Anker isn’t just a name synonymous with affordable (and efficient) portable charging solutions. No, no, no. The company has also made its mark in the cheap headphones market with a flurry of releases over the past three years, ranging from wireless headphones to truly wireless earbuds. After making some headway with the popular Life Q20, a noise-cancelling model that received favorable reviews and continues to sell well, Anker set out to create its successor: the Life Q30.
- Our expert picks for the best noise-cancelling headphones, per budget and style
- Check out our Bose 700 review
- …and our Sony WH-1000xM4 review
A notable upgrade, these over-the-ear ANC cans grant listeners deeper bass, stronger noise neutralization, and extra features that elevate the listening experience. They also retain many of the same hallmarks that made the Life Q20 so popular, including reliable connectivity and unbeatable battery life (40 hours with ANC on). But don’t expect perfection, as the $80 Life Q30 has its fair share of flaws.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Availability and price
The Life Q30 is available for $79.99 on Amazon (opens in new tab) or directly from Anker (opens in new tab). The headphones are only sold in one color: Black. Bundled with the purchase are an aux cable, USB-C charging case, and carrying case that stores everything.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Design
Anker took to heart many of the Life Q20’s design criticisms and improved the aesthetics of this next-gen model. The end result is impressive, with the Life Q30 looking and feeling more premium. If it weren’t for Anker’s reputation as an inexpensive brand, you would believe these were sub-luxury headphones.
The hinges and headband no longer feel flimsy, as Anker employed stronger plastic, leather, and steel, which makes up the entire construction. Small details like the gold embossed Soundcore logo on each earcup and active noise cancelling imprints on the extenders are also nice touches that give these minimalist-looking headphones some swagger.
It's a shame that Anker only has one color available at launch, Black, as the Life Q30’s smooth, shiny matte finish is begging for other attractive colorways like Navy, Platinum, and maybe even Rose Gold. Just some ideas, Anker. A silver version of Life Q20 did release several months after the original hit store shelves, so here’s hoping Anker will listen to my pleas.
At 7.8 x 7.09 x 3.07 inches and 9 ounces, these are some bulky, heavy headphones. All of my siblings-in-law hit me with some “damn, those are some big a** headphones” stares when walking through the living room. You will feel the extra weight atop your head or around the shoulders when worn for long stretches. Also, the headband’s clamp force is very tight, which reduces slippage but also applies discomfort on the skull that becomes unpleasant after an hour.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Controls and digital assistant
With so much functionality stuffed into these cans, it’s surprising to see the lack of touch controls present. There is only one: holding your finger on the right earcup to cycle through the different listening modes. The good news is there are physical buttons located at the rear of each earcup that are easy to locate and respond accurately to press gestures.
The left earcup has an ANC button to enable ANC/Transparency Mode and a power on/off button, while the right earcup has three multifunctional buttons. The volume buttons act accordingly, but double-pressing them will either skip (+) or play the previous track (-). The play/pause button is self-explanatory and can also answer/end calls while holding it down starts up the digital assistant.
These headphones support Google Assistant and Siri, though the latter wasn’t as reliable as I would have liked when using macOS, misinterpreting common inquiries like “What is my next event?” for “What is my name?” Siri’s sarcastic response only added insult to injury. It worked much better on iOS. Google Assistant offered great hands-free assistance; opening apps and responding to emails without reaching for my Pixel 3 XL was relieving.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Active noise cancellation and ambient listening
ANC isn’t Anker’s forte, but the company’s noise neutralization has improved with every new release. The Life Q30 is exemplary. Is it Bose or Sony quality? Of course not. That doesn’t mean the ANC performance on these cans isn’t any less effective.
Wearing the headphones around the house, I was barely distracted by the ambient chaos that took place on Halloween, which ranged from bratty trick-or-treaters ringing the doorbell to my brother-in-law indulging in a Halloween marathon during AMC’s FearFest. The technology blocks out about 80% of external sounds, though you’ll still hear high-frequency noises like whistles and sirens. But even in those cases, the noises aren’t blaring enough to pull you away from whatever you’re doing.
I like that Anker engineered three ANC modes that you can select directly on the Soundcore app: Transport, Indoor, and Outdoor. Anker also claims that each mode is tailored to “target and cancel out sounds found in different environments,” and each one can be best identified by the amount of pressure they apply to the ears. It does get higher as you select from left to right, though some listeners won’t notice the vast difference in performance between them. I did.
Since the cans already do a solid job with noise isolation, this also makes it difficult to differentiate between ANC and normal mode. If you forget what mode you’re in, get a feel for the bass levels because they’re more pronounced when turning on ANC.
For those who like to be nosey or want to know what’s happening around them, the Life Q30 comes with its own Transparency mode to gain a better awareness of your surroundings. The feature worked fine for the most part. I was able to eavesdrop on people’s conversations (much like I did when my wife was on her virtual baby shower video chat), as well as convey coffee orders to baristas without removing the headphones. Certain noises like blenders and brisk winds sounded harsh and weren’t distinctive, which made identifying them tough.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Audio quality
Anker’s sound profile is an acquired taste, but for the price, it’s highly acceptable and suited for bass enthusiasts. Underneath the hood are 40mm Silk Diaphragm Drivers that live up to their promise of deep, thumping lows, though this can be both a gift and a curse on certain tracks.
