Mixcder X5: Budget All-Star

Greetings!

Not long ago 20 bucks wouldn’t get you far in the world of portable audio. Mediocre build quality, few accessories, and most importantly, terrible sound were the standard. You got what you paid for; not much.

Today’s landscape in the world of portable audio is a vastly different place. Instead of wading through a sea of waste and settling on the best of the worst, we are spoiled with quality options that would have been unthinkable just a short time ago; sub-20 dollar hybrids with removable cable, dual-dynamic drivers, impeccably built metal housings, cables and cases that feel like they sucked up the entire cost of the item you bought, custom-styled housings, and more. With a number of worthy purchases cropping up seemingly every week, it’s getting more and more challenging to sort the champs from the chumps.

Today’s earphone, the Mixcder X5, takes aims and shoots for the top echelon of budget earphones. Let’s check them out together, shall we?

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Denise at Mixcder for sending over a complimentary copy of the X5 for the purposes of this review. I am not receiving any financial compensation for these writings. The thoughts within do not represent Mixcder or any other entity, and are simply my thoughts and observations of the X5 after spending a week and many hours listening to them. Speaking of a week, this is less time than I prefer to spend reviewing a earphone. Should my thoughts and feelings change in the future as I continue to use and compare the X5 with other similarly priced earphones, I will be sure to update and adjust the review accordingly.

You can check out the X5 here on Mixcder.com; https://www.mixcder.com/mixcderr-x5-wired-eaphone.html

My Gear and I:

I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.

Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.

Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1, HTC One M1, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass, though lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. My favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.

Packaging and Accessories:

Mixcder’s ShareMe series of Bluetooth headphones always had the environment in mind with the design and construction of their packaging, This environmentally conscientious philosophy carries over to the X5. The compact cardboard packaging, 4 5/8″ x 2 3/4″ x 1 3/4″, is adorned with an eye-pleasingly retro design with a sky-blue and white color scheme that reminds me of something you would have found in the late 60s, early 70s.

Opening the package you’re greeted by an elongated hard clam-shell carrying case that’s a bit smaller than the one included on the ANC-G5, but still plenty spacious. A miniature carabiner is attached to a fabric loop on one end. The instruction manual is slotted in behind the case and outlines everything you would expect; mic controls, 1 year warranty info, etc. Inside the case you find a plethora of accessories.

– cable clip

– single flange silicone tips (s/l, medium pre-installed)

– one pair of dual-flange tips

– two pairs of stabilizing ear hooks (s/l)

The quality of the ear tips and ear hooks are quite good and while I did swap out the tips for something else, the included sets feel durable and seal well. For most I suspect there won’t be any need to replace them.

Overall the unboxing experience is very basic, but the included accessories are of good quality. The ear hooks are a nice bonus and quite welcome.

Design, Build, Comfort, and Isolation:

I’ve been quite impressed with Mixcder’s designs and build quality for the most part. The ShareMe 5 and Pro looked and felt nice in the hand with excellent ergonomics, with the same being said for their ANC-G5 noise canceling in-ear. The X5 carries on the tradition and is pretty impressive for a product in this sub-20 USD category.

The aluminum alloy housings are light and durable with good fit and finish, though the seams where the bottom face plate facing your ears could be more flush with the rest of the housing. The silver ring cut into the back can also be a bit sharp, but you have to really press your finger into it to notice; not something you would be doing in normal use.

The cable is outstanding with a flexible, noise, and memory resistant PU (polyurethane) sheath covering the wires twisted within. The inclusion of a chin cinch is nice, though it’s hard to slide along the cable as resistance is a touch high. I was very pleased to see that the cable retains the same gauge throughout the entire length instead of thinning above the y-split leading towards the housings. Strain relief is quite effective overall, but could be a touch longer at the y-split and in-line mic. This would improve it’s effectiveness in two areas that are often failure points.

