Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless Active Noise Cancellation Headphones Review

Sitting between the premium Anker Soundcore Life Q30 with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and the entry level Life Q10 is the Soundcore Life Q20. A mid-range noise cancelling Bluetooth headphone that offers a wide dynamic range and bass boost at an affordable price that appeals to many. We discover how the Life Q20 performs in our review.

Advantages

  • great mid-range ANC headphones
  • amazing value, high quality yet affordable
  • good ambient noise cancelling performance
  • tight bass and good dynamic range
  • excellent battery life

Disadvantages

  • too much bass at high volume
  • no USB-C port
  • no companion app support
  • no EQ customisation
  • comfortable but can get hot
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Black

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The Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless Active Noise Cancellation Headphones

What does the Life Q20 bring to the table? Here is a quick rundown of the features:

  • Hi-res audio
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity
  • Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation
  • BassUp Technology
  • 40 hours of wireless playtime
  • Extra-soft ear cups
  • Foldable design
  • Aux mode

1. Soundcore Life Q20 vs Soundcore Life Q30

Naturally, the question we ask is how is the Life Q20 different to the Life Q30. Apart from the savings from the difference in price, both headphones offer Hi-Res audio from its 40mm dynamic drivers. Both headphones come with hybrid active noise cancellation and with ANC enabled will last for up to 40 hours of music playback. Longer 60 hours playtime is possible with ANC disabled. Charging time is also the same with a quick 5 minutes charge offering up to 4 hours of listening time. Design wise, these over ear headphones come with soft memory form ear cups, foldable ergonomic headbands, multi-point ear cup rotation and travel case.

The key differences are; the premium Life Q30 comes with multi-mode hybrid ANC. Instead of just on or off on the Life Q20, choose between indoor, outdoor, travel and transparency mode. Apart from Bluetooth 5 and auxiliary connectivity, it also supports NFC for quick pairing. Where calls are concerned, it benefits from dual microphones with uplink noise reduction. The Life Q20 uses a single microphone for calls. The ear cup cushions are also covered with protein leather. To control the sound modes and customised EQ, use the Soundcore App. The Life Q20 does not support app controls. Finallly, for charging it uses the reversible USB-C port and cable while the Life Q20 makes do with microUSB port. See table of comparison below:

Life Q10Life Q20 with travel caseLife Q30
SoundHi-Res sound via 40mm dynamic drivers, BassUp technology, dual EQ modesHi-Res sound via 40mm dynamic drivers, BassUp technology, dual EQ modesHi-Res sound via 40mm dynamic drivers, customized EQ
Noise CancellationN/AHybrid active noise cancellationHybrid active noise cancellation with Indoor, Outdoor, Travel, and Transparency modes
Playtime60 Hours60 Hours (ANC off) 40 Hours (ANC on)60 Hours (ANC off) 40 Hours (ANC on)
Fast ChargingCharge for 5 minutes, listen for 5 hoursCharge for 5 minutes, listen for 4 hoursCharge for 5 minutes, listen for 4 hours
ConnectivityBluetooth 5, AUXBluetooth 5, AUXBluetooth 5, AUX, NFC
CallsSingle microphone with uplink noise reductionSingle microphone with uplink noise reduction2 microphones with uplink noise reduction
Other FeaturesFoldable design with ergonomic headband and memory foam earcupsFoldable design with ergonomic headband, memory foam earcups, multi-point rotation, travel caseSoundcore app Foldable design with ergonomic headband, memory foam earcups with protein leather, multi-point rotation, travel case
Charging PortUSB-CMicro-USBUSB-C
Recommended ForTravel, flight, train, commuteTravel, flight, train, commuteTravel, flight, train, commute

2. Unboxing

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Box
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Box

What is in the box

  • Soundcore Life Q20 headphones
  • Aux cable
  • Micro-USB cable
  • Travel pouch
  • Documents: feedback card, quick start guide, safety information
Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Packaging
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Packaging

The protective plastic packaging shown above comes with separate compartments for cables and headphones part folded. The documentation and pouch kept under the box. All branding and glossy surfaces on the headphones are protected with sticky plastic films with tabs for easy removal.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Unboxed
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Unboxed

Here is what you get completely unboxed. The headphones come with sufficient protection inside the box. The quick start guide uses illustrations rather than words, much like IKEA’s paper thin manual. It comes with everything one needs to get the headset connected and playing right off.

