I tried £20 Sony WH-1000XM5 'dupes' from Temu – and was shocked by the quality

Temu headphones on a wooden chair
(Image credit: Temu)

If you’re searching for mainstream, affordable consumer audio, the standard online marketplaces of Amazon and John Lewis are likely to be your first ports of call, with more specialised retailers such as Richer Sounds, Peter Tyson and Sevenoaks also on hand to service your hi-fi needs. They’re established, popular and, by and large, extremely reputable outlets, so unless you were planning on fitting your house out with built-in underfloor surround sound or seeking out some $700,000 Magico Ultimate III, why would you shop anywhere else? 

The answer is, naturally, money. The great motivator for most of humanity’s decisions (right, guys?), the prospect of saving a few quid on some cut-price tech proves alluring to even the most burnt-fingered buyer. Enter Temu, the Chinese marketplace that’s seen an explosion in popularity with Western buyers as a sort of cut-price Amazon alternative. They stock everything from deckchairs to dog collars, plant pots to pencil cases. Oh, and headphones. 

Regular readers will know, with some misgivings, that we’ve danced this jolly jig before. We (more specifically, I) scoured the recesses of Amazon for more, shall we say, “esoteric” brands, which claimed to offer the same specs, sound and sometimes even the aesthetic as the market’s major players, albeit for a much smaller price tag. (We at What Hi-Fi? like to know what quality is available in every corner of the World Wide Web, so we regularly obtain and investigate products that gain traction or pique our interest. Hey, it's how we stumbled upon Chinese brand Earfun and came to be pleasantly surprised by its uber-affordable Air earbuds.)

The cheap pair of imitation AirPods I landed on (and lived with) didn’t make the grade, but could Temu be different? Is it an Aladdin’s cave of cut-price sonic treasures, or a dumping ground for mediocre models that won’t grant you any of your sonic wishes?

To find out, I hopped onto the Chinese mega-marketplace to sample one of its many “too good to be true” headphones, settling on a pair of over-ears that looked, if you squinted a little and turned down your laptop screen’s brightness a notch, somewhat akin to the class-leading Sony WH-1000XM5. For well under £20 – a fifteenth of the Sony's price – you could have a set of over-ears that, in the right light, could seem as though they're distant cousins of our current What Hi-Fi? Award winners. Meet the "Wireless V5"…

Build (in)equality 

Sony WH-1000XM5 on a yellow background

These are the WH-1000XM5. See the similarities..? (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Ok, so my interpretation of the image accompanying the Temu online listing might have meant I was a little overly optimistic in thinking the V5 would pass as a pair of Award-winning Sony cans to the most casual observer. Digging them from their rather battered packaging did not for a second have me double-taking in delight, although why I thought that any other outcome was likely from a pair of sub-£20 headphones is anyone’s guess.

Aside from the cups’ oval shape and the fact that they are headphones, as opposed to, say, a microwave or a pair of flip-flops, there’s nothing here to suggest anything XM5-esque whatsoever. The cans’ build is flimsy and cheap, with a headband sporting the sort of padding you’d normally find on a rubber swimming cap and a pair of sliders that are more temperamental than my geriatric Jack Russell (shoutout to Cookie, still going strong). Flick the plastic exterior and you’ll be reminded of the cheap, hollow sound of a Fisher Price toy rather than a serious piece of audio gear, and when compared to the five-star, affordable Sony WH-CH520 (currently around £40), there's simply no competition – the Sonys seem to do so much more with their limited budget.

The fit, incidentally, is awful. These are presumably designed as over-ear rather than on-ear headphones, yet their small cup size, cheap materials and general lack of weight or clamping force mean that they sit on the ear rather than over it, an effect which does not appear to be deliberate. That makes the V5 extremely uncomfortable after periods of wear, although given how they sound, you might not have them on your head for long anyway.

Features? What features?

Temu headphones headband slider closeup

Like our beloved family mutt, the V5's slider can be a bit... temperamental. (Image credit: Temu)

This is not, perhaps understandably, going to be a long section. One of the supposed "features" listed on the provided packaging boasts of an “Original Appearance” that is “simple, elegant and stylish”, apparently without irony from a pair of cans seemingly trying to imitate an established class leader. Perhaps the passing resemblance to some of the most popular and successful over-ear cans around today is a mere coincidence after all. 

They are wireless cans, though, and with wireless connectivity comes battery life. The V5 charge using USB-C charging (neat!) and will offer around 14 hours of continuous playback before running out of juice. At this price, that’s not a complete disgrace, although you can use the cans’ supplied cable if you’re worried that the headphones won’t make good on their claims. 

