When a brand like Kef hits the wireless headphone market, we listen. Faced with serious competitors from Apple, Bose, Jabra, Sennheiser and Sony, do the Mu3s have their place among the elite of wireless headphones?
Entering a market as competitive as that of wireless headphones when you are a prestigious audio brand like Kef is no easy task. There is no question of doing things by halves or of disappointing all those who will imagine that Kef headphones necessarily have exceptional audio quality. This is why we wanted to test the Mu3s for several weeks before delivering our verdict.
A unique design signed Ross Lovegrove
The first thing that jumps to eyes when we discover the Mu3 and their case, it is because they do not look like any existing model. Kef gave them an identity and a style unique by calling on industrial designer Ross Lovegrove. Known for his organic approach that draws its inspiration from nature, it is to him that we owe the incredible Kef Hi-Fi speakers. Muon to 150,000 euros. The Mu3 take the fluid design of the Muon and a faux finish aluminium Of the nicest effect. We immediately want to touch the case, which offers a touch as soft and sensual as its shapes suggest. The coating, which does not mark at all under the fingers, and a very well adjusted assembly perfectly create the illusion of metal while everything is only plastic. The opening of the case is also very satisfactory, the cover keeping any position given to it. It provides 15 hours of extra charge to the headphones and recharges itself via a cable USB-C.
The headphones have a fairly basic design, a bit in the shape of a bean, but without the slightest roughness. No fin or protruding part to come to wedge in the ear. The in-ear design is quite short and not very intrusive. A good point for comfort and to avoid the plug effect caused by some models. On the other hand, it is absolutely necessary to choose with care the pair of tips in silicone among the four supplied to achieve a sufficiently stable and airtight fit. The Mu3 easily find their place in the hollow of the ear with a small quarter turn. They are compact, relatively discreet and comfortable to wear for a long time. The curved button on their external face falls intuitively under the finger and facilitates access to the on-board controls. Can we use them for sports? In theory yes since they are classified IPX 5 and therefore resistant to splashes. But we tried to run with them and they weren’t holding up very well. Still, the maintenance will really depend on the morphology of each one.
All for the music
Kef promises a ” its pure and precise And we can say that the promise is kept. The Mu3 are clear and very balanced. We particularly appreciated the very tight position of the bass, which is never overwhelming while still offering enough depth. They are there when needed. The highs are crisp and the mids are precise.
Most audiophiles will appreciate this sense of balance that is not so common among high-end wireless headphones. A quality which gives a great versatility and a real listening comfort to the Mu3 which rank among the best models. We must push the volume around 60 to 70% for the Mu3 to give its full potential. Fans of jazz, rock and chiseled pop will love these headphones. The only downside is the absence of the AptX codec, which is far from prohibitive but which could be taken for granted given the price.
Kef has opted for a direct and super simple handling of the Mu3. We take them out of their case, we connect them to his smartphone in Bluetooth and let’s go. Noapplication to install, nor procedure calibration sound. Very appreciable efficiency. But, to keep it simple, Kef has unfortunately slipped towards an approach that leaves an impression of unfinished business. There is no port detection to interrupt and resume playback as soon as the headphones are removed and put back on. Also to absent subscribers, the multipoint connection which allows simultaneous connection to several devices (as do Jabra Elite 85t and 75t), which is convenient for using the headphones on your computer and being able to take a call on your smartphone.
Impossible to customize the operation of the control buttons, to manage the active noise reduction or even to touch the audio settings thanks to an equalizer. All this is not essential, but it is a possibility that should exist on headphones at 230 euros. We can bet that Kef will seek to fill some of these gaps with future software updates.
A shy noise reduction but an exemplary autonomy and connection
The Mu3 offer active noise reduction (RBA) and a mode transparency or “ambient” that is triggered from a pression quick button on the left earphone. RBA produces a certain attenuating effect, but it does not create a listening bubble as effective as that of QC Earbuds de Bose who are benchmarks in this area. The transparency mode is unnatural and we prefer to remove the headphones when someone is talking to us. A mixed impression that we find on the quality of hands-free calls, especially outside.
On the other hand, the Mu3 impressed us on two key points: the quality of their wireless connection and their autonomy. The Bluetooth range goes well beyond 10 meters if there are no obstacles between you and the phone. It is very appreciable when you are at home because you do not need to keep the mobile with you.
Kef announces nine hours of autonomy with the RBA and our use has often approached this figure. An impressive longevity which places the Mu3 at the top of the basket. The case offers an additional 15 hours of charging and can restore 1 hour of use in five minutes.
We can say that Kef has successfully entered the wireless earphone market with these Mu3s which do not just ape the competition with their singular style, their refined musicality and their exemplary autonomy. The manufacturer succeeded in the most difficult, which makes the functional shortcomings that we have pointed out all the more regrettable. Still, part of the reproaches that we address to Mu3 are likely to fly away if Kef chooses to correct the situation with updates.
If, for you, only the audio quality counts for listening to your music then the Mu3 will make you happy. If, on the other hand, you consider that headphones at 230 euros should offer a range of settings and features as well as powerful noise reduction, then you might want to look to an alternative like the Jabra Elite 85t.
- Audiophile quality
- Design orignal and comfortable
- Simple handling
- Reliable, long-range Bluetooth connection
We don’t like
- No adjustment possible
- Active noise reduction not present enough
- Improved phone call quality
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