I found the X5 exceptionally comfortable given the broad stature forced upon them by their large ~12.5 mm drivers. I was expecting them to be a shallow fit earphone due to the shape and past experience with the ANC-G5, but nope. They’ve got a fairly long nozzle stem at 7 mm which will help ensure an easy and consistent fit for most. The nozzle itself is 5 mm wide which means the X5 is compatible with a wide variety of aftermarket tips; handy if you lose the stock pairs or enjoy trying out different tips to maximize comfort and/or performance. Comply users will be happy to know that 400 series tips are nice and snug and in my experience, don’t affect the sound much beyond softening up the treble a touch. One thing to note is that the in-line control module is placed quite far up the cable putting it behind your ear if you choose to wear the X5 cable up. Not ideal.

The X5 is vented in two locations and as expected, the resulting isolation properties are pretty average. Not unexpected from a dynamic driver based earphone. They are fine for dulling the sounds of keyboards clacking in the background, voices, city noises, etc, but won’t be isolating you completely from your surroundings.

Overall the X5 is well-designed, put together with precision using quality materials, has comfort in the bag, and isolates decently well. No concerns here, except possibly the placement of the remote which makes cable up wear far from ideal.

Mic/Remote Performance:

The X5’s mic is excellent giving viewers a pretty accurate image of your voice without much background noise seeping in. You come across clear and detailed, though I found vocals a touch thick. Still, it was good enough to use while recording audio for a couple videos, and is one of the better in-line mics I’ve come across. This is a great mic for phone calls.

The single button remote works as expected, able to answer and end calls, start/stop and skip through music tracks, etc. The button depresses with an appealing tactile ‘snap’ that ensures there is no question about whether or not you pressed it.

Overall the inline controls and mic work pretty much flawlessly. It would be nice if it were a three button unit, but not necessary.

Sound:

Mixcder dialed in a fun, warm-ish, v-shaped signature with the X5. They’ve got some thunk in the trunk and good extension up top, thankfully without sacrificing mid-range clarity and presence. It’s the sort of sound that wows upon first listen, yet remains entertaining even once you’ve become accustomed to their presentation.

The X5’s treble is a touch on the dry side which takes the impact out of sparkly or shimmering effects. It’s also a bit grainy on anything but the cleanest of recordings. Detail retrieval and clarity are above average for a budget single dynamic, having no issues picking out and separating nuanced details in recordings.

These positive qualities continue through to the X5’s midrange which despite being slightly recessed is very crisp, though still with a touch of graininess. Ts and Ss occasionally lack definition and come across a bit harsh. I think that’s less the earphone and more the recording given it is inconsistent track to track. Separation is excellent, allowing vocals to stand out and play within their own distinct space. The X5’s presentation seems to favor male vocals and live instruments making listening to recordings from groups such as Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Soil, and others an absolute joy.

The X5’s low end isn’t lacking either, able to put out some solid rumble when asked. I truly appreciate that Mixcder didn’t dial in a huge mid-bass hump, giving it’s solid sub-bass extension equal billing. It’s also pretty quick with slightly faster than natural decay. Some extra linger on heavy bass hits would be welcome, made up for with a very textured and punchy sound.

A large and accurate soundstage isn’t in the cards, but I also never found the X5 claustrophobic. Sound has a very defined space to play within, with clear layering and imaging qualities and a noise free background. They do have a somewhat odd quality, however. As sound moves away from you, it always seems to shift down and back, petering out behind me at the further edge of my collarbone. As a result the X5’s soundstage comes across as an inverted v (^) in shape.

Overall the X5 is an entertaining and capable sounding earphone that would really benefit from a more natural soundstage presentation.

Earphone stand provided courtesy of AuralLife

Select Comparisons:

SoundPEATS B10 (11.99 USD): The B10 shares a v-shaped signature with the X5, but is warmer and smoother with more of a mid-bass hump that at times can be a bit invasive. The B10’s treble extension seems to flatten out earlier than on the X5 making it less fatiguing. Mid-range and treble clarity and detail are about on par, with the X5’s bass bringing a more dynamic and punchy presentation to the table.

Build and material quality on the X5 is leaps and bounds beyond what the B10 offers which is more in line with mainstream budget offerings like the Panasonic HJE-120. Comfort goes to the B10 as it weighs next to nothing and is notably smaller and more compact. I also prefer the included tips which are very similar to those that come with numerous JVC earphones.

