The Mobvoi TicPods Free tick all the boxes regarding what makes a proper pair of true wireless earbuds. These durable, lightweight earbuds don’t break the bank, sound great, and afford comprehensive touch controls. Since the price has dropped below $100, these are some of the best cheap true wireless earbuds you can get.
Read the in-depth review by SoundGuys
What are the Mobvoi TicPods Free like?
The IPX5 water-resistant TicPods Free take after the AirPods, both in form factor and ease of use. While the stemmed design mimics Apple’s, its angled nozzles make a world of difference. Fit and isolation are much better than what you’ll find with the AirPods, resulting in better sound quality. To get started with the TicPods Free, just pop open the oblong charging case, activate your phone’s Bluetooth, and select “TicPods.”
Once everything is connected, you can start listening to your music. Volume and playback adjustments can be made directly from the earbuds via sliding up or down the stem or executing an array of tapping patterns. Having integrated volume controls is great when on a crowded subway: you no longer have to finagle for your phone to drown out a rowdy neighbor.
You may also accept or deny calls by double-tapping or holding the stem, respectively. If you choose to accept a call, you’ll enjoy incoming audio relayed through both earpieces. This feature isn’t often seen in cheap true wireless earbuds.
Audio is relayed through both earbuds during calls, a rare feature for affordable true wireless earbuds.
While there’s much to love about these ‘buds, there is one major downside: the included ear tips. They’re not inherently bad, but they fit loosely around the earbuds’ nozzles. Chris Thomas of SoundGuys removed the earbuds only to realize the ear tip sleeve was still in his ear. Rather than risking a trip to the doctor’s office, it may be better to invest in third-party ear tips.
Battery life and connection quality
You get 3 hours, 35 minutes of playback from a single charge of the TicPods Free. While this pales in comparison to traditional wireless earbuds, the charging case provides an additional four charge cycles. Realistically, you probably won’t need to charge the case more than a few times per week. It takes 1.5 hours to complete a full charge cycle of the earbuds and closer to three hours to fully charge the case via microUSB. If you’re in a real pinch, they support quick charging. Popping the earbuds into the case for 15 minutes affords 1.5 hours of playback.
These operate via Bluetooth 4.2 firmware and support just one high-quality Bluetooth codec: AAC. This is great for iPhone users but doesn’t benefit Android users across the board as AAC performance is variable, depending on what smartphone is in use. At a glance, connection specifications seem disappointing, but raw performance and stability are reliable within the 5-meter wireless range.
Ambient noise-cancelling and isolation
The ambient noise-cancelling effectiveness is minimal. What’s actually impressive is its passive isolation quality. The dedicated nozzle stretching from each housing does a great job of combating high-frequency noise. Low-end rumbles are mitigated but, for the most part, remain audible. While this may be aggravating if you’re on a long flight, it’s safer for daily use as you’ll remain aware of passing cars and general surroundings while out and about.
How do the earbuds sound?
Those who like bass-heavy sound will enjoy the Mobvoi TicPods Free. These are some of the more bass-heavy earbuds SoundGuys has tested. If you feel they’re bass-deficient, you probably just need different ear tips. A poor seal can dramatically degrade sound quality, and the first thing to go is low-end reproduction.
Due to such marked bass emphasis, clarity falls a bit to the wayside. Consequently, midrange notes, often female vocals and high-pitched string instruments, sound quieter than bass instruments. This can cause your music to sound unnatural, but can quickly be remedied with some minor EQ adjustments. For a comprehensive breakdown of the TicPods Free frequency response, read the full review.
Should you buy it?
For less than $100, these are a great pair of true wireless earbuds. While they don’t offer any groundbreaking features, they perform reliably well and are surprisingly durable. If you’re still looking for something more rugged and with significantly better battery life, we recommend either the Jabra Elite 65t or Beats Powerbeats Pro. However, if you’re not looking to stretch your budget at all, the JLab JBuds Air are a stellar alternative for less than $50.