When the Sony WH 1000 XM5 was released, we gushed over it and gave it a rave review. But does the SoundCore Space Q45 poop all over Sony’s party? That’s exactly what we’re gonna talk about today. Poop.
We’re gonna start with the most shocking category. Noise Cancelling. I mean before that let’s start with another shocker. The SoundCore Space Q45 – they’re $150! With an additional 20% discount at launch! And for that price they should basically lose this battle. This entire video should be an absolute decimation. Because the Sony WH-1000 XM5 costs MORE than twice as much. For that price, you can buy 2 of the SoundCores and still have money left over. The latest prices will be in the description, but let’s start with Sony’s traditional strong suit – noise cancelling.
ANC and Transparency
You’ll hear for yourselves how these sound, but to start with the noise cancelling is adjustable on the SoundCore and not adjustable on the Sony. We’ve heard a lot of complaints about that on our channel, so that’s a point for the SoundCore. Soundcore also has adaptive ANC, but we like our ANC under our control, so we ain’t adapting to it. The Sony has a HUGE bunch of features for noise cancelling including adaptive noise cancelling, hand on earcup, speak to chat and a couple more. So purely for features, the Sony wins out. Sony and SoundCore also let you change the transparency mode – a bigger scale for Sony, but we don’t think it makes a huge difference.
Ok ok – we know what you’re saying – just tell us how they perform. HERE are the ANC and transparency samples. Our conclusion will follow below.
So guys – Sony won the ANC in terms of attenuating sound. But you know what – Sony has beaten much more expensive competitors as well. Even so, the difference between these two isn’t huge. Soundcore has done a great job and when we wore it and actually listened to it with our ears, we could say only one thing – SoundCore’s noise cancellation is in the excellent category.
There is a slight exception though – Sony has decided to switch ANC modes automatically this time. Using ‘AI’. There’s no slider in the app and you notice if you use them for long that the ANC keeps changing ever so slightly. This is quite annoying and I personally know at least one person who wants to sell their XM5 because of this. We hope Sony fixes this! SoundCore has a wind noise reduction in the app, but that didn’t have too much effect on the wind. Both are usable outside in a light breeze or moderate wind. Sony does just fine without any additional mode. So, for wind we kinda thought they were similar.
The tables turn when we go to transparency. Sony lets you focus on voice, which is a handy feature, but Sony’s levels are lower, which makes using them a less ideal option for transparency.
Soundcore always cuts out the low end in transparency which is great. And voices are louder than Sony. Which is amazing! The win on transparency actually goes to the SoundCore! We did not think it would – but there you are! There is however, one small exception though. And that’s best explained with a graph. The SoundCore boosts the mids – where the voices live – but also the highs – where harsher noises like fan sounds or drills live. So if you want to listen in an environment that has any of those sounds, the Sony might actually work better for you. Even though the overall volume is lower. But in most cases we’re talking to people without drills so, the SoundCore transparency wins out. SoundCore also has a talk mode which limits music volume so you can always listen to your surroundings. Ideal if you want to have some background music on your headphones in an office, for example.
Microphones and calls
Speaking of office and headphones – let’s go on to phone calls – and here we were surprised! But of course – take a listen for yourself and we’ll be back in a bit with the conclusion.
(Microphone samples can be found in the video)
So not just in the tests you heard, but the numerous, actual, real life calls we made it felt that Sony was the winner. The SoundCore has a 2 mic system and the Sony a 4 mic, so that might explain the volume difference. But beyond that – the kind of sound that Soundcore lets in – made our voices sound quite tinny in comparison. The Soundcore are average for calls and are definitely usable though. But still, we’ll give this round to the Sony.
When it comes to vakman controls however – just look at this list of controls. Everything a vakman’s heart desires – from volume control to changing ANC mode to muting. An excellent feature set from SoundCore there. And since we’re talking about the touch…
Build and Battery
…let’s talk about the overall build. So the Sony WH-1000 XM5 just feels a bit more premium. We don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the light weight, the more rounded headband, the shape or the nice, subtle design touch with the yokes, the Sony feels like an expensive device that’s not trying to be loud. Design wise. Not volume wise – we’ll talk about sound in a bit. The SoundCore also has a decent build with the embossed glossy SoundCore note logo on the cups and it doesn’t look too shabby. But it does look bigger and bulkier with those round cups. There are almost two cups – the first part with the buttons and the ports and then the plastic cups holding the earpads. Overall we prefer the Sony.
