TicPods ANC Review: Hard to Say “No” at This Price
Truly wireless earbuds have been a popular segment in the smartphone accessories market for a while now. More recently, though, we’ve seen a rise in earbuds with active noise cancellation. Mobvoi is no stranger to the wireless earbuds market so it wasn’t a surprise when it announced the TicPods ANC earlier this summer. I’ve been using them now for over a week and I’m ready to share my thoughts.
I’ve become a sort of connoisseur of Mobvoi products. So far, I’ve had the original TicPods, the TicWatch Pro LTE, the TicPods 2 Pro, the TicWatch Pro 2020, and now the TicPods ANC. For the most part, I’ve had very positive experiences with Mobvoi products. The TicPods 2 Pro quickly became my go-to headphones, so I was very excited to try the TicPods ANC. The market for earbuds with active noise cancellation is increasingly crowded. How does Mobvoi’s offering stack up?
TicPods ANC Specifications
- Size: 19.6×24.6×43.1 mm
- Weight: 5g/pcs
- Earbuds Charging Current: 50 mA
- Earbuds Charging Time: 1.2 hours
- Working Voltage: 3.3V~4.2V
- Music Time (Quiet Mode): around 4.5 hours
- Music Time (ANC-Off Mode): around 5 hours
- Talking Time (Quiet Mode): around 4.5 hours
- Talking Time (ANC-Off Mode): around 5 hours
- Standby Time in Quiet Mode: 7 hours
- Speaker specifications / mode: Φ13mm
- Sensitivity: 100dB±2dB
- Impedance: 32Ω/TYP
- Size: 26.1×60×62.2 mm
- Weight: 42g
- Charging Port: USB-Type C
- Charging base (full): Enables more than 2 full charges to the earbuds
- Charging Time: 1.5 hours
- DC input: 5V/1A
- Charging case battery: 3.7V 400mAh
The design of the TicPods ANC is new but familiar. The TicPods 2 adopted an “open-fit” design without any rubber tips. Being active noise-canceling headphones, the TicPods ANC obviously bring back the sealed fit with snug rubber tips. The overall shape of the earbuds is very similar to previous models. Mobvoi was clearly inspired by the AirPods in previous TicPods, but it didn’t go after the AirPods Pro for the ANC model.
The charging case, on the other hand, is very Apple-esque. The TicPods ANC slide into the case vertically and the case itself is basically a taller version of the AirPods Pro case shape. Even the narrow finger hold to open the lid is like the AirPods Pro case. Design similarities aside, it’s a nice, compact, lightweight case that easily fits in my pocket.
The charging port for the case is on the bottom and it’s USB-C, thankfully. No wireless charging here, though. The charging indicator light is on the bottom next to the charging port.
Aesthetics are obviously important when it comes to something sticking out of your ears, but how do they fit? If you’ve read my previous earbuds reviews you know I’m not a fan of the sealed fit with rubber tips. This is where earbuds reviews get very subjective. What’s comfortable for my ears may be very different than yours.
I’m happy to report that the TicPods ANC are pretty comfortable even for me. I don’t get the same “plugged up” feeling that I usually get with rubber tips. That may mean the seal isn’t as good, which could be a bad thing for you. What I’m looking for is something that fits snuggly and won’t fall out, but at the same time, doesn’t feel like it’s jammed into my ear. The TicPods ANC seem to find that balance.
I’ve gone running with the TicPods ANC several times and they barely move at all. In comparison, I had the original TicPods, which have a similar in-ear design, and they constantly needed adjusting. Mobvoi has fine-tuned the shape and design just enough to make a big difference.
One last little note about design: the TicPods ANC are only available in white. Previous TicPods came in a few different fun colors, including my favorite navy blue. I was disappointed to see only white here, but it’s not a huge deal.
Past TicPods have had some pretty elaborate touch and voice controls, but the TicPods ANC take things back to basics. Each earbud has a touch-sensitive area for controls. The controls boil down to double-tap, triple-tap, and long-press.
Active Noise Cancellation
- Long-press cycles through Quiet Mode, Sound-Passthrough, and Off
- Double tap on either side: Play/pause music
- Triple tap on right side:Skip song
- Double tap on either side: Pickup call
- Press and hold on right side for 2 seconds: End / reject call
- Triple tap on left side when wearing both earbuds
- Triple tap on left or right earbud when wearing a single earbud
One thing that’s missing is volume controls. I was mystified at first thinking this was a glaring omission, but I found out a lot of truly wireless earbuds don’t have volume controls. The previous two TicPods models did, so it has been a little frustrating to not have them. Using your phone to adjust the volume isn’t a big deal, but it can be annoying when you’re connected to a smartwatch.
