Gaming Review: Mpow Air SE Gaming Headphones – Quality at an Affordable Price

A full look of the MPOW Air SE
A full look of the MPOW Air SE

With their price-to-performance ratio, the MPOW Air SE will exceed your expectations. No doubt these gaming headphones deliver more than what they’re worth.

We bought the MPOW Air SE ourselves for the purpose of this review.

Buying gaming headphones doesn’t need to burn a hole in your pocket, and the MPOW Air SE is good proof of that.

Since its release in 2020, the MPOW Air SE has garnered thousands of positive reviews from the public, particularly regarding its price-to-performance ratio.

This didn’t surprise me, though! Since these headphones are marketed as containing all the necessary features to make up a quality pair of gaming headphones, for less than $50, who wouldn’t say they are a steal?

That’s why I’ve been quite curious about how these gaming headphones actually stand against their competition. Are they really something worth considering? Or should you save up a bit more for more advanced ones?

Read on for a full gaming review!

A full look of the MPOW Air SE
Bottom Line

The MPOW Air SE gives you exactly what you fundamentally need to enjoy playing games. They are steady, durable, and immensely comfortable. Plus, they're aesthetically pleasing and deliver excellent audio quality for a budget headset. However, they’re not flashy and don’t come with any remarkable add-ons. They also can do better in their surround sound capability.

What We Like
  • Good value-for-money
  • Made from materials that are built-to-last
  • Easy-to-access in-line audio controls
  • Comfortable to use
  • Decent audio quality in terms of both input and output
  • Fully rotatable microphone
  • Compatible with most major gaming platforms
What We Don't Like
  • Surround sound feature is lacking in some areas
  • Earpads heat up quickly
  • Long cable is not actually tangle-free
  • No RGB LED lights
  • No additional features

Company Overview

Founded in 2013 in Santa Clara, California, MPOW is a new brand that has found its stable footing in the headphones market today. So much so, that within a year after its launch, the company expanded to 30 regions and garnered 30 million dollars in sales every month. And have since generated 1.2 million dollars in revenue per employee.

For two years in a row, Amazon awarded Mpow with the ‘Best Seller’ prize in the European region. They also received theRed Dot Design Award in 2017 and again in 2019.

MPOW lived through its vision to improve the quality of life of people who dream big, work hard, and play hard. Because of that, they are quick to establish their headphones as budget-friendly alternatives for different headphone niches like noise cancellation, hearing protection, casual music listening, office, and, of course, gaming.

To date, they have supplied over 12 million pairs of headphones and served 10 million customers.  

Technical Specifications:

  • Form: Over-ear, Closed-back
  • Drivers: Dual 50mm high-density neodymium drivers
  • Impedance (Ohm): 32Ohms
  • Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Maximum Input: 50mW
  • Speaker Sensitivity: 103± 3dB
  • Mic Dimension: Ø6.0×2.7mm
  • Mic Sensitivity: -38±3dB
  • Mic Impedance: 2.2KΩ±15%
  • Ear Pads: Memory foam
  • Source Plug: 3.5mm TRRS
  • Removable Cable: No
  • Cable Length: 7.2 ft.
  • Weight: 460g
  • Compatibility: Playstation 4, Playstation 4 Pro/Slim, Xbox One, Xbox One S/X controller, Nintendo Switch/3DS, PSP, Tablet, Mac, iPad, Laptop, PC, Mobile Phones

Packaging

The headset comes in a lightweight box made of cardboard with a matte finish. Its size is compact enough to fit into tight space, though it is prone to creases and smudges. The layout is clean, straightforward, and highlighted with blocks of white text.

Each side is chock full of information, displayed in a manner that is not overwhelming to the viewer. Everything you need to know about this pair of headphones can be found right on the box.

MPOW Air SE Packaging
MPOW Air SE Packaging

There’s nothing too significant about the box, though. They kept it simple with the color scheme, so the amount of details laid out against it seems to come off as sort of a juxtaposition.

However, I appreciate the thought that went behind positioning all the different elements together. Nothing about the design is too lavish or showy, but it doesn’t come off as poorly done either.

Additionally, it didn’t make much sound when I rattled it a bit, so I assume that everything inside was able to stay perfectly still and intact.

Taking out the contents didn’t take up much time either. The box has an easy-to-open tab on top, and the items are neatly packed inside. The headset, of course, took up the most space and came enclosed in bubble wrap.

