Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones Review – Meeting Expectations
The $50 to $100 price point in wireless earphones is absolutely saturated. Just about everyone has a branded pair for sale. As more and more phone manufacturers move away from a dedicated headphone port in lieu of the dreaded dongle, wireless is becoming more of a necessity. Add to that the addition of capacitance control, active noise cancellation, and transparency modes these little earphones are being asked to do a lot. All that while sounding good! Monoprice has introduced the Horizon ANC True Wireless earphones for only $60. We got a pair in for review. Let’s take a closer look!
Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones Specs
|Earphones Battery Capacity||2x 40mAh|
|Charging Case Battery Capacity||400mAh|
|Playback Time||Up to 7 Hours|
|Talk Time||Up to 5 Hours|
|Charging Case Charging Capacity||Up to 4 full earphones charges|
|ANC Range||Up to 27dB|
|Earphones Dimensions (each) (LxWxH)||1.5″ x 0.9″ x 1.0″ (39 x 23 x 25 mm)|
|Charging Case Dimensions (LxWxH)||1.1″ x 2.3″ x 2.0″ (29 x 58 x 52 mm)|
Monoprice Horizon Included Accessories
The Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones come with a charging case, a USB-C charging cable (nothing these days comes with a wall charger), and three additional pairs of eartips. The installed eartips are one smaller from the largest. The included manual has text so small that it is nearly impossible to read so head over to Monoprice.com and download the PDF. The Monoprice Horizon case is not compatible with wireless charging so you will have to plug it in. The earphones hold seven hours of playback charge and the case will charge them up to four times (28 additional hours).
Monoprice Horizon Setup
If I had to describe the Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones in a word, I’d use “quirky.” Monoprice has eschewed the popular app control in favor of a set control scheme. Before we get into that, let’s talk about pairing. As with nearly all recent Monoprice products, the Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones show up on your Bluetooth list as a serial number. MP43452 specifically.
Pairing is fairly easy the first time. Just open the case (after charging of course) and look for the earphone in your nearby devices list. If you decide to change sources, you’ll need the case. On the back, there is a small button. The directions in the manual say to return the earphones to the case and hold the button for 10 seconds. I found that I needed to do all that and also keep the top of the case open in order for it to work. See…quirky. But it doesn’t end there!
Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones Control
As I mentioned, the Horizons have their own dedicated control scheme. There is some information in the manual that is wrong. The manual says that a single tap on the left earphone increases the volume while a single tap on the right decreases it. This is actually the opposite. Otherwise, the information in the manual is correct. You’ll double tap the right earphone to start/stop playback, triple tap the left earphone to skip back, and triple tap the right to skip forward. Touching and holding the left earphone for two seconds will switch between ANC on, ANC off, and Transparency Mode. Holding the right earphone for two seconds will engage your phone’s voice assistant.
Call control is pretty unique. That button I mentioned on the back of the case? That’s how you control calls. Double tap on the case multifunction button to accept a call, double tap again to hang up, and hold for two seconds to reject. My first thought was that this was the least convenient way to control calls. I have to keep the case with me? Ugh! But then I thought about who would be buying $60 earphones. Do they actually ever accept calls? My kids barely accept my calls and they nearly never call each other! Getting the call controls off the earphones may be considered a convenience feature for them.
Horizon ANC Earphones in Use
Ironically (after the previous paragraph), I received more positive feedback about the Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones when on calls than many other headphones I’ve reviewed. Most people couldn’t believe I was on earphones. They sounded as good if not better than using the phone alone. Usually people report that I sound like I’m on speakerphone with earphones. Not with the Horizons. Really high praise for earphones clearly designed for those that will never use them for calls.
One expected “feature” is how the earphones interact with your content. With most earphones, if you take one off, it will sense that and stop playback. Or, at least, it will stop playback in that earphone. Not so with the Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones! You could take one off and put it in the case and it would still be active. You could take the second off and put it in the case and, again, it would still be active. It was only when you took both off, put them in the case, and then closed the case, that they would then disconnect from the source device. I’ve never had earphones act like this before.
The control scheme wasn’t hard to remember, but the capacitance touch was spotty at best. Triple tapping an earphone, in general, isn’t easy as they tend to want to move around (I feel like they try to dodge that third tap). Even when I did make contact, the Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones often didn’t recognize the commands. As with any pair of earphones, it takes a little muscle memory to get good at using them. These got better with time, but I often had to redo commands. This meant that I was often changing the volume (since it was the single tap command) instead of what I intended.
Monoprice Horizon Listening Modes
The Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones default to ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) off. This means that every time you replace them in the case, they will reset to ANC off. You’ll need to tap and hold the left earphone for two seconds to switch to ANC on, and again for Transparency Mode. I tell you this because the voice that announces your mode is hard to understand. Both “on” and “off” sound remarkably similar. Monoprice mentions on their site that these have Gaming Low Latency mode but that must always be engaged because it isn’t selectable.
Of the ANC headphones I’ve tested, the Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones have some of the least impressive performance. The differences between ANC on, off, and Transparency modes are audible, but I can’t tell you that they really do much. With ANC on, the breeze off my ceiling fan becomes very audible but lower background noises become softer. Voices take on a weird timbre and some sounds become very sharp. Transparency mode lets in slightly more sound than ANC off…but not much. I found myself forgoing any of these modes (as the capacitance controls were finicky anyway) and just leaving them in the default ANC off.
Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones Sound Quality
What it really comes down to with earphones, is how they sound. And these sound…pretty good? When listening to sweeps, the Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones kick in around 30Hz but really start to push some bass closer to 45Hz. Anything above 8Hz had a flutter that sounded like the driver distorting. This probably contributed to my subjective observation that the top end sounded recessed in comparison to the bass.
If the Monoprice Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones excelled anywhere, it was in the bass. While they don’t have the lowest extension, the bass they did have was impactful and convincing. Vocals were fairly forward and immediate…especially lower voices. Higher voices tended to get lost in the mix and sounded farther away. Overall, as I said, they sounded pretty okay for $60 earphones.
These days, any praise that isn’t glowing is somehow viewed as a negative review. You shouldn’t read my review that way. To a certain extent, Monoprice is the victim of its own success. I’ve had so many products from them that absolutely perform well above what I expected at their price. In the case of the Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones, the sound quality was good for the price. Good means good. Not bad.
My personal opinion is that the Horizon ANC True Wireless Earphones have been a victim of feature creep. As more and more earphones are released, it becomes nearly impossible to release a pair without all the features people expect. So the Horizons tick all the boxes. ANC, Low Latency, aptX, Transparency mode, IPx5 water resistance…the list goes on. But to have all those features and hit the $60 price point, something has to give. In this case, the “give” was meeting expectations instead of exceeding them.
Do I wish they had ditched the lackluster ANC and Transparency modes and instead focused on sound quality and control accuracy? Yes. But that’s what is important to me. If you want any amount of ANC and need Low Latency, aptX, and water resistance, these certainly should appeal to you.