Pros: comfort, great low frequency ANC, solid build
Cons: unrefined sound, sluggish lows, no chin-slider, weak passive NC (+/-), large y-splitter
It was that one Head-Fi thread where Grace reached out and asked for ten people for a possible review of a headphone called “Mixcder ANC-G5”, a company (http://www.mixcder.com/) I haven’t heard of ever.
As it turns out the brand is relatively unknown, but is making inexpensive audio products as well as OEM products on order, and has got someone in their team who is in the audio and headphone industry for over 20 years – so there is a good amount of hope inside of me that the company has got products in their stable that are well tuned and sound halfway decent at least.
The reason why I mainly got attracted by the ANC-G5 is because this in-ear headphone in the rather lower price range has got an active noise cancelling module built in – the basic working principle of ANC is relatively simple and consists of a microphone and amplifier that instantaneously sends the exterior noise with inverted phase to the headphone and in sum, those inverted phase sound waves mix with the in-phase sound waves of the noise we are hearing and when done well, the sound waves eliminate each other and therefore the exterior noise isn’t heard anymore. As that is not as trivial as it sounds like, it only works best with static noise such as that from an air-plane or train.
While I don’t have experience with ANC headphones at the moment, I have listened to Bose Quiet Comfort headphones on various occasions and found them to work really well for eliminating noise in active mode. However as the ANC-G5 are in-ears, I am not sure whether for purely blocking out noise, a well-isolating passive headphone would have been possibly better than the active noise cancellation, but the review will show how the ANC-G5 fared (even in the lower price range, there are (however just a few) models like for example the UE200 which are entirely closed and isolate extremely well when correctly inserted).
Disclosure: After applying to the review thread run by Grace, I got selected as one of the reviewers for this headphone and then received the ANC-G5 free of charge in order to do an honest and unbiased review.
Price: ~ $59.99
Acoustic System: Closed
Active Noise Cancelling: Yes
Talk Mode: Yes
Volume Control: No
Control Compatibility: All device with 3.5mm audio jack
Driver Type: Neodymium Drivers
Speaker Diameter: 14mm
Frequency Response: 20 – 10,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 Ohms
Charging Time: 1.5-2 hours
Battery Life: Up to 8 hours
Item Weight: 26g
The in-ears arrive in a black cardboard box with golden letters. Inside, on can find the manual, a warranty extension card, a really nice carrying case, three pairs of differently sized silicone tips, a charging cable and last but not least the in-ears themselves.
Looks, Feels, Build Quality:
Just as the in-ears’ triangular faceplates and the stopper for the cable loops, the grey barrel of the 3.5 mm connector is made of metal but everything else is made of plastic, however the overall appearance and build quality is surprisingly solid with a nice metallic silver/grey finish.
The in-ears are rather on the larger side, with various vents in their bodies and a metallic screen on the inner side that covers something that looks like two differently sized vents. Overall, I wouldn’t be too surprised if one of those vents was actually a microphone for ANC, but who knows.
On the in-ear bodies, we can also find a loop for securing the in-ears in the ears. A comparable mechanism is used for the B&W C5 in-ears.
The Y-split is quite large as it contains the electronics used for the ANC. It has got a switch for activating/deactivating the noise suppression, a small LED that indicates that the ANC is turned on, a button for taking phone calls, a charging port on the side as well as a clip on the back.
The cable below the y-split is nylon-coated which might look nice, however it is very likely to fray over time, hence I am personally no big fan of this type of cable. Above the y-split, it is a standard rubber cable and quite flexible. Unfortunately a chin-slider is missing.
Not always found in this price range, strain relief is present on all transitions and quite good.
The in-ears are intended to be worn with the cables straight down. After insertion, one can use the adjustable loops to get a more secure fit in the ears, though I find the comfort and fit already to be really good without using them. Nonetheless, I would have wished a chin-slider was used, too.