Volume aside, the touch controls work fine and the touch area is big enough that it’s hard to miss. All you have to do is remember the controls.
Active Noise Cancellation
Alright, let’s talk about the feature that puts “ANC” in the name of these earbuds. It’s a hot trend in the world of wireless earbuds right now. So what actually does active noise cancellation do? In short, it blocks out the sound around you and isolates the audio you are listening to. That’s why the seal in your ears is important.
Active noise cancellation takes regular passive noise cancellation to the next level. Passive noise cancellation is what the hardware itself offers. Imagine the noise suppression of a pair of headphones that fit very tightly. Active noise cancellation actually creates “anti-noise” waves to cancel out the outside noise.
Now, before I get into the quality of the TicPods’ active noise cancellation, I want to mention that I’m not an expert on this. My only other experience with ANC is through the Samsung Level On PRO Wireless headset. I have not used the AirPods Pro, which are the TicPods ANC’s closest competitor. What I can do is explain how they sound to me.
The TicPods ANC seem to lower the outside sound, but they don’t completely block everything out. A small fan or the sound of air conditioning running will get fully blocked. However, if I’m sitting outside near the air conditioning unit, it won’t be totally canceled out. That being said, it is dulled enough to help me concentrate, but the sound is still there if I listen for it. Basically, you can count on the TicPods to cancel out basic white noise.
Speaking with XDA TV’s TK Bay, he echos my thoughts on the active noise cancellation. He owns the much more expensive Sony WF-1000XM3 and they do a better job of blocking out sound completely. However, for less than $100, the TicPods ANC do a pretty good job and the fact that they have active noise cancellation at all is very nice. You can easily pay that much and not get ANC.
Let’s put aside active noise cancellation and talk about sound quality in general. As mentioned, I’m not an expert on audio devices, but I have used several different truly wireless earbuds. The TicPods ANC are in line with what I’ve experienced with other earbuds in this price bracket.
The sound has a “tinny” quality to it and seems to favor mids and lows. The TicPods ANC aren’t included in Mobvoi’s app for some reason, so you can’t adjust the EQ at all. One thing I have noticed is sound quality seems to take a hit when you have noise cancellation enabled.
Call quality is pretty average. Both earbuds have a microphone, which does help, but you still end up sounding muffled. The ANC audio feature works surprisingly well. You still won’t sound great, but the earbuds do a good job of removing a lot of ambient noise that would make you unintelligible.
In general, my thoughts on sound quality are similar to my thoughts on the active noise cancellation. These are sub-$100 wireless earbuds and they sound like it. You’re getting better sound quality than random wireless earbuds from a no-name seller on Amazon, but not near the high-end premium earbuds. You get what you pay for.
Battery Life & Connectivity
Battery life is one of the things I’ve been most impressed with. I’ve been wearing these a lot over the last week and a half and I’ve only charged the case once. That includes taking them out on runs and hours of listening to music during work. Mobvoi says you can get 4.5 hours of battery while using active noise cancellation. In my experience that has been a pretty accurate claim. The charging case provides an additional 21 hours.
Connectivity has been another positive feature. The TicPods ANC have Bluetooth 5.0 and each earbud can connect to your device independently. This seems to make connectivity much more reliable than previous truly wireless earbuds I’ve tried. I’ve connected the TicPods ANC to my smartwatch, phone, and laptop. Switching between the three devices has been painless and I’ve never dropped a connection.
Sometimes I read reviews that say “good for the price” and think it’s a cop-out. Is the product good or not? But I’ve never felt that “good for the price” applies to a product more than the TicPods ANC. Are they the best truly wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation on the market? Of course not. They also happen to only cost $90. That’s not something you can ignore.
Yes, the active noise cancellation isn’t amazing, but it’s present. Many of the truly wireless earbuds in this price range don’t have ANC at all. In fact, Mobvoi’s TicPods 2 don’t have ANC and they launched 6 months ago, yet they’re still more expensive.
If you’re looking for a well-designed and affordable pair of truly wireless earbuds it would be hard for me to not recommend the TicPods ANC. The entire package is just very solid. You’re getting a compact charging case with USB-C, earbuds that can independently connect, 13mm speakers, dual microphones, and decent active noise cancellation. All for $90. That should tic a lot of boxes.