KEF – a British audiophile brand known for its hi-fi loudspeakers has released its first true wireless earphones called simply the Mu3. Designed collaboratively by Ross Lovegrove, the Mu3 has features like anti-noise cancellation, IPX-protection and fast charging. But is that enough to stand out in the crowded world of true wireless earbuds?
In the box, you get a pair of Mu3 noise cancelling true wireless earphones, a charging case, a short USB-C charging cable and 4 sets of silicone ear tips (large, medium, small, short). The package content is pretty standard but is well packed into individual compartments of the box.
The Mu3 charging case is really compact and lightweight, with a unique flowing sculptural design you would expect from Ross Lovegrove (he also designed the company’s U$198,000 MUON speakers). It fits perfectly in your palm and has a glossy smooth finishing that is quite premium.
Connectivity-wise, the Mu3 charging case charges via a USB-C connector. It also supports fast charging where a 5-min charge gives you an hour long of usage.
Once you open the flip case, the Mu3 earbuds are held tightly in the charging case with magnets. The magnets are pretty strong which ensures that the earbuds stay in place even when the case moves around in your pants or bag while commuting.
The Mu3 earbuds are really tiny. It feels well made and have a nice weight to it that would hold nicely in the ears. I would think that this would also be a good fit for users who have a smaller ear carnal/lobe. It also comes with 4 sets of earbuds for you to find the perfect fit for your ears. I find that the medium sized buds that came with the Mu3 fits mine the best, therefore I didn’t even need to try the other spare buds.
Unlike the AirPods Pro, the KEF Mu3 doesn’t come with wear sensors – meaning the audio won’t stop if you remove the earbuds and neither will it resume when you place them back. There is also no accompanying app for you to tweak the audio and ANC/Ambient settings, perhaps also true to the company’s belief of delivering pure, accurate (uncoloured) sound. The buds (not the case) are also rated IPX5, which lets you gym and dance in the rain with a peace of mind.
Unlike most high-end (expensive) true wireless earphones in the market that comes with touch controls, the KEF Mu3 has a physical, tactile multi-function button on each side of the earbuds for controls. I was skeptical at how well this would work at first but after using it for a week, I find that the multi-function button works pretty well and accurately. You just need to press lightly on the earbud to activate the controls or press and hold on one side to adjust the volume. A tactile multi-function button might also be better for those who has sweaty palms and the earbuds register the command better. Kudos to KEF for getting the amount of force required right to trigger an action.
Most of the controls are also pretty straight-forward. Press once on the right to play music, long press on the right to increase the volume and short press on the left to toggle between ANC and Ambient mode.
Features (ANC/Ambient Mode/Voice Calls)
Like most flagship true wireless earphones, the KEF Mu3 comes with active-noise cancellation (ANC) to eliminate ambience noise and also ambient mode to let you hear your surrounding through your music. I find that turning on the ANC On doesn’t eliminate majority of the ambience noise whether you’re on the train or simple walking along the street. To be fair it does work, however the effect isn’t as significant as those you would experience on the Bose SoundSports, Sony WF-1000XM3 or even the Apple AirPods Pro. Ambient mode also only pick up the surround noise moderately. I would recommend just wearing the earbuds loosely in the ear to let in the surround noises instead if that’s your desired intention.
The KEF Mu3 also allows you to take calls from your connected devices. Call quality is average at best with my colleague telling me that I sound audible but “far away”. Above is a clip recorded in a quiet room connected to my iPhone 12.
Audio quality is where the KEF Mu3 really shines. The Mu3 has a 8.2mm full-range dynamic driver in each earbud that promises “rich midrange, detailed bass and crisp high tones”. It is definitely one of the best-sound true wireless earbud in the market. The highs were clear and bright, with balanced mids and punchy bass.
Listening to one of my favourite track of the moment – Driver’s License by Oliva Rodrigo, the KEF Mu3 captures the vocal perfectly, with an underlying controlled bass throughout the track. Even at the final chorus (2:30), where the mids and bass comes together, you can still clearly hear the separation of the both with no muddy effect. For as long as audio is concerned, the KEF Mu3 delivers clear, uncoloured audio like the hi-fi speakers they are so well known for.
There are many things to like about the KEF Mu3. It has an interesting design packed in a small form factor. It sounds great and the controls work as advertise. Pairing was also fuss-free and easy, even when switching between connected devices. I was slightly disappointed with the ANC on the Mu3 which could not match up with the likes of the Bose Sound Sport or Sony WF-1000XM3 at a similar price point but one shouldn’t buy the KEF Mu3 for the ANC. The Mu3 shines in its audio quality which lives up to the KEF audio heritage. But at U$249 (~S$335), there’s a lot of expectations and competition in this category of headphones which makes the Mu3 a little harder to stand out for what it is.