Walter Shillington writes about products he knows firsthand. His articles focus on healthcare, electronics, watches, and household items.
A few years ago, I picked up a set of iTecknic ANC headphones. While this device has served me well, its battery is beginning to degrade, resulting in shorter and shorter operating times. I decided to purchase a replacement.
I checked out the offerings on Amazon, making a list of moderately priced Bluetooth headphones equipped with active noise reduction. After reading their reviews, concentrating on the comfort and sound quality, I chose the Mpow H21.
The Mpow H21 weighs in at 9.25 ounces. Its memory foam cups can swivel and pivot, providing a comfortable fit, and both right and left arms adjust to conform to the size of the wearer's head. These arms can also be folded, allowing the headphones to fit within a small bag or carrying case.
The use of Bluetooth 5.0 technology combined with an 850mAh lithium battery provides up to 65 hours of operating time.
Each earpiece is fitted with a 40mm driver. Handsfree calling is supported by a CVC 6.0 noise canceling system composed of five microphones.
The right speaker cup is equipped with volume control, an on/off/pairing button, microphone, 3.5-millimeter auxiliary output, and a switch that triggers the active noise canceling feature. There is also an LED used to signal Bluetooth connectivity. A mini-USB input, fitted to the left speaker cup, is used to charge the device.
- Brand: Mpow
- Model: H21 (BH398A)
- Type: Over the ear
- Weight: 262 grams (9.25 ounces)
- Color: Black
- Battery: 3.7V/850mAh lithium rechargeable
- Battery life: Up to 65 hours (with ANC off)
- Charging time: Three hours
- Speakers: 40mm drivers (1.6 inches)
- Microphones: CVC 6.0
- Connection: Bluetooth 5.0 (or 3.5-millimeter auxiliary cable)
- Operating range: 10 Meters (33 Feet)
- Noise suppression: Active Noise Canceling
- Accessories: Auxiliary cable, guide, and carrying bag
Mpow Technology Co., Limited is located in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
This headset is Bluetooth 5.0 capable but can be utilized with earlier versions. It paired to both my computer and tablet quickly and without complications. Due to the inclusion of a microphone, the headset can also be used with a smartphone.
There are two types of noise-canceling systems utilized in conjunction with headsets. Passive noise reduction involves the use of materials in the ear cushions that deaden the outside world.
The Mpow H21 also makes use of Hybrid Active Noise Canceling. When activated, the headset's microphones monitor outside noises. Then the device creates sound waves that mimic the incoming noise in every respect except one: the headphone's output is 180 degrees out of phase with the intruding waves.
Usually, the microphone monitor is placed either outside the earcup (feedforward ANC) or inside the earcup (feedback ANC). In hybrid systems, both types of active noise cancelation are utilized. Hybrid ANC incorporates the benefits of both methods while minimizing their disadvantages.
ANC dramatically reduces the sound of the low pitched and constant noises created by fans, engines, furnaces, and air purifiers.
If the intrusion is sudden or varying, however, compensation will not prove adequate. When I activated the Mpow H21's ANC system while listening to my drier, it negated the sound of the appliance's motor, but I could still hear a faint clicking as the wet clothes bounced against the inside of the drum. Higher pitched noises and voices are not affected by an active noise reduction system.
My old iTeknic headphones did a good job at converting low pitched noises into a quieter and more pleasant hiss. The Mpow H21 achieved the same results, but because it utilizes a hybrid form of ANC, the hissing noise was far less noticeable.
Sound Quality and Comfort
If you are going to test out a headset, you can't go wrong with jazz. I played a few Frank Sinatra hits backed by Count Basie's Orchestra. Then I relaxed to Nina Simone.
The quiet passages were extraordinarily quiet. Every note, whether delivered by voice, piano, bass, or brass, was brilliantly reproduced. I quickly became immersed within the music.
For my next test, I activated the headset's ANC. This obliterated the noise created by the kitchen's air purifier.
Then I switched to a Netflix serial featuring a young and untalented girl enrolled in a witch's academy. It was almost as if I were there! I could hear every wind noise and bat squeak. When heroine's lab experiment exploded in flames, the screams of fleeing students reverberated across the earpieces in vivid stereo.
While my old iTeknic headphones fared just as well in sound quality tests, the earpieces began to warm and irritate my ears after about 90 minutes. The Mpow headphones are slightly lighter and manage to cling securely to my ears without applying as much pressure. I wore them for over two hours without the slightest discomfort.
This device is not perfect. The ANC slide switch is difficult to operate and visually clashes with the other controls. I also feel that a headphone in this price range should be equipped with a padded case rather than a bag.
However, it does score incredibly high with regard to comfort, noise reduction, and sound quality. If you are looking for a quality set of headphones in the mid-price range, the Mpow H21 should be on your shortlist.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Walter Shillington
Michael McDonald on February 05, 2021:
Thanks Bryce for an excellent breakdown on this headphone set. I own an ancient set of MPOW which I purchased many years ago. Although not noise cancelling I am quite happy with their performance. Since reading your report I may move up to a noise cancelling pair. Always enjoy your reports. Best regards, Herb