Today we are going to be taking a look at the ANC-G5, a budget active noise canceling (ANC) in-ear earphone from Mixcder.
Noise canceling earphones are an intriguing, niche aspect of the hobby for me. They nearly always seem to sacrifice sound quality to make your listening experience more pleasurable in areas where standard earphones would be significantly compromised. The UE6000 was my first noise canceling product, but this feature’s application seemed to be used more as a built in amplifier to make them sound more exciting, with some minor noise reduction being a secondary benefit. Next up was the Sony MDR-NC13, an earphone that offered barely enough noise reduction ability to make the numerous ergonomic compromises worthwhile.
When Mixcder showed up in the forums looking for reviewers for their new ANC-G5 model, I jumped at the opportunity. My experience thus far with noise canceling earphones from larger, more established brands had been average at best, and I was curious to see what Mixcder could bring to the table at a price that would be fairly accessible and enticing for consumers.
Did the ANC-G5 meet my expectations? It certainly did, so let’s find out why.
I would like to thank Grace and Mixcder for providing a review copy of the ANC-G5 in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I am not receiving any financial compensation for this review and all comments and views within are my honest opinions. They are not representative of Mixcder or any other entity.
The ANC-G5 can be purchased through a variety of different Amazon regions (69.99 on Amazon.ca, 59.99 on Amazon.com).
A Little About Me:
Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread and being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own reviews. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, and Meze. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done.
The gear I use for testing is pretty basic composing of an XDuoo X3, HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. When it comes to signature preference I tend to lean towards aggressive and energetic, but I try not to limit myself to one signature only. I also tend to listen at lower than average volumes.
Enough preamble. Let us dive into the good stuff shall we?
Packaging and Accessories:
While the ANC-G5’s packing is minimalist, it comes across as very clean and professional.
The simple black box has adorned on the front in Gold writing the brand and model, emphasizing that within you will find your new “active noise canceling in-ear headphone”. On the sides Mixcder ANC-G5 is printed, and on the rear is a sticker displaying the product specifications and features in six different languages. There is not a whole lot going on, and I like that. Oft times packages are plastered with images and color, screaming “Buy me, I’m awesome!” Mixcder’s packaging feels premium to the touch and is much more subtle, letting the ANC-G5 do the talking.
Lifting the lid I was greeted by a User Manual and a Golden Card. The Golden Card outlines Mixcder’s warranty, reviewer/user, and product programs. Underneath these two items cushioned by a foam cutout was the ANC-G5’s excellent hard clamshell case.
Pulling out the case and opening it reveals the ANC-G5 itself, a USB charge cable, and additional medium and large silicone tips sealed in their own individual bags. The small tips come preinstalled. I really like the included tips as they’re not the same generic green ones that come with countless earphones right now. They are made from a very flexible silicone that seals exceptionally well, or at least it does for me. The USB cable, however, makes me scratch my head.
The standard for mobile products right now seems to be micro USB, but Mixcder went with a much less common Mini 8 pin connector. I have a ton of gadgets, none of which use Mini 8 pin cables, and I’m guessing this will be the same for many of you. It’s a good thing the included case is more than spacious enough inside to carry the ANC-G5 and all included accessories.
While the packaging and accessories are all quite basic, the quality is there and impressions are positive.
Design, Build and Comfort:
The ANC-G5 utilizes a half-earbud form factor, making the most of the large 14.5mm driver. The nozzle protrudes from the housing at less of an angle than most earphones I’ve tried with this design, and is very short. The nozzle also takes on an oblong ovular shape, similar to that found on the Panasonic HJE-120. I find that ergonomically, it works well in tandem with this form factor.
The housings are amply ventilated. You will find ports on the back plate, on the top behind the adjustable ear hooks, and a third hidden behind the grill located on the inside facing your ear. All this ventilation results in below average passive isolation. The housings are composed mostly of plastic but feature aluminum back plates on which channels are denoted through printed L and R markings. Fit and finish overall is good without any sharp edges or sloppy construction, though slight mold lines are present.
The cable is a mixed bag I feel, mostly due to the decision to use a cloth coating on the lower half. In my experience cloth cables are noisy and fray, sometimes very early in their lifespan. The ANC-G5’s cloth section is already showing some wear at common bend points near the jack and where it enters the y-split. Above the y-split is a more traditional rubber-coated section that leads into flexible rubber tubing as you near the housings. This tubing allows the cable to be used as an adjustable ear hook, sliding up and down through a notches in the housings to help guarantee a secure fit. Overall I found cable noise, or microphonics, to be reasonably managed and not overly intrusive.