You can take calls, too, even if I’d advise against it. The functionality of having a wireless chat does technically work, but the poor quality of the connection and the muffled, imprecise nature of chatting using the Chinese cans means you’re better off disconnecting and just using your phone instead, or dusting off a pair of tin cans tethered together by an old piece of string. No real surprises there, then. 

Te-Music to my ears?

Temu headphones on a wooden table

The V5 actually look rather nice in this light.  (Image credit: Temu)

I can at least start this segment of the “review” with a positive and tell you that the V5 are incredibly simple to pair with your given device, although given their general levels of performance, you’ll probably be hoping for similar swiftness when it comes to disconnecting them, too. 

Kicking off with Pearl Jam’s Dark Matter exposes a lot of what you need to know straight off the bat, with the track’s opening salvo of thumping drum hits sounding, to use a term I’ve now coined and am in the process of trademarking, like a collection of plastic bins being hit at the bottom of a well. They’re hollow, textureless and lacking in body or substance, feeling all the world like an imitation of a musical instrument rather than anything close to approaching a genuine reproduction. 

Poor old Eddie Vedder’s vocals aren’t particularly well-serviced, either. He may be getting on a bit these days, but the V5 come across as though they’ve drained most of the soul from the messianic frontman’s delivery, leaving a performance that feels as sparse and hollowed out as those accompanying drums. Vedder’s signature pipes need grit and chainsaw-esque texture, aspects that these bargain-bucket cans fail to reproduce. 

There are redeeming qualities, let’s be fair. The track’s midrange is surprisingly well-defined, even authentic (with a very small “a”), and it’s tempting to say that those crunchy guitars actually come across rather well. There’s a little bit of bite and texture on display and, if you press the earcups a little harder to your ears to replicate a snugger fit, some muscle and depth as well. Unbelievable!

For the meagre price paid, they're actually far from disgraceful. All things considered, the poor old V5 are working at the limits of their capabilities, something that you can't help but admire. I've certainly heard worse from these sorts of brands, and there is some semblance of cohesion and musicality as the Chinese cans bring out the broad tones and colours of most tracks without ever illuminating much beyond their limited palette. It's not approaching "proper" sound, though, and once again falls well short of the musicality, insight and relative dynamism offered by the Sony WH-CH520.  

Across the full genre gamut, though, the V2 are keeping their head above water rather than swimming with any great aptitude. From the pep and verve of Rick James’ Give It To Me Baby to the easy-going sincerity of Bill Wither’s Ain’t No Sunshine, there’s so little insight and texture that no genre or artist enjoys a fair outing. Whether you switch across to the camp disco delights of Scissor Sisters’ Filthy/Gorgeous or the immaculate production of Starsailor’s Four To The Floor, you'd be best tempering your expectations and then working from there, like reading the reviews of Madame Web before you stream it on Netflix so that you can at least be pleasantly surprised by the standard of the costume design.  

A natural conclusion 

Temu headphones earcup closeup

My new cans didn't come with an IP rating, so this photo was taken under a relatively clear sky.  (Image credit: Temu)

If you’re searching for sincere consumer advice and you haven’t tumbled to the obvious conclusion by now, let me reiterate the assessment we gave when nabbing cheap, undiscernible products from Amazon; it simply isn’t worth it. Buying these sorts of products is, unless you really don’t care about sound (or anything else) a false economy – with such poor quality audio, essentially the music you play through them probably won't be enjoyable to listen to. Put it this way: you could buy a £10 air fryer, but if it burned your fries and cremated your chicken, that isn’t a tenner well spent. 

If you want a pair of over-ear headphones, we recommend you bolster your budget and perhaps look elsewhere. Temu sells lots of unproven brands and it's arguably a risk to buy them over sticking to reputable brands with proven history (and decent reviews), so we'd urge you to direct your search to more reputable outlets. A pair of Sony WH-CH520 will only cost around £40, a small increase in outlay for a big jump in sound and features. If you want our advice, the WH-CH520 would be our top tip for the day. That and, of course, don't watch Madame Web.


I tried the top-rated fake AirPods on Amazon and it should serve as a warning

Want budget cans? Read our Sony WH-CH520 review 

These are the best wireless headphones around

The surprising '80s album that never leaves our hi-fi test rooms

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. During his time at the publication, he has written countless news stories alongside features, advice and reviews of products ranging from floorstanding speakers and music streamers to over-ear headphones, wireless earbuds and portable DACs. He has covered launches from hi-fi and consumer tech brands, and major industry events including IFA, High End Munich and, of course, the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or trying to pet strangers' dogs. 

  • Friesiansam
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    Is it an Aladdin’s cave of cut-price sonic treasures, or a dumping ground for mediocre models that won’t grant you any of your sonic wishes?
    Anyone expecting anything other than the latter from Temu, is frankly mad. Temu are also widely believed to be selling products produced by forced labour.