Many of you have been asking about this. So let’s compare the 3 best over-ear ANC headphones from SoundCore and we’ll tell you our personal picks at the end.
Let’s first get the confusing names out of the way. We’re talking about three ANC headphones here from SoundCore: the oldest Life Q30, the slightly newer Life Q35 and the latest and greatest – the Space Q45.
Both Life products, the Q30 and Q35 are practically identical. They’re very hard to distinguish from the outside. So boy are we glad we got them in different colors. Rohan’s pink color here is especially cute. You get the same selection of colors on both these models; black, blue or pink. The Space Q45 on the other hand does have some changed design elements. Gone is the articulating cup attached to a hinge. It also has slightly thicker ear pads and slightly deeper ear cups. The headband design is also a bit different with the Q45 having less padding on it. And no pink for the Q45. Only black, blue and white.
Then there’s the buttons. Their placement – again, largely the same. The older Life 30 and Q35 do have separated volume buttons though which are easier to hit. But the older models are a bit… confusing with their control scheme.Their right cup houses a touch sensor. Touch and hold toggles Transparency mode. Doing that again puts it in Normal mode. You have to use the NC button on the left cup to go to ANC.To be fair, SoundCore gets credit for clearing up the confusion – and it has changed it for the Q45. You just cycle between all three modes with a single button. In the app for the Q45 you can select what the NC button cycles through. Since we personally never use the Normal ANC mode, we turned that off. You can also program the same button for a double press to turn on or off the BassUp preset.The other difference is that SoundCore has changed from two separate volume buttons to a single rocker style one. Makes sense since it makes it easier to find the button based on feel. But we had no issue with the Q30 and Q35 after getting used to it.And in terms of looks – what do you think? We think that all of these are definitely not ‘small’, but at least they’re not garish either. Except that pink.
Build & Comfort
The headphones are foldable and fit snugly into their hard shell case. However, the older models give you a velvet-cloth-ish pouch which you can use to store accessories. Whereas the newer Q45 – doesn’t have that. Just throw the cables and airplane adapter in the case and hope for the best. I mean – side note – who needs an airplane adapter anymore? I was recently on a flight that had bluetooth in their in-flight entertainment system!Anyway – all of these SoundCore headphones are very similar in their build quality. They’re all made primarily with plastic with some metal across the headband. There’s faux leather on the headband and ear cups. And by bending and flexing them they all are pretty much creak free and don’t feel like they’d fall apart. However, when shaking the headphones you notice that the Q45 is a lot firmer and doesn’t sound like a box of screws.
So unless you go around shaking your headphones, you should be fine with any of these in our opinion.Comfort wise you’ll notice that the Q30 is the worst. The cups are not as wide and deep as the others. And this is something you will notice even if your ears are not on the larger side. The roomiest is definitely the Q45, with the Q35 being nicely in the middle of all three. We’d be happy with either of those. The padding on the ear cups is very supple and smooth on the Q45 whereas on the Q35 it’s less so with visible stitching as well. Although the Q30 doesn’t have this stitching the amount of padding is very similar to the Q35. Overall we like the cups of the Q45 and feel the Q35 is a close second. But the headband is where the Space Q45 has the least padding. So you might start feeling it more on the crown compared to say the Life Q35 or Q30 which have equal amount of cushioning on the headband.
Active Noise Canceling
So guys – we literally took these 3 headphones in our hand baggage on a plane and tested out noise cancelling in a real-life freaking plane ride. We think that deserves a like. Anyway – in those real life conditions as well as our regular simulated conditions, with both our sets of ears, the results were consistent. On the Q30, we could still clearly hear the airplane hum. Higher frequency sounds were also let in quite a bit. Interestingly – the modes switch on the Q30 was almost instant whereeas with most modern ANC headphones, you have about a second of lag. But still – we put it overall at Tier C.The Q35 is clearly superior and a step up. We could still barely hear the plane and the mid / higher frequencies are more present.
A solid Tier B.In terms of overall sound reduction, the Q45 is about the same as the Q35, but it is still better. Also Tier B though because the cabin noise isn’t completely eliminated. The Q45 als features a wind noise reduction – which we thought didn’t quite perform as advertised.The Q45 also comes with all the bells and whistles – an adaptive ANC mode that changes your ANC in real-time based on ambient noise to reduce that ear pressure feeling and save battery. AND a customisable 5 band scale to change how much ANC is active. Nice!
