A little less than a year ago, I reviewed the original TicPods earbuds and liked them. The true wireless earbud landscape has changed dramatically since then, with better sound quality, improved battery life, and features like noise canceling taking center stage. Now Mobvoi is back with the follow-up to the TicPods, but how good of an upgrade are they, really?
So, first things first: the new TicPods are a dramatic departure from the original TicPods. The form factor is different, the case is smaller, sound quality is better, and the controls are nicer. They are better than their predecessor in almost every way. There are also two versions: regular TicPods 2 and TicPods 2 Pro.
While the form factor and sound quality between the two models should be the same, the Pro model brings a few additional features to the table. Here’s what you’ll get with the Pro over the regular model:
- TicHear: Voice commands on your headphones, no hotword required. Just say things like “play music” or “next song” to make it happen. You can also use TicHear to bring up your voice assistant by saying “Hey Tico.”
- TicMotion: Don’t want to talk to your headphones? Cool, just nod or shake your head to do things like answer or reject calls.
- Dual Mic noise cancelation: Because two is better than one, right?
Otherwise, both the regular and Pro models feature aptX, Bluetooth 5.0, and quick charging. They also come in three colors: Navy, Ice, and Blossom. For some reason, Mobvoi sent me the don’t-call-them-flesh-colored Blossom (read: pink) model, which I absolutely hate. I’m fine with pink, but the shade of this pink makes them look disgusting when they’re in your ears. Like a worm—an ear worm.
With that out of the way, it’s worth noting that we’re focusing on the Pro model in this review. Things like fit and sound quality almost certainly apply to both models, but a lot of the smaller details will likely be specific just to the Pro model.
So, yeah, let’s talk about it.
The Case Is Tiny (but Flimsy)
Mobvoi is pretty proud of the TicPods 2 case, which is made to “fit in the coin pocket of your jeans.” I imagine there may be some folks out there who have no idea what a coin pocket is, so allow me to enlighten you: it’s that tiny pocket above the right-front pocket. The one that’s too small to use for anything? That’s it.
Because of its long and thin design, the TicPods 2 case fits in the coin pocket of most of my pants just fine, though I still never carry it there. I appreciate the effort that Mobvoi put into making the case long and slim, but I’d rather just put it in the pocket alongside my phone, like some sort of animal.
Size aside, I’m less than impressed with the build quality of the case. It’s light, which is nice, but that lightness also makes the whole thing feel cheap. The lid is flimsy plastic, the hinge feels weak, and the base has no “substance” to it. It just doesn’t feel like a high-quality case, especially when compared to the Galaxy Buds+ Jabra Elite 75t, AirPods/Pro, Jaybird Vista, or similar.
But at least it charges over UBS-C, so that’s a plus.
The Earbud Design Is a Step Backward
One of the best things about the original TicPods was the design of the earbuds. Or, more specifically, the tips. They use interchangeable tips a la AirPods Pro (but months before AirPods Pro existed) so you can get a great fit and good seal.
The TicPods 2 abandon that clearly superior feature for a step in the wrong direction by opting for an all-plastic design like the original AirPods. I’m going to assume this was to reduce the size of the case, but that comes at a high cost of compromised comfort.
Just like AirPods, these will be fine for the people they fit. But the one-size-fits-all approach isn’t a great idea for most people, myself included. In my case, the right earbud feels pretty okay most of the time, but the left one puts pressure inside my left ear that gets uncomfortable after a while and downright painful when worn for extended periods. But because there’s no way to change the fit, this is what I’m stuck with.
To my eye, the part that goes into your ear looks a bit larger than what you’ll find on AirPods, though that’s not scientific at all—that’s me eyeballing it. I also earballed it, and my ears agree with what my eyes see: the TicPods 2 are larger. If you’ve tried AirPods, maybe that will help you decide if TicPods 2 are a good choice for you.
They’re not for me.
Finally, I want to touch on a point that I often get asked about: one-bud use. If you’re into the one-bud-in-and-one-ear-open way of life, you can do that with the TicPods 2, but only with the left bud. If you’re a right earer, then you’re out of luck.
Sound Quality Is Decent, but Not Great
The original TicPods were tinny and thin sounding, which was par for the course at the time of release. But as I said earlier, true wireless ‘bud tech has come a long way in a short period, with sound quality getting significantly better across the board. So much so that the Jabra Elite 75ts are the best sounding earbuds—wired or wireless—that I’ve ever heard.