The y-split doubles as a housing for the noise-canceling electronics, battery, and call controls. Despite the size, it is fairly light, especially compared to the housing found on the Sony MDR-NC13. Most of the housing is a smooth slab of plastic, though the front uses a nicely coated strip of aluminum. The call control button depresses with a satisfying click after just the right amount of pressure being applied. The on/off switch for the active noise canceling feature slides with reasonable tactile resistance. This makes it clear when it is in the one and off positions, reinforced by a blue LED that lights up when ANC has been activated. The clip on the back is fairly large with sharp teeth around the rim and a strong clamping force. This allows the y-split to be securely fastened to your clothing with little worry it will slip off. It would have been nice to see a chin slider included, but this omission is somewhat easy to overlook due to how well the ear hooks work.
I found the ANC-G5 to be a very comfortable earphone. The half-earbud design forces a shallow insertion depth allowing the earphone to unobtrusively sit in your outer ear. The ear hooks can cause uncomfortable pressure points, though this can easily be alleviated by carefully extending them to lightly hook into the upper edges of your inner ear. For the most secure fit you will want them to press tighly into this area, sacrificing some comfort for stability. The weight of the y-split is negated through the proper use of the shirt clip preventing it from tugging at the earphone housings. If for whatever reason you are unable to clip it somewhere, the weight does eventually become noticeable.
The battery was over halfway charged when they first arrived, and it took about six hours to deplete it. Charging to fully from my laptop took around two hours. From a full charge the ANC-G5 lasted just over eight hours. Mixcder’s claimed two hour charge time and eight hour play time seem to be right on the mark.
Overall I feel the ANC-G5 is a well designed product. The materials chosen seem durable, are aesthetically pleasing, and are price appropriate. Minus the potential for discomfort caused by the ear hooks, the ANC-G5 is very comfortable and easy to fit and seal in your ear. The media controls work well and are easy to locate and use without looking at them. The choice to use cloth for the lower half of the cable is a bit of a misstep I feel, but that may be more of a personal preference thing.
In this section, I am going to be covering both ANC performance and sound quality as I feel they are intrinsically tied together. Listening to the ANC-G5 critically in the quiet and comfort of your home doesn’t make sense to me, as it defeats the purpose of a product like this. This is a product meant to be used in noisy environments, and I feel it has been tuned to suit such circumstances. Let’s start with why.
The ANC-G5 is tuned with a fairly large mid-bass hump. Listening to them critically in a quiet environment, this hump is intrusive and makes them sound boomy and bloated. Treble extension and detail is decent, and their midrange is clear and fairly forward with some interference from the mid-bass. Sub-bass extension could be better, but I find myself saying that often with earphones using large drivers like this. Their overall sound is warm, energetic, and lightly v-shaped. While they’re not stellar performers, they are pretty smooth and quite fun and musical sounding, only needing a bit of refinement to soften up some rough edges.
I find that in noisy areas the aspect of sound most hindered is usually bass, so when tossing them into a loud environment this mid-bass heavy tuning begins to make sense. Boosting the mid-bass compensates for any loss, especially when the ANC-G5 has poor isolation and noise reduction abilities with ANC off. Adding ANC knocks out the ambient background chaos and just enough noise is let in passively to counter the mid-bass hump.
With ANC on, I didn’t notice a huge shift in sound quality, but there were some minor changes to note. For one, I thought the ANC-G5 became more focused. Treble and bass tightened up and the midrange became more apparent balancing out the signature somewhat. Maybe these observations were a placebo resulting from the accompanying boost in volume that comes with turning on ANC, but dropping the volume back down netted the same feelings and observations.
Throughout the week, I had the chance to check out the ANC-G5 in a number of situations and locations. These were my observations.
City Use: ANC on was wonderful for deadening a city’s typical ambient background noise. The cacophony of sounds that blend together to makes cities seemingly always alive disappears the moment the ANC switch is flipped, leaving only tire noise, muffled bugs (crickets, cicadas), and deep engine noise, such as diesel trucks. It’s a very serene and somewhat surreal experience, as my mind was constantly search for and expecting more noise. It’s enough to allow you to shut off and relax. Sitting there on a park bench watching the world silently slip by (no music playing) was very peaceful.
Workplace: With ANC on, the blended voices of 100 busy call centre employees became muffled, the whirring fans of my computers and those nearby died out. Left was only the clacking keyboards and voices of myself and those around me. It was not perfectly silent but as with my park bench experience, the standard call centre drone was nullified and replaced with a somewhat serene soundscape peppered with select noises.
In a Vehicle: The ANC-G5 succeeded in drowning out tire and wind noise, allowing me to lay my head back, enjoy the drive, and eventually slip into a light sleep. Engine noise was dulled, but the voices of those in the car remained clear.
