Anker has been making serious inroads into the headphones market, even though the name is associated with “that company you buy portable chargers and cables from on Amazon.” From making some of the best true wireless earbuds in the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pros to powerful yet affordable noise-cancelling headphones, Anker has proven it can hang with the big boys in the portable audio game.
And the team hopes to continue this forward momentum with the new top-of-the-line over-ear option in the Anker Soundcore Life Q35.
- Our expert picks for the best noise-cancelling headphones, per budget and style
- Check out our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review
- …and our Sony WH-1000xM4 review
The upgrades to these cans are more iterative than a complete overhaul. Plus, as you can read in our Soundcore Life Q30 review, we’re big fans of what these headphones are capable of for the lower price. So, the question here is obvious: are these tweaks worth the additional investment over an already good (and cheap) choice?
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: Availability and price
The Soundcore Life Q35 headphones are available for $129 in the U.S. and £129 in the U.K. You can pick them up directly from Amazon or Anker. Currently, they’re available only in one colour: blue. Included with the purchase is a case, 3.5mm aux cable with mic, USB-C charging cable, and an airplane seat adaptor.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: Design
You will struggle to find any differences in design when comparing the Soundcore Life Q35s to the Q30s, except that the logo on the cups does not have a gold sheen anymore.
That’s not a bad thing, though, as Anker has gone for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. The build feels premium and stylishly restrained; the hinges and headband give a very real sense of durability, and the matte finish is attractive.
No changes were made to the dimensions and only a small increase in weight should mean they feel largely the same to wear, right? Well, not exactly. Our problems with the Life Q30 persist; the size of the Soundcore Life Q35 and their heft cause fatigue over all-day usage. But it seems the clamping force has been addressed, as the Q35s don’t feel as tight on my head, making them a little more comfortable for longer periods than the previous model.
You will find the biggest visual difference in the carrying case, as Anker opted to move from the rather bulky, rectangular container to a smaller and far more portable oval shape.
I just hope more colorways will be available sooner than later. I love the midnight blue, but I suspect having one option could turn a lot of people off.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: Controls and digital assistant
I apologize to anyone reading this who is thinking “wait, haven’t I heard this before?” Because just like the design, absolutely nothing has changed on the control side of things.
Touch controls are limited to flipping listening modes by pressing the cups and everything else is operated by buttons in an identical layout as before. That means you’re getting ANC and power buttons on the left earcup, plus play/pause and volume controls (that double up as track skips by double-pressing them) on the right.
Given the symmetry to the Q30s, it should come as no surprise that these support Google Assistant and Siri — which pick up your voice easily enough for quick actions, whether you’re on a phone, tablet or laptop.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: active noise cancellation and ambient listening
The Life Q30 headphones marked a huge improvement in the ANC category for Anker. The Life Q35s stay the course with both an effective isolating ear cup design and stellar noise cancellation performance.
You get three modes: indoor, outdoor and transport. Each of them offers a varying level of ANC, to “block out the most annoying sounds in these environments.” The differences are subtle, as that noise cancellation hiss is virtually non-existent.
The bass is a little more pronounced when its turned on and they did a great job of blocking out the vast majority of background noise around you, from passing cars when walking down a busy main road to the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop (well, my girlfriend using the espresso machine and banging glasses in the kitchen).
Don’t want to miss any important tannoy announcements at the station? The transparency mode is good at giving you better awareness of your surroundings. The microphones are sensitive enough to pick up conversations from across the room, but any louder sounds within your surroundings will distort and blow out everything else.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: Audio quality
Now, this is the part I was most excited about testing. Not for the specs. On the face of it, with 40mm silk diaphragm drivers, nothing has changed. But with the inclusion of a lossless and lossy codec (LDAC), these are capable of streaming higher resolution audio over Bluetooth without degradation in overall quality.
What does that mean? A definite improvement over the Q30s. The differences are minor and you will be hard-pressed to find them in most songs you listen to. Using the same bass-favouring drivers means those thumping lows continue to be the main ingredient of this recipe.
