Mobvoi announced the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro and TicPods 2 from CES 2020 in Vegas, and the company is taking a gamble by using AI-enabled gestures as a selling point for its Pro model as a way to separate it from the crowd of AirPods alternatives. What’s a gimmick to one is a must-have feature for another; let’s see how well these new features perform and how the earbuds compare to other true wireless options.
Editor’s note: this Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro review was updated on September 12, 2021, to match style with SoundGuys’ current standards.
Who should get the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro?
- Anyone interested in the AirPods (2019) should think about putting their money toward the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro. Mobvoi’s earbuds are designed nearly identically to the AirPods (2019) and include premium features like automatic ear detection and quick charging.
- AI fans will go giddy over the direct voice commands and proprietary wake word, “Hey Tico,” which lets listeners directly activate their desired smart assistant without reaching for their phone or the earbuds. What’s more, AI-enabled head gesture controls, formally called TicMotion, allow listeners to reject or answer calls.
- General consumers will benefit from the aforementioned features and the all-around usability of the TicPods 2 Pro. It automatically connects to the last-used device and sounds good enough for basic use (e.g. ignoring office chatter).
What is the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro like?
If you’ve used the Mobvoi TicPods Free, your ears will feel at home with the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro as it retains the same stemmed design and whimsical, oblong charging case with a few changes. For one, the earbuds feature a more streamlined design; this makes them appear more stylish but hinders isolation as they don’t have distinct ear tips like the TicPods Free. On the flip side, the company replaced the outdated microUSB charging port for a shiny and new USB-C one on the miniature charging case.
The earbuds are IPX4-rated, which is a surprising downgrade from the Free’s IPX5 rating. For all intents and purposes, however, the effect is the same: the earbuds will effectively resist sweat and water during exercise, so long as they’re not submerged. Unfortunately, I was unable to exercise with the TicPods 2 Pro because it didn’t stay in my ears while cycling or rock climbing. Your mileage may vary, but if you’re looking for workout earbuds, it probably isn’t for you.
The poor fit hinders sound quality, but allows you to remain aware of your surroundings at all times.
Despite all the drawbacks associated with an improper fit and complete lack of seal, the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro does have its advantages, namely safety. If your commute to work involves any sort of walking, it’s important to remain aware of your environment. The TicPods 2 Pro lets you do this without having to manually enter a transparent hearing mode. It’s also easier to hear a train ticketer and announcements over an intercom.
How do TicHear and TicMotion work?
Mobvoi went to great lengths to make sure the TicPods 2 Pro frees you from the hassle of fumbling for your phone or the earbuds. The company’s TicHear technology facilitates direct voice command functionality without the need for a wake word. For instance, instead of saying, “Hey Google. Pause music,” you can just say, “Pause music.” This works for basic playback functionality and call commands.
TicHear (Hey Tico) is a big deal for hands-free Siri users who don't want to shell out for the Apple AirPods or Beats Powerbeats Pro.
TicHear is a clever way of bypassing Apple’s H1 chip. For hands-free Siri access just say, “Hey Tico.” From there, you can inquire about the weather, nearby shopping centers, set timers, and more. Using “Hey Tico” is just as fast as “Hey Google” on my Samsung Galaxy S10e. The only difference is the former amplifies Google Assistant’s voice more than the latter, which is a strange but innocuous discrepancy.
TicMotion is a unique way to answer or reject calls by way of head motion. To pick up an incoming call, nod twice and to reject one, shake your head twice. It’s intuitive, yet I often forget this functionality is available in the moment and end up just double-tapping or long-pressing either earbud to answer or refuse a call.
How do you connect the earbuds?
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro uses Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and quickly pairs to your designated device. It autoconnects to the last-used device and lacks multipoint functionality, which is a bummer but doesn’t disqualify the TicPods 2 Pro from being a solid pair of true wireless earbuds. Each earbud is equipped with an accelerometer and gyroscope for automatic ear detection. Removing one earbud immediately pauses playback and reinserting it resumes playback. This worked every single time without missing a beat.
