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Universal Fit item created by ryanjsoo, Aug 29, 2017
Pros - Effective noise suppression - Good build and comfort - Detailed sound from the 6mm driver
Cons - With ANC off; thin sound with bass boost on, overly thick sound with it off
Today we're checking out a dual-driver noise cancelling earphone, the OVC H15.
When passive noise isolation isn't enough to block out the world around you and you absolutely need dead silence to concentrate, active noise cancelling products swoop in to save the day. While the most effective noise cancelling products seem to command prices in the triple digits, there are a slew of products at a variety of prices vying for your attention.
Some like the sub-100 USD Mixcder ANC-G5 are quite effective in their noise blocking capabilities and sound decent to boot, while others fail in one or both regards. The UE6000 and A-Audio Legacy come to mind. Both sound great in passive modes while their ANC functions are little more than amping or EQing features to make them sound louder and more dynamic, and in the case of the Legacy do not positively change their sound. Disappointing given their debut prices.
Like the ANC-G5, OVC's H15 not only sounds good but it effectively reduces external noise, though the way in which it does this is a little more interesting than Mixcder's methods. Let's take a closer look at why I think the H15 is worth consideration if you're looking to buy an inexpensive ANC earphone.
A big thanks to Shallow at OVC for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing their product. The H15 was provided free of charge for the purposes of a fair and unbiased review. There is no financial incentive for writing this review, nor do the thoughts within represent anyone but myself.
Due to some issues with my computer that delayed the completion and release of this review, I received two review units. There were some mild modifications made after the first review unit was received. The second contained a revised set of ear tips that improve comfort over the originals and enhanced bass levels when the smaller 6mm driver was running solo. It might seem insignificant, but this change is a great example of tuning sound with tips and why I always tip roll my earphones when possible.
The standard retail price for the H15 is 79.99 USD, but at the time of this review was on sale for 43.99 USD. You can pick it up on Amazon;
For at home use the H15 was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp or straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop. During portable use it was paired with an LG G5 or Shanling M1, both of which brought it up to listening volume without any effort.
I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, MacaW GT600s, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
Packaging and Accessories:
The H15 arrives in some fairly basic packaging. The cardboard used is thin and somewhat flimsy but the overall presentation is attractive and does exactly what it needs to. The external sleeve clearly communicates the H15's features and includes a frequency response chart intended to show off the effectiveness of the ANC hardware. There are also images of each aspect of the build including the earpieces, 90 degree angled jack, y-split which also contains the remote and media controls, and the ANC module. Last is a list of specifications.
Sliding off the external sheath and flipping open the front flap reveals the H15 neatly contained within a plastic tray coated in a soft fabric-like material. Underneath this tray is the manual, a customer service card, and the accessories. In all you get;
* H15 earphones
* durable carrying pouch
* two prong airplane adapter
* micro USB for charging
* magnetic cable tie
* shirt clip
* silicone eartips (s/m/l)
Overall this was a pretty basic unboxing experience. The packaging is nothing you'll want to keep around to display, but the accessories included are of good quality and magnetic cable tie is handy. The inclusion of an airplane adapter will be especially useful for those using these on flights. The original version I was sent included a second set of black silicone tips. The omission of these with the newest version of the H15 was a surprise. Then again, the new tips both sound better and are more comfortable so not a huge loss in the grand scheme of things.
Build and Comfort:
The H15 is a very well built earphone with good fit and finish. Despite being mostly plastic, they feel durable and tough. Silver accents are placed conservatively adding some well-thought out contrast to what would otherwise be an all-black and somewhat drab design. The ANC module's front plate is metal with the OVC logo raised and textured. The y-split is made from a dense, well-formed plastic with the volume and multifunction buttons coated in rubber. I was expecting them to have a spongy feel when pressed, but they move with a solid click giving you a clear tactile response. They are also easy to differentiate.
The cable is fabric coated and one of the few of this style that I actually like. It's thick, flexible, and both memory and tangle resistant. Excellent strain relief is present at the jack, leading into the ANC module, and at the ear pieces, though it's missing entirely at the y-split which is a bit of an oversight. You will find a chin cinch though. Another reason I tend to dislike cloth cables is the noise they cause when rubbing against your clothing. OVC's cable also does a great job of reducing microphonics (cable noise) to the point that I almost forgot to mention it. Like almost every fabric cable I've seen (Dunu Titan 1 is the one exception) at frequent bend points there is some mild fraying.
