Active noise cancelling (ANC) used to be a feature reserved only for the most expensive headphones and earbuds, but technology doesn’t stay still for long, and it’s not unusual now to see this capability appearing in much cheaper earbuds.
The Mobvoi Earbuds ANC are the latest to cross my desk, with three listening modes and other features all available for a budget-friendly price.
Design & Build
IPX5 Water and Sweat resistance
Having reviewed quite a few budget earbuds over the last few years, I’ve grown accustomed to them turning up in compact charging cases that resemble old pill-cases.
Mobvoi takes a slightly different approach to the design, using a flatter but taller construction that looks more like a tiny hip-flask. There’s still the flip-top section to access the earbuds, plus the USB-C charging port and indicator light though, so it’s not a complete departure from form.
Opening the case and removing the earbuds reveals a somewhat chunky design that harks back to the early days of the Apple AirPods. Two long stems protrude out of the speaker chambers, with the outer edge flat, while the inner profile is more curved.
This makes the touch-sensitive area easy to find while providing a comfortable wearing experience when the buds are seated in your ear. The angle of the earbuds themselves means that the stems don’t hang straight down, but instead are turned inwards towards your cheeks.
The lightweight construction lets them both sit comfortably and securely in the ear, so you don’t really notice the stems. Everything is plastic of course, as the material is durable, light and cheap to make, and I have no complaints about that approach.
Each buds house a 13mm drivers, and the touch control area is situated on the outer surface of those chambers. Beneath these are the indicator lights that let you know what mode the buds are currently in (charging, pairing, or low power), and each stem is home to a microphone for voice commands and calls.
Bluetooth 5.0 handles all of the connectivity duties, while the IPX5 rating means you’ll be able to wear them for sweaty gym sessions or out in the rain. Power comes from the charging case, which features a 4000mAh battery and will replenish the buds several times from a single charge.
Sound Quality & Features
Three sound modes (including ANC)
Well balanced audio
Cheap earbuds are hardly the most feature-rich devices around, but there’s still plenty that can be packed into those diminutive chassis. Here’s what the Mobvoi Earbud ANC have to offer.
Active Noise Cancellation
Obviously, the main selling point in terms of audio is the ANC mode. Mobvoi offers three different options for your listening enjoyment: Normal (ANC off), Quiet (ANC on) and Sound Pass-Through – often know elsewhere by terms like transparency or aware.
These are accessed by touching and holding the control area on either bud for a second or two, then you’ll hear a voice telling you which mode is now active. It cycles through the three and I found the controls responsive and reliable, so choosing a mode was never difficult.
With the ANC turned off, there’s still a certain amount of muffling of the surrounding environment, due to having earbuds physically blocking out the noise (aka noise isolation). Audio quality is pleasing, with a decent amount of volume and balance across mixes.
Tapping and holding the control area triggers the Quiet (ANC) mode, which didn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference to be honest. Having a TV on in the background, at a normal volume, and engaging the ANC on the Mobvoi, resulted in the on-screen conversation still bleeding through.
There did seem to be a reduction in the high-end frequencies, suggesting that the ANC employs some kind of low-pass filter to get rid of the sharper sounds that might attract the ear, but the inexpensive nature of the earbuds does become more apparent with the ANC mode engaged.
Moving to the Sound Pass-Through mode introduces a lot of extra noise, but not in a bad way. As the name suggests, this mode uses the microphones to feed a certain amount of background noise into the signal.
This is so you’re not completely cut off from your surroundings, which can be helpful if you’re waiting for a train announcement, want to hear any traffic that might be approaching from behind, or generally be aware of your environment while still enjoying music, podcasts or audiobooks.
One nice feature is that you can use just one of the earbuds at a time if you want. This will not only save battery life but also act as your own sound pass-through mode, just using one of your ears rather than a microphone.
This can be handy if you’re driving in the car, taking a phone call, or trying to disguise the fact that you’re listening to music while in a work meeting or lecture. I’m not judging.
Using the earbuds for calls, I found that those I talked to thought that the sound quality was good, with clear vocals and a healthy amount of bass.
Voice & Touch controls
Mobvoi includes voice commands so saying ‘Hey Tico’ will launch the default voice assistant on your device and allow you to control playback, adjust volume or skip tracks.
Most of this can also be achieved through the touch-sensitive control panels on the buds, with double taps either playing/pausing tracks or answering incoming phone calls. A triple tap on the right bud skips forward a track, while using the same command on the left bud launches the voice assistant.
To reject an incoming call, simply tap and hold either bud for a couple of seconds. In use, commands were usually reliable, with only the occasional misstep. One thing that’s a shame is that there are no volume controls, which means having to get your phone out of your pocket or relying on the voice commands, which may not always be ideal.
Battery life is nothing special, with the buds lasting for around two hours and forty minutes of listening with the ANC or Sound pass-through modes engaged.
Of course, they’ll last a fair bit longer with the ANC turned off but a lot of rivals can go twice as long before needing to head back to the charging case.
You’ll get about four or five recharges from the case, which makes up for it somewhat but you’ll have to wait around an hour to get back up to a full 100% juice.
Price & Availability
The earbuds are available now and you can order them directly from Mobvoi, which will set you back a very reasonable £49.99/€59.99/$59.99.
This puts them in the same ballpark as ANC equipped earbuds like the EnacFire A9, the Xiaomi Redmi Buds 3 Pro and Tronsmart Apollo Air+ buds all of which cost around £60/€60/$60.
Check out our chart of the best budget wireless earbuds to see more options.
If you’re specifically after the Active Noise Cancelling feature, then you may want to hold off on the Mobvoi Earbuds ANC as I didn’t find the main mode to be too effective.
That’s not to say that these are bad buds, not at all. Audio quality is strong, they’re comfortable to wear for long periods, and the sound pass-through mode is an essential element when you’re in town or walking somewhere and need to be aware of your surroundings.
At around the £50/$50/€50 mark, they’re well priced for the features you get, although some might not like the slightly dated design.
Personally, I found the Mobvoi Earbuds ANC gave a pleasant listening experience, so if you go in with the idea that the ANC mode is a bonus rather than the main selling point, then you should find them to be a solid pair of wireless buds.
Mobvoi Earbuds ANC: Specs
Active Noise Cancelling modes
Touch and voice controls
19.6 x 24.6 x 43.1mm (Earbuds)
50mA battery (Earbuds)
26.1 x 60 x 62.2mm (Case)
4,000mAh battery (Case)
Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence. Learn more.