You know this: Before you spend $249 on Apple's AirPods Pro, you owe it to yourself (and your wallet) to investigate less expensive alternatives. They're out there, many of them great. OK, that takes care of true-wireless earbuds, but what about over-the-ear headphones? If you want active-noise-canceling (ANC) goodness, do you really need to spend $200 to $400 for something from Bose, Jabra, Sennheiser or Sony?
Nope. You don't even need to spend $150. Or $100 or $50. For a limited time, and while supplies last, Amazon seller CLXFSB DFFH (no, I'm not making that up -- though you'd be forgiven thinking that) has the Mpow H19 IPO Active Noise Cancelling Headphones for $26.99 when you clip the on-page $6-off coupon and then apply promo code ATDBPGMP at checkout. This deal sold out pretty quickly the last time around.
Bonkers, right? How in the world can there be such a huge discrepancy in price -- unless the H19 IPO is just complete junk? It's not. For starters, the headphones look and feel substantial, not cheap, with extremely cushy ear pads that, even without ANC, block a fair bit of ambient noise.
With ANC activated (which is done by sliding a switch, with no annoying audible accompaniment), it does a decent job reducing, for example, the hum of an air conditioner. I didn't have many different environments in which to thoroughly test this, but I can say I definitely noticed a reduction in outside noise. I can't say how these would compare with $300 headphones, because I don't own a pair of $300 headphones.
Read more: Best headphones of 2020
As for overall sound quality, I think it's quite good -- maybe even surprisingly good. This is a subjective thing, and my ear isn't highly attuned to highs, lows and all that. When I spooled up Weezer's Buddy Holly, the underlying guitar riff came through deep and balanced; every "woo-ooh!" clear and full. In Coldplay's Hymn for the Weekend, Chris Martin's vocals sounded great, but the background seemed a little muddy in places.
I also did a test call. The person I spoke with sounded just fine, and he said I sounded pretty good overall, maybe a little harsh at times. That might be because I was talking louder than usual, because with over-the-ear headphones it's hard to hear yourself -- one reason I don't like making calls while wearing them.
One thing I need to mention about the customer reviews, which now number over 900 and average out to 4.6 stars: They're not all for this product. See, the seller previously used this same listing page for earlier Mpow headphone models, and even an Mpow carrying case. So the reviews and ratings appear to encompass all those products, not just this one. Ugh. From what I've been able to glean from ReviewMeta, which alerted me to this discrepancy, the H19 IPO actually has about 22 user reviews -- and nearly all of them are legit, with an average of 4.9 stars.
To all that I'll simply add that Mrs. Cheapskate has been using these for the past few weeks and absolutely loves them.
OK, let's sum up: Can the $27 Mpow H19 IPO really measure up to, say, a $300 Bose? Not likely. Will they make our list of the best noise-canceling headphones of 2020? I doubt it. Here's the real question: Should you try it before spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on big-name ANC headphones? I think definitely.
Originally published earlier this year. Updated to reflect new sale prices or availability or both. Removed expired bonus deal.
CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on tech products and much more. For the latest deals and updates, follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and check out our CNET Coupons page for the latest promo codes from Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon and more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page.