Prior to COVID-19 days (remember those times? The precedented ones?), I had toyed with the idea of getting some active noice cancellation (ANC) headphones. As it turns out, the open plan workplace can be a bit distracting. I never quite got around to it, but it came up again with working from home, and just the day-to-day noise life in a house can contain. That’s where the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 headphones came in.
Before we get into this, let’s clarify one thing – I am not anything approaching an audiophile. Sure, I can appreciate good equipment, but I’m also the guy using the office-issued headset (when I was in the office) or an inexpensive pair of wired earbuds (here at home). So, my ears are anything but highly calibrated. That said, listening to music, podcasts, or movies on the Anker Soundcore Life Q20? It was a delight. I felt like I was getting the full sound stage delivered to my eardrums, and certainly it delivered everything I would want from a pair of regular headphones.
Then again, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 are no ordinary headphones. They’ve got that sweet, sweet active noise cancellation. Yes, you get some passive cancellation via the memory foam earcups (which look to be replaceable in the manual, but I didn’t try prying things apart), but it’s the active chip that really gets it going. Traditionally, you’d only be concerned about how it filters the noise coming into your ears, right?
Well, on the Anker Soundcore Life Q20, they’ve got a four-mic system both inside and outside the headset. This does a great job cutting down the noise for you, as you might expect. As a lovely bonus, even when you’re on a call? It cuts down the noise coming in through the mic that’s picking up your voice. We had a power outage a few weeks back, so I was working in my father-in-law’s backyard for the day. At the time, I was sitting about 15 feet away from his AC unit – so you know, you could definitely hear it while it was running. I queried a few different people, and they could not hear the AC at all.
Let that sink in. I was 15 feet away from a noisy piece of equipment, and that noise did not bleed through. That’s where ANC shines, being able to clean out that sort of repetitive, droning noise. Here, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 did it to the point that one person asked if I was near birds. You see, I was sitting near some bird feeders as well, and those intermittent chirps are what came through, along with my voice. So, yes, it’s one thing for me to be able to hear clearly what my laptop or phone is producing. But for it to also transmit my voice cleanly? That’s, well, just plain awesome in my book.
Also awesome in my book? While the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 has the bluetooth chip in it, you can also use it in a wired capacity (and they provided the cable, along with a charging cable). Whether or not you prefer a wired connection, having that flexibility is great. Why? Well, if you exhaust the battery (rated for 40 hours of use, but I was seeing it last longer) you can put the wire in, and keep using the headphones. Sure, ANC won’t work if the battery is dead, but at least you’re not stuck needing to carry a backup headset as a “just in case”.
There is one other tech trick that the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 has, in the form of a “bass boost” capability. I tried it a few times, but never left it on for more than a minute. You enable it by a double-press on the “play” button on the right earcup, so it’s easy to try. For me, and what I listen to, it just made things muddier. Sure, the bass was boosted, but it felt like it was done at the expense of lower the mids and highs. So, maybe helpful if you’ve got some weirdly balanced recording, but by and large I didn’t find it helpful.
So far, we have covered how it is to listen (and talk) on the Anker Soundcore Life Q20, and it has surely shined in that for my uses. The other thing you need to consider is the comfort, particularly if you’re thinking to wear something for 6-8 hours (or more) each day. Even on my big old noggin, I found them comfortable to wear all the live long day. The earcups did fit over my ears just fine, and given the pivots at the end of the band – and the extenders – you can get a fit that works for your head.
For me, I didn’t have any problem wearing the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 all day, listening to music or podcasts while I wasn’t on a call. And frankly, even if you want quiet time, you can have them on with the ANC activated and just cut out external noise to focus. They did get a little warm that day I was working outside, but indoors, I didn’t feel like my ears were overheating.
One other thing you might be worried about with a set of wireless over-ear headphones would be flashiness. Not the case here – the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 comes in either black (as we reviewed) or silver, with minimal (color-matched) logos. And as far as lights go, you’ve got two LEDs – a blue one to signify the bluetooth connection (blinking when not connected, solid when connected) and a green one to indicate that ANC is on. Maybe in a darkened room, that might be distracting, but really, these are about as “under the radar” as you can get with over-ear headphones.
Suffice to say, I really enjoyed spending time (and working with) the Anker Soundcore Life Q20. Given all the ANC wizardry involved, you’re probably already putting yourself in the mindset of what those higher-end brands cost. Well, there’s the last, really great surprise for these cans. The black ones are available for just $59.99, while the silver ones are $5 more (and you can get $10 off for the next 5 days with WSLQ20US directly from anker).
Frankly, if you’re looking for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, I don’t know how you couldn’t consider the Anker Soundcore Life Q20. Great sound, amazing ANC, flexibility for wireless or wired, and an almost unbelievable price. In my book, that all combines to a solid gadget that’s meant to be use in a daily capacity. Sure, the bass boost was more gimmick than helpful, and I wouldn’t have minded a hard case for carrying in a bag, but those are minor (and there are 3rd party cases out there). So, seriously – if you’re looking for a headset, check these. If this wasn’t a review, it would very easily be part of our “Stuff We Like” series, it’s that good. soundcore.com
- Brand & Model: Anker Soundcore Life Q20 headphones
- Price: $59.99
- Who’s it for? You find yourself needing to cut external noise – either while working, working out, or simply unwinding at the end of the day
- Would I use it? Absolutely – the headphones have great sound, and the ANC is simply superb, especially at this pricepoint
- What I’d change: I get we’re cost-cutting – but I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more to have a stock hard case option for the headset
- The best thing about it: Seriously, you guys – the amount of noise cancellation you get here is unreal
Details from Anker
- Hi-Res Audio Certified: Custom oversized 40 mm dynamic drivers produce Hi-Res Audio—a certification only awarded to audio devices capable of producing exceptional sound. Life Q20 active noise cancelling headphones reproduce your music with extended high frequencies that reach up to 40 kHz for extraordinary clarity and detail.
- Reduce Ambient noises by up to 90%: Our Team of engineers conducted more than 100, 000 tests in real-life scenarios to fine-tune life q20’s 4 built-in ANC microphones and digital active noise cancellation algorithm. As a result, the hybrid active noise cancellation can detect and cancel out A wider range of low and mid-frequency noises such as cars and airplane engines.
- 100% stronger bass: our exclusive BassUp technology conducts real-time analysis of the low frequencies to instantly strengthen the bass output. Double press the play button when listening to bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop for an amplified listening experience.
- 40-Hour playtime: Up to 40 hours of non-stop playtime in wireless active noise cancellation mode (at 60% volume) is extended to an enormous 60 hours in standard music mode. A single charge gives you enough juice to listen to over 600 songs or soundtrack multiple long haul flights. And when you’re in a rush, charge life Q20 active noise cancelling headphones for 5 minutes and get 4 hours of listening.
- Universal Comfort: Memory foam earcups gently mold around your ears, while the headband’s rotating joints automatically adjust the angle of the earcups to fit the shape of your head. This ensures that Life Q20 active noise cancelling headphones deliver maximum comfort and a secure seal.