Comfort is quite good, especially with the new ear tips OVC moved to. It was a smart move for OVC to put the ANC electronics in their own module a couple inches from the jack. You can tuck it into your pocket with your phone or player leaving you with only the weight of the cable and y-split to manage. That's mostly negligible, especially if you make use of the included shift clip and chin cinch. The ear hooks built into the ear tips are made from the same plush silicone and aid in ear piece stability without causing any discomfort.
Overall the H15 is a well-built and comfortable earphone. OVC did a good job balancing placement of the electronics to keep hanging weight low and ergonomics natural.
Isolation and Noise Cancelling:
The H15's passive isolation is good for an earphone with an open back and very shallow fit. The shape of the included ear tips and density of the silicone combined with a large ear piece housing fill your outer ear quite well, keeping external noise from bleeding in. I would put it at slightly below average compared to your standard dynamic driver based earphone.
Leaving the window of my new office open lets in a ton of noise from a nearby road that is extremely busy and very distracting. My work computer's fan is also running at 175% most of the day, a sound which needs to go at the best of times. With the H15's noise cancelling on, I'm left hearing only the light wisp of tires going by. Turn on some music, even at the very low volumes I listen, and it's gone. It also does an amazing job of drowning out the sound of the fan above our stove when cooking, and the fan in the bathroom. Fans don't stand a chance. I must note that when you first turn on the ANC function there is a mild sensation of pressure. Unlike the A-Audio Legacy mentioned in the intro, over the course of a second or so it fades at the same rate as incoming noise until you're left with near silence and the crisp, detailed sound of the 6mm driver.
Overall I was quite impressed with the H15's noise reduction capabilities. It's mid and low range noise attenuation is very effective, though higher pitched and sudden noises will still come through. I really couldn't ask for much more. The level of silence the H15 affords is more than adequate.
60 hours. I've put well over 100 hours on these over the course of two months and I've only had to charge them once. This is how you do battery life. I can't think of a single product that I've used that comes close to offering the same stamina.
Unfortunately I forgot to record how long it took to recharge, but even if it ends up being six hours, that's fine. You're not going to have to recharge them again anytime soon once they're juiced up.
I don't think it's unreasonable to expect sound quality to suffer somewhat when you start adding extra tech into an earphone. This especially applies to budget and entry-level offerings where compromises are made to achieve a target price. To my ears the H15 does an excellent job of maintaining an above-average standard of quality sound to go along with it's active noise cancelling feature. Keep in mind that while this is a dual driver earphone, the larger 13.6mm is relegated to ANC and/or bass boost functions. As a result its not always adding something to the experience. When it is you'll know it because it's like listening to a totally different product.
Bass Boost and ANC Off: With bass boost and ANC off it's all 6mm, all the time. To me this is the H15 at it's best but I expect the 6mm's uninfluenced signature won't be for everyone. Why? Like a lot of micro driver earphones, the sound is thin, treble is prominent, and bass presence is somewhat reserved, though I appreciate that OVC kept mid-bass presence in check. It lets the 6mm's surprisingly good sub-bass extension show itself on tracks where it's relevant. The mid-range is clean and clear with a very crisp, tight presentation. Vocals do tend to show some sibilance, but it's minimal at worst and doesn't detract much from the experience. The H15 gives off a good sense of space with solid imaging, layering, and separation qualities, aided by the thin presentation. I certainly can't see anyone thinking they sound constricted and claustrophobic, at least not when running the 6mm by itself. In this mode they remind me of a smoother, more refined version of JVC FXD series of micro-drivers from a few years back, but with a much more open sound stage.
ANC On, Bass Boost Off: With ANC on, the 13.6mm kicks in to counter incoming noise. The 6mm's sound is mostly unchanged, minus a barely perceptible metallic edge added to the lower treble. This is probably the best implementation of ANC I've heard in terms of leaving the stock sound alone.
ANC On, Bass Boost On: With ANC on the 13.6mm is already working hard to counter incoming noise. Turning on bass boost raises the low end by maybe 1-2 dB, and that's about it. I had to reach out to OVC to clarify that bass boost and ANC worked together at all because the change was so minimal. If listening with ANC on, I'd say leave the bass boost off to maximize battery life. It's addition to the presentation is insignificant.