I think this is actually a unique packaging choice, as I’ve seen most headphones come in die-cut cardboard boxes. But the bubble wrap serves as a reminder that this is just a budget pair of headphones and can’t really compare to the neat and chic packaging higher-end pairs have.

Moreover, two small, resealable plastic baggies contain the rest of the items. One holds the user manual and warranty card. And the other has the Y-splitter jack add-on and the microphone’s foam cover.

Everything about the packaging is minimal and straightforward. There is nothing flashy, confusing, or unnecessary to be found in it.

Inside Mpow Air SE's box
Inside Mpow Air SE’s box

In the box

  • MPOW Air SE Gaming Headphones x1
  • Y-cable splitter cord x1
  • Microphone windscreen filter x1
  • User manual

Design

Mpow Air SE sample colors (From: Amazon)
Mpow Air SE sample colors (From: Amazon)
There are three available colorways in which the MPOW Air SE comes in. In all versions, black remains prominent. It’s the accent color that varies from red, blue, and silver.

I received the version with the black and red color palette. Since only two colors take up the appearance of this model, it creates a clean and chic design scheme. Granted, they lack the RGB LED lights that are often found on flashier gaming headphones, but, given their price, this really isn’t surprising.

A close view of the backplates
A close view of the backplates

Black is the prominent tone here. The aluminum backplates come in a smooth black finish, topped off with the MPOW logo in a toned-down shade of red. The earcups are also black, made from protein leather and plush memory foam.

The red steel sliders have small indents that help you adjust the height. They connect the earpads to the headband, along with a pair of red wires at the back.

One thing that makes the Air SE stand out, though, is the red stitches that hold together the thick black leather and cushion padding. It gives it a more distinct look and serves as a highlight.

Red stiches on headband
Red stiches on headband

I wouldn’t say there’s anything too unique about the design. They look like your typical run-of-the-mill pair of gaming headphones, save for the lack of flashing RGB lights or additional controls.
 
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I actually quite like how minimalistic everything about them are. But if you’re looking for something that stands out in a crowd, the MPOW Air SE aren’t it.

Cable

The use of the word ‘Air’ in this headset’s name could be misleading to some, as it seems to imply a wireless feature. Obviously, this is not the case, as the MPOW Air SE comes with a cable made with thick and braided black nylon.

With a length of 7 feet, the cord will have a tendency to get snagged on objects. It is supposedly tangle-free, but over a few days of use, I experienced a few instances of the wire getting caught on itself. However, its nylon material is durable, as well as heat and weather-resistant.

Gamers who move around a lot will appreciate the length of the cord. However, it could be bothersome to use with portable consoles, like the Nintendo Switch or the PSP Vita. I could see myself constantly needing to move it out of the way.

The thick and braided 7.2 ft. long nylon cord
The thick and braided 7.2 ft. long nylon cord

The in-line audio control is a small and simple setup. On the top is a one-key mute button, then a rolling switch on the side for adjusting the volume. Both the mute and volume options come labeled with red icons to indicate which end is which.

This simple accessibility is a treat for any avid player that often fiddles with the sound and mute options.

Connectivity

This headset also comes with a Y cord that acts as the splitter for both the microphone and the headphones.

Free Y cord
Free Y cord
The MPOW Air SE is made to be compatible with all major gaming devices. The 3.5mm jack makes it incredibly versatile, as it can be used in a PC or Mac, and PS4 consoles, Xbox Controllers, Nintendo Switch, and other mobile devices.

Build Quality

The MPOW Air SE are bulky in structure and have a bit of weight to them. But these factors are understandable considering the materials they’re made from. Despite the relatively low price point, the manufacturers still built these headphones to last.

The metal sliders are plain and simple, but they’re durable. Enough that they won’t bend or break from overextension. Even the earpads feel thick and solid and contain leather padding meant to withstand constant use.

The earcups are coated with anodized aluminum, making them resistant to corrosion. This also supposedly makes them less liable to scratch or fade.

Thanks to the dustproof and dampproof cotton foam, the cardioid microphone looks like it’ll last long as well. There’s no need to worry about breaking the microphone from repeated turning either. It is entirely flexible, rotatable and is unlikely to be victim to damage.

