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ag WHP01K Review – Portable, Pedestrian

Pros –

Clean styling, Folding design, Solid ANC and battery life, Great range and low-latency codec support, Tri-frequency balance bests most competitors, Nice female vocal presentation

Cons –

Closed in top-end and soundstage, Pop when ANC turns off, Low quality feel, Smaller earcups, Some lower-midrange veil

Verdict –

The WHP01K is one of the better choices if you want an affordable headphone with active noise-cancellation that still sounds decent, and value purchasing your gear from an authorised dealer with a full local warranty.


Introduction –

Bluetooth is surely the way to go for the average consumer wanting to maximize value and convenience. Within this market, there are a few notable options from big players like Sony and Bose who dominate sales. These models are lauded for their rich audio reproduction and effective ANC ideal for portable use. However, there are caveats to this approach, specifically they are price prohibitive, and their sound tuning doesn’t appeal to those wanting a more balanced signature. ag has the solution, the WHP01K. This is an affordable ANC headphone tuned by the venerable Final Audio Japan. It features hybrid ANC and Bluetooth with aptX LL at under half the price of many competitors.

The WPH01K was released recently for $149.99 AUD. You can read more about it and treat yourself to a set on Addicted to Audio.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Rachel from Busisoft, IOPR and the team at ag very much for reaching out and providing me with the TWS04Kfor 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.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Bluetooth: 5.0 with aptX, aptX LL, SBC & AAC
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Runtime: 35 hrs, 25 hrs (ANC on)
  • Charge time: 2.5 hrs

Unboxing –

The unboxing experience is congruent with the TWS04K I reviewed earlier. The buyer receives a large white box with clean print and renders. Inside are the headphones within a plastic inlet. They are covered in protective plastic providing a flawless finish out of the box. Also included are a pair of cables, a Type-C charging cable and 3.5mm audio cable. They also come with a soft drawstring pouch but no hard case is included.

Design –

There’s no getting around it, the WHP01K is a cheap feeling headphone, especially compared to the pricier BT headphones and even many similarly priced wired models. While the rubberized matte finish, clean design language and solid tolerances all around enable the headphone to present better than your average budget ANC headphone, there is a distinct hollowness to its all-plastic construction clearly noticeable when handling the headphone. This is especially pronounced on button presses whose dinky action only reinforces the hollowness of the headphone’s interior. If you don’t mind this, then they do look quite stylish and the lightweight nature aids ergonomics, just don’t expect the most premium feel in hand.

The actual construction feels well thought out, especially when considering the suboptimal material choice. The headphones don’t feel delicate, and the earcup mechanisms glide smoothly without any wobbles or creaks. The headband sliders feel a bit mushy, that said, and offer very limited adjustment, only 9 clicks. In turn, they likely won’t be suitable for those with an especially tall head. That said, the solidity here is sound which is impressive given the level of articulation on offer as the headphones both swivel flat and fold down at the hinges for storage.

This brings us to the headband and earpads which share a similar feel similar to competing wireless headphones. Both have a pu leather exterior that feels soft but not too delicate. While the headband makes do with a few mm of sponge padding, the earpads a nice and plush with pleated sides and conforming memory foam stuffing. ag has considerately added foam padding inside the pads to prevent the listener’s ears from contacting the drivers. Meanwhile, the IO is located on the bottom. The right side houses power and volume controls alongside a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left side is the ANC toggle with a type-C charging port. Diffused status LEDs on both sides denote power and ANC functionality respectively.

Fit & Comfort –

The WPH01K is an over-ear headphone, barely but just enough for my average-sized ears. If you have larger ears, then likely you may encounter issues here. Similarly, if you have wide ears then do note that the earcups are not especially deep. Though the padding does help here to some degree, you will get hotspots over time. For me, this luckily wasn’t the case as the earcups were just able to accommodate my ears with very minimal contact just at the rear of my ears that permit comfortable wear over several hours. The memory foams pads conform nicely and aid a strong seal. This means they isolate quite well even without ANC, better than your average headphone.

