Luxurious, Comfortable, Hi-Res Sounding Headphones provide expensive taste but at a fraction of the cost.

With the Pandemic of 2020, many of us have had to drastically change our daily activities.  Many parents were forced to work from home, and unfortunately, many others even lost their jobs.  Some have had to change to pseudo-teachers, working with their children’s virtual education.  We have had to skip events, outings, mingling and have had to turn to online shopping and entertainment for most of our needs.  With three children in school (ages 5, 9, 11), we have had to rely on iPads and headphones to find enough places to complete Zoom meetings.  Similarly, with a mix of girls and boys, you can imagine their interests did not readily align.  As such, they often wanted to watch their own programs or to play their own games.  Similarly, I have had to rely on my iPad Pro 11” and noise-canceling headphones to complete several work meetings, and CubMaster/Den Meetings without surrounding distractions.  If you are looking for a multi-functional setup, one that will let you enjoy music, movies, television, gaming, and will help to upgrade your Zoom meeting experiences, look to the soundcore Life Q30 headphones by Anker.  

UNBOXING

The Life Q30 Wireless Noise Cancelling headphones arrived in a baby-blue 7 1/2 inches wide by 9 inches tall by 2 3/8 inches thick retail box.  Unlike many of my tech-loving friends, I actually enjoy the experience of evaluating product packaging.  I appreciate splashes of color, visual subtleties, and “look at me” marketing.  The light blue colored background served as an amazing backdrop for packaging.  More than a simple white box, the packaging offered something a little different than the norm.  The large image of the black-colored headphones contrasted nicely against the background, as did the “LIFE Q30” title along the top of the panel and “soundcore by Anker” in the negative space of a darker blue rectangle.  I liked that the static headphone image was granted a little life when they added darker blue sound waves.  Along the bottom of the panel, you will find several useful tidbits of information “HI-RES AUDIO,” Hybrid ANC, 40H Playtime, 2 Mics for Clear Calls, NFC Fast Pairing.  Lastly, I could not miss the large white-colored “MULTI-MODE NOISE CANCELLATION” along the top of the image.  They did a great job at enticing my interest with the cover panel, and the remainder of the packaging expanded on that theme.

The right side panel provided a colorful, lifelike, young female wearing the headphones and a FOMO (fear of missing out) statement that “20 MILLION+ PEOPLE” loved the sound.  As one who suffers from FOMO, this brand of marketing can prove to be quite powerful.  The opposite side panel showed a diagramed oblique image of the ear cuff, emphasizing the dual microphones for improved call function.  The rear panel showed three large images of people wearing the headphones showing Transport, Indoor, and Outdoor use.  The image depicting the transport ideal showed a side view of the female model above, seated in an airplane window seat. The indoor idea showed a young male inside a restaurant or office space, and the outdoor image showed another young male traveling outdoors.  The images were clear, attractive, and successful.  Beneath the images, the company provided six icons detailing the Hi-Res Sound, 2 Mics for Clear Calls, 40-Hour Playtime, 5-minute charge for 4-Hour Playtime, NFC Fast Pairing, and Touch for Transparency Mode.  Of all of the listed features, I was most excited about the inclusion of transparency mode.  To fully access the headphones’ features, I was instructed to download the soundcore App from the iOS/Google Play Store.  The darker blue top/bottom panels did not add much more to the experience.  The top panel had the soundcore/Life Q30 and a lighter blue wave pattern. In contrast, the lower panel provided manufacturing labels, SKU barcodes, legalese information, and listed the package contents (headphones, USB-C cable, AUX cable, travel case.

You will find a 7 1/2 inches wide by 9 inches tall by 2 3/8 inches tall grey Gabardine-esque carry case within the packaging.  Except for the raised chrome “soundcore” label, the clamshell case’s main feature was the 23 1/2 inches long waterproof zipper, and 3 inches long by 1/2 inches wide carry handle.  The black-metallic zipper-pull opened smoothly and allowed the case to open fully along the 5 1/4 inch spine.  The inner surface of the case was lined by black neoprene-like material.  The left half of the clamshell case had a 2 13/16 inches tall by 6 1/4 inches long elastic lined pocket.  You will find a 50 inches long 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable within the pocket, a 24 inches long USB-A to USB-C cable, and an instructional bundle (28-panel multi-lingual instruction manual, a foldout comment card, and a multi-lingual warning manual).  While charging the 9.27-ounce soundcore headphones, I decided to peruse the instruction manual.  Each of the thirteen panels had an English-labeled diagram across the top and descriptions in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Turkish, Arabic, and Hebrew along the bottom. The panels detailed the FAQ, to download the App (EQ settings/ ANC mode selection/firmware updates), Charging, Powering, Pairing, Dual Pairing, NFC, Noise Cancellation, Transparency, Button Controls, AUX, Reset.  Following the instruction manual panels, I turned to the iOS App Store, downloaded the soundcore App, entered my email/password, activated the account, and then signed up.