ANC Off, Bass Boost On: With the H15 running in dual-driver mode, it's a completely different earphone. The 13.6mm adds a ton of mid-bass and seriously thickens the overall sound. It gives the impression of turning on a sub-woofer along with an additional mid-range speaker. The excellent treble detail and clarity of the 6mm is still there, it's just overshadowed somewhat by the thicker mid-range and low end presentation of the larger driver. The bass boost feature would be better labelled as a completely different sound profile as opposed to a bass boost in my impression. It does so much more than just increase the low end and makes the H15 sound like a different product entirely.
Overall I think the H15 is pretty accomplished in it's presentation. However, keep in mind that with ANC off, switching between bass boost on and off without letting your ears acclimatize to the changes can lead to some negative impressions. Because the two sound profiles are so drastically different, the H15 will either sound hilariously thin and bass anemic, or thick and soupy with a muffled veil over everything. Give yourself a couple minutes of adjustment time when switching between each mode and you'll find they both have their positives and negatives. I personally listen to the H15 almost exclusively with bass boost off, but I can see many finding it more robust and well-rounded with bass boost on.
vs. Mixcder ANC-G5:
Build and Design: Both earphones are very well-built using mostly plastic with some metal accents. The H15 is more subtle and less assuming while the G5 is louder and more stylish with it's angular housings and brighter color scheme. I give the ANC-G5 the edge in terms of design as to my ears it's the more attractive offering. It also sticks all the electronics in the y-split which means there are fewer potential failure points. That said, the H15's cable is thicker and better relived, and it feels more substantial with tighter fit and finish. It gets the edge in build quality.
Comfort: Despite one being a dual-driver and the other a single driver, the housings are similar in size. I give the edge to the H15 because the shape is more ergonomic. The silicone ear hooks are also more comfortable than the ANC-G5's ear hooks which use the cable itself. Mixcder's design permits near infinite adjustability to ensure stability in every ear type, but it can cause hot spots on your inner ear after a while.
ANC Effectiveness: This is more or less a wash with the H15 taking the edge. When the ANC-G5's noise cancelling is activated, there is a hint of static that the H15 lacks. Other than that they both do a similarly great job of nullifying mid and low frequencies.
Sound Quality: The ANC-G5's sound signature falls somewhere between the two you get with the H15. Thickness is greater than when running the H15 with the 6mm on solo duty, but thinner than the H15 when running with bass boost on. Mid-range presence is more recessed but lacking sibilance entirely. Bass quantity falls short of the H15 with boost on, but quality is better. Turn bass boost off and the H15's low end is less emphasized, quicker, and better controlled. With bass boost off the H15 has a more spacious sound with more impressive detail and separation. Turn bass boost on and the ANC-G5 sounds more spacious with better separation and detail. I prefer the H15's more detailed sound with bass boost off, but I suspect the ANC-G5's fuller, bassier presentation would be preferred by wider audience.
After just over two months of using the H15 on a near daily basis, I can confidently state that OVC's entry into the sub-100 USD active noise cancelling market is a successful one. It's affordably priced and brings with it excellent active noise cancelling abilities, good build quality with great fit and finish, solid ergonomics and outstanding battery life.
It's two different sound signatures, one of which is sure to please you, are entertaining. When running the 6mm only they can be pretty impressive in terms of detail and sound staging. I do wish there was a third sound profile that landed somewhere in between the two currently on offer in terms of bass quantity and sound thickness, but overall I am pleased with and enjoy the H15 as it is.
If you think you'd enjoy one or both of the sound profiles of the H15 and are in the market for a noise cancelling in-ear that doesn't cost a ton yet offers effective noise suppression, this would be a great choice.
Thanks for reading and thanks to OVC for their patience while this review was in the works.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Grace (feat. LeAnn Rimes) (Track)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Pros - Nice build and fit, Potent ANC, Nice accessory set, Enjoyable sound with BB enabled, Value for money is quite commendable
Cons - Super tinny sounding when ANC is active or BB is disabled, Doesn't attenuate as much midrange noise as a traditional sealed earphone
You would be excused for not knowing about OVC, I certainly didn’t and a quick Google search revealed little about the new upstart’s previous designs and products. But some interesting comments in their e-mail to me certainly caught my attention, their new H15 is, to my knowledge, a completely original active noise cancelling in-ear with a very conservative $50 USD asking price. In addition, OVC had some bold claims, comparing their product favourably with the venerable Bose QC20, an almost class-leading benchmark among active noise cancelling earphones. With an asking price under a quarter of Bose’s, let’s see if OVC’s latest in-ear manages to match or perhaps even best the Bose and other similarly priced in-ears in terms of noise attenuation and sound quality.