But the SoundCore has a foldable design and it does tout aluminium alloy hinges. This should make them more resilient to damage in the long term, so that’s a good thing. And with great folding comes – some space saving. The hardshell case on the SoundCore is smaller than the Sony’s. In fact, it seems to be modelled after the older Sony XM4 and XM3 cases – the size is identical. What they didn’t take from those cases though is a place to store your cables – there’s no pouch or pocket to do so – which makes taking those cables along a bit messy. You are basically going to lose them. There’s no airplane adapter with either of these headphones.
Look – we love the touch controls and buttons on the Sony – they work well. They have the most responsive touch surface we’ve ever used on headphones. But we’ve always been fans of buttons. #buttonophile if you must. And SoundCore nails – absolutely NAILS – their buttons. We got used to it very quickly and almost never missed a button or hit the wrong one by accident. Even though it was a totally new button layout. That either says something about our incredible learning ability or the sheer intuitiveness of the button layout. We’ll let you be the judge of that. Adjusting the SoundCore headband is a bit different, but you do have discrete ratchets that are clicky – and you know what? It works. The Sony has a smoother adjustment mechanism and bigger case which somehow seems less solid. There’s very limited customisation on either but between all the buttons on the SoundCore and the multiple surfaces on the Sony, you don’t really need it.
Another interesting aspect is that the SoundCore seems to work with very big heads too. So if you’re the proud owner of one of those chonkin’ noggins and the Sony for some reason isn’t big enough, the SoundCore might just about get you in.
But what do those chunky SoundCore cups get you? Well along with the Sennheiser Momentum 4 – they get you the best battery life in the industry! A ridiculous 50 hours with ANC on! I mean – wow! We’ve had some other products with bigger numbers but either aren’t very loud or they don’t have ANC, but that’s not the case here. Again – we’ll talk about sound in a bit. But the SoundCore clearly surpasses the Sony – at least on paper for battery life. And if that’s not enough you get 4 hours of battery life from 4 minutes of charge. But Sony gives you 3 hours of battery life from 3 minutes, so that’s not a huge difference there.
And if SoundCore won that round, well Sony’s gonna take this round. We used these for several hours and days in the scorching summers of the Netherlands – yes that’s a thing now. The SoundCore heated up quite a bit. In a 27.6 degree room, the earpads shot up to 31.5 after a couple of hours of use. While that might be one thing and can be subjective, the clamping force is definitely not. Don’t get us wrong, if you take breaks you’re going to be fine. But after a few hours of wearing these, I was definitely feeling pressure behind my ears. When I put the XM5 on after that – it was like an angel was massaging my pinnae with a feather from heaven… The pads are round and don’t give you that sense of your ears being suspended in air. So after a while, even though the pads are soft, you can feel them on your outer ears.
So the sheer light weight and the low clamping force make the Sony a winner in our book. Again – the SoundCore is fine it’s just that the Sony is such a clear winner, especially for longer listening sessions.
Connectivity and Multipoint
So where did SoundCore cut some corners? Obviously at such a relatively low price, you can’t expect multipoint. PSYCH! Well – turns out you can! Yes – SoundCore has the ability to connect to two devices at once. What’s more is that, like Sony, you have a full-fledged device list in the app that you can use to switch between devices. Absolutely phenomenal at this price. It worked well between phones. And while watching YouTube in a browser on my Mac, when a call came to my Android phone, for example, the headphones switched flawlessly. So good job there SoundCore. In both cases, you will have to pause music on one device to play on another for this feature to work reliably.
Sony does have two small advantages here – 1. The XM5 can pull connection from a previously paired device, so no need to put the headphones into pairing mode and b. You can fix and unfix a device temporarily in the app if it acts weird – which it sorta does now and again.
In terms of connectivity – you don’t get Google assistant like you do with the XM5. So you can call up your phone’s assistant, but you won’t get access to listening to messages, responding with your voice and certain voice commands like toggling ANC which are handy features. The bigger miss arguably for SoundCore is that these headphones don’t come with Android fast pair which means you will have to use the regular pairing method and your headphones won’t automatically connect to your other Android devices.
And in terms of another small – or big – advantage depending on how you feel about it – the SoundCore doesn’t come with a wear sensor – you know the one that detects you wearing your headphones and can do things like resume music once you put the headphones on your head or switch your call to the phone once you take them off.
Sound Quality – The SoundCore Space Q45 Shocked Us!
