Generally talking, you shouldn’t anticipate a lot from a $60 pair of Bluetooth headphones—particularly a set that claims to have lively noise cancellation—however the SoundCore Life Q20 headset from Anker stunned us with its wealthy, lifelike sound and a snug match that allowed for prolonged listening periods.
Active noise cancellation, in the meantime, did a pleasant job of filtering out lower-range engine and background noise, and we have been additionally impressed by the headset’s battery life. That stated, we may do with out the overkill of the Life Q20’s bass-boosting “BassUp” function, whereas tunes sounded flat (and never in a great way) whereas listening over a wired connection.
Weighing in at simply 9.3 ounces, the SoundCore Life Q20 options an adjustable padded headband with foldable earcups that swivel as much as 90 levels, helpful for stashing the headset right into a backpack or a handbag. The reminiscence foam earcups match comfortably round my massive ears, and the scarf by no means made the highest of my head begin to ache; certainly, I wore the headphones for a number of hours straight throughout a coast-to-coast flight with none ache or discomfort.
The energy button sits on the left earcup and doubles as a Bluetooth pairing button once you long-press it. Pressing the second button on the earcup activates the headset’s noise-cancelling mode, which (in accordance with Anker) is designed to dam 90 % of low- and mid-range noise with assist from a quartet of built-in microphones. (We’ll delve deeper into the Life Q20’s noise-cancelling talents in a second.)
A quantity rocker on the best earcup has an built-in play button that permits you to play and pause music and reply calls. You also can interact the headset’s “BassUp” bass-boosting function by double-pressing the play button, or you may long-press it to summon Siri or Google Assistant. Next to the quantity rocker is a Micro-USB charging port and a 3.5mm audio jack for wired listening utilizing the included 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable.
Overall, the Life Q20 felt a tad flimsy however pleasingly gentle, and the headset didn’t appear to endure any ailing results from being stuffed in a backpack that I then shoved beneath an airline seat.
Usage and efficiency
Pairing the headphones with a tool is a straightforward matter of urgent and holding the ability button; I had no bother pairing the Life Q20 to my iPhone XS, my Dell Latitude laptop computer, or the Genki Bluetooth adapter that I take advantage of with my Nintendo Switch. There isn’t a button that permits you to shortly change between your related gadgets, however I used to be capable of reconnect my gadgets to the headphone with out having to pair them once more.
The vary of the Bluetooth 5-enabled headphone was wonderful. While related to my iPhone XS, I used to be capable of stroll the size of my workplace, stroll down a hallway, after which enterprise a number of yards outdoors earlier than the headphone’s Bluetooth connection lastly sputtered out. In all, I used to be capable of roam a little bit greater than 100 toes from my iPhone whereas sporting the Life Q20.
More importantly, I used to be pleasantly stunned with the general sound of those headphones, notably when listening over its Bluetooth connection. First I queued up the title observe of Bruce Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad, and I used to be impressed with the element I heard in The Boss’s subdued vocals and acoustic guitar efficiency, which is quickly adopted by some punchy percussion, heat synthesizer, and reedy harmonica. The Life Q20 dealt with all of it with aplomb, delivering a comparatively extensive soundstage as well.
I additionally sampled some solo piano works by Ravel as carried out by Valdo Perlemuter for Nimbus Records. Teasing the element and texture out of a classical solo piano recording may be tough for any headphones, not to mention discount ones, however the Life Q20 held its personal, even compared aspect by aspect with my wired Sony MDR-V6 studio screens. Let’s put it this fashion: I wouldn’t have listened to Ravel for a few hours on the SoundCore cans if I didn’t like what I used to be listening to.
For some deep, thumping beats, I teed up Aquasky’s “Bulletproof” observe and bought a kick out of the punchy but managed bass, which by no means crowded the higher- and mid-range sound. That all modified once I switched on the headset’s “BassUp” mode, nevertheless. Designed to spice up bass by as much as 100 %, the BassUp function turned the crisp thumps in “Bulletproof” into overpowering thuds that swamped the remainder of the sound. Those who can’t get sufficient bass may heat to the Life Q20’s BassUp mode, however as soon as I attempted it, I by no means felt the urge to show BassUp on once more.
Much more practical was the headset’s lively noise-cancelling function, which works just about as marketed. Press and maintain the ANC button, and the headset makes use of its 4 built-in microphones to filter out most mid- and low-end ambient sounds. The mode labored nice throughout my cross-country flight, virtually utterly blocking the deep roar of the jet engines and thus permitting me to take pleasure in my Ravel in relative peace.
Voices, nevertheless, can minimize by the noise cancellation, notably at quieter volumes. That’s a plus if you wish to hear, say, bulletins out of your flight’s captain or a summons out of your boss. On the draw back, you may additionally hear close by chatter, clattering keyboards, and shutting doorways. Unlike on some higher-end headphones—as we present in our Sony WH-1000XM3 review, for instance—there isn’t a mode that purposefully lets you hear ambient sounds.
While I used to be fairly pleased with the Life Q20’s wi-fi sound and noise-cancelling options, I used to be much less thrilled by its wired audio efficiency, which sounded disappointingly hole and lifeless. Once I turned on noise cancelling, the sound popped again into life, maybe as a result of the headset’s built-in amplifier kicked again into gear.
Back on the plus side3, the Life Q20’s battery life was stable, with the headset’s voice alerts assuring me that its battery capability was nonetheless “high” even after a number of days of on-and-off use. For its half, Anker claims which you can wring as much as 60 hours of music playback in regular mode or as much as 30 hours with lively noise cancellation activated.
With its spectacular sound, comfortable match, and a battery that retains going for days, the Anker SoundCore Life Q20 makes for one of the crucial engaging budget-priced Bluetooth headsets we’ve examined. Active noise cancellation sweetens the deal, though we have been bummed by the headset’s so-so sound over its wired connection. Its overbearing BassUp mode, in the meantime, is finest left turned off.