KEF launches its first wireless earbuds to rival the Apple AirPods Pro

kef wireless earbuds
(Image credit: KEF)

High-end audio manufacturer KEF has released its answer to the Apple AirPods Pro with its first true wireless earbuds

The KEF Mu3 earphones come with active noise cancellation, allowing you to listen to music relatively undisturbed by the sound of the world outside. There's also an ambient mode, which allows sound to pass through the buds at the touch of a button, letting you tap into your surroundings when necessary.

Inside the Mu3 are 8.2mm full-range dynamic drivers, which the brand says will deliver an "exceptionally dynamic and well balanced, coherent sound". Those are some lofty expectations to live up to, but if these buds sound anything like the KEF LS50 Wireless II stereo speakers that we recently reviewed, they'll blow the AirPods Pro out of the water.

The KEF Mu3 were designed by Ross Lovegrove, who lent his sculptural aesthetic to the Muon loudspeaker. Echoes of that artistic design are present in the new wireless earbuds, with their clean lines, smooth oval housings, and multi-function buttons that control music playback, volume, and calls.

Of course, looks are meaningless if a pair of true wireless earbuds are uncomfortable to wear – but with a choice of four differently-sized eartips included, you should be able to find a snug fit and a good seal for noise isolation with the Mu3.

The new buds also come with an IPX5 water resistance rating, which beats the AirPods Pro's IPX4 rating and means you can use them for working out without the worry that a little sweat or rain will break them.

Bluetooth 5 connectivity means the new earbuds should be easy to pair with your devices, and should hold a strong connection with no annoying dropouts or glaring latency issues. 

Where's the Hi-Res Audio support?

According to KEF, this is further enhanced by simultaneous transmission, in which both earphones receive a signal at the same time, rather than audio being sent to one earbud and then relayed to the other, which can introduce lag between the buds and your device.

Battery life comes in at 24 hours in total, with nine hours provided by the earbuds themselves, and a further 15 hours contained within the charging case. If you're in a hurry, a fast charging feature give you an hour of use from a five-minute charge, which is a common, yet helpful feature seen with many wireless earbuds.

Puzzlingly, there doesn't seem to be any support for Hi-Res Audio, with codec support limited to SBC and AAC. We would have thought that a company focused on audiophile loudspeakers would want to avoid only providing support for lossy codecs like these – especially when the noise-cancelling wireless earbuds market is so saturated with low-res models.

Without Hi-Res Audio support, the KEF Mu3 will have to sound very good indeed to compete in this saturated market – though, at $230 / £199 / AU$300, they're at least cheaper than the AirPods Pro, which could be enough to convince would-be Apple buyers.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.