Ok – we’ve kept you waiting long enough – let’s talk about sound. Because after noise cancelling, that’s a place where you usually make the biggest compromises with cheaper products. But not in this case. I mean – this is bullshit! Out of the box – it isn’t even close! The Sony’s tuning is so dark, it’s just about passable for high-end headphones. The SoundCore sounds sublime! It’s just a much cleaner and pristine sound. Of course – Sony has that fantastic 5 Band EQ and a Clear Bass Slider. Once you use that and LDAC together – the XM5 can sound very good. But here’s the thing, SoundCore has LDAC too. And man does it slam! We tested this on AAC with a Mac and iPhone – and you know what? There might be some slight resolution loss, but overall not bad at all! We have included sound samples at the end of this video. But coming back to LDAC, you will have to choose between LDAC and dual device though. Just like on the XM5!
But here’s where it gets tricky – we think that the XM5’s 30mm driver units are a bit better at bass, whereas the Soundcore Q45’s 40mm drivers are good at everything else. Especially the performance at the higher end is second to none. The treble quality is the same as the Liberty 3 Pro – but the tuning is way better – not overdone like the earbuds – which by the way are some of the best earbuds at that price. We thought the mids dulled out guitar distortion sounds, but then we selected the rock preset from the Soundcore app and we got all the delicious ear-bleeding distortion our aging metal hearts could want. There are SO many presets – and they are excellent starting points to get the sound you’re looking for on the Soundcore. You can just take a preset you like and tweak it to a custom EQ using the more flexible 8 band EQ in the app. In response to Sony’s Clear Bass slider, the SoundCore has a ‘BassUp’ toggle that you can apply over every preset. It does a good job of adding a little oomph to the sound. The overall maximum volume is well into ‘make yourself deaf’ territory, but still a bit lower than Sony’s ‘Who needs ears anyway’ level. The one thing we will say is that the SoundCore sounds different on ‘normal’ and ‘ANC’ modes for. The frequency response chart we generated shows the difference – the ‘normal’ mode brings down the bass quite a bit and sounds a little more neutral – maybe something audiophiles would prefer. The ANC scoops the sound out the mids to an extent that the vocals recede a bit into the background. But again – not a very big deal because of the EQ as we said. In a way though – that kinda makes sense. When you are out and about whether it be walking around or just doing laundry at home, bass tends to take a hit. So activating more bass in ANC mode isn’t a terrible idea. Unless it’s a mistake. In which case – it’s still not a terrible idea.
Both these also have an audio cable and the SoundCore sounds good with a 3.5mm jack cable, just like over LDAC. If we had to nitpick, the SoundCore cable is tiny and might just be a bit too short at 110 cm if you have a desktop setup. Sony, of course, also has a cable and has a nice long 120 cm with an angle jack. That extra 20 cm and that angle sometimes makes all the difference. That’s what she said.
So – guys at this price – it feels unreal to say it – but it’s pretty much a tie!
Let’s talk about the companies
We cannot praise the SoundCore Space Q45 high enough. Just the fact that we’re comparing it to one of the top ANC headphones in the world is insane! If you pasted on a popular brand name like Bose, these could cost twice the price and no one would bat an eyelid. But here’s the thing – you pay for brand names for a reason, right? Sure, there’s the perception of the brand, but there’s other things too – after sales service, warranties, repairability. Sony for example – has gone into recycling a lot on its recent products and we really appreciate that. If you’re having a very hot summer or some extreme event, consider the role of the products you’re buying and the companies that are making them. Sony has a detailed sustainability report for the whole company, for example in addition to the recycled use we mentioned. SoundCore didn’t provide us much details except that they have a refurbished program as well to reuse a lot of the products which is a good start. But we think this is one area where they could do more.
So – which one should you buy guys? We don’t know about you, but we’ve found a new set of headphones that are REAL easy to recommend. Here’s the thing – for people who are not enthusiasts, – we used to always recommend the XM4 – because they’re from Sony, they do everything the Sony WH-1000 XM5 does but a little worse. And they were always cheaper. But after this release – SoundCore’s Space Q45 is just incredible value! SoundCore’s legacy of creating insanely good value has been taken to the next level! Serious shots have been fired and the likes of Sennheiser, Sony, Bose and other ANC headphone manufacturers are gonna have to watch this Space! We have a feeling that these headphones are going to take the market by storm. Except for the comfort, the calls and the fact that you’re buying from a smaller company, we think that these might be the internet’s new favorite headphones!
And if you wanna grab one – get one from the links above. Helps out the blog at no extra cost to you.