When the Apple AirPods Pro are so popular, it makes sense that Mobvoi would attempt to replicate them with the TicPods ANC, albeit at a much lower price. Following on from the TicPods Pro and TicPods Free, they certainly look the part, even if they don't work as well.
That's not to say that the TicPods ANC aren't a good bet for the price. At only $89.99 / £79.99 / AU $138.99, they offer quite a lot. Most notably, active noise cancellation in true wireless earbuds is rarely available at this price, even if – as we'll see – the TicPods ANC don't quite work as well as hoped here. Still, for the price, that's not surprising and it's smart to temper expectations accordingly.
[Update: Lost one of your earbuds? You can now buy left and right earbuds individually for the TicPods ANC.]
Weighing ever so slightly more than their predecessors, the TicPods 2, the TicPods ANC remain lightweight and comfortable. They slip into your ears just right with the now familiar earbud with a long stem, a la Apple's icon design. They feel good and look good, with IPX5 sweat and water resistance meaning you won't have to worry about using them while you work out. On that note, they're a snug enough fit you won't have any issues with them slipping out either at an inopportune moment.
While the TicPods ANC have the looks and comfort covered, it's not all smooth sailing. The ANC doesn't work as well as you'd hope and the sound quality isn't quite as strong as we'd have liked to hear. It feels a little unfair critiquing them too harshly given the price tag but if you're expecting to be cocooned away from all surrounding noises, these aren't the earbuds for you. We suspect you'll have to pay a fair bit more for that pleasure.
On the plus side though, they do make some attempt to cut back on surrounding noises. It's not perfect, but it'll do in a pinch – other benefits like being able to listen to just one earbud at a time and a decent battery life make up for it in many ways. Unfortunately, there's no app support so you can't tweak the equalizer to your heart's content, and there's no wireless charging, but again – there's that price tag that makes you appreciate concessions that need to be made.
At least those concessions aren't made with the look of the TicPods ANCs. They really do look rather nice and reminiscent of a more expensive set of earbuds. They're small enough that they'll mostly be hidden away in your ears, but at least you'll know they look good.
As mentioned, there's no wireless charging support here so you'll need to plug the charging case into a USB socket. USB-C support means a full recharge only takes about 1.5 hours though with 21 hours of battery available afterwards. The rest of the case is pretty simplistic with a lone white light that indicates your earbuds are ready to go once you lift the lid of the case.
As somewhat expected for the price, sound is fine. Just fine. There's no aptX support and no app for you to tweak settings. The sounds are a little mixed depending on what you're listening to; the bass isn’t massively strong, while some mids are a little recessed and weaker than ideal, but not distractingly so.
As we noticed while listening to Under Pressure, detail isn't the TicPods ANC's strong point but then again, these aren't expensive earbuds and we reckon the sound quality reflects that just fine.
One excellent area is its soundstage which is reasonably strong for earbuds. You can easily identify directions that sounds are coming from as we noticed while listening to the likes of Mr. Brightside which still felt suitably enthusiastic, even without the strength that pricier earbuds might provide.
Bear in mind that ANC seems to make the sound quality dip a little although not to a distracting level by any means. Ultimately, these feel like earbuds to use while doing things - running, walking, or simply commuting, rather than using to listen to take in your favorite tracks while you relax.
Annoyingly though, the ANC isn't great. We found a lot of ambient sound still seeped through, albeit at a quieter volume. It's not a dealbreaker but if you want pure silence, these buds aren’t for you. You'll still hear surrounding noises for the most part, if at a more manageable level than without.
While the TicPods ANCs aren't perfect, they're a solid bet for the price. They look the part, and they're very comfy for extended periods of use. The sound quality might not be up to scratch compared to pricier competitors but, well, the clue is in the word 'pricier'. You're going to have to pay a fair bit more to get something better.
With fast recharging times and a good battery life, the TicPods ANC are workhorse earbuds. Stick them in for your daily commute or walk, and you won't be disappointed – for really critical listening or superior ANC, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
TicPods ANC price and availability
- Available now
- Priced at $89.99 / £79.99 / AU $138.99
The TicPods ANC is available mostly everywhere already. Priced at $89.99 / £79.99 / AU $138.99, there's no sign of discounts by third-party retailers yet although you never know what Black Friday deals may bring. There's also only one choice of colour – white – so don't expect discounts on unpopular color options.
They’re cheaper than most other true wireless earbuds, though the recently announced Lypertek Levi do undercut them by $10 / £10 – and we dare say they’ll offer better sound quality if their predecessors, the Lypertek Tevi are anything to go by.
- Very Apple Airpods-esque
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Comfortable fit
The TicPods ANC really do look like as though Mobvoi is trying to emulate the Apple AirPods Pro. That's no bad thing at all if you like that style, because it means you get a very similar look for a lot less. They also offer the benefit of silicone tips in a range of sizes, which is very useful if you've had issues finding the right fit for your ears in the past.
