Soundcore Life Q20 Review
Pros: Inexpensive, powerful bass, effective noise cacnellation, comfortable
Cons: Lacks some brightness in mid and vocal ranges, headband may be to large for smaller heads
Manufacturer: Anker Soundcore
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Soundcore 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.
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 Soundcore 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 Soundcore Life Q20 can make them sound a bit more recessed and hollow. Additionally, songs with overpowering bass can make the Soundcore 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 Soundcore Life Q20.
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.
Here again the Soundcore 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 cancelling technology.
The Soundcore Life Q20 passes the basic noise cancelling 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 music is turned on they become completely imperceptible.
The main weakness of the Soundcore Life Q20's noise cancellation is speech. People talking around you are more noticeable with these headphones than with the leaders in the noise cancelling 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 cancelling 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.
This is possibly the most differentiating feature of the Soundcore Life Q20. Where most budget models skimp on earcup size and padding, yielding comfortable fits only to those with smaller noggins and ears, the Soundcore Life Q20 instead offers fluffy cushioning and plenty of ear space.
Perhaps the most pleasant thing about the Soundcore Life Q20's fit is the ample, spongy padding and the faux leather upholstery that 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 only gripe we really have with the Soundcore 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 you 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.
The Soundcore 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 conform 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.
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 Soundcore 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 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.
If you're looking to stretch your money as far as possible, it's hard to beat the Soundcore Life Q20. These provide a great overall experience for an impressively, almost unbelievably low price.
One of the best bargain options we've ever 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