I would like to thank Shallow from OVC very much for her quick communication and for providing me with the H15 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The H15 come within a small but well presenting box showcasing the earphones, basic features and specs on an outer sleeve. Sliding off the sleeve allows buyers to open the hard box underneath, revealing the earphones within a moulded plastic inlet.
Underneath is a soft pouch containing some addition accessories. OVC outfit the H15 with 5 pairs of eartips, 3 sizes of soft white/transparent silicone tips and 2 pairs of firmer, more rounded black tips; all with Bose-like stabiliser wings that keep the shallower fitting earphones firmly locked into the concha of the ear.
The earphones also come with a small magnetic clasp to keep the cable in order during storage and a plane adaptor since these are practically built for travel. Considering the price and higher manufacturing cost of ANC technology, I’m really happy with the unboxing, the package presents well and the included accessories are of faultless quality with no moulding issues, missing tips, etc.
The H15 is a predominately plastic earphone with a traditional cable-down fit. Despite this, the earphones feel relatively solid and well assembled; there are no obvious points of weakness to the housings, the seams are quite small and the components are well matched. The metal grills on the outer face of the earphones also enhance their in-hand feel without being overly attention grabbing in public places.
From an aesthetic point of view, it’s pretty clear that the H15 is at least inspired by Bose’s earphones which isn’t a bad thing, both are quite subdued in their styling and very ergonomically inclined though the Bose earphones both look and feel considerably more premium. Both earphones also fit very similarly and the H15 pulls off the Bose style fit far better than any other budget semi in-ear I’ve used, they are exceptionally comfortable and seal reliably; I think I actually prefer OVC’s tips to the Bose ones.
While they do protrude quite a lot, the H15 feels quite stable in the ear due to those stabilizers on the tips, staying put just fine during a quick run. And though I wouldn’t think the sensitive electronics would deal well with moisture, from an ergonomic standpoint, the H15 is well equipped for activity. But apart from looking a little cheap and simplistic, my main issue with the H15 is their inline remote which tends to rattle with movement, diminishing their perceived quality. I wouldn’t consider this to be a particularly serious issue since even Fiio’s earphones suffer from similar issues.
The cable on the H15 is fixed though it is of higher quality than one would expect, I actually prefer it to the incredibly rubbery, stiff unit on the Bose QC20. The cable is of adequate thickness with a sturdy fabric sheath that runs its entire length. It has a smooth texture that doesn’t catch and does reasonably well to resist tangles. The earpieces have sufficient strain relief as does the noise cancelling module and right angle plug though the remote/y-split is devoid of any reinforcement.
The remote itself is pretty sturdy, it has 3 rubberized buttons that are clicky and easy to identify, the volume buttons work on both IOS and Android and the remote even features a bass boost switch. I would have liked to see a switch to toggle ANC like the QC20 though the button on the module is easy enough to operate.
And speaking of the module, it’s probably the best-constructed part of the entire earphone. The housing is a dense matte plastic with a nice anodized faceplate. The module is easy to control with only a single metal button which simply toggles ANC on and off. The top surface also houses two status LEDs that denote function and remaining battery and the side a micro-usb charging port. The module has a short wire that connects to the source device, enabling it to be stuck to the back of a phone or simply held in place by the user. It’s similar to the QC20 though the smoother texture of the remote doesn’t pick up lint and catch on my pocket.
Noise Cancelling –
If you’re new to active noise cancelling devices, the premise is simple but difficult in implementation. Beyond passively blocking noise by creating a seal with the ear, noise cancelling earphones/headphones use microphones to sample noise in the environment and lightning fast computations to create an inverted waveform that destructively interferes with ambient noise, lowering its volume or cancelling it out entirely.
I’m a huge fan of OVC’s implementation. For one, activating the noise cancelling circuit doesn’t introduce any noise or hiss into the sound, nor does it boost volume or change the sound of the earphones like most other ANC earphones I’ve tested. This allows users to clearly experience the effect of the ANC system without cheating by boosting the bass or volume, it also demonstrates that OVC are quite confident in their implementation.
And in usage, the H15 actually blocks noise quite well, much more than I expected them to given their price. They’re still far from the Bose QC20 or QC30, the noise cancelling circuit minimally drops the volume of voices, but any low-frequency droning is almost silenced if not cancelled out altogether. In addition, high-frequency noise is modestly attenuated by the H15’s sealed design though in this regard they are well behind a good fully sealed in-ear. The H15 also isn’t too affected by wind noise, in fact, the earphones actually reduce wind noise when NC is active where the QC20 tends to overcompensate and introduce some artefacts when in a windier environment.