Related: Best Apple AirPods Pro alternatives
aptX and AAC high-quality Bluetooth codecs are both supported, benefiting both Android and iPhone users. The improved sound quality is null, however, because of the nonexistent seal, but you still get to enjoy minimal latency when watching video. That said, when I look closely, I notice a bit of audio-visual lag (~0.5 seconds) when watching from my Galaxy S10e.
How long do the TicPods 2 Pro batteries last?
Our objective testing yielded 3 hours, 39 minutes of playback from the TicPods 2 Pro before the battery cells were drained. The USB-C case supports quick charging: five minutes in the case supplies one hour of playtime. Generally speaking, the case provides an extra four charge cycles, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever be without a charge.
How’s the sound quality?
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro has a different frequency response than the company’s debut totally wireless earbuds: the TicPods 2 Pro is less bass-heavy. There is, however, still a perceptible amount of amplification applied to low notes, which is necessary as bass response is one of the first things to go due to auditory masking. When in quiet environments, I quite enjoy the TicPods 2 Pro sound signature. The moment I take to the streets, though, sound quality is dramatically degraded and it’s difficult to discern different instruments.
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This lack of isolation can pose a problem for those tempted to increase the volume as a means of combating outside noise. Exposing yourself to extremely loud sounds for a prolonged period of time can result in noise-induced hearing loss, something we go to great lengths to educate readers on. If you think the temptation to crank the volume will be too great, you may be better off investing in a pair of noise cancelling true wireless earphones.
Lows, mids, and highs
In Lafrantz’ song Violet Lightning, Jackson Larsen opens with the lyrics, “Satisfaction is all I want,” which is backed by a kick drum and steady synthesized beat. His voice is easy to discern from the accompanying beat. Once vocalist Megan Larsen harmonizes with Jackson Larsen, however, the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro drivers struggle to reproduce harmonic detail. This can be attributed to the 1kHz dip, which renders those notes half as loud as predominating male vocals and bass notes.
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro is not made to produce pristine audio quality, but the sound is perfectly fine.
Sure enough, the sound quality is fine for general-purpose listening, but if you’re looking to rediscover your music, the TicPods 2 Pro isn’t for you. Instead, it’s ideal for the listener just trying to skate by and ignore passing peers on their way to work or at a cafe. The emphasized low-frequency range is great for popular genres but doesn’t bode well for folk and classical music.
Can the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro be used for calls?
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro bolsters a dual-mic array with noise cancellation to mitigate background noise interference. The microphones do a decent job at nullifying repetitive noises like a dryer’s hum but struggle to block out syncopated street noise and kitchen din.
Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro microphone demo:
Raw mic performance leaves a bit to be desired, too: fundamental frequencies are heavily attenuated, which is bad news for people like Executive Editor Chris Thomas who have exceptionally low voices. While it doesn’t render low voices completely unrecognizable, it does make them sound distant and echo-y, which may prove problematic during professional phone calls.
How does the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro compare to other true wireless earbuds?
There are two headsets the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro will inevitably be compared to: the Apple AirPods (2019) and Mobvoi TicPods 2. The Apple AirPods is a no-brainer pick for iPhone users since it uses the company’s proprietary H1 chip for instantaneous pairing and device switching. That said, if you’re remotely worried about water damage, the TicPods 2 Pro is the better option as the earbuds are IPX4-rated compared to the AirPods’ non-existent water-resistance. What’s more, the AirPods has a greater bass response which makes sense because it succumbs to the same auditory masking issue as the TicPods 2 Pro.
The TicPods 2 affords a near-identical feature set as the TicPods 2 Pro for $40 less.
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 is very similar to the Pro model with a few feature omissions. For one, the TicPods 2 uses just a single-microphone setup but retains the same noise cancelling technology. It also has a less advanced chipset (Qualcomm QCC3026 compared to QCC5121), because AI features like TicMotion and “Hey Tico” aren’t supported. The TicPods 2 charging case provides an extra five charge cycles though, as opposed to the TicPods 2 Pro case’s extra four charge cycles.
