The Mpow H12 are wireless over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation that at the time of writing cost €40/£45/$42. They come in a simple box with a suede-like carrying pouch, an audio cable and a microUSB cable for charging.
More importantly they have a 4.5 out of 5 star rating across over 1,200 users on Amazon, which makes them one of the preferred reasonably-priced ANC (active noise cancellation) wireless headphones around.
So I decided to give them a spin around town, the office, the gym and the commute and see if they’re really that good or their modest asking price has skewed buyer’s requirements. I did use the five times more expensive Sony WH-1000XM3’s as a yardstick for some of my impressions and the results were surprising, even to me.
Design and build quality
The Mpow H12’s are made from matte plastic and have a rubberized band on the top, and large, soft ear pads, that fit snug over the ear. They’re simple, but sturdy-made headphones that didn’t give me any reason to doubt their durability.
Their design is simple to the point of being utilitarian, which is how I like my devices. There are no unnecessary design elements and the controls are nice and simple – the ANC switch on the left cup, the three button controls on the right.
The ANC switch will activate the noise cancellation even when the headphones have been turned off, which is useful if you just want some quiet time.
Essentially you can use them as unconnected noise-cancelling earmuffs. The three button combo on the right ear cup are easy to get used to and get everything done. The center button does play/pause with a short press and will also answer a call with a single short press – a double press ends a call.
Hold the play/pause button for 3s to turn on the H12’s, 5s to enter Bluetooth pairing mode and 2s to turn off. It’s a rather overworked button, but since you only use the pairing mode rarely and power toggle is basically the same input it’s not too confusing.
The other two buttons act as volume up and down with a single press and next/previous track with a long press. The scheme is easy to get accustomed to and beats the wanky touch controls of Sony’s headphones any day in this reviewer’s opinion.
During my two weeks of testing the H12’s rarely left my head while at work and at no point did I feel uncomfortable. They clamp nicely on my relatively small ears and never bit down hard enough to hurt (like Sony’s WH-1000XM3’s do, in my case). The Mpow H12 also don’t heat up my ears as much as the Sonys when used for long hours.
The only two gripes I have with the Mpow H12’s is the way the headphones violently click when I fold the earcups to stow away in the pouch and the fact that they use microUSB to charge. I now only have the one microUSB cable in my drawer just to charge outdated devices that rely on the standard and dream of the day all my gadgets will use the reversible USB-C cable.
Sound and noise cancellation
Sound is a subjective matter. Every person has a preference for their headphones – some like them bass heavy, some prefer them neutral. The Mpow H12’s have pronounced mids with a decent amount of bass to give your music some depth. However bass lovers should look elsewhere – the H12’s don’t have an impressive low end. They are very dynamic and feel made for instrument-rich music.
The Mpow H12’s match Sony’s WH-1000XM3’s for volume and, to my ears, feel almost as dynamic. However, the Sony’s have decidedly more pronounced bass.
Overall the Mpow H12’s try to be great for every taste, making them adequate for bass-reliant music, but better suited to melodic music and general multimedia enjoyment.
Noise cancellation is a strong point on the Mpow H12’s. They do a fine job of reducing constant noise like a fan or the hustle of a car or a bus. They also nicely taper down the typical heavy chatter of a busy office. Pro tip – when it’s a little too loud around you, search for a 10 hour pink noise video on YouTube (or ask Google’s Assistant for some pink noise), you will hear nothing but sweet static.
Compared to the best ANC headphones on the market, Sony’s WH-1000XM3, the H12’s let more noise in and don’t offer that vacuum feel the 1000XM3’s have. The H12 offer less of that noise-cancelling hum that sounds like you have a conch shell up to your ear, but overall they do a lovely job of eliminating the buzz of the environment around you to let you focus on your work.
Taking calls on the H12’s was a good experience. Callers reported hearing me loud and clear.
Battery life and connection
Mpow claims 30 hours of battery life for the H12’s but with ANC on you’re looking at closer to 20 hours. I tested them for two weeks almost non-stop for a variety of sound – a lot of audiobooks and music – mostly at around 80% volume with ANC on all the time. They easily last for three working days of nearly-constant use, which is highly impressive. If you were to turn ANC off you’d surely add a few more hours.
Sadly, there’s no way to check the battery from the headphone, like there is on Sony’s cans, but your phone offers an accurate reading. Once the battery dipped below 20% the headphones themselves gives a audible warning so you know to look for a charger.
Charging the 500mAh battery took about 2 hours from 0 to full.
Connecting to a smartphone or a PC was seamless and very fast, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0. Range is good, but not great. I tested the H12’s at 15-20m and they worked fine, however any further would cause issues. My Sony WH-1000XM3’s and Jabra Move Wireless’ are much better in this regard.
If you’re in the market for a reasonably-priced pair of active noise-cancelling wireless headphones, the Mpow H12 are an easy recommendation. They do a fine job for music enjoyment and an even better one to reduce noise at work. The casual listener would be very happy with the dynamic sound. Add to that the stellar battery life and you got a winner.
Don’t let the price fool you into thinking these headphones are five times worse than Sony’s 1000XM3’s or Bose’s QC 35 II’s. The Mpow H12’s won’t outshine those headphones in sound nor active noise-cancellation, but they come close enough so as not to matter in a majority of usecases.
They cover all the features you need, like volume and audio control, fast connectivity, good build and good noise cancellation, and all for a fraction of the price of a premium pair of cans.