The Coumi ANC-860 true wireless earbuds have recently hit the market and it seems we’re getting active noise canceling (the transparency mode is currently unavailable) and a good battery life at a fairly affordable price tag (let’s call them lower-end mid-range TWS earbuds).
The ANC is a difficult technology to implement within the small case of a Bluetooth earbud, but Apple has done it and so has Sony by relying on multiple microphones and on slightly unconventional shapes. Well, that’s mostly the case with the Sony WF-1000XM3 which (by no coincidence) has been the main design inspiration for the Coumi ANC-860 so it does end up looking very different than other TWS earbuds. And it’s not wrong to follow a working formula, but I assume that some corners needed to be cut in order to keep the price tag affordable.
I have noticed that some fairly basic forms of ANC have made their way into the mid-rangers (1more has done a good job with its recent offerings), so the Coumi ANC-860 earbuds do have some competition in their current price range (though still quite scarce). And yes, I don’t expect the excellent performance of my daily driver, the Sony WH-1000XM3, but I could definitely put them next to a pair of earbuds from TaoTronics, the SoundLiberty 94 which were also flaunting the ANC technology. So, without further ado, let’s check them out to see if they’re good value for the money.
Built Quality and Design
The true wireless earbuds market seems to hardly have any room for unique designs, considering that the consensus is to go with the shape that’s been proven to work, so the differences are mostly subtle, especially in the sub-$100 range. As I have already mentioned, the Coumi ANC-860 looks more different than the other TWS earbuds in its price range, but considering that they’re similar to the Sony WF-1000XM3, I was a bit worried whether they managed to create a balanced device that will feel comfortable in the ear. Since I never had the chance to try on the Sony earbuds, I can’t really say whether they were comfortable or not, but the Coumi ANC-860 would immediately fit into my ear and I did appreciate that I didn’t have to push them into my inner ear (which, in my opinion is the number one cause of long-term discomfort).
They do sit a bit odd in the sense that the earbuds only anchor themselves on the lower part of the outer ear, so it’s easy for them to fall off, right? Not really since the elongated part of the earbuds creates a decent anchor point. The fact that you don’t need to push the silicone tips in the inner ear is definitely a plus, but it can easily become a major minus due to the ANC technology. Indeed, in order to properly experience the active noise canceling tech, some passive noise isolation is required and, unfortunately, the Coumi ANC-860 falls a bit short in this department.
They’re great if you’re in a quiet room, but if there’s lots of noise outside, you’ll definitely hear it more than with some other TWS earbuds. The manufacturer has added five additional sets of silicone eartips and it’s a good thing they did since the shape of the earpieces doesn’t allow you to use any third-party tips. Speaking of which, Coumi has tried to keep the earbuds as low profile as possible by covering the plastic cases with a black matte finish and by relying on some small, barely noticeable LEDs, but their size won’t really help in this matter. At 1.2 x 1.0 x 0.8 inches (3.0 x 2.6 x 2.0 cm), the ANC-860 are some of the largest TWS earbuds that I have tested so far but, as a positive, they’re fairly lightweight, so you barely should feel them in your ear. But you definitely will after a certain time has passed and I know that I said that I found the Coumi ANC-860 quite comfortable, but since the earbuds don’t take advantage of the entire inner ear for support, you will need a break after a few hours have passed (I started feeling some discomfort after about 2.5-3 hours).
The controls can be found on the rear side of the larger piece of plastic and yes, Coumi has relied on touch-sensitive areas instead of the plain ol’ button. This way, it’s easy to avoid the inner ear canal irritation (due to the presses), but it can also be more frustrating if not properly implemented. That being said, to play/pause a track, you need to double tap the right earbud (on the designated area) and to enable/disable the ANC function, you need to double tap the left earbud – obviously, you’re going to mix them up for a while until the muscle memory sets in. To go to the next track, tap and hold for 2 seconds on the right earbud and to return to the previous track tap and hold for a couple of seconds on the left earbud. There is also Volume control and to increase the volume, a simple tap on the right earbud will suffice (and to decrease the volume, tap on the left earbud), but the problem is that if you keep your finger for 1 second, it will enable the Voice Assistant, so a different combo would have been far better.
Besides the touch-sensitive areas, each earbud has one small LED which will light white while the earbuds are charging and will quickly flash red and blue while the Coumi ANC-860 is waiting to be paired. The manufacturer says that there are 6 microphones to help with the ANC and, as expected, there are three per earbud, one within the silicone eartip, one immediately next to the aforementioned eartip and the last sits at the bottom of the elongated piece on each earbud. Near the last mic, there are also four connector pins that attach magnetically to the dedicated area carved within the charging case.
