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Soundcore Life Q20 Review

Impressively inexpensive given the sound quality, active noise-canceling performance, and comfort
Soundcore Life Q20
Credit: Laura Casner
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $60 List | $59.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, powerful bass, effective active noise cancellation, comfortable
Cons:  Lacks some brightness in mid and vocal ranges, headband may be to large for smaller heads
Manufacturer:   Anker Soundcore
By Max Mutter and Michelle Powell  ⋅  Apr 2, 2020
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 15
  • Sound Quality - 30% 7
  • Noise Isolation - 25% 6
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • User Friendliness - 10% 8
  • Portability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Offering a fantastic price to performance ratio, the SoundCore Life Q20 is a great choice for those shopping on a budget. While no aspect of these headphones is field-leading, the sound quality, active noise cancellation, and comfort are all well above average, and you get it all for a below-average price. The only caveat in our recommendation of these headphones is the headband, which is quite large, even when adjusting to its smallest size. This means people with smaller heads may have trouble getting a secure and comfy fit.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Soundcore Life Q20
This Product
Soundcore Life Q20
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $60 List
$59.99 at Amazon
$350 List
$348.00 at Amazon
$400 List
$379.00 at Amazon
$250 List
$173.99 at Amazon
$40 List
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Pros Inexpensive, powerful bass, effective active noise cancellation, comfortableSuperb active noise cancellation and overall sound quality, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, auto-pause, relatively comfortable for most peopleExcellent sound quality, field-leading noise cancellation, comfortableGreat sound quality, great noise cancellation, comfortable, user friendly featuresIn inexpensive, reasonably good sound quality, portable
Cons Lacks some brightness in mid and vocal ranges, headband may be to large for smaller headsExpensiveExpensiveExpensive, both sound quality and noise cancellation fall just short of being the best in the fieldPoor noise isolation, not comfortable for large ears/heads
Bottom Line Impressively inexpensive given the sound quality, active noise-canceling performance, and comfortTop-notch in terms of both noise cancellation and sound quality, it's hard to find a better listening experiencePillowy comfort and one of the best personal listening experiences we've enjoyed from any devicePremium cans that offer unique features on top of great sound quality and noise cancellationOffers a decent listening experience for a relatively low price, but certainly doesn't stand out in any aspect
Rating Categories Soundcore Life Q20 Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise Cancelli... Jabra Elite 85h Tribit XFree Tune
Sound Quality (30%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Noise Isolation (25%)
6.0
10.0
10.0
8.0
4.0
Comfort (25%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
User Friendliness (10%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
Portability (10%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Specs Soundcore Life Q20 Sony WH-1000XM4 Bose Noise Cancelli... Jabra Elite 85h Tribit XFree Tune
Type Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear
Noise cancelling Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Manufacturer reported battery life (hours) 40 30 20 36 40
Measured weight (ounces) 9.3 8.8 9.2 10.5 10.3
Included case Lined drawstring pouch Semi-hard case Semi-hard case Semi-hard case Semi-hard case
App No Yes Yes Yes No
Earcup padding cover material Leatherette Foamed urethane/leatherette Leather Leatherette Leatherette
Charging cable length (inches) 40" 7.9" 42" 12" N/A
Microphone for voice? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth version 5.0 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.1
Onboard buttons Volume, multifunction, power, NC Volume, change track, take/make calls Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline/mute calls Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline/mute calls, toggle between sound modes Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Life Q20 headphones largely differentiate themselves from the rest of the field based on their value. Everything about these headphones could be classified as good but not great, yet we would generally expect that level of goodness to cost substantially more.

Performance Comparison


The Life Q20 from Soundcore presents a ton of value in a small price...
The Life Q20 from Soundcore presents a ton of value in a small price tag.
Credit: Laura Casner

Sound Quality


The Soundcore Life Q20 produces warm sound overall, with the low end getting the clearest articulation. While the low end gets highlighted, vocals still tend to sound smooth and pleasant, if slightly on the quiet side. This arrangement works well with pretty much any musical genre, and we generally found ourselves bopping our heads when listening to music with these headphones.


So how do these headphones compare to premium, higher-priced models? Quite well, actually. While most of the premium models we've listened to sound noticeably better, the Life Q20 hold their own. The biggest difference is in the vocal frequency range. Premium models tend to imbue vocals with a bit more clarity and brightness, whereas the Life Q20 can make them sound a bit more recessed and hollow. Additionally, songs with overpowering bass can make the Life Q20's low end start to feel a bit muddled and messy, whereas premium models tend to keep things more buttoned-up in those situations. These are fairly minor critiques, however, and ones that certainly did not ruin the listening experience we enjoyed with the Life Q20.