So how well do these headphones let in your environmental sounds? The Space Q45 and the Life Q35 came in at a very respectable Tier A for us. At this price point, this is amazing and even beats the likes of some premium pairs of headphones from brands like Bose, Bang & Olufsen or Bowers & Wilkins! The Space Q45 also lets you tweak the transparency on a scale of 1 to 5. It lets in a good amount of volume and maintains clarity in the mids and highs. The low end is cut a little bit. The Life Q35 takes a slightly opposite approach, despite it being in the same tier. It lets in more of the low end and slightly less of the high end like voices. There’s also no levels of adjustable transparency on the Q35 and Q30. And speaking of the Life Q30 – how does it perform? A clear, Tier C. It lets in a decent volume of ambient noise but the issue is that it can sound somewhat processed. So in a pinch, they’re usable, but they’re definitely not the most comfortable for extended transparency use.What we’re not fans of is the sound of a fan. Not you guys! We love you guys – thanks to you guys for getting us to 50k subs by the way! Check the links in the description if you want to know how you can support us further. Back to the fan – we mean the whooshing fan noise when we put headphones into transparency mode. Also called white noise. Or the noise floor. This tends to be a problem on cheaper products, but we’re happy to report that it is negligible across all these headphones. There’s a tiny bit, but it didn’t bother us in quiet environments. Like we mentioned in the design section, the Life products have a touch sensor you can use to toggle to and between Transparency and Normal mode. But if you want ANC then you’ll need to use the button for that. That same button also can be used to toggle Transparency and Normal mode. This seems to be an attempt to copy Sony’s Quick attention feature. And it just ended up being kind of redundant and confusing. We much prefer the single button on the Q45 to cycle through all the modes. So on the Q35 and Q30 we just ended up ignoring the touch gesture altogether and just used the button instead. An upside on the Q35 is that you can turn the touch gesture off in the app if you like. In the SoundCore app on the Life models, you get some ANC modes for Transport, Indoor and Outdoor. In our testing though, we couldn’t notice much of a difference so we left it on one of them and went about our business.
And speaking of business, if you’re going to use these headphones for calls then you know we need to pop popsicles and test testic…CLICK HERE for microphone samples (FULL samples are available for ‘Icicle’ and ‘Tested’ Patrons & YouTube Members).What did you think? Our take is as follows. The Life Q30, albeit the cheapest, did quite well. Yes you heard a lot of the background noise but the voice clarity and volume was decent. The Life Q35 did better with managing the amount of background noise but in the process my voice was also less loud. And unfortunately the Space Q45 was the harshest for trying to cancel out background noise which in turn compromised the voice clarity and volume. Now if you plan to use any of these in quiet home office situations, then anyone will be your best friend. And good to know, you are able to change the ANC modes while on a call and adjust volume. What you won’t be able to do is mute the mic from the headphones directly. Alright vakman out!
And you know for budget headphones – you don’t expect much in the way of additional features, but SoundCore gives you some excellent extras. And it’s not very straightforward either. For example – you’d expect that the highest model here has all the features, right? Well – pretty much true, except in one case – the wear sensor to play or pause your music. That’s only on the middle model here – the Q35. The Life Q30 and Q35 also have an NFC pairing feature that you can use with Android. Oh – and the included audio cable for the Life Q35 also has an in line remote.Luckily all three feature multipoint – which is fantastic to see, but only the Space Q45 lets you actually see and interact with the device list in the app.
So – let’s get to the core of the sound on these SoundCores. Well first off – with all of these you get a TON of customisation through SoundCore’s app. EQ presets? Check. 8 band custom EQ? Check? LDAC? Yes on the Q45 and Q35. Hear ID for custom sound adjustment based on your hearing? Only on the Q45.All right soundwise – let’s talk about the default SoundCore tuning on these headphones – the SoundCore Signature. Let’s start with the Q35. The way I would call the sound signature is excellent bass, serviceable mids, passable treble. It’s an overall warmer sound, but it still sounds relatively clean. Timbre is nice and instruments sound realistic-ish. Bass is SOLID – bass head approved as el jefe would say – thundering sub bass. Very enjoyable for hip hop. However for rock, I thought that the sound signature was less flattering, making things sound congested.In a track like Taylor Swift’s I knew you were trouble – Taylor’s version of course – The Q45 brings Taylor’s voice into the spotlight and delivers a wider sound overall. The treble is a bit brighter too. The slightly problematic treble artifiacts are – no pun intended – more trouble on the Q45 compared to the Q35. The closed hihat hits – just sound a bit fizzy. And where does the Q30 fall in this list? Well – clearly the inferior product sound wise – but not so fast. It’s still not bad – and actually excels in one area – mids. And while there’s no weird treble issues, the bass is less impressive. The Q30 does plenty of bass – which is good, but just doesn’t seem very accurate or articulated. So in essence – you get a ton of customisation on all of these. But the Q45’s the top dog, the Q35’s the bass monster and the Q30 excels at mids.
So which one would I pick? With the $20 difference in price between the more expensive Space Q45 and the Life Q35, I’d go for the Space Q45. No doubt. But if the difference was in the area of $50 I think I’d be very happy with the Life Q35 since it brings so much to the table already. So for folks who own the Life Q35 at the moment, don’t upgrade yet and see what SoundCore has in store for their next flagship.
For me, the choice is also clear – the Space Q45. It’s just a little bit better across the board – and it still gets discounted fairly often.
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