the NT-II and headed to the gym. I wanted to see how they would sound in a noisy environment and also how they would fit when I was running.
I tried to get a good mixture of songs that would test how different types of music would sound. Here’s my sample playlist:
- Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
- Avicii – Wake Me Up
- Prince – Little Red Corvette
- Let It Go – Idina Menzel (or Adele Dazeem, take your pick)
- Bon Jovi – You Give Love a Bad Name
- Ken Block – We Don’t Talk Anymore
- Kenny Chesney – Life on a Rock
- Matt Nathanson – Car Crash
- Fall Out Boy – Immortals
- Fort Minor – Remember the Name
- Star Wars – Imperial March (Rage Mix)
- Imagine Dragons – Warriors
For the most part, the MINIX NT-II sounded really good, although they have some challenges depending on the type of music you play.
The way these headphones are set up, they are geared towards pop, hip-hop, jazz and funk. Their strongest sounding songs were Bruno Mars and Prince. Both songs have good, strong basslines and clear guitars which played to the strengths of the NT-II. The snare drums and saxophones were crisp and provided a great contrast to the ultra-low bass.
Rock and country also sounded good, as long as there wasn’t too much distortion in the bass and mid-range. For example, Ken Block, Kenny Chesney and Matt Nathanson sounded great because there are a lot of different layers to those tracks. By contrast, Imagine Dragons sounded muddy, because of the type of distortion in the song. The Star Wars geek in me has to point out that the Imperial March sounded amazing. I’m not a musician, so I can’t tell you how one distortion effect differs from another, but the Rage mix sounded crisp and punchy.
The orchestral sound of Let It Go sounded great, almost like I could pick out every strike of the piano keys and pluck of the bass strings. Although it felt like the upper range of her voice didn’t quite have the power it should when played at low volumes. Like most headphones I’ve tried, there seems to be a volume “sweet spot” which resets the EQ levels and adds more “ooomph” to the high end.
Moral of the story: When in doubt…play loud. 🙂
All in all, the MINIX NT-II are a great sounding pair of wireless headphones. The fact that they’re a fraction of the cost of their closest competition makes them that much better.
Sure, they’re not right for every type of music, but any audiophile will tell you the same thing. If you like your music with deep bass, good clarity while still giving you a warm sound, then it’s hard to find a better bang for your buck than the MINIX NT-II headphones.