3. Controls and Ports

To enter Bluetooth pairing mode, press and hold down the power button for 5 seconds, the blue light will flash. Once we tested that the headphone works, we charged its battery before proper testing. Thereafter, press and hold down the power button for 3 seconds to turn off or on.

Other buttons for track control, volume, noise cancellation are pretty straightforward, see image below for the buttons on the right and left ear cups.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Buttons and Ports
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Buttons and Ports

Right Ear Cups

On the exterior of the right ear cups (image below) are the volume control buttons marked (+ and -) that also double as track controls. Press briefly to control the volume level in steps or press and hold for 1 second to skip to the next track or go to previous track.

The middle button is a multifunction button. Press it twice to enable or disable BassUp. When there is an incoming call, press once to pick up the call using hands free function or press and hold for 1 second to hang up. Finally, to summon the voice assistance, press and hold for 1 second.

Also on the right ear cups are the Aux port and micro-USB charging port. The charging port and auxiliary port are exposed, not enclosed with a rubber flaps for easy access.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Right Buttons and Ports
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Right Buttons and Ports

Left Ear Cups

On the left ear cup shown below, you get the power button, LED indicator lights and Noise Cancellation button. As mentioned, the former is used to turn on the device and to enter Bluetooth pairing mode when held down for 5 seconds. To turn on or off the Noise Cancellation, press and hold the NC button for 1 second. A voice prompt will indicate the state of the noise cancelling function. There are two LED lights, a blue light for power that flashes when in Bluetooth pairing mode and turns red when battery is low and a green light for when NC is enabled.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Left Buttons
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Left Buttons

4. Comfort

The soft memory foam ear pads shown below are comfortable to wear and together with the adjustable headbands, rotating joints plus its lightweight design, they apply moderate pressure around the ears and over the head. Even with hours of playtime, it did not cause any pain or fatigue.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Ear Cushion
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Ear Cushion

There is plenty of slack in the headband. The extendable arms slide out with clicking action so you can adjust the length and overall width accordingly to fit the shape of your head. The rule of thumb is to extend it until you feel the least amount of pressure on both ears and the ear pads are seated evenly around your ears.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Extended
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Extended

It does however get a bit warm after a long period of listening, especially when you are in a warm room, but this is to be expected. Perhaps it is a sign that you need to give your ears a break.

5. Hybrid Noise Cancellation

Those over-ear soft ear pads and active noise cancellation technology together cut out up to 90% of the noise. It works perfectly well in removing chatters, humming, public transport and airplane engines and background noises. Even when sat in front of the TV, with the TV volume set at moderate levels, the headset could cut down the noise significant enough that you can enjoy your own music.

The basics

Anker claims that their team of sound engineers have carried out over 100,000 tests to fine-tune the head set using real-life scenarios. The Active Noise Cancellation technology is made possible with four microphones. Two outside and two inside with a pair on either side. This is apart from the single microphone for answering calls.

On each side, the external microphone also known as a feed forward mic picks up the noises and using digital active noise cancellation algorithm, the driver cancels this out so it does not reach your ear. A second internal microphone, known as a feedback mic does the same, cancelling any noise that may have reached inside the ear cups.

How well does it perform

The result, the headset is able to detect and cancel out a wider range of low and mid-frequency noises, for minimal or next to no ambient noises. If somebody next to you tries to talk to you, it will be soft but you should still be able to pick this up. We are perfectly satisfied with the level of noise cancelling that the Life Q20 offers.

The key here is it ambient noise. It does not completely eliminate all noises, especially those that stands out like a honk, dog barking or screams. Higher frequencies will still come through. If you must know, Bose QC35 cuts up to 90% noise while Sony XM3 blocks up to 95%.

We do not recommend using this while you are walking outside, making your way around the streets with traffic. Only suitable for commutes, short or long hauls flights, travels, private listening at home or in the office and trains.

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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Black

6. Performance and Sound Quality

The headset is Hi-Res Audio certified offering extended treble and enhanced clarity with defined details for both vocals and notes. I throughly enjoyed hours of acoustic music. Everything sounded crystal clear. If you are like me and prefer more lows in your music, even quiet ones, then the BassUp feature is for you. Double tap on the middle button between the volume controls for optimised bass. If it gets too much, simply turn it off.

