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.
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. They automatically connect to the last-used device and sound good enough for basic use (e.g. ignoring office chatter).
What are 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 they retain 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 On the flip side, the company replaced the outdated microUSB charging port for a shiny and new USB-C one on the miniature charging case.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 they didn’t stay in my ears while cycling or rock climbing. Your mileage may vary, but if you’re looking for workout earbuds, these probably aren’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 do have their 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 let 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 free 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. It’s
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 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” was 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 forgot this functionality was available in the moment, and ended 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 use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and quickly pair to your designated device. They autoconnect to the last-used device and lack multiconnect 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.
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.
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro have a different frequency response than the company’s debut totally wireless earbuds: the ‘buds in question are 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.
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.
Sure enough, the sound quality is fine for general-purpose listening, but if you’re looking to rediscover your music, the TicPods 2 Pro aren’t for you. Instead, they’re 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.
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.
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How do 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 are a no-brainer pick for iPhone users since they use 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 have a greater bass response which makes sense because they succumb to the same auditory masking issue as the TicPods 2 Pro.
The TicPods 2 afford a near-identical feature set as the TicPods 2 Pro for $40 less.
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 are very similar to the Pro model with a few feature omissions. For one, the TicPods 2 use just a single-microphone setup but retain 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.
The TicPods 2 Pro cost $139, and the TicPods 2 cost $99. Unless you absolutely need to test out head gesture controls, you should save some cash and get the Mobvoi TicPods 2.
Save money and get the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air have been a favorite for true wireless fans with tight budgets since their release. They mimic the same stemmed design, feature touch controls, and merit an IPX5 rating. Unlike the aforementioned alternatives, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air have dedicated nozzles that seal to the ear, promoting improved sound quality. There are compromises to be made though: the charging case uses a microUSB input and controls aren’t nearly as comprehensive as Mobvoi’s. For just $59, the Liberty Air are extremely difficult to beat.
Should you buy the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro?
If you fancy cutting edge technology and novelty, the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro will scratch the itch and are worth the expense. 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.
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 are great for a large swath of consumers, yet I found their unreliable fit made them 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 $139.
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