The Pioneer SE-MJ532 are on-ear style headphones from the company’s ‘stylish outdoor’ range. At £40, it falls into the cheap headphones price bracket although the promises of 'rich, full-bodied sound' and an 'elegant, stylish design' doesn't entirely add up with our experience of them.
While we didn't expect Sennheiser Momentum-levels of style or build quality, we were certainly hoping for a bit more than this plastic love-in. From the headband to the frame, it all looks and feels very cheap. The reflective aluminium finish on the earcups stand out above everything else, but combined with the matte black plastic frame looks out-of-place and comes across a bit tacky.
These are no frills headphones, so there's no built-in controls, which means you'll still need to dip into the pocket to change the volume or skip tracks and there's a single cord moulded into the bottom of the left ear cup that's non-removable.
They are at least very light to wear and the earcups fold away into the frame to make them more compact to carry around when they are not hanging around the neck. Headphones like the AKG K451 (£50) and the Philips CitiScape Downtown are both in the same price range and stand as proof that you can marry good looks with the decent sound quality.
When you put them on, things don't really get much better. They sit securely on top of the head and the headband is nice and wide, but they're uncomfortable to wear for long periods. The plastic headband is in real need of some sort of padding and the urethane memory foam ear pads are small and not very accommodating. If you are hoping for pillow-like snugness, you are out of luck here.
The Pioneer SE-MJ532 headphones use 40mm drivers that's typical of headphones this size and the results are undeniably bassy and not as full-bodied as Pioneer so boldly claims.
There's some decent low-level detail while mids and treble have a pleasing presence but as soon as you crank things up the screeching bass is in full effect and things begin to get erratic. It overpowers everything else and in a really bad way that can make listening to music very uncomfortable.
Hooking them up to a laptop to watch some TV series and films on Netflix things don't really get much better. There's decent clarity for the dialogue in scenes but as soon as there's a soundtrack or any music present, the lack of warmth and power really shows.
As far as its commuter-friendly credentials, you don't have to hit the volume up too much to notice the leaking that will invariably share music to the fellow passengers. It does at least block ambient noise out at the expense of listening at reasonably loud volumes and experiencing the shoddy bass response.
While we can appreciate the light, portable design and some of the finer points in the sound quality when the bass doesn't override everything else, it's difficult to recommend the Pioneer SE-MJ532.
As a package, it struggles to justify the £40 price tag and there are definitely better on-ear headphone alternatives to try out instead. For an extra £10, the AKG K451 headphones are a great choice. Some minor comfort niggles aside, the bassy sound is far more controlled and there's plenty of extra accessories to make them good value for money whether you are using them at home or on wearing them to work.
Cheap and plasticky, with a fairly unbalanced sound, the Pioneer SE-MJ532 are budget headphones best left alone.
Next, read our best headphones round-up