Microphonics are unfortunately quite present when wearing the in-ears like this, but inserting the in-ears normally and then guiding the cables around my ears, cable noise is almost entirely gone.
Without activated ANC, noise isolation is below average and rather on the weaker side.
Active Noise Cancellation:
Quite as expected, the ANC worked really well with static low frequency noise such as the rotating fan from a computer or the water kettle and train noise. Higher frequency noise (writing on the keyboard, talking humans, clicking the mouse etc.) however remained pretty much unaffected.
Using the ANC in my office, the fan noise is completely blocked out and on the train, it is about entirely gone, too. However, I can still hear my keyboard and people talking. Be it a good or a bad thing – you decide. I judge it as being a neutral feature as low frequency noise is about entirely gone but you can still understand people talking to you. If you’re however out for an in-ear that isolates well over the whole frequency range, the ANC-G5 won’t be it as only the low frequencies are damped with activated ANC and you might be better off with a well-isolating closed body in-ear like the Logitech UE350.
Activating the ANC, the music gets louder by pretty much exactly 3 dB by the way. The frequency response however remains the same as before and I am not getting any artefacts from the ANC like for example hollow voices from people around me, which is a really good thing.
A positive thing to report is that with enabled ANC, there is just little added noise from the amp chip that is only slightly audible with no music playing at all.
Overall, I am quite positively surprised with the ANC but personally wish the passive noise isolation was somewhat better in the mids and treble.
For listening, I mainly used the Shanling M2, my iPod Nano 7G as well as the LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100.
The largest included silicone tips were used for listening and the following impressions.
For critical listening, the ANC was turned off.
Big, very bassy, full and boomy is how I would describe the tonality in short.
Surprisingly, measurements and EQ counter-checking reveals that the lows are emphasised by “just” 12 dB at max (compared to a very flat in-ear like the Etymotic ER-4S), however they appear more present and boomier because the bass isn’t the quickest (more about that in the “Resolution” section) and because the area between 100 and 200 Hz is already pretty forward.
Down from around 700 Hz, the lows’ emphasis starts climbing more with the type of a hump than a straight line, with already quite a strong emphasis between 100 and 200 Hz, with the climax being reached just slightly above 100 Hz. The level can be kept upright down to 30 Hz and just slightly loses presence down to 20, however the overall sound appears overall much more midbass than sub-bass focussed.
The mids are overall somewhat overshadowed by the strong bass, however they are tonally not too much skewed and surprisingly just moderately on the mellower side. Overall, they are, quite to my surprise, tonally relatively balanced and clearly not too much on the warmer and fuller side.
Between 1 and 2 kHz, I can detect just a small dip doing sine sweeps, with an evenly rising level from 3 to 10 kHz and an even roll-off above 12 towards 16 kHz. So unlike some other in-ears in this price range, the treble is very even and evenly rising, however it does not really become bright at all with music because of the strong bass.
Personally, I think if the lows’ climax was set lower, the sound would be more natural and realistic, as because the lows are already very present in the upper bass, the lows are about always present and not only when needed. Just for future reference, I personally don’t have any problem at all with the pure amount of bass but slightly how and where it is emphasised.
And if the climax was in the lower midbass or even sub-bass, the tonality would be a pretty perfect v-shape with just the far ends of the frequency spectrum being emphasised.
This is not meant as big criticism at all but just as an idea, as there are (unfortunately) just extremely few in-ears in the lower price range that have a climax in the bass that is located really low.
You might have probably expected it, but one doesn’t mainly buy the ANC-G5 for its sonic qualities but for its noise cancelling.
Resolution therefore doesn’t reach the level one would expect at ca. $60, but assuming that the price is made half of the ANC and half of the IEMs, the value isn’t as bad anymore as it would have probably been if there was no noise cancelling but the full retail price, though it is still not great.
