The COUMI ANC-860 is a 12.5mm single dynamic driver TWS featuring ANC, IPX7, and up to 41 hours of battery life. It is priced at $59.99
Disclaimer: The COUMI ANC-860 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion in this review. We thank the team at Coumi for giving us this opportunity.
To read more on TWS products reviewed on Headfonics click here.
Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.
COUMI is a lifestyle Bluetooth brand, and it shows where their priorities lie when they designed the ANC-860. The implementation of the Bluetooth connectivity, ANC features, and an IPX7 certification are ahead of most of the similarly priced competition.
Although COUMI hasn’t been more than a blip on the radar of the audiophile world, they have been producing Bluetooth headphones and earbuds for the last 10 years.
Their latest release is their flagship TWS earbuds, the ANC-860, which was released earlier this year. It’s interesting to see how a pair of TWS earbuds packed with a ton of valuable features can be priced at just $59.99.
This is half that of most of the competition with the same feature set, but can the ANC-860 deliver on its promise?
The COUMI ANC-860 is a pair of TWS earbuds that feature 12.5mm dynamic drivers housed inside a pair of TWS shells where the head is shaped like ones on the OG Apple Airpods.
COUMI designed the ANC-860 to be a feature-packed pair of TWS earbuds, equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, and ANC. The ANC-860 also features IPX7 certification and touch functionality.
Most TWS earbuds that I’ve encountered are rated for IPX5 or less, but the ANC-860 is rated for IPX7. To obtain a certification of IPX7 the product needs to go through testing that involves immersion in water between 0.15m up to 1m for at least 30 minutes.
What this means is that while most of the ANC-860’s competition is splash-proof the ANC-860 can be submerged underwater. Not only is the ANC-860 certified to work when it’s brought along to a rigorous workout at the gym but it can be brought along on a swim.
So when I was done with most of the review, I tested it by first dropping it in the faucet with running water. After doing that, I found that the earbuds were no longer volume matched, the left earbuds sounded louder than the left.
But when I dried them off and gave them a good shake, they went back to normal. It must be some water stuck somewhere inside, but at least they really survive being dipped into the water.
The ANC-860 comes in black and the earbuds and case are made of hard plastic. The driver shells themselves have a flat portion and a rounded head that looks like the head of an old classic earbud design.
This design does not allow for swapping out the ear tips to 3rd party ones, but it comes with enough ear tips to ensure that you can get the right size of tips no matter the size of your ear canal.
On each earbud is an LED that indicates its current status. It lights up red and white to indicate different things about charging and pairing status but I would have wanted to see any indication of a low battery so that I would know when to start the charging process.
Comfort & Isolation
When I first saw the form factor of the ANC-860, I was expecting that the earbuds would not be able to seal well. When I put the ANC-860 on, I was surprised that it was able to isolate quite well, even when the ANC is turned off.
Since the insertion of the ANC-860 is not very deep, they end up being comfortable. The smaller size of the earbuds also helps, since the shells would not touch any part of your ears at all. While the ANC-860 has a shallow insertion, they’re secure enough not to fall off my ears, even when I start moving around.
The ANC-860 has its own way of doing touch controls, where play/pause is triggered by a double-tap on the right earbud, a long press on the left ear is for the previous track, and on the right for the next track.
A single tap on the left earbud will decrease the volume, while a single tap on the right earbud will increase the volume. Other controls include tapping to answer calls, and hang up, touching for 2 seconds to reject calls.
A unique feature that I’ve seen only on the ANC-860 is the ability to toggle the ANC modes from ANC, transparency, and normal mode. This is triggered by double-tapping on the left earbud.
Touch controls on the ANC-860 are generally responsive, and they don’t lead to too many miscues. While the touch controls are not the same as what I found on other TWS earbuds, it’s easy enough to get used to once the ANC-860 has had enough ear time.
The same plastic material is used on the ANC-860’s charging case, and the closing mechanism is also snappy. Mechanical parts on the case seem quite reliable and should last for quite a bit.
Magnets are placed inside the case to keep the earbuds in place, and they seem to be accurately placed so that the earbuds won’t get dislodged while they are being charged inside the case.
Aesthetically, the charging case is accented with a tanned leather strap that not only softened how the case looks but also comes in handy for pulling it out of your bag.
