Choosing portable headphones is a battle between comfort and portability. The most portable headphones you can find won’t be the most comfortable. The most comfortable headphones you find won’t be the most portable. Deciding where to draw the line is really an individual choice.
Mpow H5 [2019 Upgrade]
Before their upgrade, the Mpow H5 (previous version) were already a pair of well-loved headphones. But if they had one significant fault, the original H5 had some problems with its headband. Basically, the original headband used way too much clamping force. The extra force was great for noise isolation, but it was far from comfortable.
Oddly enough, the Mpow H5 [2019 Upgrade] has improved on the original headband, but not by very much. Though it doesn’t have the same problems, instead it has totally new problems. And in many regards, the Mpow H5 really saw its most impressive upgrades under the hood.
The latest version of the Mpow H5 may not be perfect headphones, but relative to their price, they’re going to be perfect for someone. Is that person you? At least one third of the Mpow H5’s price tag is the result of active noise cancelling technologies. For people who happen to be looking for a very specific mixture of portability, comfort, and sound isolation, the H5 certainly have plenty to offer.
Build & Design
It’s undeniable the H5 are a little stylish. Most of that style is the result of both ear-cups being highlighted with glossy aluminum plating. Beyond the ear cups, the remainder of the headset looks fairly normal primarily built from matte plastic. Like its previous version, the Mpow H5  Upgrade uses an over-ear design with an unusually slim headband. And that ultra-slim headband is all about portability.
On the bottom of the left ear cup, you’ll find the ANC switch. Because ANC is a feature that requires power consumption, you’ll only want to switch it on when it’s actually needed. The power consumed by ANC compares to the power consumed by Bluetooth. Turning it off when it’s unnecessary will literally add hours to your battery. It’s a good idea to have an accessible ANC switch, and the H5 gets that done.
The latest version of the Mpow H5 are available in silver and black. The silver version is bright silver, almost as though it were painted from a spray-can. The black looks more like an ordinary pair of black headphones, ignoring the metallic plating on its side.
Comfort & Adjustability
Different people have different ears, both in size and shape. Some people will find their ears are slightly impacted against the inside of the audio driver while wearing the Mpow H5. Similar to on-ear headphones, this type of gentle displacement of the ear isn’t initially uncomfortable. But after an hour or two of having your ear bent in an awkward way, it can feel unpleasant.
Some people with larger ears may run into this issue. If you want to use over-ear headphones, the only way to avoid this problem would be choosing much bulkier, less portable headphones. That sacrifice might be worth it for some.
Over-ear headphones are typically made to be worn indefinitely. But with the Mpow H5, you actually want to take occasional breaks. The slightly thin headband combined with the slightly thin ear-pads means the weight of the H5 isn’t optimally distributed for comfort. Though physically speaking, the headband isn’t all bad.
It’s composed of a wear-resistant electroplating that helps keep adjustment and readjustment possible with one smooth motion. Though slim, the headband does allow you to expand the circumference of the headset by several inches. Additionally, the thin nature of the headband ensures it’s foldable. That saves space when you’re storing away the Mpow H5, and makes them a bit more rugged when you’re carrying them around in the world.
The foam inside the ear cups is everything people have come to expect from memory foam. Both cups are covered in a smooth faux leather material, that’s both soft against the skin and easy to wipe down. But each ear cup only provides a small amount of tilt. It might be inaccurate to characterize this as truly adjustable because the motion never actually adjusts, it just accommodates.
The Mpow H5 have many components that serve to create a better audio experience. But truthfully, their audio quality really is a matter of excellent noise isolation. As over-ear headphones, the H5 provide passive noise isolation through the ear cups themselves. But the excellence of their noise isolation really depends on the use of ANC.
Apart from noise cancellation, the audio drivers and audio technologies used by the Mpow H5 is relatively standard stuff. But you can hear each tone with far more clarity than you’d expect from similar headsets, thanks largely to the ANC. This increased clarity gives a little more depth to the bass, and a measure of increased character to the mid-tones.