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Unless you absolutely need to test out head gesture controls, you should save some cash and get the Mobvoi TicPods 2.
Another set of true wireless earbuds that can be compared to the Mobvoi Ticpods 2 is the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. These bean-shaped earbuds don’t seal to the ear, but they somehow have active noise cancelling that works, kind of. It’s performance isn’t the most reliable because it depends on the shapes of each individual’s ears, but it’s there.
Save money and get the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2
The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 has been a favorite for true wireless fans with tight budgets since its release. It mimics the same stemmed design, features touch controls, and merits an IPX5 rating. Unlike the aforementioned alternatives, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 has dedicated nozzles with replaceable ear tips that seal to the ear, promoting improved sound quality. Additionally, if you download the SoundCore app, you can customize the EQ settings by testing your hearing abilities, or by changing them manually, or with several different preset options.
The Mobvoi TicPods Free is some of the best true wireless earbuds under $50
If you’re still on the fence about the TicPods 2 Pro because of its price, check out the Mobvoi TicPods Free. It made our list of the best true wireless earbuds under $50 for its sound quality and isolation, IPX5 rating, and stable fit.
Another budget alternative is the OnePlus Buds Z
If artificial intelligence features don’t entice you, you may want to consider the OnePlus Buds Z, which offers many of the same things as the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro and more. For example, it has an IP55 rating, isolates much better than the TicPods 2 Pro, supports Dolby Atmos, automatic ear detection, and fast charging. This affordable headset also has decent sound quality, with slightly more emphasis on bass notes than the TicPods 2 Pro. If you’re trying to save a hundred bucks, this alternative might be a better choice.
Should you buy the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro?
If you fancy technology and novelty, the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro will scratch the itch and is worth the expense, especially now that its price has dropped so much. The water-resistance is a smart inclusion as you never know when a downpour may breeze through your area. Plus, the touch controls and automatic ear detection are both wonderful.
Mobvoi also recently released the TicPods 2 Pro Plus, which has head gesture controls, noise cancellation, and voice activation, much like the TicPods 2 Pro. Their differences are few and far between, but include independent connection, which means either earbud can be used independently.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who doesn’t value frivolous features, the TicPods 2 Pro or a number of AirPods and AirPods Pro alternatives will better suit you. The TicPods 2 Pro is great for a large swath of consumers, yet I found its unreliable fit made it unusable outside of a static environment. The last thing you want is an earbud to get lost on the floor of the train: then you’re without a bud and out $70.
Frequently Asked Questions
If by semi-in ear, you mean earbuds that don't have ear tips that create a seal in your ear, we'd recommend trying out the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. These bean-shaped buds are definitely unique, since they don't create a seal to your ear but do offer active noise cancelling. People who don't like that clogged-ear feeling will benefit from these, though keep in mind that the lack of seal does mean poorer sound quality and ANC performance.
For one thing, the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro support aptX whereas the AirPods only support AAC, so Android users will only benefit from high quality codec support with the TicPods 2 Pro. The TicPods 2 Pro have an IPX4 rating whereas the AirPods don't have any official IP rating, and they are around the same price. The TicPods 2 Pro also have the integrated AI voice control and motion control, whereas the AirPods only have Siri functionality.
These are inherently different earbuds: the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro lack any nozzles to seal to the ear, so you'll always hear environmental noise. This can be a good thing, if you want to be aware of your surroundings at all times, but the tradeoff is decreased audio quality. The Anker SoundCore Life P2, on the other hand, do have defined nozzles and an array of ear tips to fit most users. The SoundCore Life P2 will be better for those with more active lifestyles as they fit better and tend not to fall out. However, hands-free access to the virtual assistant of your choosing is very convenient, in which case the TicPods 2 Pro may be better for you.
The TicPods 2 Pro are available in ice (white), navy, and blossom (pink).