The headphone jack is dead as far as Apple is concerned, and if a new USB Type-C standard is widely embraced, Android phones may go the same way. While there will be adapters made to accommodate the use of wired headphones, some of you might be seeking out a wire-free solution. Apple’s AirPods are a bit pricey, but the Rowkin Mini Plus+ wire-free earbuds are a decent alternative.
The Rowkin Mini Plus+ earbuds are actually really well made and pretty darn robust for as small as they are. They feel like a mix of aluminum, plastics, and rubber. You’ll find the Bluetooth pairing/power button on both buds on the ends along with a nice Rowkin branding that’s really well done. The charging tube is made of aluminum and allows you to magnetically charge the earbuds by placing them in the ends of the tube. Overall the design is nice, it’s sleek and modern but also well built and sturdy.
Update: Rowkin contacted us to let us know the earbuds are made with stainless steel as the material maximizes the earbuds housing for sound quality.
Ease of Use
Pairing the Rowkin Mini Plus+ earbuds to your phone is pretty simple. Like any other Bluetooth product, you press the pair button and tap the product on your device’s Bluetooth menu. That part is pretty simple. Pairing the earbuds together is also a fairly simple process but you’ll have to identify the left (master) and right (slave) channel buds to do this correctly. You can also just pair one earbud to your phone should you want to use it for simple phone calls and not music.
Once you have them paired together and to your phone you’re ready to start rocking to your favorite tunes. When I first popped these into my ears I really enjoyed what I was hearing for the first 30 seconds. That’s when the signal kept dropping from the right earbud, constantly cutting out and frustrating me. I contacted the company about the issue and was advised to turn the right bud 180 degrees until the connection was back.
After I got them back in and started fiddling with the right earbud, turning it 180 degrees, I finally got a connection between the two. It took some fiddling and messing with it but eventually I got them to work together as a pair without dropping signal. While the solution worked, it is kind of inconvenient having to do this every time I use the earbuds. So keep that in mind, you’ll have to align these in your ears to achieve a proper Bluetooth connection between the two.
The reason for this is Bluetooth works by bouncing the signal off of things around you to reach the device it needs to reach. Apparently, your skull does an amazing job of blocking the Bluetooth signal from reaching around to the other side. So just keep in mind that these wire-free buds will require a bit of tweaking each time you use them. I am not sure how that compares to Apple AirPods as we’ve yet to use those.
The Rowkins also come with Siri voice command support, which is great for those who use her. You’ll also get multipoint connectivity, which allows you to pair to multiple devices. This means you could be connected to your iPod and Android phone, listening to music on the iPod, and then taking a call from your Android phone. The Rowkin’s are also sweatproof, water resistant, and IPX5 waterproof which means you should be good if you use them for running or exercise. While I don’t run or do a daily workout, I did test the fit on these and found that shaking my head vigorously did not cause them to fall out. I think these should stay in just fine without issue, and there are also different size eartips included.
Once you have things paired and aligned the sound quality is amazing. I was really impressed by the sound these small earbuds were producing over Bluetooth 4.1. Of course, we know that wired headphones sound better by miles but for what these are, the sound was really great. The mids and highs were just about right and the bass was slightly favored, I like a little more bass but not too much. Overall I think the sound is balanced enough but there is that slight bass tweak going on. There is a very small amount of latency when watching a video but it’s not that noticeable or unacceptable (I’m probably just too anal). As we mentioned above, if you do not have the Rowkin Mini Plus+ earbuds aligned properly you will experience one of the channels drop signal. To get the best sound experience I recommend getting these aligned before you get too far. Overall the sound quality is really great for $110 and the fact that these are wire-free.
Calls were pretty clear and very acceptable though I did have some trouble with people understanding me as I spoke. I don’t use earbuds or headphones to take phone calls but I do understand that does matter to some.
The Rowkins comes with a portable battery charger that supplies an extra 4-6 hours of juice for your earbuds. The advertised battery on a single charge is 3 hours of talk time and 2 hours of music playback. I didn’t do much talking but I can say that I got on average about 2.25 hours of music playback. That will depend on your volume as well, mine were set about 60-65% volume. Battery life isn’t the best but for the size, we probably shouldn’t expect monster sizes of battery life. The included charger is convenient and portable and it charges the earbuds fairly quickly, so that’s good to have.
At an MSRP of
$59.99USD, ($109USD for the pair) these earbuds aren’t a bad deal considering Apple’s offering is costs more. We haven’t tested Apple’s offering though so we can’t compare them as far a sound, ease of use, and all that jazz. But if you’re willing to take a chance with $110 these might do you.
*Earlier we quoted the price to be $59.99 for these earbuds, they are actually $109 for the pair and $59.99 for one. We have updated the links below and adjusted the price/value score.
The Rowkins aren’t perfect but if you’re on a wire-free earbud search the Rowkin Mini Plus+ earbuds might be a stop you’re willing to make. I suspect that wire-free technology still has some growing pains to get through in order to be the best they can be, but I’m confident companies will find a way to grow the tech beyond its current point.