Review: Anker’s new noise cancelling cans offer solid performance for a reasonable price

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Through its Soundcore sub-brand, Anker is attempting to position itself as a medium-range audio manufacturer. The latest in this effort is the Soundcore Space NC — a pair of noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones that are now available in the US, retailing at $99.

These are the first over-ear headphones from Anker with active noise-cancelling technology. They’re also a sign that the company isn’t content to solely compete at the lower-end of the audio sphere, and plans to take aim at bigger household names: like Plantronics, Sennheiser, and Sony.

So, how do they stack up? TNW has been testing the Soundcore Space NC for a couple of weeks now. While they’re not the best-sounding headphones we’ve ever looked at, they represent a solid first effort from Anker, and leave us excited for what comes next.

Design

With the Anker Soundcore NC, it’s clear that the company is pushing into a more premium market. The headphones, for example, come with a genuinely nice carry-case, which fits easily into a rucksack, and protects the headphones from scuffs and grazes.

Overall though, Anker has gone for a more subtle approach. The Soundcore Space NC isn’t especially flash, and is constructed out of an elegant blend of black and silver plastic.

On the right-hand side of the headphones, you’ll find a touch-sensitive panel. This allows you to control the playback of songs without the need to whip your phone out of your pocket, although in my experience, it wasn’t sufficiently sensitive enough.

On the left hand side, you’ll spot a switch that allows you to deactivate the hybrid active noise cancelling. Given ANC can be taxing on the device’s battery life, you might want to switch this off when you’re in a quiet environment — like at home.

The earcups are wide and padded with a soft foam, allowing for long listening periods without feeling uncomfortable. On the underside, you’ll find the Micro USB charging port.

Performance

Anker makes a lot of promises about the Soundcore Space NC, most of which it lives up to.

I was extremely impressed with the battery life, for example. Anker promises 20 hours of wireless playback with ANC enabled, and 50 hours of wired ANC-enabled playback. In my experience, this is about right.

It’s nice not having to worry about your headphones dying on you mid-week, especially if you’re as bad as I am at remembering to charge things. Over the testing period, I think I’ve only had to fully recharge the cans once.

Anker also makes bold claims about its ANC tech, saying that it reduces up to 93 percent of low-frequency noise. Although it’s certainly capable of reducing the perceived noise from plane engines, and passing road traffic, I didn’t think it performed as well as other headphones in its category: namely Plantronics’ BackBeat Pro 2.

That said, I was really impressed with the quality of its built-in microphone. In this post-IM age, call quality tends to be an afterthought for wireless headphone manufacturers.

I was glad to see that wasn’t the case here, and everyone I phoned was able to hear me loud and clear.

The Soundcore Space NC packs 40mm dynamic drivers. Audio quality was satisfactory, but not mindblowing. These cans aren’t particularly bass-heavy, so hip-hop heads and D&B addics will be best looking elsewhere.

As a die-hard fan of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the Mozilla mascot wasn’t too impressed with the Space NCs.

Where it shines is in the highs and midranges. Bon Iver’s first album sounded absolutely luscious on the Space NC, particularly during Justin Vernon’s falsetto moments. More mellow indie-pop songs, like those found on Sidney Gish’s No Dogs Allowed, also sounded incredible.

And yeah, thanks to the device’s comfort levels, they’re perfect for anyone who wants to binge podcasts, or has a long flight ahead of them.

Wrapping up

The Soundcore Space NC is a strong first effort from Anker. They’re stylish, and represent a strong entry-level hybrid ANC offering.

As mentioned, they only very recently became available in the US, where punters can grab them for $99. They’ve been around in the UK for a while, where they cost £160 — which is roughly about $210.

I can’t explain that discrepancy. Tech in the UK tends to cost more than it does across the Atlantic, as a result of the weak pound and high sales tax, but not that much more.

If you’re on a budget, I’d strongly recommend the Space NC. That said, if you spend little bit more, you get a lot more. Personally speaking, I rave about the Plantronics BackBeat 2, and you can grab a pair on Amazon for $143 at the time of writing. Stretching a little bit further still gets you Bose’s excellent QuietComfort 25 headphones, which go on Amazon for $199.

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Published June 15, 2018 — 20:10 UTC