SOUNDCORE APP

Within the App, you can select speakers or headphones along the top of the panel and then choose from the options list. When I tapped the Life option, I selected amongst Life Q30, Life Tune, and the Life Dot 2 NC buds. I tapped the LifeQ30 option, and the App asked me to link to Bluetooth. I held the power button on the left earcup base and listened to the 4-tone ascending chime followed by a female voice alerting Battery High. The App immediately connected to the earphones and instructed me to download a call performance firmware update, which took about 10 minutes. Once updated, I placed the earbuds over my ears and tested the sound output. Within the App, I was able to tap the Ambient Sound option along the screen’s middle. The second panel allowed me to change between noise cancellation, transparency, and normal modes. When I tapped noise cancellation, I was able to further select between Transport (Low-End Frequencies like engine and road noise), Indoor (Voices and Mid-frequency noises from coffee shops/indoor spaces), and Outdoor ( Ambient sound on-the-go). Each of these options enhanced the standard button features of the base headphones. The Transport option proved to work better while riding in my wife’s Nissan NV and within our Thor 33E Class-C motorhome. The transparency mode and Normal modes did not have any additional setup/steps. As a bonus feature, I was pleased to find that I could set the soundcore App as a widget.

While using the soundcore app, I reminded myself that I was reviewing their LifeQ30 headphones and not the App. If you tap the sleep Mode along the bottom right of the App, you can adjust several sliders for wind, storms, birds, chimes/, camping, waves, water dripping, train sounds, clock, farm sounds, and a fan. Adjust each of the sliders to minimize/maximize the output and create a completely unique-to-you sleeping experience. From within the App section, you can play or pause the sounds, and you can set a sleep countdown timer for 5, 10, 15, 30, -10. When I showed that feature to my wife, I had to practically beg to have them back. Returning to the main App panel, I then selected Equalizer along the bottom left. You can select amongst twenty-two Default equalizer settings (Soundcore signature, acoustic, Bass Booster, Bass Reducer, Classical, Podcast, Dance, Deep, Electronic, Flat, Hip=Hop, Jazz, Latin, Lounge, Piano, Pop, R&B, Rock, Small Speaker, Spoken Word, Treble Booster, and Treble Reducer) or you can select Custom and adjust the sliders up/down between +6/-6 dB for 100, 200, 400, 800, 1.6k, 3,2k, 6.4k, 12.2k Hz. The soundcore signature option was rather flat, but the Podcast, Acoustic, and Deep settings were likely my favorite. When I listened to audible books, I really enjoyed the podcast and spoken word options. I found some versatility for the other equalizer settings and Rock and Pop for a variety of my test tracks.

Headphone Test/Sound

Before turning to my standard test tracks, I test the earphone parameters/limits with the audiocheck.net website.  Using the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz), I experienced a deep rumbling bass starting at 20Hz. For the second test, I like to use the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz).  On par with other over-ear headphones, I heard the high pitched ringing at around 15kHz. Despite the typical range of hearing for humans at 20Hz to 20kHz, my hearing remains rather acute because we tend to lose higher-pitched sounds as we age. For my third test, I used the Left/Right/Center test and found the headphone channels were appropriately programmed. To test the headphones’ stereo nature, I used the Stereo Perception and Sound Localization Test, which my children enjoy. We like to turn off the lights, place the headphones over the ears, and play the binaural recording. Even if you know that the knocking sound will occur, you still cannot help but look over your shoulder. The knocking sound   If you navigate to the website and use this test, be prepared to jump a little at the knocking’s realism.  The quality of the stereo aspect of the speakers can be further shown through the “Sound Of Silence (3D Binaural Audio)- Simon and Garfunkel Cover-Jarvis Brothers (Ear to Ear), and by listening to 8D Sound of Silence by Disturbed, or Bohemian Rhapsody Binaural in 3D.  I have enjoyed the expanding YouTube library of 7D and 8D audio tracks.

