Affordable audio brand Soundcore is back with a new pair of over-ear ANC headphones that won't break the bank. The Life series has been praised on NextPit in the past, but how close can the new Life Q30 cans get to the top-end of the market for less than a third of the price of the flagship headphones from Sony and Bose? A lot closer than you'd think...
- Good ANC performance
- Good battery life
- Excellent build quality
- Max volume not great
- Lacklustre bass response
- Slightly heavier than the competition
Soundcore Life Q30 release date and price
The latest over-ear Active Noise Cancelling headphones from Soundcore, a sister-brand of Anker, are available now for a price of £79.99. They only come in black. The price remains unchanged from the previous Soundcore Life 2 headphones at launch, but you get a lot more for money in 2020 than you did back in late 2018.
What I like about the Soundcore Life Q30...
There's a lot to like about the Soundcore Life Q30 headphones , especially when you consider the £80 price tag. The new cans are one of the few pairs of over-ears at this price point to come with certified Hi-res sound quality, and the battery life is above average compared to the competition. Here's what I like most about the new headphones.
The Digital Hybrid ANC Multi-Mode Noise Cancellation
The Soundcore Life Q30 headphones pack dual noise-detecting microphones for what the brand is calling its 'advanced hybrid noise-cancelling technology'. Microphones on each earcup are designed to pick up 95% of low-frequency sound to filter out everything you don't want to hear, delivering only the audio to your eardrums.
For the first time on a pair of Soundcore over-ears, multiple ANC modes are available. An outdoor mode tunes out traffic noise and, in my case, the screaming children from the Kindergarten behind my building. Transport mode is designed for commuters and, in particular, the engine noise on planes, whilst indoor mode is tailored to filter out that chatting drone you get in busy coffee shops. A transparent mode can amplify ambient sounds so that you can hear the world around you without taking the headphones off. The modes are switchable via the Soundcore app.
I like the ANC on the Soundcore Life Q30 headphones overall. The advanced hybrid noise-cancelling did an excelled job when I was out and about walking the streets of Berlin. Naturally, I was unable to test how well these headphones perform on a flight, but I did test the transport mode on the U-Bahn and was satisfied that these would stand up to plane noise. After all, even the Life 2 headphones, which I have owned for a while, performed well on the flights I wore them on.
So the ANC is a win for Anker and Soundcore, then. It just goes to show that you don't have to spend £300 on a pair of over-ear headphones to have solid noise-cancelling in 2020.
The overall design and build quality
Design-wise, the Life Q30 make some significant improvements on the Life 2 from late-2018. The plastics have gotten firmer, and the hinges tighter. The plastic headband has been replaced with a metal one, and the soft-protein leather earcups feel much higher quality now. The chunky buttons for playback, power, and ANC have gone on a diet and are now much easier to find when fumbling around the earcups whilst wearing the headphones. The microUSB port has been upgraded to USB-C. The gold-styling of the Soundcore logo on the earcups is the only design change that could potentially disappoint. The old Life 2 were more unassuming in terms of branding.
Overall, however, the Life Q30 represent a worthy upgrade for anyone who owns a pair of Life 2 headphones. Even the carry case, which has grown in size slightly, feels more robust this year. The weight (260g) is more or less the same as the previous model but is slightly heavier than some of the direct competition.
The in-app EQ presets and customisation
Also new for 2020 is an improved Soundcore app to compliment your Life Q30 experience. As well as being able to tweak the ANC, there are EQ controls in here too. Having a customisable equaliser is always a big win for me, a music nerd who knows what he likes and how to get that sound. There are 22 preset EQ settings for different genres and audio styles, as well as a fully customizable 8-band EQ.
You can also activate a white noise soundscape designed to help wearers achieve superior sleep. Clearly, this is not a feature that has been built for the brand's over-ear headphones, but it's available anyway. It's of questionable value, to be honest, apart from maybe when on a long flight or train journey when you want to get some shut-eye.
The long battery life
Battery life is another of the strong points of the Soundcore Life Q30. You get up to 60 hours of playback with the ANC turned off and the volume at 60%. With noise-cancelling on, you can expect closer to 40 hours. As regular readers will know, I listen at higher than 60% volume most of the time and use ANC whenever I am outside of the house. I still got well over 35 hours of playback time out of the Life Q30 before needing to charge them.
What I don't like about the Soundcore Life Q30...
Whilst there is really a lot to like about the Soundcore Life Q30 headphones, I didn't fall in love with them instantly. Allow me to explain.
The out-of-the-box sound
The Soundcore Life 30 are one of the few pairs of wireless headphones in this price range to come with certified Hi-res audio. Powered by dual 40mm Silk Diaphragm Drivers, that the brand says have been precision-tuned, I had high hopes for these. However, the out-of-the-box first listen left me wanting.
I am not a fan of the default Soundcore Signature sound at all. Whilst listening to the first tracks, the headphones sounded flat and lifeless. It's like the EQ has been set up to be optimal for all musical styles, without really doing any of them justice. Once I switched to Rock, the Life Q30 came alive!
The criticism here is not that the Life Q30 don't sound great, it's that there's a bit of work to do before you get there. Plenty of users won't even bother downloading the companion app, and might be left disappointed by the sound quality as a result. I would recommend changing the EQ as the very first thing you do if you get your hands on a pair of these. For the audiophiles out there, the frequency response is from 16Hz to 40kHz.
The max volume could be higher
This is another nitpicking point, but I'm going to make it anyway. Straight out of the box, the maximum volume level achieved by the Life Q30 feels a little weak. However, thanks to that powerful EQ in the app, you can boost it to more ear-bursting levels. The problem again is not that these cans do not go loud enough, it's that it is not instantly recognisable how to get what you are looking for.
The bass response is also a little lacklustre. It's fine on some EQ settings, but for those who like to feel the bass, the Life Q30 could leave you disappointed. When activating the Bass Booster EQ preset, things just got muddy, rather than that nice thumpy sensation you get with really good bass response. Once again you can improve this marginally by tweaking the EQ yourself, but it still never really gets to where you want it to be if you are listening to hip hop.
The Soundcore Life Q30 are a really solid pair of wireless over-ear ANC headphones compared to even some of the products that cost double this RRP. When you factor in the price and take a look at the competition going for around the eighty-quid mark, these are a no-brainer.
The build quality and finish are excellent, the ANC does a good job in most situations, and the battery is more than enough to get you through three to four days worth of commuting or a long-haul flight. The only real drawback is that, unless you go into the app and start tinkering, the sound may initially disappoint. I urge you to persevere though. Once you get your EQ right, the Life Q30 sound fantastic.
If you are looking for an affordable pair of wireless over-ear ANC headphones that will last your a couple of years at least, I can easily recommend the Soundcore Life Q30.
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