ANC Performance –

I’m sure many are curious about the ANC performance as cheaper headphones do not tend to perform well here. The WHP01K did surprise me, it isn’t the most refined solution but a moderately effective one that feels like a thoughtful inclusion for daily use. The stronger passive noise isolation helps to block a lot of low-frequency noise which is further compounded upon by the ANC solution. Rumbling and road noise are hushed substantially. Further yet, the WHP01K also cancels midrange frequencies better than most including wind and voices. While far from the best like Sony’s WH-line and the Bose 700 and QC-series, you get a similar attenuation of low-frequencies and about half efficacy for midrange and high-frequency noises. This is enough to provide a good experience during commute and daily use if not absolute tranquillity as you may achieve with pricier competitors. The solution feels a little clunky otherwise, generating a modest pressure and producing a noticeable pop when ANC is turned off. They handle wind noise surprisingly well but if anything brushes over the external mic on the faceplate, it will produce a loud noise so these may not be ideal to sleep with for air travel to name an example. The WHP01K also does not support any form of transparency mode.

Usability –

The WHP01K is a straightforward headphone to use given its simplified control scheme and this is not a bad thing at all. Simply power them on and they enter pairing mode or quickly auto-reconnect to the last paired device. You can add more devices by holding the power button for a few seconds longer which is announced by voice feedback and the status LED above. During use, the power button acts as play/pause and it has separate volume buttons that control the volume of the source and can be held to skip tracks. Power and ANC functionality are accompanied by voice feedback.

Connectivity

With Bluetooth 5.0 support alongside aptX, aptX low latency, SBC and AAC, the WHP01K provides a sound connectivity experience. They connected to my Xperia 5 II over aptX where I experienced very low latency with minimal lip sync. This makes them a great choice for multimedia including gaming so long as your source supports aptX(LL) codecs. In addition, range and connection stability is excellent, some of the best I’ve tested. Audio didn’t become intermittent even after crossing through 3 rooms with double brick walls, a feat few headphones can match. In crowded areas that are most challenging for wireless devices, at least as crowded as you’ll see during the pandemic, I also experienced no issues.

Battery life

ag rate this headphone at a generous 35hrs of runtime which takes a sizable hit to 25hrs when ANC is turned on. Headset runtimes are identical too. This is a good performance that almost matches more expensive models. As for real-world use, I ran the headphones overnight for 10hrs using aptX with ANC on at volume 12/30 and my phone reported that 60% charge was remaining which is in line with ag’s quoted figure and a very good result. This will suffer if you listen at higher volumes that said and do note that these are a bit quieter than most headphones so some listeners may need the headroom simply to push the volume higher. The headphones are quoted to recharge in 2.5hrs and I found this also to be accurate with no quick charge wizardry.

Wired Use and Sound Changes

Should the headphones run dry, you can use them as basic wired headphones. Once plugged in, they power off and run audio through from the source. However, note that ANC can still be used during wired playback and they can be used in both wired and wireless mode whilst charging too. These are great features to have for portable use. It was interesting to note that the sound doesn’t change when ANC is turned on when the headphones are being used wired. However, over Bluetooth, turning on ANC does produce a distinct change in both sound quality and tonality with a reduction in bass and generally reduced note definition. Unsurprisingly, the headphones sound best wired. While I would have preferred a more consistent experience here, the colouration is fairly small and harmless with ANC on over Bluetooth as I’ll touch upon further in the sound section.

Call Quality

Finally, call quality is sound on these headphones, you can use ANC during calls and recipients noted that I sounded quite clear, just a little distant relative to the best. However, they don’t have the best ambient noise suppression and, therefore, aren’t suitable for use in noisy environments. For headset use at home or in other quiet areas these are a fine option.

Next Page: Sound, Comparisons & Verdict

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