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These $26 earbuds sound better than I expected, and I'm an audiophile

If you're looking for a great set of budget earbuds, the Baseus Bowie MA10 are far more impressive than the price would indicate.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Baseus Bowie MA10 earbuds.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

As an audiophile, I tend to shrug off most devices that are incapable of producing sound to meet my discerning taste. Yes, that can often preclude most cheaper devices (especially with earbuds that rarely can stand up to standard headphones or speakers). Because of that, I tend to give earbuds a bit of extra leeway. After all, it's unfair to compare earbuds to most full-sized (or even bookshelf) speakers or pro-quality headphones.

Also: These $26 earbuds sound great, and offer a stunning 140 hours of total runtime

Most often, when I receive earbuds to review, I reset my expectations such that just about anything can impress me. Even so, the earbuds need to sound considerably better than the headphones I used in the 80s. Fortunately, most buds are (at least) up to that task. But when a pair of sub-$30 earbuds lands on my desk, I'm inclined to think, "There's no way."

This time around, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Coming in at just $26, one would be inclined to assume the Baseus Bowie MA10 would sound more like a pair of tin cans strapped to your head. Trust me when I say that is not the case. Although these earbuds aren't going to blow away Apple AirPods or Pixel Buds Pro, they certainly do punch above their weight. 

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The specs

For those who like to view device specs, here they are.

  • -48 dB Active Noice Cancelling can automatically pick up and cancel 95% of ambient noise.
  • Built-in 4 ENS mics
  • 140 hour playtime and 1.5-hour fast charging
  • IPX6 waterproof, so they're resistant to sweat, water, and rain.
  • Multipoint connectivity via Bluetooth 5.3 so you can simultaneously connect to 2 devices and seamlessly switch between them.
  • 0.038s low latency.
  • 90-100 dB whistle noise.
  • Touch interface for start, stop, pause, and skip on both earbuds.

The one specification I was unable to locate was the frequency response.

The Bowie MA10 can be used in conjunction with an app that includes 10-level noise cancellation, 12 EQ modes, and a Find My Buds feature. The app is also the only means of upgrading the firmware on the earbuds. 

The Bowie MA10 earbuds include three different ear tips (S, M, L) to ensure a perfect fit for your ears. As well, they include a charging/carrying case.

How do they sound?

As I said, these earbuds sound much better than the price would imply. I've tested them with both classical music (VOCE8) and rock (Band-Maid) and found the Bowie MA10s were able to perform far better than I expected. The bass is tight (but not overwhelming), the treble is present (although not as crisp as I usually like it) and the midrange is nice and subtle. 

The default EQ is better suited to rock than classical, but even VOCES8 sounds as beautiful as they always do. I also put them through my usual test of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and came away smiling. When a pair of earbuds can pick up the complexity of Neil Peart's brilliant drumming, they always get a bit thumbs up from me.

Also: Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 is a great audio interface to help improve your podcast efforts

I would imagine the companion app would make it possible to get a bit more out of the highs but I'm not a fan of installing apps on my Android phone that I don't absolutely need (for security purposes). 

The only thing I did not do with the Baseus Bowie MA10 earbuds was take them for a run to test their waterproofing. The primary reason I didn't do that is every time I run with a pair of traditional earbuds, my ear canals get filled with sweat such that it impairs my hearing. This is why I always opt for bone-conducting headphones for exercising. The bone-conducting headphones do not offer nearly the sound that a traditional pair of earbuds can create, but not having to worry about sweat collecting in my ear canals is worth the sacrifice.

Even without testing them against my copious amounts of sweat during a run, I came away seriously impressed with the sound of these headphones. They may not have all the bells and whistles of more expensive models, but the Baseus Bowie MA10 earbuds, at less than $26, are good enough to fool anyone that you're using a far more expensive device.

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