Taking the H15’s for a train ride and a walk around the city produced some really pleasing results. The screeching of the rails and the constant jumble of passengers, wind and air conditioning were greatly hushed, almost undetectable once music was playing. Some distant voices were audible, however, the earphones passively blocked enough noise to avoid distraction. By comparison, the active noise cancelling QuietOn earplugs that I recently reviewed here, removed a little more midrange and high-frequency noise but failed to suck out quite as much low-frequency drone. The Shure S215’s with the grey silicone flanges also provided great noise attenuation, they blocked a lot more vocal noise than both ANC devices, however, the earphones didn’t block the same level of low-frequency noise, resulting in bass being somewhat drowned out without increasing the volume. The QC20 provided the strongest performance of the bunch, absolutely silencing low-frequency noise, effectively cancelling out vocals and passively blocking out some high-frequency noise too. That being said, the Bose in-ears did have the most aggressive implementation, producing some pressure during wear that I didn’t notice on the H15 and QuietOn in addition to a significant pop when doors opened and closed, some voices and high-frequency noise, though well attenuated, became a bit garbled which tended to draw more attention away from the music. Still, if budget was no obstacle, I would go with the Bose or Shures as they provided the most even isolation and the best sound quality which I will delve into after the break. As an extra note, OVC claim that the H15 gets 60 hours of battery life which is stunning for an ANC earphone and over 3 times that achieved by the QC20. I didn’t time the longevity I achieved from my unit, but I did manage to make it through a good fortnight of daily use before requiring a charge which was impossible with the Bose. While you don’t really need more than 16 hours of battery life at a time, frequent travellers and those transferring across many flights will appreciate the greater longevity of the H15.
OVC promised me an exceptional mix of audio performance and noise cancelling through a very interesting driver setup that seeks to address the main flaw with noise cancelling in-ears. Because the driver has to work so hard cancelling out noise, and also due to the higher cost of all the electronics inside the module, most ANC earphones sound quite mediocre, even downright bad. However, the H15 utilizes two separate drivers, one dedicated for ANC and the other for audio. Through such a setup, OVC hope to provide the best of both worlds. Yet in person, the H15 still fell into many of the same pitfalls as other budget ANC earphones and while their noise cancelling performance is thoroughly impressive for their $50 asking price, their sound quality isn’t quite as flawless, even when compared to similarly priced earphones like the Fiio EX1, Shozy Zero, Meze 11 Neo and even the vastly cheaper Fiio F3.
Bass Boost Off –
The first thing I noticed about the H15 was its brightness, they had bundles of treble overshadowing everything and an utter lack of low-end authority; bass is light, distant and generally lacking on both presence and extension. While bass is clearly audible and commendably snappy on faster tracks, lows have little body and sub-bass is very soft in its impact. In return, the earphones are pretty nicely textured and lack any kind of bass bloat or bloom, but when outside, even with noise cancelling enabled, the earphones tend to sound overly lean. And above that, the H15 is quite bright, lower mids overwhelm bass and treble overshadows the upper midrange. Furthermore, both mids and highs are similarly lacking body and high frequencies are forward and somewhat harsh, especially with louder volume listening in noisier environments. The earphones also lack any soundstage, the whole sound is very compressed and congested, mids are forward but hollow and highs are similarly very thin and tizzy sounding. The sound of these earphones in this configuration is disappointing and such a sculpted tuning really comes with few redeeming elements. I suppose mids are reasonably clear which works well for movies and videos but vocals sound unnatural and high frequencies are on the verge of sounding metallic. Their brighter tonality also doesn’t hugely benefit detailing either, everything is too thin and sharp to carry much texture or detail though extension is decent enough and they are certainly crisp when the track calls for it. In addition, the earphones are pretty difficult to drive with a sub 100dB sensitivity rating. I noticed that they sounded downright off from my phone in either sound mode but sounded much better in bass boost mode from my Fiio X7 II. For an earphone intended for easy use while travelling, this really shouldn’t be an issue.
