Budget-friendly options don't always have to be overly compromising, and that's the case with Monoprice's BT-600 ANC headphones and truly wireless earphones.
Monoprice is known for making quality electronics at low prices, and these headphones and earphones are no exception. As a result, customers looking for good sound and comfortable listening don't need to pay 3 to 5 times as much to get a decent experience.
Both the headphones and true wireless earphones offer great functionality and okay sound for the price point. But, of course, those who want the Apple-specific features have to pay Apple prices for AirPods. Still, anyone who wants an easy and comfortable audio experience can settle with these Monoprice devices.
True Wireless Earphones by Monoprice
The Monoprice TWE-ANC (Truly Wireless Earphones - Active Noise Cancelling) earphones may not have a catchy noun name like Apple's AirPods, but it does what it says on the box. You get a wireless charging case and two wireless earbuds for a fifth of the price of AirPods Pro.
Both the Monoprice earphones and AirPods Pro have a wireless charging case, 6 hours of battery life, and single-ear operation. The Monoprice earphones case charges via USB-C while the AirPods Pro case charges via Lightning.
The TWE-ANC can match many of the features offered by Apple's $250 AirPods Pro on paper. However, the experience of using these earphones is quite different due to their wireless capabilities, software, and sound quality.
Those paying $50 for a set of wireless earbuds shouldn't expect exceptional sound. However, we believe that the audio quality is comparable to other headphones of this price point, and the fit is fine with multiple ear tip options.
The drivers in the Monoprice earphones are not going to blow you away by any stretch. We believe the audio to be slightly tinny, lacking depth, with a sound that drowns mids and lows out with an overproduced high-range.
Bass can get punchy on some modern songs, but that is the only good audio component with these earphones. You certainly get what you pay for with the Monoprice earphones, but that isn't a bad thing.
Using the Monoprice earphones
You can listen to audio with only one earphone in or both, but taking the earphone out of your ear doesn't pause playback. The earphones go into single earphone mode when one is placed back in the case.
The earphones are controlled via gestures.
- Single tap - volume up/volume down for right/left ear
- Double tap - play/pause for either ear 2-second hold on left ear - Siri
- 2-second hold on right ear - toggle ANC
The ANC mode, or Active Noise Cancelling, works at the most basic level of the technology. You'll be able to hear room noise with ANC on, just slightly less than before.
We found it incredibly difficult to tell that ANC is switched on. The seal from the ear tips provides more sound isolation than whatever the ANC mode seems to be doing. You'd benefit from not using ANC at all and take advantage of the extended battery life.
During use, the earphones never failed to connect and didn't lag. In addition, the audio was always in sync and never dropped out on one of the earbuds.
We found the experience of using the Monoprice earphones comparable to Apple's AirPods, minus the added Apple magic. If Apple made a $50 set of AirPods, we believe these wouldn't be far off from what Apple produced.
- Bluetooth 5
- 10 mm drivers
- 6 hour playback time
- 24 hour charging case
- USB-C quick charging
- IPx4 sweat resistance
The Monoprice BT-600 ANC headphones are typical over-the-ear headphones with foam padding and plastic casing. They fold up into a compact shape for easy storage in the travel case.
There is nothing remarkable about the Monoprice BT-600 ANC headphones beyond the low $100 price, which seems to be the point. We found that listening to music was an enjoyable experience, and the audio quality was adequate given the size of the headphones.
Apple doesn't offer budget-friendly over-the-ear headphones, so there is nothing to compare against within the price range of the BT-600. The Beats by Dre lineup has some offerings with a similar price but still lacks a directly comparable product.
As with the Monoprice TWE-ANC earphones, the BT-600 ANC headphones are 1/5 the price of Apple's similar offering — the AirPods Max. So while a $100 headphone could never compete with design or sound, it does offer a good experience given the price.
The audio in the headphones is clear and crisp. There seems to be a focus on mids and lows with these 40 mm drivers.
Vocals come in clearly, but a loud guitar or drum can quickly overwhelm the vocalist. We found the audio quality to be in line with a headphone of this price range.
Using the BT-600 ANC headphones
Once the BT-600 ANC headphones are paired, they will automatically connect to your iPhone when powered on. In addition, wearers can control various functions via physical buttons or a touchpad on the right ear cup.
There are multiple gestures available:
- Double tap to play/pause
- Swipe forward from the center to skip the track
- Swipe backward to skip to the previous track
- Swipe bottom to top to turn up the volume
- Swipe top to bottom to turn down the volume
- Press and hold to summon Siri
- Cover the ear cup with your palm to mute audio
The gesture controls are useful but not always intuitive. Thankfully, they are not easily triggered, so playback isn't interrupted every time you touch your head.
The ANC mode has two options: noise-canceling or ambient. The ANC mode provides adequate environmental noise canceling, though still not quite up to par with Apple's AirPods Pro.
The ambient noise mode allows some environmental audio to come into the headphones. This feature pipes in external audio to improve conversation quality while wearing the headphones.
We found that the BT-600 ANC headphones are easily worth the $100 price tag. The audio is decent for the price, and the extra functions like gestures are welcome overall.
- Bluetooth 5
- Qualcomm aptX HD audio
- 40 hours of playback time
- Included aux cable for wired use
Wireless and Software
We wanted to note that Apple's proprietary chipsets and software set the AirPods apart from basic Bluetooth headphones. As a result, everything from pairing, switching devices, controlling device functions, and keeping track of the devices will be better when using AirPods.
The pairing process for both the earphones and headphones works via the Bluetooth menu in Settings. Unfortunately, when you want to switch from an iPhone to an iPad, you have to start from scratch every time.
To switch the truly wireless earphones:
- Place them in the case
- Forget them on the iPhone
- hold the button on the case for three seconds with the lid open
- Pair them with the iPad
Switching the headphones between devices is much easier. The dedicated Bluetooth pairing button has to be held down for a moment to enter pairing mode, then select the headphones from the pairing menu in Settings.
Device functions like ANC cannot be controlled via the iPhone. Instead, users must change ANC modes using the controls on the earphones or headphones themselves.
The lack of Apple-specific functions is understandable given the proprietary nature of Apple's AirPods. We won't ding these Monoprice products for lacking the features but want to note the difference.
Should you buy the Monoprice headphones or earphones?
Anyone looking to replicate the AirPods experience without the price should consider the Monoprice TWE-ANC earphones. The comparable battery life and comfort of the earphones are reasons enough to buy.
While the TWE-ANC earphones lack amazing audio quality, it isn't bad for the price. We would like them better if the drivers didn't have such a tinny sound.
The BT-600 ANC headphones are a great option with middling sound quality. These headphones should be considered by any budget-conscious consumer looking for headphones to use in the office or on a commute.
These devices review well out of the box, but things could change with age and use. We will continue to monitor how these devices perform over time and update the review if anything noteworthy changes.
For example, we expect the low-priced nature of the headphones and earphones will mean lesser-quality batteries. While the battery life matches Apple's AirPods out-of-the-box, we expect the batteries may degrade at a much faster rate.
The Monoprice budget headphones and earphones aren't perfect, but they are a decent alternative to Apple's expensive AirPods lineup.
- Decent audio quality
- Low price
- Well-implemented gestures
- Comfortable for long wearing periods
- Clumsy device switching process
- Easy-to-damage plastic materials
Where To Buy
The TWE-ANC earphones are $49.99 on Monoprice's website.
The BT-600 ANC headphones are $99.99 on Monoprice's website.