Another day, another headphone review. Today I’m chilling with some epic tunes and the MPOW H12 over-ear headphones. At $45 on Amazon, these budget headphones offer wireless connectivity and active noise cancelling. But are they any good?
MPOW H12 Review
Arriving in a cheap-looking box with a smattering of accessories, the MPOW H12 comes with a charging cable, aux cable, and a carrying case.
The headphones themselves feel equally cheap, with copious plastic and just enough aluminum to keep them from falling to pieces. And, thanks to a hinged design, the H12 easily folds into a more portable size.
A rubberized (yet still somehow comfortable) headband provides decent cushioning. The earpads appear to use the same fit and attachment style as Bose headphones, so replacing the earpads shouldn’t be an issue.
Despite my bald head and giant dumbo ears, this headphone still fits pretty well. The earpads do fully cover my ears. And even without the ANC turned on, it does a good job of blocking out my coworkers arguing about the best Mogwai album (it’s Hawk is Howling, dammit).
But once the ANC is turned on, and the music starts, the H12 blocks out practically everything (at least in an office environment). Voices, air vents, the annoying clackety-clack of my keyboard – all gone. And, unlike other, cheaper wireless ANC headphones, there’s no uncomfortable low-frequency exerting pressure on my ears (an infamous problem with some ANC headphone ranging in price all the way up to $200).
With ANC off, battery life stretches out to 30 hours, while ANC and wireless running at the same time will drop battery life down to 15 hours. Charging time comes in at 2-3 hours via the included micro-USB cable.
When used wirelessly, controls on the right earcup adjust volume and playback. A switch on the left earcup turns ANC on and off.
While an aux cable does come included, it’s not very good quality. You can use this headphone wired right out of the box, but moving the cable can result in sound dropping from the left or right earcup.
With that being said, I actually enjoyed using the H12 via a wired connection into a small headphone amp. As a result, the sound did appear a little more robust and enjoyable, sounding comparable with some $100 headphones out there.
For my listening sessions, though, I did alternate between a wired, amped connection with my iPod and a wireless connection with my iPhone.
In the low end, the H12 shows off a pretty good sense of detail – that is, for a $45 headphone. Usually headphones at this price feel sludgy and bloated in the low end. But MPOW has done their customers a solid here by offering a detailed (if not too bassy) listening experience. Rock and hip-hop still sound great, though, thanks to the detail and just enough punch in the bass. Indeed, this interesting and fun low end works well with electronica and some pop, too.
Very little compression appears in the H12’s midrange. Like the clean lows, this feature definitely surprised me. Most other headphones in this price range would compress mids to give you a v-shaped sound signature. And while that might sound great for guitars and drums, it absolutely sucks for vocals. But here the M12 gives an excellent account for itself, with vocals and instrumentation registering equally clean. I have never heard this accurate of a sound from such a cheap headphone.
Plenty of detail appears in the high end, but the H12 never seems to bright. Just a little bit so, it still feels somewhat smooth and rolled off in the highest highs. And not in a bad way, either, as the sound remains very pleasant and easy to listen to. Even when listening to some fairly intense classical test tracks, this headphone never sounds too screechy or harsh. Instead, it’s a fairly good sound for symphonies or suites, while absolutely KILLING my pop and electronic tracks. Oh yeah.
The sense of space here feels a little cramped. However, to its credit, the H12 does display a fair amount of depth in the sound. This results in an emotive but intimate sound. And while that’s pretty normal for a wireless noise-cancelling headphone, better soundstage can be heard on more expensive wireless ANC headphones.
There’s no one small factor that makes me really enjoy the MPOW H12. Instead, it’s a bunch of small things that come together to make this cheap headphone really fun. To be sure, the sound quality is actually decent for the $45 price point. But the quality ANC, the comfortable fit, and even the minimalist, not-so-flashy looks of this headphone do much to recommend it.
If you’re in the market for the best wireless ANC headphone under $100, you can do better than the MPOW H12. But if you’re on a real budget and need the best-sounding headphone with ANC and bluetooth connectivity under $50? This baby will NOT disappoint.
What if you don’t need ANC or wireless connectivity, though? If these features seem less important than having the best sound possible, skip this model completely and snag the Audio Technica ATH-M20X (at $49). While a bit more expensive, the improvement in sound quality will feel like a night-and-day difference.
If you just need ANC, though, I would still recommend the MPOW H12. Bluetooth connectivity might still be nice for a workout or commute, but these headphones still sound extra fine when cabled (especially if ditch the included cable and consider using an inexpensive amplifier). Using the MPOW H12 with my $55 PA2V2 amp, I get a better sound than a pair of $100 noise cancelling headphones, with performance coming close to the $299 Audio Technica MSR7NC.
With its low price tag of just $45 and a fairly impressive sound, considering, the MPOW H12 definitely delivers value. While the sound could technically be better, you’d be hard pressed to find a headphone that sounds this good AND offers ANC and wireless connectivity. Our take? If you’re on a budget and need something that works, the MPOW H12 will work wonders.
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