Gadgets for humans

Review: Anker’s Soundcore Life Q20 headphones are perfect entry-level ANC cans

If you're on a budget, you should buy these.

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Price $ 60 ProductSoundcore Life Q20 by Anker

Anker’s newest noise-cancelling headphones, the Soundcore Life Q20, are an absolute delight. And I didn’t think they would be.

We’ve reviewed a lot of Anker gear in the past. It’s a company we know and trust. However, the Soundcore Life Q20 is priced at just $59.99 (or £52 in the UK). Typically, when buying a pair of noise-cancelling cans, you don’t get much for less than $80. Spend less than that, and you’ll start encountering significant compromises.

Not here. These over-ear headphones are almost perfect (for the price).

The ANC (active noise cancelling) on the Soundcore Life Q20 is adequate enough to drown out the most incessant blare from road traffic. They’re comfortable and well-constructed. And they also sound good.

Design

The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 doesn’t look radically dissimilar to its siblings that we’ve previously reviewed, like last year’s Soundcore NC.

It’s black. Utilitarian. Spartan, even.

On the sides of the earcups, you’ll find a smattering of buttons. Some of these allow you to adjust the volume and control playback. Others let you turn the ANC. Another serves as the power button and enables you to pair the headphones to a smartphone or a tablet.

At the bottom of the headphones, there’s a MicroUSB port for charging and a 3.5mm socket. The earcups are rimmed with soft memory foam, and they’re comfortable to wear for prolonged periods. During my testing period, I used them non-stop during my typical 10-hour working days. They didn’t feel hot or get sweaty.

They come with a delicate fabric carry case, rather than the usual protective hard-shell box that comes with other more expensive SoundCore products, like 2018’s excellent Soundcore Space NC.

This isn’t a deal-breaker for me. Soft cases are smaller, which is ideal given the amount I travel. They make it easier to shove the headphones into a rucksack or satchel.

It helps that I’m not particularly concerned about the SoundCore Life Q20 breaking. The cups are encased in a thick plastic shell which has proven to be reasonably drop-resistant, while the hinges feel well-constructed and robust.

Performance

Anker touts the Soundcore Life Q20 as having 40 hours battery life. This, of course, is provided you don’t continuously use the ANC noise-cancelling, which can sharply reduce endurance. In my testing, this estimate matched up with reality. This makes them an ideal choice for any road warriors who spend long hours on trains and planes.

The noise-cancelling, although not on par with more expensive devices like the venerable Sony WH-1000XM3 or Jabra Elite 85h, is still extremely good, and competently filters out distracting outside audio. It’s more than a match for even the noisiest of jet engines or screeching exhausts.

The Soundcore Life Q20 comes with a built-in microphone, which allows you to make and receive phone calls, as well as speak with your voice assistant of choice.

I used this to place several voice calls, and seldom had any issues in being understood. That said, my luck fared better when speaking from quieter environments, like my home office.

Sound performance was good. As is the case with virtually all Soundcore headphones, it has a sound profile that emphasizes lower notes. This adds prominence to bass-heavy tracks like Billy Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy‘, which is dominated by a thumping bassline.

That said, it offers a surprising amount of detail, which lends itself favourably to more elaborate orchestral-tinged tracks, like Hey Rosetta’s ‘Soft Offering (For The Oft Suffering)‘. Although there’s a little sibilance, highs and lows are reproduced reasonably faithfully.

Who is the Soundcore Life Q20 for?

The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 is perhaps the best entry-level pair of noise-cancelling headphones money can buy. They’re cheap, and they tick all the boxes, with very few downsides.

The noise cancelling is reasonably performant. The sound quality is excellent. The microphone is good enough for calls. Its battery is exceptionally enduring. And, perhaps most crucially, they’re comfortable to wear.

If you don’t have the budget to stretch for more premium ANC headphones, like the Sony WH-1000XM3, you should definitely consider these. You can get the Soundcore Life Q20 on Amazon for $60 in the US, or £52 in the UK.


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Published September 30, 2019 — 11:07 UTC

Price $ 60 ProductSoundcore Life Q20 by Anker