The charging case also features a USB type C charger, and a solitary LED light to indicate the battery level. The solitary LED light though is just a charge indicator that flashes while charging and just stays on when fully charged. I feel that this is a missed opportunity to use the LED light to indicate battery levels instead of just charging status.
It says on the box that the earbuds can hold a charge that’s good for 5.5 hours with ANC on, and real-life tests with my music indicate that the earbuds can actually last a bit longer than that.
The manufacturer specs say that the charging case would then provide an extra 35 hours of charge for the earbuds, and I found that they deliver on these promises well.
Packaging & Accessories
The ANC-860 comes in a black box, with a slide-out sleeve that also serves as the cover. There are foam inserts that keep the earbuds from being scratched or damaged during transport. The earbuds are put inside the case with plastic that covers the charging contacts so that it won’t charge while inside the box.
The accessories box comes with 5 pairs of ear tips aside from the one already attached to the earbuds, that’s quite a lot for a pair of TWS earbuds. Also inside the accessories box is a very short USB type C cable and the manual.
The manual that came with the ANC-860 is impressive though, as I found it to be more detailed than most manuals. It includes information for all touch functions, as well as what the blinking lights all mean.
The most glaring quality of the ANC-860 in terms of sound for me is the sheer quantity of bass. It may not exactly look the part, since the ear tips might suggest a loose seal, but the bass that comes from it is quite generous.
The sub-bass thump is just substantial and reaches very low, while the mid-bass has a good amount of body as well. The bass quantity on the ANC-860 is certainly high, but I would have wanted to hear a bit more control of the bass. There will be some passages when the ANC-860 just doesn’t have that much control over the drivers.
Drumbeats have body, but when I’m waiting for the transient impact of the bass, the decay is a bit too slow to feel impactful. However, the ANC-860 does substantially better with bass riffs, as it can simply make a bassline groove just flow.
Compared to the slightly bloated bass region, the midrange on the ANC-860 becomes slightly recessed. There also seems to be some bass bleed on the ANC-860, so vocals become slightly overshadowed when tracks have a busier bassline.
When the track is less busy, the midrange can be pushed forward a bit, but both male and female vocals feel slightly one dimensional. Going up to the upper midrange of the ANC-860 picks up on more delicate cues, and the percussive strikes of the piano are presented well.
For those who are very treble sensitive, the ANC-860 will be a pleasant listen for you. Cymbal hits are rendered properly, and each cymbal hit sounds delicate. It’s articulate enough, but it just pushed further back than the rest of the frequency response.
The recessed treble though, makes way for a better response for piano tracks, such as River Flows in You by Yiruma. This particular recording tends to sound bright on headphones with a boosted treble, however, the slight recess in the treble region makes pianos have a more subdued presentation.
When an underlying bassline is playing together with cymbal hits, the bass just takes over a bit, and it would take some effort for me to notice a cymbal roll happening with the bass line. Although the treble resolution is enough, I would have wanted a more forward treble to prevent it from being overpowered by the bass notes when they are being played together.
Soundstage & Imaging
The way that I find the sound field that is produced by the ANC-860 is that all elements of the sound are pushed ever so slightly to the front of my head. There is a wall that follows the shape of my head, and there are elements along that line.
The sound elements that are created within that sound field give you a good sense of directionality, but the sound image does lack a bit of tangible quality, and distance information is a bit difficult to decipher as well.
Connecting the ANC-860 to my phone was straightforward. I was able to search them when I first took them out of the case, and succeeding connections were seamless. Walking around my house, I found that the ANC-860 is stably connected to my phone. There weren’t drops despite having a 9” wall between the earbuds and my phone.
With an entry-level device like the ANC-860, we can’t expect much more than standard Bluetooth protocols. At least Android users are covered with the SBC protocol, and Apple users are covered with AAC.
Though this might be a disappointment for some, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the ANC-860 won’t sound good, since the key to these things will still boil down to proper implementation.
When I tested call quality on the ANC-860, I found that the ANC-860 didn’t get in the way of my conversation with the other person on the other end of the line.
I even tried talking while I was beside a fan, and the noise of the wind blowing was canceled out by the 3 mics mounted on each earbud. Compared to just talking directly through my phone though, the ANC-860 made my voice slightly softer, but I never had to shout to get heard though, so I think it’s still acceptable.
