Do you travel often? Spend a lot of time on aeroplanes, buses, trains etc. or maybe the hum of the fan or air conditioner in your office drives you crazy when you just want to enjoy some quiet music? If that’s the case then you might have already considered getting something with Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and if you haven’t then you probably should!
If you have done any searching for ANC products you’ve probably noticed that they usually don’t come cheap. Well OVC (Original Value Creator) could have the solution with their OVC H15 Active noise-cancelling earphones that boast a patented dual driver system and claim a huge 60-hour battery life. Sounds good right? Let’s dive right in.
The OVC H15 currently retails for $43.99 at the time of writing this review.
We start off with a black box that has a grey, outer cardboard sleeve. The sleeve has an image or the earphones plus some features and specifications on the outside. The cardboard is a little flimsy but the package looks nice.
Inside the hard box are the earphones nestled and on display in a moulded plastic tray. Under the tray are the rest of the accessories. So what’s in the box?
OVC H15 earphone
3x pairs of silicone eartips (S, M, L)
Magnetic cable tie
USB charging cable
User manual and warranty card
Fabric carry pouch with drawstring
Not a bad package at all. There’s everything you need to get up and running. The soft silicone eartips, in particular, are very good quality and make insertion effortless.
Build, comfort and isolation
At a glance, the H15 looks like an average earphone. The housings are made of plastic but it’s a very good plastic that does not feel or look cheap. In fact, these feel really durable and appear to be built very well. The black housings are smooth with rounded edges and the two parts are connected very tidily at the seam. On the outer side is an oval shaped metal grill that matches the colour of the silver ring where the cable connects. They have an angled nozzle with a protective mesh to keep any nasty debris or ear wax at bay.
The silicone eartips with their little stabilizing wing feel great in the ears, very soft and held securely. I’d actually like to more standard, high-quality IEMs with this type of tip as the conical shape and aforementioned stabilizers give a really solid fit and seal. One thing that really surprised me about this is that the large tips fit perfectly in my over-sized ear canals, which is something that rarely happens with any earphone.
There are no Left and Right markings but the left housing does have a small bump on the lower stem to differentiate it but because of the tips it’s really easy to recognize each side anyway.
The cable has a braided fabric coating that feels smooth and durable from top to bottom, though it is a little stiff below the Y-split. The inline remote and microphone are actually integrated into the Y-split which I think is a great idea and more practical than having the two separate. It’s made from the same plastic as the housings so blends really well in the overall styling. The buttons on the remote are rubberized and have a reassuring tactile click to them. The bass boost button can also be found here on the side of the remote. Just above is a chin slider which is always an appreciated addition to any cable.
Further down is the ANC module which is again crafted from the same solid plastic as the housings and remote. On the front side is a metal faceplate with the ANC on/off button and two small LED indicators that show power on/off and battery status. On the side of the module is the micro USB charging port. Finally, the cable terminates in a right angle 3.5mm plug.
Overall the build quality seems really good, as is the comfort, mainly due to those great ultra-soft silicone eartips and rounded housings. Isolation is pretty good even with ANC turned off, though obviously not as good as a fully closed system will be.
ANC and battery life
Utilizing a dual driver system (one driver for music, one driver for active noise cancelling), according to OVC the noise cancelling can reduce noise up to 30dB and I don’t doubt it. To put it briefly – it works great. Constant sounds like engine/fan noise and machine hum are drastically reduced. Shorter or higher pitched sounds aren’t cancelled as effectively but that’s a common issue for any ANC earphone. Overall I was very impressed by the H15’s ANC capabilities which were much better than I expected for something in this price range and even better than some full-sized ANC headphones I’ve tested in the past.
The battery is rated at 60 hours and I was sceptical at first but it’s totally on the money. With regular use of a few hours per day, this thing can go for weeks on end without needing a charge. If you’re taking a long flight or train ride a flat battery will be the last thing on your mind, assuming there was a decent charge before starting out. Nothing more to say about it really, the H15 is absolutely stellar in this regard.
*Testing was done with the Acoustic Research AR-M20, Benjie T6 and Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
One thing that really stands out with the H15 is just how resolving they are. They have a great ability to pick up minuscule details that other IEMs can gloss over. The sound leans toward the bright side but be assured when bass boost is turned on there’s more than enough of that to even things out. It’s really better than I anticipated and I would be perfectly happy to listen to these for several hours on a flight or noisy train etc.
There are 4 different modes that you can run the H15 and I’ll go over each briefly here.
ANC off + bass boost off Sound is very thin from top to bottom but tonality is still quite good. In this mode, treble is well forward but it’s not a harsh or sibilant treble, just clear and prominent. Mid-bass is very clean but subdued and sub-bass is almost imperceptible, though the extension is still there albeit at very low levels. There are some types of music where this works well but personally, I find the lack of bass to be unsatisfying, however acoustic instruments sound really clear and detailed.
ANC On + bass boost Off There is almost no perceptible change here from the above mode, which is a testament to how well the ANC works without adversely affecting the original sound.
ANC Off + bass boost On This is the least favourable mode for me as I find the bass to be too much and it bleeds over and colours the midrange. As a result, clarity takes a hit and things sound muffled and congested.
ANC On + bass boost On Bass drops down a couple of notches compared to when ANC is off but still has plenty of body and some punch. Detail and separation are surprisingly good and the overall sound is quite engaging although vocals are pushed back a little compared to when ANC is off. Listening to Radiohead’s “The Tourist” from OK Computer the H15 has solid layering and timbre and clear vocals. Really the only hint of alteration from ANC is a slight metallic edge on the treble but that’s only mild and not really bothersome.
OVC H15 Conclusion
I have to admit I didn’t have very high hopes for the H15 at first. After all how much can you expect for an active noise cancelling earphone at just $44? Well, it turned out to be one surprise after another for me during testing. First of all the ANC works really well. It does a great job of attenuating external noise and it does that without negatively impacting the sound quality.
Secondly, the build quality is genuinely good, as are the ergonomics and comfort. Add to that a notably good sound (for the price) and an insanely good battery life and it’s plain to see why I think OVC have a great little product here.
If you’re looking for an earphone with ANC and don’t want to spend in triple figure amounts then I would urge you to consider the OVC H15. I know I definitely plan to take these with me the next time I travel abroad (CanJam here I come!).