FiiO F1 (14.99 USD): No question, I find the X5 a much better listen than the F1. Clarity and detail across the board is more impressive on Mixcder’s offering with the benefit of improved extension at either end. The F1 sounds quite veiled in direct comparison but benefits from a more natural soundstage presentation and prominent mid-range.

Build quality on the earpieces goes to the X5. Fit and finish is slightly better and the choice to go with aluminum gives them a more premium feel. As much as I like the style of cable selected for the X5, the F1’s amazing cable and control module would be quite at home on a much more expensive product. The F1 is slightly more comfortable.

Vodabang VD01 (15.99 USD): The X5 and VD01 are a solid sonic match. They are tonally quite similar with nearly the same tuning balance. The VD01 is the stronger performer in my opinion as they have a larger soundstage without the odd stage qualities of the X5, along with a more airy, tighter, and more sparkly treble presentation.

Build quality once again goes to the X5, without question. Except at the poorly constructed y-split which is two pieces of cheap feeling plastic glued together, the VD01 feels perfectly fine for the price. But, set it beside the X5 though and the cable comes across slightly rubbery and bouncy, microphonics are much more present, and strain relief is mediocre except at the excellent 90 degree angle jack. I definitely prefer the VD01’s design though as it very clearly takes inspiration from the Audio Technica CKW100ANV, one of the most organic and beautiful earphones out there in my opinion.

Mixcder ANC-G5 (59.99 USD): The ANC-G5 is brings great sound to a reasonably inexpensive and effective noise canceling earphone. The X5 certainly shares some basic traits with the G5, but I don’t think the G5 has anything to worry about. A) because they don’t even remotely compete with each other when looking at price, features, etc. but also B) because the G5 offers up superior sonic performance, and not by a small margin.

It’s much smoother and more refined with a cleaner treble presentation, tighter, punchier bass, and a similarly prominent but more refined mid-range. It’s soundstage is also notably more spacious and open, completely dwarfing the X5. The X5 simply sounds less refined when A/Bing the two. Given the significant price gap between them, I’d expect improved performance from the G5 and thankfully it doesn’t disappoint.

Once again, build goes to the X5. The all-metal housings are more cleanly constructed than the G5’s plastic/aluminum combo. The G5’s cloth cable is also subject to fraying, but both are similarly well-relieved. I personally prefer the G5’s built-in adjustable earhooks but they can’t be removed unlike the silicone add-ons for the X5. If you find the hooks on the G5 uncomfortable, you’re stuck with them.

Final Thoughts:

Five years from now I can see the X5 being referenced in a “What should I buy next?” help thread by someone who has been using it as their daily driver for the last five years, finally looking for a replacement. While only time will tell, I’m given the impression it is a product that will provide buyers many years of enjoyment before it eventually succumbs to the rigors of regular use.

It seems to do a lot right and very little wrong making it well worth your time if in the market for a good sounding, well-built earphone that’s not going to break the bank. They’re made from durable materials that are backed with good build quality. The cable, often a point of concern for budget products, is not only tough and durable in itself, but is properly relieved which will only extend it’s life further. The included accessories are all made from nice materials and perfectly functional. Nothing feels cheap (except maybe the cable clip) or like it was tossed in for the sake of increasing perceived value.

I do wish the X5 was a little smoother and more refined in the treble regions and to fit in better with my personal preferences, a touch warmer in the mid-range. Keeping in mind this is a sub-20 USD earphone, these are VERY minor concerns as their performance overall is above what many products at this price provide. Overall Mixcder has done a wonderful job with the X5.

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Test Tracks:

Aesop Rock – Saturn Missles

BT – The Antikythera Mechanism

The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes)

Daft Punk – Touch

Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)

Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey

Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed

Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma

Jessie J – Bang Bang

Kiesza – Hideaway

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black

Pink Floyd – Money

Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)

Skindred – Death to all Spies

Supertramp – Rudy

The Prodigy – Get Your Fight On

Witcher 2 Official Soundtrack

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