Every once in a while, a gadget turns up to remind you that you have paid too much for something else just a short while ago, before the competition heated up.
Certainly, the Xiaomi Pistons earphones make me feel that way, just like how the Chinese electronics company has recently impressed with its budget wonder, the Redmi smartphone.
Costing a mere RMB99 (S$20), the Pistons might even be dismissed as one of those throw-away pairs of earphones you get free with a smartphone or MP3 player.
But they don’t produce audio that is muffled, lack punch and clarity and, in short, a total waste of money.
The first hint of what the Pistons offer comes from the beryllium diaphragm that Xiaomi uses in them.
Hi-fi geeks might associate the significance of beryllium in speaker cones. It’s a material which offers four times the strength of steel and yet is the lightest of all alkaline metallic elements.
Simply put, beryllium allows an easier transmission of signals with a much better low bass and high treble performance.
When I tested the Pistons, that’s what I got. The earphones have good bass response coupled with good clarity in the high notes and a hint of good midtones support.
I put them through my litany of test tracks that included classical, pop and rock genres, and the Pistons just did their job superbly well.
I’d say the performance would be reserved for earphones that cost at least five times as much. Coming from a pair that only cost you a good meal at a cafe is astounding to say the least.
They are not perfect, of course, and I have a few small complaints. One of these is the three buttons on the earphones that seem to work well only with Xiaomi phones, and inconsistently on some other Android phones.
From my experience, the main play/pause button worked as expected but the other two buttons for controlling volume and tracks did not seem to work with a new HTC One and an Asus Padfone Infinity.
That said, I’m nitpicking here. This is an issue that may be a deal breaker if the earphones cost more but for the low price that Xiaomi is asking for the Pistons, you’d probably see the problem as a small glitch to be tolerated in exchange for a nice bargain.