Fully adjustable microphone that can rotate 360 degrees, shown without its cotton foam cover
Fully adjustable microphone that can rotate 360 degrees, shown without its cotton foam cover

However, it is far too easy to mistake the microphone for a detachable one. This is what happened in my case. I confused my pair with one of the other available versions of the MPOW Air SE with a removable microphone.

I had already tinkered with it a bit before realizing my mistake. Fortunately, no damage was done either externally or internally. It still worked perfectly fine upon the first try. This may serve as a testament to how durable this headset is.

Comfort

A close look at the red stitches on the headband
A close look at the red stitches on the headband

MPOW designed this headset with comfort in mind – and they did not disappoint.

The padding on the headband is quite bulky. Still, the headphones did not feel heavy to wear, even after long hours of use. Since they’re meant to bend to the shape of the wearer’s head, they can feel a little snug when at the lowest height. But the soft padding prevents them from being uncomfortable.

You can use the adjustable sliders to ensure that the headset stays in place. This is useful in instances of fidgeting or sudden movements. They’re not only tailored for comfort, but also for an optimized gaming experience.

Moreover, the ear cup pads feel incredibly soft, covering the entirety of my ears. They come in protein leather, intended to dissipate heat and prevent sweating. However, upon further testing, I found that they did not reach my expectations.

Mpow Air SE Earpads
Mpow Air SE Earpads

Not long after putting them on, they already started to feel warm. And after an hour or so, I was sweating. Keep in mind; this took place while I was sitting in an air-conditioned room. This is bound to bring discomfort for anyone. And I imagine that in warmer settings, it would be even more unpleasant.

While using the microphone in-game, its distance was far enough from my face that it never felt like it was in the way. And because it’s rotatable in all directions, it was easy to keep out of sight when I didn’t need it. This eliminated the fear that it would get caught in my hair or hit my face while playing.

Sound Quality

The MPOW Air SE sports 50mm neodymium drivers, which is an outstanding feature for a pair of gaming headphones at this kind of lower price range, as most headphone drivers normally start at 20mm. Despite being bigger in size, the drivers are light and do not need much power to produce quality sound output.

But though the audio quality does fare decently, it’s not anything too remarkable. This is where the aspect of the price difference comes in. It falls short compared to gaming headphones that feature more expensive features, such as 7.1 Surround Sound.

This headset only makes use of stereo surround sound, which has fewer channels compared to the 7.1 surround. They lack discrete channels for the front left and right, surround left and right, center channel, subwoofer, and side left and right.

Multi-channel surround sound is what’s missing from the MPOW Air SE to make them a truly immersive gaming experience. Without true surround, players won’t be able to locate sounds coming from all directions accurately.

However, the stereo surround does what it can to imitate the workings of 7.1 Surround, albeit by using only two channels. The MPOW Air SE uses the two internal speakers to simulate the 7.1 Surround Sound effect. But they are only able to produce the same volume level, just at different timings, so it won’t exactly be as helpful as more advanced systems.

Apex Legends in-game
Apex Legends in-game

Even so, they still do their job as a gaming headset. I tried them out with Apex Legends, and I could hear enemies’ footsteps, the gunshots sounded realistic, and environmental cues were easy to pick up.

The earpads don’t offer much in terms of sound isolation, though, so don’t expect them to trap the lows nor keep loud noises from your room away. However, it’s enough to prevent most of the audio from spilling into a quiet room.

Even without any enhancement, the bass isn’t by any means lackluster, but it’s not as thick as you’d like it to be in-game. It’s also not too thin, though, and still manages to pack a punch every time you hear gunfire or any sort of explosion.

I tested them out with Star Wars Battlefront 2, and they satisfyingly gave me a sense of depth every time I heard a blaster from a Stormtrooper.

It’s just not as boomy as I personally prefer for immersive gameplay.

Star Wars Battlefront in-game
Star Wars Battlefront in-game

Meanwhile, the mids are clear, crisp, and defined. The voices of characters in-game are distinguishable enough so that I could hear them from a distance and from different enemy points, too. Naturally, this is terrific for giving players a competitive advantage game-wise.

The treble is also fantastic. This is where, in my opinion, the MPOW Air SE’s sound quality truly shines. It doesn’t blow out the bass – in fact, it’s airy enough to balance it. This means that higher frequencies, when they show up, won’t hurt your ears.