In the Wild: Not a standout if I am to be honest. The forest is already a fairly quiet and serene place, and the types of low frequency noises the ANC-G5 excels at cutting out were not present. Tuning on the ANC didn’t do much at all, until I went to the beach. The low roar of waves was completely cut out, leaving only the trailing splashes. Given how calming and serene crashing waves can be, I can’t imagine any reason why you would want to cut those sounds out.
Wind Noise: With ANC off, I found the ANC-G5 dealt with wind noise fairly well. The angled edge running down the front of the earphone worked to soften the effects of wind rushing over the body of the earphone. With ANC on, wind noise was greatly exaggerated leading me to believe the outermost or topmost vent contains the microphone that enables the G5 to mute ambient noise so effectively.
The combination of limited natural isolation and good low frequency noise cancellation abilities makes the ANC-G5 a fantastic earphone for every day, out of the house use. I found this combination allowed me to listen to music clearly, but still let in important auditory queues such as voices and some tire noise, keeping me safe while walking about. In a workplace environment the minor passive isolation let me hear my colleagues, but the ANC drowned out the usual background drone that can be tiring and invasive.
Sony MDR-NC13 (~75.00 USD): The NC13 doesn’t stand a chance against Mixcder’s offering. Material quality falls short with the ANC-G5 which uses more premium plastics and a much better cable. The j-cable on the NC13 is manageable, but strain relief is lacking and it tangles as if it was meant to be a positive feature.
Noise-canceling on the NC13 falls short as well. It seems to reduce similar frequencies, but not anywhere near to the same extent. It also takes a few seconds to kick in, while the ANC-G5’s cancellation takes effect near simultaneously with the switch being flicked. The NC13’s housing is slightly more comfortable since it orients the driver perpendicular to your ear, similar to something like Sony’s own XB90, but it lacks any stabilizing features and is easy to tug out of place. The ANC-G5 also sounds more impressive with a cleaner, more detailed presentation and significantly more texture across the board. The NC13 is more balanced, but extension at either end is poor and they come across veiled.
The ANC-G5 clearly stands as the superior product with more thought put into it’s design and functionality.
UE6000 (Prices vary wildly): The UE6000 and ANC-G5 are very different products, most notable is that one is a headphone, one an earphone. They also show off markedly different design philosophies with the UE6000 featuring a modern, edgy design that draws your attention. Where their similarity lies is that they are both ANC products.
The UE6000’s signature is darker and bassier with ANC feeling like more of an afterthought, though it isn’t useless. It can be used to very mildly tone down ambient noise, but the electronics are best used as an amplifier to boost volume, bass, and treble making the UE6000 a very fun and exciting listen. You want to keep the volume up because unlike on the ANC-G5, the UE6000’s ANC hardware hisses noticeably when activated. Passive isolation is much better than on the ANC-G5.
Suggestions for Improvement:
Move the ANC microphone to a location that is less affected by wind. These would have been an excellent earphone for running since they do not block certain sounds, enabling you to listen to media while remaining attentive to your surroundings. However, the wind noise with ANC on is exaggerated too much to make them suitable for this activity. With ANC off the passive isolation means you will probably be forced to crank the volume to unsafe listening levels.
Swap out the cloth cable for a more traditional cable. The cloth looks good and feels nice, but it is already starting to fray and does not leave me confident that it will last.
A simple chin slider would be a nice addition for those that enjoy them. For me personally this was a non-issue but I know that this feature is very important for some, especially if they have fitment issues with in-ear earphones and need to slider to help ensure a secure fit.
The ANC-G5 comes across as a carefully planned and well-designed product. They are not suited to in-home or critical listening, but I don’t think that was what Mixcder had in mind for them.
The blend of below-average passive isolation and strong low-frequency active noise canceling allows them to excel in urban environments where you want to reduce extraneous noise without drowning out the world and important auditory queues. As a second earphone to use when traveling between destinations, the ANC-G5 is near perfect. Leave the critical listening to something that was designed with sound quality as it’s primary focus.
I have no problem recommending the ANC-G5 as they’ve been an absolute pleasure to live with this past week. The ANC works well, they’re solidly built, and while a little rough around the edges they produce a fun, musical sound that you can enjoy in noisy environments. If on the lookout for an inexpensive noise canceling earphone, Mixcder’s entry into this segment should definitely be on your radar.
Thanks for reading!
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Gramatik – The Age of Reason
Incubus – Movement of the Odyssey Parts 2/3/4
Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Skindred – Roots Rock Riot
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
The Crystal Method – Tweekend
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Culprate – Deliverance
Various drum and bass mixes from SubSil3nt and Going Quantum Podcast