Let’s start with my main point of criticism here, the lows: regarding quality, I would have expected better here. The bass is rather boomy, spongy, slow and also a bit unrefined. It doesn’t wobble and drone too much but is something one would rather expect and tolerate coming from a $10 IEM. At least it doesn’t soften too much more with busy tracks and remains the same level of softness, though midbass and sub-bass are softer than the upper bass.
Enjoying a heavy bass from time to time myself, although being a neutrality-seeking person in most cases (for (semi-) stationary listening at least), somewhat more aridness in the lows would have been good for the overall sound quality.
In the highs, I would have also wished for a somewhat better differentiation and detail. The treble sounds overall rather one-noted and unrefined than differentiated to me.
In the mids, the level of details is okay. Neither too bad, nor too good. As with the bass and treble, they lack some differentiation, details and definition though.
Overall, I would say that the sound is more or less in the league of the KZ ATE with the Mixcder being somewhat inferior here and there, but also slightly better in a few areas.
The sound isn’t that bad that I would immediately start puking (I am very adaptive and flexible though), but it is nothing I would ever use for even slightly serious/concentrated listening either but rather for very un-serious background music and mainly phone calls. Without the ANC electronics, I think around $20 to 25 at max would be fair for the in-ears.
But again, one is mainly buying these in-ears for the active noise cancelling and the sound is just kind of like the cherry on top although not the tastiest one. And for casual, slow, easy radio and chart listening, the sound is still quite okay.
The soundstage does not feel congested although it is definitely not the largest either. To my ears, it is a bit wider than deep, however not by much, though it is overall more oval than round.
Just like the overall sound, there could be a little more definition and separation overall for a more precise presentation, with the spatial impression being a bit foggy at times.
In Comparison with other In-Ears:
KZ ATE black, non-bassy version with one vent:
As it seems, there is more than one variation of the ATE around. The one I have bought is the non-bass-heavy one with a small vent hole.
The ATE has got the less forward and better controlled, slightly quicker bass. However, the Mixcder’s sounds a little more detailed (in the lows, the ATE appears a little blunt at times).
In the mids, the ATE is warmer and fuller sounding, while the ANC-G5 is a little more detailed.
In the highs, the Mixcder is more present and brighter while the ATE sounds a little more differentiated and detailed here.
When it comes to soundstage, the ATE’s is a little smaller with a similar quality.
Overall, I would say that on the technical level, it’s pretty much a tie with the ATE having the somewhat more detailed/differentiated highs whereas the Mixcder sounds somewhat more refined in the mids.
Pai Audio DR1:
Besides the bass, the ANC-G5 has got the somewhat better and more realistic tonality in the midrange where the DR1 sounds somewhat muffled because of its sound tuning.
Both IEMs have got a comparable amount of bass with a comparable emphasis characteristic, but the Mixcder in-ear sounds subjectively quite a bit bassier because its bass sounds looser and not as controlled.
In the lows, the DR1 is tighter, quicker, more detailed and more arid. This is the most significant difference in terms of sound quality.
In the mids, the DR1 is also better resolving but the ANC-G5 sounds less muffled and airier because of its tonality.
In the treble, the ANC-G5 is brighter while both are comparably detailed here with just a slight edge towards the MR1 when rendering notes.
The Pai’s soundstage is larger both in terms of width as well as depth with a more precise instrument separation.
Just as expected, the ANC works really well for static low frequency noise, blocking it out almost entirely. With non-static noise and especially in the mids and treble however, isolation could be better (for some, this could be a pro, while for others, this could be a con).
And while the active noise cancelling works really well and without any ghosting or interferences, the pure sound quality of the in-ears could be quite a bit better and more refined, so it should be rather seen as an extra, with the ANC being the main feature in my opinion.
So for those who are looking for inexpensive in-ears with active noise cancelling without looking for the best sound quality available for the price, the Mixcder ANC-G5 can still be a very considerable and solid product overall.
With a 60% sound/build quality for the price (47/100) to 40% ANC (85/100) weighting, I come to a result of 3.11 out of 5 possible stars.