It was during the above tests that I realized just how comfortable the headphones felt on my head. Along the headphones’ apex, the company included a 5-inches wide by 3/4 inches thick, black-colored padded-foam headrest. Each of the 3 3/8 inches wide by 3 3/4 inches tall by 7/8 inches thick earcups had the same padded material used on the headrest. Etched into each of the earcup wells, you will find a printed R or L . Each earcup was given lateral and vertical movement to accommodate a variety of head sizes. Furthermore, the 7 3/4 inches tall headphones could expand to approximately 8 3/4 inches thanks to the adjustment points along the sides of the earphones. You will find the volume up, volume down, and multifunctional play/pause button along the bottom of the right earcup. The buttons were responsive, easy to locate, and had a comfortable click-feel. Abutting the play/pause button, you will find the auxiliary input port. Turning to the left earcup, you will find the USB-C input port, the power button, and the noise-canceling button. The right earcup added one last piece of tech to the product. If you had an android phone, you could pair them via NFC by tapping your phone to the right earpiece. Lastly, you can tap the right earbud to change to transparency/normal modes while using the headphones. If you wish to enter into noise cancellation mode, you can press the button on the left earcup, or access them through the App. They were able to produce a comfortable, yet easy to store product, was quite impressive.

With the above tests completed, I turned to my typical test tracks.  To evaluate the bass, I used “Ring of Fire” by Homefree, “Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold” from The Hobbit, listened to the opening bass line of Holly Cole’s “Train Song,” the jazzy popping sounds of “Bright Lights Bigger City” by CeeLo Green, and the cacophony of sounds from Dark Knight Rises Joker Theme “Why So Serious,” 3:20-3:40.  The bass was a little muted out of the box, and the sounds felt a little less powered than I would have liked. However, using the EQ feature within the App, the bass was clear, crisp, and provided amazing support to the mid/upper sounds. After several rounds of EQ settings, I continued to like the PODCAST, Deep, and Acoustic settings. To test the sound placement/balance/staging, I love to listen to Bob Marley and the Wailers “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” Radiohead “The National Anthem,” “Caribbean Blue” by Enya, and Yosi Horikawa “Bubbles.”  I love to be able to imagine the sounds and locations without directly seeing them. As a bonus, I would encourage you to listen to this 7D experience. To test more of the EQ settings, I listened to the ET theme song, Indiana Jones Theme Song, Back to the Future theme, Star Wars opening theme, and several instrumental pieces. As a long-time Euphonium player, I have developed a love for instrumental music. Several of my favorite Sousa marches and many of my favorite instrumental pieces sounded great on the soundcore life q30 (Polovetsian Dances, Pevensy Castle, Lincolnshire Posey, and Holst Suite in E flat).  Lastly, I played my favorite soundtracks, Far and Away, Braveheart, and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Soundtracks. 

Summary

Without the EQ feature, I would have likely rated the overall sound output at about 8.5/10. However, the EQ feature, coupled with the sleep-feature and timer, raised the score to a solid 9.5/10. I would rate both the packaging and accessories at 10/10. The ability to gain a significant charge after just 5-minutes of power should not go overlooked. Additionally, the headphone batteries should allow you to have more than a week of use on a single charge. I found I was able to listen to transparency mode and ANC mode several hours per day over the course of a week. After day 7, the female voice attendant still noted medium power. I did not test the full run time throughout my testing. The website claimed 40 hours with ANC and 60 hours without ANC. Using the headphones with ANC for roughly 3 hours per day, I still had more power than needed for my week. The ANC worked amazingly well to block out the road noise of our recent RV trip, as well as the road noise in my wife’s Nissan NV. I loved that the earphones did not have an annoying buzzing sound, like some of the devices. The transparency mode will allow you to use the headphones and to retain a sense of the world around you. The Bluetooth paired quickly and did not experience any lag. The Bluetooth range proved to be more than adequate and similar to many modern Bluetooth earphones.  When watching movies and television shows on Hulu, CBS All Access, Movies Anywhere, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, or VUDU, I did not experience any lag.  However, there was some noticeable lag while watching YouTube videos. All factors considered, I do not know how ANKER was able to produce such a quality pair of headphones for under $80. The carry case, USB-C charging, lightweight nature, comfort padding, the color scheme, and the integration with the EQ/App worked. I was quite impressed with the device. Anker did an amazing job at packaging thigh end features into a comfortable, quality, yet inexpensive shell. Before you break the bank on a more expensive pair of headphones, consider saving some money and buying the Soundcore LifeQ30 headphones.

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