But thanks to LDAC and some slight changes to the audio tuning, the mids and highs are more than just a pinch that provide no flavour. They are far more pronounced in this mix, which many won’t notice across more popular genres, but pump some Tchaikovsky through them and get ready to spot the nuanced instruments amongst the lively soundstage.
I went back to the tracks I used to test the Q30s to see how the life Q35 fared against its relative. What was once a rather harsh and distorted experience listening to Chaka Demus & Plier’s “Murder She Wrote” now sounds cleaner, as the oomph of the bass does not overwhelm the higher vocal tones.
Another thing Anker thankfully fixed is the left-heavy sound of auxiliary cable usage. Sound is now far more balanced across both cups when in wired mode.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: App and special features
If you’ve owned a Soundcore product, you know just how good the Soundcore app is for providing an easy-to-use UI for accessing all your headphones’ features, tweaking the sound output, and updating firmware on the fly.
The Q35s are no different with a fully customisable EQ (plus 22 presets that cover all possible genres), the ability to create your sound profile based on your hearing. There’s alsothe option to add a widget on your homescreen for hot-switching between noise cancelling modes.
Plus, the Superior Sleep mode returns and is warmly welcomed; you can have some chilled-out fun using the white noise generator. However, I haven’t been using it for sleep. The idea of having a massive pair of cans on my head at bedtime does not seem comfortable to me. It is great, though, for productivity (currently listening to a crackling campfire as I type this), and I can imagine this mode showing its worth during air travel.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: Battery life
Anker promises a 40-hour battery life with ANC on (60 hours with it turned off). The Q35s handily deliver on this, and even came with an 80% charge out-the-box, so you won’t need to plug these in for a while after buying them.
These long runtimes, alongside the fast charging feature capable of squeezing 4 hours of play out of a 5-minute charge, should come as no surprise given these specs are the same as those on the Life Q30.
But there is something new to talk about here in the form of smart wearing detection which stops playing audio when you remove the cans from your head. This is not just a quality of life feature to ensure you don’t lose your spot in the podcast, but it surely helps preserve some juice for those small gaps too.
I hope Anker adds wireless charging to the next-gen headset. You already get NFC connectivity (more on that soon), so adding Qi can’t hurt!
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: Call quality and connectivity
The Life Q35s sport the same connectivity chops as the Q30s — Bluetooth 5, NFC pairing, the ability to pair two devices at once and switch between them on the fly (multipoint technology), and a strong radio that is capable of maintaining a connection up to 50 feet away from my iPhone.
But call quality is where things got a bit sketchy with the cheaper headphones. Our main gripe was mediocre call quality indoors and a struggle to be heard when walking outdoors.Anker hopes to resolve this with AI-enhanced calls, which isolate your voice from background noise and make you clearer to understand. To the team’s credit, it works most of the time.
My voice sounded a little processed and compressed when testing on a call, but the software did a good job of suppressing the background noise and prioritising my voice so I could be heard clearly.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: Verdict
Let’s get the obvious statement out of the way: the Anker Soundcore Life Q35s are a brilliant pair of noise-cancelling headphones — improving on sound quality and tuning, ANC and connectivity, while maintaining the same premium design and generously long battery life of their predecessor.
In their own right, they’re great. If you buy them, you will not be disappointed. But should you buy them? That’s a more difficult question to answer. The Q35s have on-ear detection, and AI enhanced calling which makes you sound clearer on calls, and Hi-Res Wireless certification and LDAC, which both certainly improve the audio quality a bit.
But to most of you out there, are these slight improvements worth an extra $50 (£50)? For audiophiles, LDAC-armed headphones for half the cost of other options like Sony’s WH-1000XM4s, combined with the slight retuning that makes nuanced details more easily identifiable makes them worthwhile. But to others who just want a good pair of headphones, it’s harder to justify the price jump.
The answer will be different for everyone, so give it some thought. Either that, or just wait a couple of months until Anker inevitably cuts the price of the Soundcore Life Q35 on Amazon Prime Day.