The H5 really have nothing special to provide to the treble range, though the upper end of that range is no more-or-less muddled than any other pair headphones in this price range. If you don’t immediately fall in love with how the H5 sounds, a few minutes with an equalizer can add some pep to the treble. But if you don’t have specific tastes, then you’ll probably find the Mpow H5 really sound great out of the box.
Active Noise Cancelling (ANC)
The H5 make use of active noise cancelling (ANC) technology. ANC works by creating sound waves to physically cancel-out environmental noise in your ear canal. It works very well on bass tones, while it basically provides no protection in the treble range.
If you find yourself sitting in an area with plenty of ambient noise, like an airport terminal, ANC is fantastic. It blocks out air conditioners, fans, and does pretty well against a noisy neighbor’s music. But the human voice is composed primarily of mid-tones, and consequently it does almost nothing to block voices.
Sometimes people like to use ANC independently from music, just to block out background noise. This is actually pretty tricky. ANC technology is different from brand to brand. Though most of their audio equipment is overpriced nonsense, they’re generally regarded as having the best standalone ANC on the market. The ANC chips used by Mpow aren’t bad, they simply lack the kind of polish you’d expect from equipment that’s literally six times as expensive, like their Bose counterparts.
The Mpow H5 uses CVC 6.0 noise cancelling technologies for its microphone. The general idea is to give callers the same kind of clarity that you enjoy with the H5. This microphone noise cancellation is capable of scrubbing roughly 30dB from your signal. That’s about as much noise protection as provided by a pair of foam earplugs.
To the listener, it sounds somewhat like there’s an ambient noise behind your voice. Though CVC 6.0 isn’t quite as good as a multiple-microphone setup, it’s far better than nothing at all. It’s a full step above almost any headset without CVC 6.0.
The Mpow H5 are designed to provide 20-hours of playtime. Whether or not you end up with 20-hours or less really depends on individual circumstances. The 20-hour estimate is assuming about 50% volume use, and it’s assuming room temperature conditions for the headset.
If you flip on the ANC and turn up your volume, then the maximum battery lifespan will drop towards 15-hours. Though not quite as good as 20-hours, it’s still pretty good. Certainly enough for most people in most circumstances. Recharging the Mpow H5 takes about two hours. There aren’t any quick-recharge features you can use, unfortunately.
But the two-hour recharge time is reasonably good when compared to the 20-hours of potential playtime. Once they’re charged up, standby time works out to nearly three weeks. You generally don’t have to worry about them during that time.
The Mpow H5 [2019 Upgraded] ANC Headphones make their wireless connection with Bluetooth 4.1, which also means they support a number of features inherent to that format of Bluetooth. The H5 will quickly pair up with your devices, and remember them for the next time you want to connect.
Once you’ve established a connection, the Mpow H5 will provide about 33-feet of connectivity. That’s low-average compared to similar headphones. Though it should be enough distance, especially considering most people will be broadcasting from a smartphone in their pocket.
There are always trade-offs in design. Less clamping force often means less noise isolation. The passive isolation provided by these headphones is a little weak, perhaps in the neighborhood of 5dB. That’s because noise has to be intentionally allowed inside the headphones for the purposes of ANC.
If you’re comparing these to the Mpow H4, the big difference is that the H5 have the ANC noise reduction circuit. For anyone who’s looking for more than a very basic headset, that’s absolutely worth the difference in price.
Who Should Choose the Mpow H5 [2019 Upgrade] ANC Headphones?
The Mpow H5 are easy to like. They’re stylish and lightweight. You can generally toss them in a bag without having to worry about them. At least, as long as you don’t decide to throw some bricks on the bag. The microphone isn’t world-class, but it is representative of their price.
Intended to be portable, the H5’s comfort isn’t everything you’d expect of from over-ear headphones. But unless you’re willing to sacrifice portability in significant ways, that’s really not something you can fix. Though the audio quality would be best characterized as high-average, it’s really pushed over the top when you pair it with ANC.
All in all, the Mpow H5 [2019 Upgrade] ANC Headphones are still more comfortable than in-ear headphones and on-ear headphones. That’s probably what matters most. That makes these headphones a good choice for someone who places a high value on both portability and comfort.