The TicPods 2 sound much better than their predecessor and pretty decent overall, but again they don’t stack up to other products on the market. The Jabras mentioned above, Jaybird Vista, and Galaxy Buds+ are all superior choices in the sound quality department. Even the $80 Creative Outlier Air are a better choice for both sound and comfort.
Overall, the TicPods 2 just sound … lifeless. They lack the oomph that makes other ‘buds so good—I think it’s because they’re naturally mid-heavy. They have a very “round” overall sound, which always sounds bad to my ears.
They do not necessarily lack in bass or treble as a result of the mid-focus, so they at least have that going for them. You can also customize the EQ with a handful of presets in the Mobvoi app (iOS/Android), but those made focused mids even more prominent in every situation (at least to me).
To me, music is supposed to inspire. Motivate. Make you feel something. And a good set of headphones or earbuds brings that out in the best way—great sound quality makes music better. But bad, lifeless sound quality? It does the opposite. It makes great songs boring. It removes all the feeling and emotion from otherwise powerful songs. And that’s exactly what the TicPods 2 do to music for me. Objectively, they “sound okay.” But they take away all the things that subjectively make music great.
I also want to touch on call quality quickly. It’s good! It works. It sounds fine and no one complained about my voice sounding muffled or the like. One upside of the hard plastic design is that it doesn’t cause that clogged ear feeling (or isolate outside nose), so you can still hear yourself speak. It might be only upside, but at least it’s a good one.
Ultimately, If you’re upgrading from the original TicPods and are dead set on buying the sequel, then you’ll at least be pleased with the bump in audio quality. Otherwise, you’re better off buying something else.
Voice Control Works, But It’s Not Necessary
As I mentioned earlier, the TicPods 2 Pro (not the non-Pro model) have voice controls. Without even needing to say a hotword of any kind, you can use commands like “play music” or “next song,” and the headphones will do the thing you said. It’s neat.
The TicPods 2 also have touch controls—double-tap to skip track, long-press to bring up the digital assistant, and swipe on the stem to change the volume—which can be customized in the Mobvoi app if the default settings aren’t good enough for you. So, the primary time I can see voice control being beneficial is if your hands are full and you need to pause the music.
Otherwise, it’s so much easier to pause the music manually. The default action on most headphones is tap-to-pause, but on the TicPods you have to customize the double-tap feature (in the Mobvoi app) to pause. The default setting is skip track.
I think play/pause could easily be a single-tap, next track as a double-tap on the right but, previous track as a double-tap on the left bud, long-press to invoke the digital assistant, and volume by sliding on the stem. I have a feeling the main reason the voice controls exist is that full controls are lacking on the buds themselves, which would be an easy fix.
Otherwise, you can pull the earbud from your ear because it has automatic ear detection, which is at least faster than saying “pause music” and waiting for it to detect the command. Also, if you hate automatic ear detection the way I hate automatic ear detection, you can disable it. Woo.
Aside from native track controls, the Pro model also has support for a special wake word to bring up your device’s digital assistant. Just say “Hey Tico,” and it will automatically call on your device’s assistant. But in my experience, it’s pretty slow. Also, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just say your device’s wake word instead?
Conclusion: Pass on These
A year ago, the TicPods 2/Pro would’ve been great true wireless earbuds. They sound better than anything that was out at the time and have some pretty decent features. But it’s not a year ago, and these are brand new in 2020.
Here’s the fact: there are better, more comfortable, and generally just nicer true wireless headphones out there now. The Galaxy Buds+ are $20 more than the TicPods 2 Pro but sound better and offer a customizable fit. The Jabra Elite 75t are the best-sounding buds I’ve ever heard (and also have a customizable fit) for just $50 more.
But I get it—$50 is a lot when we’re talking about something that costs between $100-130 in the first place. If you’re budget conscious, then the Creative Outlier Air is still my pick for the best bang-for-your-buck-buds on the market today. Those are $80. There are also some great options out there in the $50 range, too.
All that said, if you’re still really into the idea of the TicPods 2, go for the non-Pro model. The Pro will get you voice controls that you may use once or twice before forgetting about altogether. Otherwise, you’ll get the same crummy fit, flimsy build, and subpar sound quality from the regular model.
Here’s What We Like
- Versatile customization options using the Mobvoi app
- Voice controls work well (even if they're unnecessary)
And What We Don't
- Flimsy case, subpar build quality
- Hard plastic isn't comfortable
- Dull sound quality