The case is slightly larger than with other TWS earbuds, but it’s understandable considering that it houses a 720mAh battery (and the earpieces themselves aren’t really the most compact), but even so, measuring 2.4 x 2.4 x 1.2 inches (6.0 x 6.0 x 3.0 cm) should allow you to slip it into the pocket of your jeans or into your small backpack/purse without taking too much space. I did like that there is a cool loop to add the charging case to a keychain and that the manufacturer has decided to rely on a USB-C port. What I didn’t like was that the single LED light within the case is vague and I had no idea how much charge was left for the earbuds. I did see that the earbuds are IPx7-rated which means that they should do great with sweat or while it’s raining.
Connectivity and Sound Quality
The Coumi ANC-860 have 12.5mm dynamic drivers which are among the largest I have seen on a pair of TWS earbuds, so this should translate into a better sound reproduction, right? Not necessarily, since it’s true that a larger driver does usually mean that the sound can be louder, but it’s not an indicative to the sound quality. The material used and especially the fine tuning are the elements that will differentiate a mediocre pair of earbuds from a great, audiophile pair. Furthermore, the Coumi-860 relies on Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to a smartphone (or any other device with a Bluetooth antenna), so it does support a higher bitrate, while the coverage is pretty much the same as with the previous BLE standard.
Indeed, I would begin experience disconnections after about 30 feet with a couple of walls in between me and the smartphone (the doors were open). The pairing process was simple and fast, which was the case with pretty much all other TWS earbuds that I have tested. You need to remove the film from the earbuds and insert them into the charging case to check out whether there’s still some power left. If there’s some battery left, remove the earpieces and you should see the LEDs flashing red and blue – at this point, enable Bluetooth on your mobile device and search for COUMI ANC-860. Pair with the earbuds and that’s pretty much it.
It’s worth mentioning that even if it wasn’t specified in the specs list, the Coumi ANC-860 does have support for the AAC codec (as revealed by my Pixel 2 XL). For checking the sound quality, I listened to a few songs and checked a quality and binaural test and the results were fine in some areas and quite underwhelming in other. The quality test has shown that there was absolutely no buzz, so the drivers are good, but the binaural test has revealed that the sound stage is not that great and the instruments position felt a bit vague. Furthermore, the true wireless earbuds are a bit heavy on the bass (and they do make full use of those 12.5mm dynamic drivers), but, surprisingly, the focus wasn’t towards the low-bass, but on the mid-bass.
As a consequence, most ‘mainstream’ songs will sound good (not that Tool is mainstream, but I did find that their songs sounded great with this pair of earbuds); if you’re more into the deep bass, they’re not really that great, just passable (as expected, considering the price tag). The mids sound very busy and there was little distinction with the secondary instruments; the reason seems to be some bass bleed which takes quite a bit from the sound clarity (especially the male voice). The highs are a bit warm, so it’s fine for people that aren’t very fond of bright sounds.
When I tested the TaoTronics SoundLiberty 94 earbuds, the ANC helped a lot with the call quality and it seems that’s also true for the Coumi ANC-860. I could clearly hear the caller and the person on the other end had no trouble hearing my voice clearly, even when other people were in proximity. But, listening to music with ANC enabled wasn’t that impressive.
It’s not that it was affecting the sound in a negative way, it’s that it barely had any perceptible effect. The reason is, unfortunately, the shape of the earbuds since as I said in the previous section, you need to have your inner ear fully sealed for the noise canceling to work properly. In its current state, I would say it does manage to cut about 10dB from the really low frequencies, but nothing more. I noticed that Coumi has advertised a Transparency mode, but it seems to be disabled (or missing), since I found no way to activate it (it’s also covered by a sticker in the user manual).
As for the battery life, the manufacturer says that the earbuds should offer up to 5.5 hours with ANC on and up to 7 hours and a half with ANC off. During my test, with the ANC on (the volume to 70%), the battery lasted for 5 hours and 20 minutes and with the ANC off, I got 7 hours of battery life, which is in line with what was advertised.
I know that a lot of you are skeptical about the ANC technology on any budget-friendly true wireless earbuds and for good reason since a proper implementation doesn’t come cheap, yet. So, was Coumi able to create a balanced device that could take advantage of the ANC? The ANC definitely works and would have made a far more impact if the design of the earbuds was slightly different; I do like that I don’t have to push them in my brain, but the lack of passive noise isolation is an issue. As for the sound quality, it’s pretty much up to anyone’s taste. Yes, there are some weaknesses and some areas can be improved with an EQ, but the ones that will definitely like them are the people that prefer mid-bass-focused songs (the strong point of the ANC-860’s sound profile). The battery life is excellent and the design is definitely different than on most other earbuds, so you could check them out, especially if they’re on a discount.
- Good battery life
- The case is portable
- Volume control
- Bluetooth 5.0
- The charging case LED doesn’t clearly show how much battery is left
- The passive noise isolation is not that great which affects the ANC performance
- Is the Transparency mode still a feature?