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Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro
January 15, 2020
Original: $139 USD
Feb. 2022: $59 USD
16 x 17 x 40 mm (earbud)
24 x 32 x 71mm (case)
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 February 23, 2022, to expand the list of buying options, update the Alternatives section, to address how it compares to the Sony LinkBuds WF-L900, and update the scoring to account for results from our reader poll.
Who should get the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro?
- Anyone interested in the AirPods (2nd generation) 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 On the flip side, the company replaced the outdated microUSB charging port for a shiny and new USB-C one on the miniature charging case.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.
See also: Mobvoi TicPods Gesture review
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.
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.
What Bluetooth codecs does the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro support?
You get aptX and AAC high-quality Bluetooth codec support from the TicPods 2 Pro which benefits 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.
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro uses Bluetooth 5.0 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.
How long is the TicPods 2 Pro battery life?
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 60 minutes of playtime. Generally speaking, the case provides an extra four charge cycles, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever be without a charge.
Does the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro block out noise?
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.
Hold up! Something’s different:
This article’s frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and ANC performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
How does the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro sound?
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.
Related: How to read charts
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, vocal detail becomes hard to hear. 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.
Raw mic performance leaves a bit to be desired, too: fundamental frequencies are heavily attenuated, which is bad news for anyone like Executive Editor Chris Thomas who has a low voice. 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.
Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro microphone demo:
How does the microphone sound to you?
As of February 23, 2022, nearly 79% of respondents have rated the microphone sample as either “okay” or “good,” which is typical of true wireless microphones.
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 you can use either earbud in mono mode.
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.
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 vs Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro: Is Sony better than Mobvoi?
The Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 has a unique take on the open-type fit that features a donut-like design with an open hole that rests directly above your ear canal. The earbuds are meant to link you to your surroundings, while allowing you to hear your music. You don’t get head gestures as you do with the TicPods 2 Pro but you do get access to the Sony Headphones Connect app, the same app used for the famed Sony WF-1000XM4 noise cancelling true wireless earbuds.
We like the LinkBuds because it fills a particular niche very well. Unlike the AirPods or even the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, the LinkBuds fit is incredibly comfortable and secure thanks to the flexible ear wings that you can swap out. Sound quality isn’t the best and the bass response is very quiet, a consequence of its unoccluded fit, but if you want to hear it all, the LinkBuds is a great choice.
Apple AirPods vs Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro: Which is best?
The Apple AirPods (2nd generation) and AirPods (3rd generation) are the main competitors to the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro. Both of Apple’s true wireless earbuds have an unsealed fit and stemmed design. The AirPods (2nd generation) doesn’t have an IP rating, while the third-gen model has an IPX4 rating that matches Mobvoi’s. With either pair of AirPods, you get the benefits of the H1 chip for instantaneous pairing, device switching, and battery optimization. When you use the AirPods (3rd generation) with an iPhone you even get features like spatial audio. Nothing provides quite as seamless of a listening experience as the AirPods with an iPhone but the TicPods 2 Pro gets close and for a fraction of the cost.
What should you get instead of the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro?
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.
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.
Listeners who like the idea of bypassing their smartphone’s native virtual assistant should check out the Skullcandy Grind Fuel and Skullcandy Push Active. Both pairs of earbuds use “Hey Skullcandy” so you can turn these affordable earbuds into smart earbuds, so long as you download the Skullcandy app. Both earbuds are durable and have a typical consumer-friendly sound.
Frequently asked questions about the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro
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 supports SBC and aptX whereas the AirPods (3rd generation) supports SBC AAC, so Android users will only benefit from consistent high-quality codec support with the TicPods 2 Pro. Both headsets have an IPX4 rating but the AirPods (3rd generation) costs nearly $100 USD more than the TicPods 2 Pro. The TicPods 2 Pro also has 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).