Pros: The Smell (Chocolate) - The Design (Gorgeous) - The Sound (Breathtaking) - The Materials (Beryllium Is As Cool As It Sounds) - The Box (Simplicity)
Cons: Insignificant In Comparison = The Volume Controls (Do Not Yet Support iPhone And Are Located Too Low) - The Cord (A Tad Too Short And Not As Stylish)
However, all of these pleasant aspects fade away once you put the headphones in your ears, in sheer awe. I have had a troublesome history with in-ear headphones, but these do the trick really well, especially if I use the smallest ear-size included (which, together with a large size and one for conversations, are neatly tucked away beneath the silicone mold). I'm not going to try to describe the actual audio, any more than this - it is simply amazing. I was completely unaware of that in-ear headphones existed that had the capacity to produce this sort of audio. My switch to using the Pistons was both an easy and rewarding experience. I started picking up subtle new melodies that had never been there before in songs, and even set to "extreme" streaming quality, Spotify had trouble keeping up with the Pistons. What was a more disappointing experience was switching to a pair of Apple's EarPods (actually quite decent stock headphones). The EarPods have always managed very well in my opinion, and although they still produced an adequate audio-experience, they were complete devoid of any feeling. I would compare the experience to drinking your tea without any sugar - then suddenly switch to taking two sugars, and then switch back after a week. It goes without saying that my EarPods have been forced into early retirement following this disappointing episode.
The Xiaomi Pistons 2.0 are, however, not entirely without flaws. Even so, almost all of my complaints are nonetheless related to the cord. Although the play/pause button, housed in the cylindrical volume control hub, works very well with my iPhone (and all other commands for that button as well, like activating Siri/replay track/skip track), the actual volume controls themselves do not work. I'm hoping against hope that this will be fixed by Apple in an OTA update, but I recognise that this is unlikely. While on the subject of the volume control hub, it is not situated on the cord protruding out of the right headphone - it is instead positioned directly below where the two cords intersect and merge into a single one. This is not ergonomically ideal, and it allows for a number of awkward positions when you are trying to pause. Also, the cord is just a bit too short, about five centimeters shy of that ideal length that lets me wrap it around my iPhone when walking. Instead, now a few centimeters poke out of my pocket whenever I'm listening to my Pistons, and if I wrap the cord halfway around my iPhone, then I'm faced with having too short a cord. The cord is also probably the least flattering part of the headphones - composed of a brown mishmash of - tangle-free - nylon-strings (that actually work surprisingly well), it is not quite up to the same level of unchallenged design-supremacy that the rest of the headphones are. Also, the elegant gold-plated 3.5 mm plug is making me regret that I bought the SpaceGrey iPhone 5S, instead of the Gold iPhone 5S (which it compliments vary nicely, looking like the coolest stock headphones you have ever seen). Don't let this fool you, however. The Xiaomi Pistons 2.0 are almost unfeasibly good, and their drawbacks are nowhere near their pro.
I haven't talked about the price of these headphones, simply because it has nothing to do with the Pistons. I would easily buy these Pistons if they cost $50, and I would just as easily order a pair if they were sold for $100. These headphones are a bargain for anything less than three digits, and I cannot honestly understand why Xiaomi would sell them for as little as $25 (!). My advice to you is the - "Go. Buy. One. Now.", before Xiaomi bumps up the price. I think they are fairly comfortable, or, as comfortable as in-ear headphones get. Also, a nifty and unique attribute the Pistons have is their enticing scent. The smell is reminiscent of chocolate, with a hint of vanilla and just the tiniest bit of coconut. Take my word for it - the aroma is very appealing. So, in conclusion - the Xiaomi Pistons are incredible headphones, regardless of price. However, when you add all of the details, like the aggressive pricing, the beautiful design and the crisp, clear and vivid audio, together with the sturdy premium packaging and box, as well as the headphones being manufactured out of luxurious materials like beryllium (an elusive material that is extracted from precious gems and jewels, and which is actually harder to find than gold) - then the headphones really have no match, anywhere in the world.
A Box Fit For A Minimalistic King
The Xiaomi Pistons are delivered inside an almost unfathomably small box. The thin, rigid cardboard is of surprisingly high quality, and the clean exterior of the box has really grown on me since I saw it for the first time.
Xiaomi claims that the 15° chamfered edge on the back of the actual earphones improves ergonomics, and I can only agree. The circular, by Xiaomi patented, “CD-pattern” is a reoccurring theme on the headphones, and creates a nice “vibrating sensation” when you run your fingers across it.
All In Took Was Someone Thinking Inside The Box
The Xiaomi Pistons are delivered entirely without a manual. However, don’t be frightened by the Chinese letters that litter the box - all the instructions your could possibly need (and then some) are printed as large, educative images - on the inside of the firm cardboard -, that provide very little room for misinterpretation.
The instructions do everything from detailing which earphone is the right and left one, to explaining exactly how the Pistons can be winded up in the slick “silicone winder” included.
Style Is Timeless - So Are The MK301 Pistons
The Xiaomi Pistons 2.0 (MK301) are, without a doubt, truly beautiful headphones. From the cool industrial design - that incorporates a reoccurring pattern of precise grooves in the solid beryllium enclosure -, to the soft silicone earphone tips - these headphones have got it all.
Although the volume controls don't seem to be compatible with iPhones, they work fine together with Android phones. More importantly, however - the microphone works fine with all phones, and captures a very clear, crisp and realistic voice transmission.
A Mold With A Secret
The Xiaomi Pistons are securely fastened inside a silicone mold, which in turn is domed by a clear and elegant plastic lid. The mold is a great way to transport your Pistons in style. It also features a “secret compartment” underneath, where all the different sized stock earphone tops are stored.
Xiaomi claims that the silicone used both for the “winder” (the mold) and for the tips are akin to the softness of baby skin. The entire plastic box that contains the silicon mold is also, according to Xiaomi, modelled on “jewellery grade gift boxes”. The cord, which I still believe is made out of nylon, is by Xiaomi said to consist of kevlar.
The Best Is Saved For Last
The Xiaomi Pistons are remarkable headphones. You can only really appreciate their awesomeness by listening to them, but I have managed to decipher some information from Xiaomi’s Chinese website.
Xiaomi utilised new beryllium drivers in their MK301 Pistons, something which they claimed improved the bass-performance of the headphones, and improved the overall sound. Also, the cavity resonance was dramatically reduced which increased the audio-spectrum, boosting the performance of the headphones even further. The headphones also employ a dual dampening system, to provide a more balanced sound, along with sound chambers precision machined by diamond tools.