The Life Q20 from Soundcore offers good sound on a budget...
The Life Q20 from Soundcore offers good sound on a budget, performing surprisingly well up against models costing well over double the price tag of this pair.
Credit: Laura Casner

These headphones also offer a bass-boost feature, accessed by a quick double click of the play button. We honestly think you could do without this feature. While it certainly emphasizes the bass, it also actively pushes everything else into the background, creating a booming but hollow sound.

Overall, we think these headphones sound good, and their weak points are benign enough that most listeners will be more than pleased, especially considering the low price.

Noise Isolation


Here again, the Life Q20 punches well above its price class, providing nice cushy padding that creates a solid seal against the head to passively block out noise, as well as effective active noise-canceling technology.


The Soundcore Life Q20 passes the basic noise-canceling tests --blocking out the hum of airplane engines or whirring fans-- with aplomb. These sorts of predictable, lower-pitched noise are almost unnoticeable when using noise cancellation without music playing, and once the music is turned on they become completely imperceptible.

Thick padding that creates a good seal along with relatively...
Thick padding that creates a good seal along with relatively effective active noise cancellation makes the Life Q20 adept at handling noisy environments.
Credit: Laura Casner

The main weakness of the Life Q20's noise cancellation is speech. People talking around you are more noticeable with these headphones than with the leaders in the noise-canceling field. The voices of those people do take on an ethereal, thin, almost ghostly quality that makes them easier to ignore, but they are noticeable nonetheless.

Overall we found the noise-canceling of these headphones to be far from perfect, but plenty effective enough to allow us to concentrate in noisy environments, and to cut out the sounds that would most degrade our music listening experience.

Comfort


This is possibly the most differentiating feature of the Life Q20. Where most budget models skimp on earcup size and padding, yielding comfortable fits only to those with smaller noggins and ears, the Life Q20 instead offers fluffy cushioning and plenty of ear space.


The ample, spongy padding and the faux leather upholstery mimics the feel of what many of the premium models offer. The earcups themselves are also on the larger side, providing much better accommodation for larger ears than the vast majority of competing models in the same price range. Though people with larger ears may still get some contact between their ears and the padding, that padding is so soft it generally won't create any hotspots, even after hours of wear.

The Life Q20 is comfortable, but even at its smallest setting the...
The Life Q20 is comfortable, but even at its smallest setting the headband may be too large for smaller heads.
Credit: Laura Casner

The only gripe we have with the Life Q20 comfort-wise is its headband. While it feels perfectly fine against the head, even in its most retracted state it is fairly long. If your head is on the smaller side, there's a decent chance you won't be able to adjust the headphones small enough that the earcups are correctly positioned while the headband fits snugly over the top of your head.

User Friendliness


The Life Q20's controls are generally quite intuitive. On the left earcup, one button turns the power on and off, while another turns the active noise cancellation on and off. The headphones audibly confirm when you adjust the noise cancellation, and let you know how much battery is left when you turn them on.


On the right earcup a simple play/pause button is flanked by two volume adjustment buttons. Double tapping the play button enters bass boost mode (which we don't care for) and holding it down summons your phone's virtual assistant.

The Soundcore Life Q20's controls are refreshingly simple, though we...
The Soundcore Life Q20's controls are refreshingly simple, though we wish it offered a way to skip tracks without pulling out your phone.
Credit: Laura Casner

One feature oddly absent is the ability to skip tracks from the on-headphones controls. Most models utilize some sort of double tap or long press on the volume buttons to accomplish this, but the Life Q20 leaves this out. Also, to enter pairing mode you must start with the headphones off, and then continue to press down the power button down once they've turned on. This is slightly quirky, but not altogether annoying.

The Soundcore Life Q20 folds up relatively small, but lacks a...
The Soundcore Life Q20 folds up relatively small, but lacks a protective carrying case.
Credit: Laura Casner

Potability


The Life Q20 weighs a relatively benign 9.3 ounces and packs up quite small. It also boasts a battery life of up to 40 hours. However, these headphones come with only a drawstring pouch as a case, which offers little protection if they happen to get smushed in your carry-on bag.


Value


If you're looking to stretch your money as far as possible, it's hard to beat the Life Q20. These provide a great overall experience for an impressively, almost unbelievably low price.

Conclusion


One of the best bargain options we've found, the Soundcore Life Q20 is both easy on the wallet and easy on the ears. Sure, it falls a bit short of achieving premium sound, but it gets reasonably close for a mere fraction of the price of most premium models.

Max Mutter and Michelle Powell