Review: mTune-N Cordless Stereo Headset for iPod nano - Macenstein

Review: mTune-N Cordless Stereo Headset for iPod nano

Posted by Lab Rat

When Apple first unveiled the iPod nano last year, everyone here in the lab was blown away by just how tiny it was. I remember saying to Helper Monkey “Wow! That thing is small. I can’t wait to see what the 3rd parties do with that!�. I was speaking of course about the 3rd party iPod accessory manufacturers who had made a small mint in designing various add-ons for the nano’s full-sized brethren. Unfortunately, 6 months later, all we had really seen were smaller versions of the current “big iPod� accessories, such as cases, sports bands, FM tuners etc.

Well, the nano has finally come into its own in recent months, and Macally has been leading the way with a line of nano-specific accessories that are beginning to take advantage of the nano’s small size in BIG ways.

Fresh on the heels of our review of Macally’s IP-N111 portable speakers for the nano, we now present you with the mTune-N Cordless Stereo Headset for the nano.


Coming up with a set of decent cordless headphones for an iPod is the “holy Grail� for many iPod accessory makers, but to date most have gone the expensive and technologically complicated Bluetooth route to achieve wireless freedom. Thanks to the nano’s small form factor, Macally had the bright (and patent-pending) idea of simplifying the whole process and connecting the nano directly to the earphones.

Although the nano weighs next to nothing, integrating the diminutive music player into the headset still necessitated that Macally design the mTune-N as an over-the-head style of headphone, as standard earbuds would pop out with a nano dangling from them. Since the headset had to be bigger anyway, Macally decided to do it right and provided leather cup-style ear pads, which in addition to being comfortable, also serve to cancel out a great deal of room noise as well (although these are not marketed as true noise-canceling headphones). Still, the mTune-N is not bulky, and its largely plastic construction allows it to sit lightly on the head. I have a set of slightly larger (and significantly heavier) noise-canceling headphones, and their extra weight causes them to slide off the head when used during any out-door activity, such as mowing the lawn or exercising.

Made for travel

The mTune-N does not need batteries, and instead runs off the nano’s battery like standard earbuds. I did not notice that the mTune drained the battery significantly faster than Apple’s earbuds. This means the mTune would make an ideal choice for traveling since you will not have to remember to have an extra set of batteries on hand. Additionally, the mTune’s earcups fold in for travel purposes.

The mTune-N’s ear cups fold in to make it an ideal travel companion.

Another thing I like about the mTune-N is that, unlike the IP-N111 nano speakers, this time Macally designed an extra mini audio jack (cable included) into the mTune-N, so it will work with not only the nano, but with any iPod or portable device with a headphone jack.

Sound quality

The sound quality of the mTune is a significant improvement over Apple’s earbuds, due in large part to the noise-canceling effect of the padded ear cups. Bass response is good, although I found the volume to be slightly lower than I would have liked. Sure, you can crank it up to the point where it starts to get uncomfortable to listen to, but there isn’t much headroom for those of us who do not fear tinnitus. The volume is controlled via the nano’s click wheel, and the sound begins to distort a bit around 85-90%. However, the sound is very good in general, and the noise canceling means you don’t HAVE to crank these as loud as standard ear buds. Still, these $50 headphones do not sound quite as good as some similarly priced sets out there. You are paying a slight premium here for the ability to connect the nano to these headphones without the need for wires.

Going Wireless

Speaking of wireless, I really was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the freedom that comes with being wireless. The mTune worked great for doing yard work in particular. Many a time I have had my iPod in my pants’ pocket and bumped it with a rake or shovel handle, or accidentally gotten the chord hooked on something, causing the headphones to pop loose. The mTune is so light, at times I forgot it was even there. The only real downside to having the nano placed directly inside the mTune is you probably will have to take them off your head to do anything more than adjust volume or skip a song (unless you have memorized your iPod’s menu, which I haven’t).

While the mTune-N is built to be wireless, you can connect any device with a headphone jack via the included cable.

I initially thought the mTune looked a little weird, and thought I’d feel a bit self conscious having an iPod stuck to the side of my head, but I really didn’t. Right now the mTune-N only comes in black (there is a white model designed for the iPod shuffle) and luckily I have a black nano, so I think it blended in more with the mTune than would a white nano (something to keep in mind if you are a white nano owner). To a casual observer, they just appear to be a set of black headphones.


The only real criticism I have for the mTune involves the padded leather earcups. While I found them to be very comfortable and to provide a fair amount of sound isolation, I found that Macally did not add the extra hinge that many other headphones of this type have which allows for a larger range of motion when positioning the cups flat against the head. I have a freakishly-large head, so this wasn’t a big problem for me, but my wife noticed the difference on her more normal-sized head.


The mTune-N is a very well designed and good sounding set of headphones that, when combined with an iPod nano, allows for a wireless freedom that has to be experienced to be appreciated. The addition of a standard headphone jack makes it more versatile than Macally’s other nano-specific accessories, and the light weight makes it a pleasure to use during outdoor activity. There are better sounding headphones out there for the money, but none that come close to offering the mTune-N’s features. If you are a nano user with an active lifestlye, you owe it to yourself to give the mTune-N a test drive.

mTune-N Cordless Stereo Headset for iPod nano by Macally

Price: $49.99

Pros: Wireless nano integration, lightweight, comfortable padded earcups, extra mini jack allows for use with other devices.

Cons: Volume distorts a bit at higher volumes, only available in black

2 Responses to “Review: mTune-N Cordless Stereo Headset for iPod nano”
  1. rob says:

    >for those of us who do not fear tinnitus

    Then I wish you good luck with the Tinnitus when you actually contract it.

    I gave myself Tinnitus a year ago in the left ear. It’s a real laugh, I tell you. Yeah, really good fun. When ever I’m alone I even take a couple of minutes to make my environment really silent so I can enjoy the noise it without any distractions. God it makes me laugh. Ha! There’s nothing like a high-pitched squeal for the rest of your life to really make you proud of yourself for having been a naive pratt for listening to music too loud.

    Seriously: Grow up and be more responsible to your readers! If you listen to music too loud you WILL wreck your hearing. Believe me, you SHOULD be very wary of getting Tinnitus.

    I wasn’t ‘afraid’ of tinnitus either before I developed it at the grand-old-age of 34. But now that I have it I’m absolutely terrified of it getting any louder.

    I used to really enjoy loud music, especially while recording. I have had to cut music at a half-way-decent volume out of my life for good. Do you want to have to do this?

  2. MR. MXYZPTLK says:

    I thought that line sounded kind of sarcastic. I doubt they are pro-tinnitus.

    My thoughts on these are I wonder if you live in a city (which I do) if you are more at risk for someone swipping the iPod, or just grabbing the whole thing off your head? I guess if someone wants you iPod bad enough, they’ll find a way to get it, but it seems like having it out there for people to see might encourage people who are undecided as to whether or not they should rob you to sort of say “what the hell? it’s just sitting there!” Assuming they can outrun you.

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