Lightweight and easy to slide into your ears, the TicPods ANC are delightfully low maintenance here. We had no trouble with the silicone eartips already prepared with others included in case you need to make an adjustment.
The carrying case does feel a little cheap, reminiscent of a pillbox but it does the job. Just don't expect to be able to charge your earbuds via a wireless pad – the TicPods ANC's carrying case needs to be plugged in via USB-C to charge.
The TicPods ANCs offer IPX5 sweat and water resistance, which is just what you need when working out or getting caught in a rain shower (although you shouldn’t use them while swimming – check out the best waterproof headphones for pool-friendly options).
Controls-wise, the TicPods ANC keep things fairly simple – unlike the TicPods 2 Pro, which came with 'gesture controls' (that didn't always work). Holding a finger down on the earbud allows you to switch through noise cancellation modes, including Quiet Mode, Sound-Passthrough Mode, or switching ANC off entirely.
The touch-sensitive controls also allow you to play or pause the music, as well as skip songs, or take calls. There's voice assistant support too if you triple tap. We found it took a bit of practice to master the controls although changing up ANC was incredibly simple to implement.
Notably, you can't adjust the volume with the earbuds. Instead, you have to do that via your smartphone. It's not the end of the world, but if your hands are full, you may be ever so slightly bothered.
Audio performance and ANC
- Weak bass
- ANC diminishes sound quality
- Noise cancellation isn't great
It's tough to evaluate the audio performance of cheap headphones because it's tempting to compare them to earphones that cost many times more. In reality, you get what you pay for which means the TicPods ANC isn't wonderful when it comes to sound quality but nor is it terrible. In a word, it's fine, for the most part.
Much of this depends on what you listen to. Songs full of detail like David Bowie's Under Pressure and Childish Gambino's Feels Like Summer feel a little lackluster here. Similarly, bassy songs like The Beatles' Come Together don't sound as powerful as they should. That feels like nitpicking though because they still sound good – you won't be left feeling like you're stuck with cheap, poor quality earbuds. You just won't get the experience that more expensive earphones could provide.
On the plus side, we were quietly impressed by the TicPods ANC's soundstage which is pretty wide for earbuds, allowing you to easily identify the placement of certain notes and elements within a song.
Tied into this is the TicPods ANC's ANC settings which aren't amazing. They're fine. Again. Stick the ANC on full and you'll still hear some sounds – we could hear lorries driving past in the distance while sitting in a car park. However, it's much quieter than it would be without the noise cancellation enabled, so it's good enough for all but those who need pure silence. On a walk, it'll certainly help you avoid distractions, especially if you bump up the volume.
Battery life and connectivity
- Up to 21 hours of battery life
- Bluetooth 5 support
- Slightly boosted battery life with ANC switched off
The TicPods ANC aren't bad when it comes to battery life. Switch ANC on and you'll get about 4.5 hours of playback unless you turn up the volume excessively high. The charging case bumps that up to 21 hours which should be good enough for most purposes, though it’s a little less than the Apple AirPods offer.
If you switch off ANC, battery life increases to about five hours but that's not a huge change in practice, so we'd recommend enjoying the ANC anyhow.
A full recharge of the case takes about one and a half hours with a quick boost also possible. Again, it's nothing amazing but it does the job – something that the TicPods ANC is increasingly good at achieving.
We couldn't fault the TicPods ANC for connectivity, with Bluetooth 5 no doubt helping here, and ensuring the experience was speedy and flawless. Even better, each earbud can connect to your device independently, which is certainly a useful trick that not all wireless earbuds provide.
Should I buy the TicPods ANC?
Buy them if...
You're on a budget
This is the strongest point for the TicPods ANC. If you're on a tight budget but want some form of noise cancellation, you can't go wrong here. They're not perfect, but for the price, it's hard to criticize them too harshly.
You want good looks
The TicPods ANC are simple yet attractive. Simply put, they look good and they feel comfy too. Uncomplicated, you'll feel good about wearing them while out and about, without having to worry about them falling out.
You're not interested in customization
The TicPods ANC are simple. There's no equalizer app like with other earbuds, there's no complex controls on the earbuds themselves to memorize, they simply just work. If you're not particularly tech savvy, this will appeal to you as they're so straightforward to use.
Don't buy them if...
You want wireless charging
We love the convenience of plopping a charging case on a wireless pad. The TicPods ANC don't support this, so expect to dig out cables as and when you need to recharge. It's less convenient but it keeps costs down.
You want dependable ANC
The TicPods ANC has some form of ANC but it's not the greatest. It certainly helps, but if you're eager to be hidden away from all the sounds around you, you may be disappointed. Consider this a halfway house solution instead.
- Looking for more? Check out the best true wireless earbuds of 2020