Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
After serving me well for several years, I recently replaced my old Samsung Level U Pro earbuds with a set of Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo buds. My Samsungs (for which I paid about $100) had excellent sound quality, but after much gym duty, started falling apart. Short on cash, I opted for a set of the Anker earbuds. I was highly skeptical that a set of $40 earbuds would be worth a darn, but I am happy to report how wrong I was. They are absolutely awesome for the price! In fact, I recently forgot to charge them and had to fall back to my old Samsung buds. After about 10 minutes, I simply gave up and finished my workout with no music. They are that much better.
Given the experience above and the money I saved, I have been wanting to pick up a set of over-the-ear headphones, mainly for travelling. Enter the Soundcore Life Q20 headphones….
In the box, you get the headphones (obviously), a micro usb charger and a couple of items that I initially did not expect given the low price point - a carrying bag and 3.5mm headphone jack adaptor so you can use them without bluetooth. The headphones are solid black… no tacky colors or wierd design - subtle, just as they should be. The cups cover my ears perfectly, the padding is soft and thick enough so the inside grills dont press against my ears… sounds dumb, but I have used headphones that did this… not an issue here. Trying them on, they block out noise very, very well. The world goes very quiet when you slip them on… just you and the audio. There is also soft padding at the top of the headband… not really an issue with my thick hair, but I can imagine, the bald or short hair folks would appreciate this.
The headphones have several joints that allow it to articulate in a variety of ways for both comfort and storage.
On the left ear, you will find the power and noise canceling buttons, on the right… +, - and ‘play’ buttons. All the buttons feel solid and have a satisfying ‘clicky’ feel. I’m sure it won’t take long to learn the layout, but as with most earphones, I fully expect to press the wrong buttons for the first few times. I get the logistics, but it seems like they could make nice large indicators you could use to identify the buttons strictly by touch. I can understand earbuds, but it can’t be that hard on headphones, right? Now, on my Soundcore Flare Mini, I complained about the lack of buttons and the various presses needed to invoke different commands, but again, I get the logistics on headphones and I am ok with the limited amount of buttons here. In fact, the less buttons to bump, the better.
Also, on the right ear, you will find the 3.5mm jack and the micro usb charging port. I do find it odd that there is no rubber cover for these ports. Obviously, these are not water resistant (and do not claim to be) but for dust, etc, it seems like there would be something.
The storage bag is soft with a rubbery, almost water resistant feel… I did not test this. As I have stated before, no matter how water resistant something appears or claims to be, I maintain that water and electronics do not mix…. And I could have tested without the headphones in the bag, but I didn’t want to chance messing it up. I will let that happen naturally. Speaking of the bag… I will admit, I feel a bit dumb. The first time I put them in the storage bag, I was confused as to why the bag was so small. I couldn’t even close it with the headphones in it…. A couple days later, I realized the headphones could fold up even smaller that I had them folded originally. Clearly, this is why I was never any good at a Rubik’s cube.
I wanted these mainly for travelling, but I have not been able to make a trip yet, so I tried them in 3 different places - office, home and the gym.
At all three places, sound quality was great. As stated above, the cups block out all other sounds very well, leaving you with just your audio. All ranges of sound were very clear - highs, mids and lows. Now, I am a bass guy, so the ‘Bass Up’ feature is great for me no matter what I am listening to. Bass is deep and rich without distortion… its fantastic. All around, the sound quality is far better than what I got from my Samsung Level U Pro earbuds and my Soundcore Liberty Neos. I understand it’s due to size, but you really find out what you are missing with these. My biggest complaint here, though, is that the headphones ‘forget’ their settings, at least in regards to the ‘Bass Up’ feature. Everytime I turned them on, I had to go back and turn on the setting - extremely annoying. Why cant they just remember? If nothing else, make it a mechanical switch.
Noise canceling works well enough, but I honestly could not tell a huge difference in quality. I just knew it was on because of the ‘clicking’ noise that would happen each time I bumped them. I’m sure I didn’t use it in the correct environment to appreciate the difference but I could take it or leave it.
I did notice that everytime I unlocked my phone, there was an audible beep and the music appeared to pause, then resume. Not sure if it was just my phone, but none of my ear buds do this. Not a huge problem or distraction, but it was odd. If you turn the music on and let it play without messing around with your phone, you won’t notice the difference.
One unexpected thing I do appreciate about these headphones is the 3.5mm jack adaptor that came in the box. You simply plug one end into the headphones and the other into the music source and they work perfectly. They do not even require power, no need to turn them on. Though I didn’t test it, I could see this totally bailing you out if you forget to charge them or unexpectedly run out of battery. Such a smart addition.
Now, I didn’t get these specifically to use at the gym, but given the great sound, I had to try them. Heck, I see other people using headphones all the time, so maybe I am the one who is missing out? Turns out, I was wasn’t… these can be used at the gym, but it’s not ideal. Sweat builds up on those soft comfy ear pads and they want to slide around on you… especially if you move around a lot. They are bulky and tend to bump on cables, benches, etc. and if you have the Noise Cancelling on, it will make the annoying click… luckily, you can turn the NC off. Due to size, they also take up valuable space in a small gym bag. The sound quality remains great, but these are definitely not ideal for an active gym-goer. I will stick with my Liberty Neo buds and keep these for relaxing when I can truly enjoy the quality sound.
Battery life is great on these… noticeably better than my earbuds, as I expected due to battery size. I have been using them for over a week on the initial charge and still get the ‘battery high’ notification when I turn them on. Its worth noting that the nice lady in the headphones will also tell you when you turn the Noise Cancelling on or off and will tell you when you turn the Bass Up feature on and off - a nice audible confirmation.
Lastly, I was disappointed to see not integration with the Soundcore app… maybe they could use it to keep the Bass Up function on? This really does bug me…
I would highly recommend these for anyone looking for a nice set of headphones for travelling or relaxing, but not for working out - its simply not their intended application. You can easily spend $300 or so for a set of Bose or Beats headphones, but I can’t understand why. Maybe I am just cheap, but sound quality, build quality and battery life on these is fantastic for about $250 less. I could not be more satisfied. These are so inexpensive, if you are willing to drop $300 on some other set, I recommend you spend the $60 on these and give them a shot first. For the price, you can toss them if you feel they are really that inferior.
- Sound Quality - Deep Bass, Crisp Highs and perfect Mids… everything you need, nothing more, nothing less
- 3.5mm headphone jack adaptor allows you to use them without power or bluetooth
- Comfort - never got uncomfortable, even after over an hour of use
- Ear cups block outside noise very well
- Fold up tightly
- Subtle design
- Apparently no setting memory - at least for Bass Up function
- No SoundCore app integration
- Not great for active use - get a set of Anker’s awesome ear buds