The dirty production on Outkast’s “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 2)" was reproduced well, with the pounding snares beating my eardrum so good. Even though the bass levels were emphasized, Andre 3000’s screamed, distorted vocals sounded crisp, which is something few models in this price class are capable of executing. This wasn’t the case though with every boom-heavy track. The infectious bassline on Chaka Demus & Plier’s “Murder She Wrote” sounded harsh in certain sections, and there was some slight distortion when listening to the hook.
These are not headphones that will pick up subtle nuances in recordings. Highs don’t have much presence, either. However, the Life Q30 can still manage high-frequency sounds well, but mainly on melodic, instrumental tracks. I had to pull up Latin Jazz classics like Eddie Palmieri’s orchestral symphony, “17.1,” to see if these cans could give me the hi-hat and flute action I desire; both instruments sounded lively.
Also, keep in mind that while isolation is great, these headphones do bleed out sound at a high level. The missus kept having fun at my expense, reciting verses from songs I had playing on my guilty pleasure Pop playlist, which she could hear from several feet away. Oy vey.
The Life Q30 does come with an aux cable if you want to listen in wired mode, though beware that the results are mixed. For some odd reason, the sound was most prominent on the left channel, which resulted in an unbalanced soundstage.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: App and special features
One of Anker’s biggest selling points was missing on the Life Q20: the Soundcore app. It’s only available on a handful of audio products, including the well-received Liberty Air 2 and Spirit Dot 2, and now the Life Q30 can be added to that list.
You’ll mostly play with the EQ, which has 22 presets, each one made for specific music genres or content. For example, you can pick the Electronic preset for EDM songs, or the Podcast preset for (guess) podcasts. I would say half of them work well and are worth testing, though the default setting (Soundcore Signature) is pretty good as is. But it’s the ability to create your own sound profiles that make the app worth downloading. You can adjust the decibel levels to your hearing, and any profile you save will carry over to your paired devices.
What’s really cool about the app is that you can set up a widget on your phone’s home screen to instantly access the listening modes. This is one of those underappreciated features that will come in handy if, say, the app or the buttons on the headphones start going haywire and you need some alternative to cycle through the different modes.
Anker also took a page from its competitors and created a soundscape mode called Sleep Mode, which produces different ambient sounds to help listeners sleep better at night. It’s thoughtful and has a variety of noises (e.g. bird chirps, chimes) that blend nicely with the heavy rain background. It also has a countdown timer. The problem is it isn’t practical for bedtime since the Life Q30’s massive size makes it uncomfortable to sleep with the headphones. Jabra’s Soundscapes Mode is a better option with 12 unique settings programmed to relieve anxiety.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Battery life
Noise cancellation doesn’t treat battery life kindly, but Anker refuses to make up excuses for why its headphones can’t deliver best-in-class playtimes with ANC on. The Life Q30 comes 80% charged out of the box, therefore, you won’t have to worry about recharging these suckers anytime soon. The 40 hours of playtime these cans deliver is the highest of any noise-cancelling model I’ve tested so far, which has kept me entertained for more than a week without the need for recharging. Already 20 hours in with the headphones and I’m still at 55% battery life.
Anyone suffering from low battery anxiety can breathe easy knowing Anker’s fast-charging system will net them 4 hours of use on a 5-minute charge. That’s freaking nuts. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise since we’re talking about a brand that has built its empire creating some of the most powerful portable charging solutions ever.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Call Quality and Connectivity
Call quality is more miss than hit on the Life Q30. While the headphones are suitable for video chats, they leave much to be desired when taking calls outside. My editor thought I sounded clear during our Google Hangouts session, though she noticed certain things that made it easy to tell I was speaking through a pair of headphones. Her response: “it’s not as forward as if you were speaking through the computer speakers.” My wife wasn’t impressed either, as she heard some of the fracas in the backyard where I took her call. Mic performance dipped and the ANC technology struggled to stave off ambient noises.
Thankfully, the Life Q30 makes up for its mediocre call quality with strong connectivity. The headphones have some of the lengthiest range in the category (up to 50 feet), so you can stream music stutter-free without keeping your smartphone on you at all times. I experienced no dropout on calls. The company’s Dual Pairing Mode (aka multipoint technology) was also on-point; I was able to seamlessly connect to two devices at the same time. Another cool feature Anker included is NFC, that way you can tap-to-pair with any compatible Android device. It doesn’t work as flawlessly as Sony’s NFC technology, but it’s still a sweet bonus.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Verdict
Consider the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 one of the best noise-cancelling deals out there. The combination of resilient ANC, custom-tuned sound and insane battery life should have these headphones marked much higher than $80. You’re also getting popular features that only a handful of models in its price class boast, including a built-in EQ with multiple presets, three noise-cancelling modes, and NFC compatibility.
Anker’s efforts to enhance the design pay off, for the most part, as the super-sturdy frame is of luxe quality. However, it can be encumbering and unflattering to wear, especially when compared to comfy, svelte-looking beauties like the Bose 700. The Life Q30 could have also benefitted from more touch controls and controlled bass.
All in all, the pros easily outweigh the cons 3 to 1, which is convincing enough to purchase the Life Q30 if you’re looking to upgrade your noise-cancelling headphones on a budget.