This will prove especially useful for those with sensitive hearing. Even with the volume turned up, they are completely tolerable.

I found the MPOW Air SE to be a great choice of headphones to use for playing Star Wars Battlefront 2. Their sound quality can be fully appreciated when used in open world Battle Royale type of games. Examples of these include Apex Legends and Call of Duty: Warzone. They might even be interesting to use in a single-player game such as Metal Gear Solid.

But again, the basic stereo two-channel surround sound feature might be a dealbreaker for gamers who rely highly on sound alone to detect and track their opponents’ footsteps. The limited nature of the MPOW Air SE’s surround sound might end up disguising these sounds as something else, like an item drop or a distant gunfire.

While I did not experience this, it would, of course, be very frustrating as a player. Distinct audio localization is a very critical point if you’re playing a game like Apex Legends and trying to retrieve your teammates’ banner or attempting to hide from the enemies, as you need to listen very closely to not get caught.

Microphone Quality

Mpow Air SE Microphone
Mpow Air SE Microphone

There’s not much to cover about the microphone because, to sum up, it is simply terrific.

It doesn’t pick up any background noise and it works perfectly in voice chat while gaming. My teammates even raved about how clear I sounded. So far, I have not had any experiences in which my microphone’s output crackled or cut out.

The quality that MPOW gave in this area is quite impressive.

Here’s a short recording of what I sound like on the microphone in a completely silent room, vs. what I sound like with noise in the background:

As you can notice, the microphone is sensitive enough that it’s still able to pick up some ambient noise. Of course, it’s not like the MPOW Air SE comes with an active noise cancelling feature, so this isn’t too surprising. Yet, my voice still came out completely clear anyhow.

Comparisons

It’s no secret that the MPOW Air SE are extremely reminiscent of a popular, more expensive pair of gaming headphones: the HyperX Cloud II. Upon further inspection, this notion turns out to be even more accurate than one would expect.

Side-by-side comparison of HyperX Cloud II and Mpow Air SE
Side-by-side comparison of HyperX Cloud II and Mpow Air SE

Right off the bat, it’s plain to see that they are strikingly similar in terms of aesthetics.

The two-toned color scheme of red and black is common in many gaming headsets. But the placement of said colors on both the MPOW Air SE and the HyperX Cloud II are completely the same. Though there is one thing that sets the two apart in this aspect: the HyperX Cloud II’s logo that jumps out in bright red against the shiny black backplates.

The MPOW Air SE also contains materials that the HyperX Cloud II uses as well. They both have steel sliders with small indents, earpads lined with memory foam, and red stitches on the headband.

But that ends the similarities of MPOW Air SE and HyperX Cloud II.

For example, the HyperX Cloud II includes a hanging USB dongle that serves doubly as a sound card and cord extension. Its audio controls are also a tad more complicated as compared to the MPOW Air SE’s. The HyperX’s microphone is also fully removable, though this feature can also be found in different versions of the Air SE.

Furthermore, the HyperX Cloud II has a notable 7.1 Surround Sound feature.

Long story short, the MPOW Air SE may look like HyperX Cloud II, but they lack the more exclusive features that you can find in higher-end pairs of gaming headphones. As impressive as the Air SE are at their price, they fall a little flat when you consider that the HyperX II has an active noise cancelling feature, water and sweat resistance, and enhanced sound quality thanks to a USB sound card.

Where to Buy

Conclusion

Gamers who are in the market for a decent pair of headphones that won’t break the bank will find promise in the MPOW Air SE. They’re not flashy by any means, and they don’t come with any remarkable add-ons, but they shine in their own way. Especially amidst a plethora of extremely competitive gaming headset options in the industry.

Their stereo surround sound isn’t exactly the key to achieving a completely immersive and realistic gaming experience. But it comes close. For a pair at this price, the sound is quite remarkable. Other lower price options don’t usually shell out for the same type of quality that MPOW did for these gaming headphones.

Plus, I can’t complain about the microphone at all.

The MPOW Air SE is concrete proof that cheaper doesn’t always equate to bad quality.

The MPOW Air SE gives you exactly what you fundamentally need to enjoy playing games. They are steady, durable, and immensely comfortable. Plus, they’re aesthetically pleasing and deliver excellent audio quality for a two channel headset. They are even compatible with most major gaming platforms. This makes the MPOW Air SE perfect for anyone looking for convenience and versatility.

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