Sound range and quality

The clear details and precise bass is made possible with a pair of oversize 40mm dynamic drivers. Together they produce low 16Hz to mid and high range of up to 40kHz for best clarity. Kick up the bass and you have the entire range covered. That said, it does not come with EQ settings usually offered via companion app to fine-tune the sound to your liking. It also does not support preset listening modes. And,

Reported issues

There have been reports of pops and crackles with noise cancellation enabled, especially when one is moving. We did not experience this during our tests. There have also been reports of the sound being too bassy, even in normal mode. We have to agree with this, especially with dance and pop music at higher volume levels.

Again, as a matter of personal preference, this hasn’t been too much of a problem. I just love the bass and would not want it to be any less. All I can say is, listen at mid to mid-low volume level or consider other options if big bass isn’t your thing. The low range gets up to 100% boost in strength with BassUp switched on.

7. Zoom and Phone Calls

Having connected to Life Q20 to my computer for Zoom meetings and the phone to take calls, I can safely say that I can have a clear conversation with the participants and caller with no hiccups. Hands-free calling. While it does not have dual microphones for calls like in the Life Q30, the single microphone works just as well with uplink noise reduction. Note that the microphone for call is separate to ones for Noise Cancelling. The single microphone for calls is on the bottom of the right ear cup.

8. Battery Life

Perhaps one of the many reasons for choosing the Life Q20 is its battery life. With a full 40 hours or up 600 songs even with Noice Cancelling enable and playing at 60% volume, this headphone just keeps going. From our test, with stretches of listening for hours on and off, we have never had to charge it yet. Connecting to tablet, smartphone and desktop, it shows no sign of stopping. Voice prompt still says “battery medium”.

On compatible devices such as the iPhone and iPad, the headphone icon in the status bar is accompanied by a battery level indicator which is handy. Now, if you don’t need ANC or have this disabled, the battery life can reach up to 60 hours. If you run low, and need a quick “pick-me-up”, a short 5 minutes charge will give you 4 hours of listening.

9. Wired Listening

When your battery finally runs out, you can always pull up the analogue cable and connect your headphones via 3.5mm auxiliary port, be it to your smartphone, tablet or desktop. You don’t need to turn on the headphone for wired listening but Noise Cancelling can still be activated and works in wired mode. With wired listening, you can’t control the volume on the headphones. You will need the volume control on the player. Understandably, listening this way means that the volume is lower as it relies completely on the source, not as strong as in powered and Bluetooth mode.

10. Build quality

While the headphones are light and affordable, they do not feel cheap. Far from it, the build quality is good. The soft ear pad cushions and cover does not give way with everyday handling, although we have yet to see if it will withstand long-term use. Only time will tell. The buttons feel tactile and solid. Taps and clicks are registered as they should. Even prints, badges, etches and logo on different parts of the headphone look sharp. It is also reassuring that the headbands, extendable arms and rotating joints inspire confidence during use.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Branding
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Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Branding

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, here is an affordable wireless headphone with Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation that does not disappoint. It performs just as good, if not better, than some top brands like Sony and Bose. There are no like-for-like as premium headphones from said brand would cost 3-5 times more. But if you are strap for cash, we would certainly recommend the Life Q20.

The design may be a little dated with big buttons as oppose to touch sensitive surfaces. No gesture controls here, just physical buttons, which means you need to feel around, work out the position of the buttons and remember what they are for. Overall, it still looks minimalist from some angles with non-intrusive branding or bling (shiny and chrome bits) to speak-off. A part from the black version reviewed, an all-silver version (below) is also available.

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Here are what we wish it had or what it does not do. The Life Q20 still uses a micro-USB port for charging, which can be a pain when trying to charge the headphones in the dark. You can only connect the headphone in one way. It would be nice to have USB CIt also does not support custom Equaliser. The only two listening EQ modes are with normal bass or enhanced bass. The Bluetooth headset also does not support further customisation and tuning with a companion app. Finally, with the Life Q20, there is a choice that comes with travel case. Ours came with a basic flat pouch. You can choose one with a hardshell travel case but it will cost more.

Advantages

  • great mid-range ANC headphones
  • amazing value, high quality yet affordable
  • good ambient noise cancelling performance
  • tight bass, good dynamic range
  • excellent battery life

Disadvantages

  • too much bass at high volume
  • no USB-C port
  • no companion app support
  • no EQ customisation
  • comfortable but can get hot