Bass Boost On –
However, the earphones do a full 180 when the bass switch on the remote is engaged where the earphones sound considerably more dynamic and open with far greater bass reach and slam. In addition, everything gets covered in an extra layer of body that makes the H15 sound quite lush. Bass and lower mids are granted with considerably increased fullness and presence which balances out their more forward high-end, creating a more conventional V-shaped tonality. They still don’t quite sound as rich or smooth as the Bose QC20 nor as revealing and refined as the Meze 11 Neo and Shozy Zero, but I can see plenty of buyers enjoying the earphones in this configuration. With the bass switch engaged, the H15 has pleasing sub-bass impact along with a nice sense of mid-bass fullness. Upper bass, for my tastes, is overly emphasized, bleeding into the lower midrange and making the earphones sound boxy and tubby though they are acceptable considering their asking price. The QC20 by comparison, has a similarly full and rich low-end but the Bose earphones are more linear and restrained in their tuning, sounding considerably cleaner and appreciably more defined within their bass response. However, above that, the H15 sounds pretty nice, higher male and female vocals are both well bodied and far more natural sounding than before; mids are also decently smooth with good clarity. Detailing is still just average but since treble is more integrated into the sound in this mode, the earphones sound a lot more realistic and their treble comes across as crisp rather than fatiguing. This is the Achilles heel of the Bose earphones that are tuned for long-term listenability over engagement with a rather blunted high-frequency response that saps music of crispness and truncates a lot of finer details. While the H15 is far from the most resolving earphone out there, they do have a little more bite to their higher frequencies that grants genres such as rock and acoustic with that essence of rawness and immediacy that the QC20 is lacking. As a side note, I did give the H15 around 150hrs of burn-in which I subjectively feel to have toned down the bass a little bit when in bass-boost mode though they still sound pretty similar to stock in the grand scheme of things.
The H15 is still not a particularly outstanding sounding earphone with bass boost enabled, but they are perfectly passable for $50, especially when considering their features and super comfy fit. However, the H15 has a fatal flaw, while they actually sound pretty good in “bass-boost” mode, this feature can’t be used in culmination with active noise cancellation. I actually confirmed with OVC whether my set was defective, they claimed that bass driver does function when ANC is enabled but the difference is smaller due to the driver being used for sound in conjunction with ANC. Personally, I couldn’t hear a difference but as always in this hobby, YMMV. That means once ANC is enabled, the earphones go back to their thin, tinny default sound which is essentially the opposite of what you want when in a noisy environment where bass tends to get drowned out. After playing around a bit more, I can essentially conclude that the H15 is using a dual driver configuration with a woofer + tweeter and that the bass switch functions to either activate or disable the woofer driver when ANC is off (which explains that tinny, thin and treble heavy sound). When turning bass boost on, the earphones immediately sound more “correct” and the volume jumps considerably through the bass and mids while treble stays the same. Since the earphones use the bass driver to generate that negative waveform to cancel sound, the driver can’t be used to simultaneously reproduce music and only the tweeter is reproducing sound, creating that super bright, thin sound. And coming back to their drivability, the H15 is actually quite source picky, I’m unsure whether this is due to large power requirements or a result of some crossover issues, but the H15 sounded pretty wonky in both modes directly from my phone and the HTC 10 is one of the better smartphones out there as far as audio goes.
So it may seem as if the H15 is a good buy and I really do want to recommend them because a mere $50 gets you a very nice build and an excellent fit that rivals much more expensive models from Bose. In addition, the ANC actually works really well, better than the vast majority of similarly priced ANC in-ears and plenty of on-ear headphones too and this combination of isolation and comfort is truly a rarity at this price. I wanted so badly to love the H15, OVC is a new company and the H15 is their very first product, one that has evidently been thought out and considered. Unfortunately, I am obligated to take a more objective stance as a reviewer and the H15’s audio performance just doesn’t cut it.
They have a split personality when it comes to sound and their better self never manifests when ANC is active which is arguably when they should sound their best. In addition, their strangely picky nature also makes them a little awkward to use with a smartphone, they just don’t sound right whether bass boost is enabled or not. The H15 is a very noble first effort from OVC and one with great potential; if OVC could just swap out the audio driver for a more balanced full range unit (or even implement some sort of DSP into the module to eQ the tweeter driver), dedicate the second driver purely towards ANC and exchange that bass boost switch for some sort of NC toggle (software eQ works better anyway), they would have a winning formula.
Verdict – 6/10, While I would be perfectly happy to give the H15 a recommendation if you just care about fit and noise cancelling performance (as long as you keep your expectations realistic), for anyone remotely critical of audio, the H15 is mediocre at best and a torture weapon at its worst.
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