The call was coming through clearly on the ANC-860, and I can hear the person on the other end of the line clearly. So it’s pretty good overall, just make sure that you don’t start whispering, otherwise, the person you’re talking to won’t hear what you say at all.
When I tried the ANC mode, I found that the ANC-860 can block out outside noise, especially those droning low-frequency sounds that would normally be found on planes. Transparency mode amplified ambient noise, and of course, my wife trying to talk to me. And finally, normal mode, which relies on the passive noise cancellation of the earbud’s seal, and saves the most battery.
This implementation of ANC is interesting for TWS earbuds, as the ability to turn ANC on/off, and having a transparency mode is normally found on full-sized ANC headphones. I like how COUMI decided to integrate this feature set into a pair of TWS earbuds. This is something that stands out with the ANC-860.
Aesthetically, the ANC-860 and the Fem seem to have a similar feel, except that the Fem is just coated with a layer of rubberized plastic. They’re both similar in terms of the color scheme, as well as that leather strap attached to the charging case.
The earbuds for each though are quite different. Sudio went for a more traditional TWS design that inserts part of the body into your ears, while the ANC-860 has its own ear tip design. Both of them seal well though, and they both equally seal well.
The Fem has a few additional LEDs on the charging case that indicate battery level though. I think this is a plus when compared to the ANC-860 which has no indication for the battery level of the charging case.
While both TWS earbuds have ANC features, I found that being able to turn on/off the ANC is a nice addition to the ANC-860. Having a transparency mode also helped especially when I wanted to be listening to music while my wife tried talking to me.
Connecting to the Fem seems to be slightly more finicky compared to the ANC-860 though. I found myself manually searching for the Fem a few more times than when I did with the ANC-860. I was also able to walk around my house more with the ANC-860. I also had fewer complaints about call quality when I made calls with the ANC-860.
Reaching deep into the bass region and having a slightly elevated bass region is an overarching sound character with the ANC-860. When it’s put side by side with the Fem, this quality is magnified even more, when compared to the more bass shy Fem.
I find the Fem to have a more even midrange and treble region though, with a more textured vocal range overall. The Fem also has a slightly wider soundstage, and utilizes that soundstage a bit better, despite both having about an equal level of limitations in terms of imaging.
At just half the price of the Sudio Fem, the ANC-860 looks similar, but the COUMI was able to implement a more seamless Bluetooth experience when compared to the Fem. Tonality on the 2 TWS earbuds are quite different, but overall I’d give the Fem a slight edge for having better detail retrieval of the 2.
COUMI and Audiofly AFT2 are 2 companies that have strikingly different backgrounds. Audiofly is a company that has a background in designing IEMs for professional and audiophile use, while COUMI built its business around creating Bluetooth headphones for mass-market use.
When looking at the 2 TWS earbuds, the backgrounds of each company shines through, where the AFT2 seems more utilitarian, the ANC-860 just seems aesthetically softer. The case of the AFT2 is noticeably the bigger of the two, despite both ending up having about the same amount of battery life.
The 2 TWS earbuds have noise-canceling features, and they both work equally well. Call quality is slightly better on the AFT2 though, since my voice comes across a bit louder on the other end of the line. The ANC-860 can turn off the noise-canceling mode though, which gives it a leg up over the AFT2.
The overall tonality of the 2 TWS earbuds are comparable, except that the ANC-860 has a more extended sub-bass region and an even more recessed treble region. I also found that the AFT2 ends up presenting more detail upfront comparatively.
While the width of the 2 TWS earbuds are about the same, the AFT2 created more tangible images within the soundscape, and the AFT2 also utilized each portion of the soundscape better than the ANC-860 did.
While the 2 TWS earbuds are tonally quite similar, the AFT2 is simply a more refined version of that tonality. Priced at less than half of the AFT2, the ANC-860 presents a good value in terms of features, while having a similar tonality to the AFT2.
COUMI is a lifestyle Bluetooth brand, and it shows where their priorities lie when they designed the ANC-860. The implementation of the Bluetooth connectivity, ANC features, and an IPX7 certification are ahead of most of the competition.
The sound had to be compromised in some areas, but the ANC-860 has an overall more relaxed tonality. But it shows that COUMI does have expertise in creating a well-integrated and feature-rich product in the ANC-860.