Following on from my review of the Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo I have been checking out the Soundcore Life Q20 headphones which are active noise cancelling with both Bluetooth and wired connectivity. Priced at just £51.99 these sit on the low end of active noise-cancelling headphones and I was surprised at just how good they were.
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These are reasonably well made, much better than the Groov-E option I have reviewed in the past but not as good as the Plantronics. These are small and more lightweight than the Plantronics which is part of the reason why the build quality doesn’t feel as good, however this is also an advantage. On my recent trip to Munich for the Huawei Mate 30, I only had carry on luggage and opted for these are they are smaller.
I have relatively large ears, and I found the earcup covered them completely, the foam is soft and comfortable. The headband pressure was quite soft too, so overall this made the headphones quite comfortable to wear for 2+hours. In comparison I find my ears start to hurt a little after short times with the Plantronics.
On the headphones, you have the power on button, and the ANC button on the left, and the volume controls on the right. You also have an option to use the included 3.5mm cable, and this will work if the headphones run out of power, though you won’t get ANC.
Overall, I have found these to be superb, I’d say they compete performance-wise to the £160 Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 I have reviewed in the past.
Sound quality is excellent, maybe not class-leading, especially when there are so many superb headphones on the market, but these are undoubtedly good. Bass is well represented, mids and highs clear. There was no harshness or tininess in either music or video.
The volume could be better; on my flight I did need to have them at near max. I didn’t have too many issues, but if you like to listen to things very loud (which you shouldn’t) then these may not be ideal, or perhaps use them in wired mode with a headphone amp. In general, I used these below max volumes, but mid-flight in some scenes on TV that had a lot of talking I did max it out.
Active Noise Cancelling is superb for the price. Like other brands, the ANC primarily blocks out low-end noises, in particular that irritating low hum of a flight or when you are on public transport. For example, I could still clearly voice announcements mid-flight. There is quite a noticeable pressure change when you activate the ANC, but after a few seconds the sensation dissipates. With the ANC on, it makes watching TV and movies far more pleasant and reduces the need to have the volume so loud.
Battery life is superb, they are rated at 30 hours, and these lasted two 2-hour flights plus several hours of use in my hotel room, and the battery was still above 50% when I got home.
Price & Comparisons
The ANC headphone market is relatively small, and you tend to need to spend a lot of money to get something excellent.
I have previously reviewed the £69.99 Groov-e Elite headphones, which at the time I thought were decent for the price. These are cheaper and better in all respects.
The Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 are good, and I still use them today. At around £160 they are worth considering compared to the much more expensive Sony and Bose options, however I think I prefer the Life Q20 headphones, they are smaller, more comfortable, and the ANC is just as good.
The most popular choices would be the Bose QuietComfort 35 (£299), the newer Boise 700 (£349) or the Sony WH-1000XM3 (£266). I have not used any of these devices for a long period yet, so can’t compare. No doubt they are better, they all receive universal praise, but that is a lot of money to spend. If you use them all the time then the investment will be worth it, if like me, you just do a few short-haul flights per year, I’d argue that you may as well get something like the Soundcore Life Q20.
For the price, these are hard to fault, noise cancelling is far better than I would have expected for a pair of headphones costing £50. Sound quality is also excellent for the price, but some people may have issues with the volume level.
The overall dimensions and comfort worked particularly well for me too, the headphones fold up into a reasonably small footprint, so they don’t take up too much space in your bag, and my big ears found them comfortable for prolonged periods of time.
Soundcore Life Q20 Score
Overall - 90%
A superb choice if you want some active noise-cancelling headphones on a budget, not perfect, but the minor niggles are easily forgivable at this price.
Last update on 2020-10-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API