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Anker Soundcore Life Q35 review: budget headphones with good noise-cancelling | Headphones

Anker Soundcore Life Q35 review: budget headphones with good noise-cancelling | Headphones

The latest Bluetooth headphones from Anker offer very long battery life and surprisingly effective noise-cancelling on a budget.

The Soundcore Life Q35 cost £129.99 and replace the Life Q30 as the brand’s top headphones, significantly undercutting leading models from rivals that often cost in excess of £300.

Anker soundcore life q35
The headphones have a reasonably simple design made of smooth, soft-touch plastic in a semi-metallic blue colour. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

They are fairly bulky compared with some of the best but don’t look ostentatious and are fairly light. The faux leather ear cups are spacious, with a good amount of padding, and don’t clamp your head too hard, while the headband stays well put on your dome. The headphones have enough adjustment to wear comfortably for extended listening periods, feel solidly made and fold up for travel, too.

The Chinese firm Anker, set up by a former Google engineer, originally made its name with high-quality, low-cost portable charging equipment. It has since expanded into other consumer electronics categories, including audio gear under the Soundcore brand, offering a similar level of bang for buck and winning fans by undercutting the competition while maintaining higher than expected quality and good customer service.

Specifications

  • Weight: 265g

  • Drivers: 40mm

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 with multipoint, 3.5mm, USB-C charging, NFC

  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC

  • Battery life: 40 hours ANC on

Button controls and solid connectivity

Anker Soundcore Life q35
The right ear cup has the analogue headphones socket for connecting a standard 3.5mm cable, of which there is one in the box. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Q35 are Bluetooth 5 headphones supporting the universal SBC and AAC audio standards used by most devices. They also support the high-resolution LDAC format that can be used with most Android devices for higher-quality listening that is usually the reserve of significantly more expensive headphones. They can connect to two devices at once so that, for example, you can answer a call on your phone with them if you’re watching videos on a tablet without having to disconnect first. They also have a standard 3.5mm socket for cabled use.

Their Bluetooth range and stability was excellent with a variety of devices, including Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. Call quality of the microphone was good in quiet environments and did a reasonable job of blocking out background noise – but at the expense of picking up my own voice, meaning I had to speak quite loudly to be clearly heard.

The right ear cup has a pause/play button, which you hold to summon your phone’s voice assistant, and volume up and down buttons. Pressing and holding the volume buttons skip tracks, too, which is unusual for headphone controls but works fine. Take the headphones off and the music will pause; put them back on and it will start again.

The left ear cup has a button for toggling between noise-cancelling and transparency modes, a power button and a USB-C charging port.

The Soundcore app for Android or iPhone is very good, taking care of updates, adjusting settings, sound and noise-cancelling modes.

Good sound and noise cancelling

Anker Soundcore Life q35
The padded vegan-leather ear cups do a reasonable job of blocking out unwanted noise and are comfortable for extended listening periods. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The noise-cancelling is surprisingly effective for the money, beating the majority of rivals at this price and even some models twice their cost. The noise of a boiler, dishwasher, cars, drills and other rumbling noises were much reduced, while speech was quietened significantly. They can’t quite match the very best in the business from Bose and Sony but otherwise do a very good job, particularly set to the “transport” mode with the Soundcore app.

They also have a transparency mode, which pipes the sounds around you into the headphones and can be triggered quickly for listening out for announcements. It doesn’t sound very natural but gets the job done. Hold your hand on the touch-sensitive surface of the right ear cup or by pressing the ANC button for one second to toggle it on or off.

The Q35 also sound good for the money, with reasonable detail and separation of tones, handling complex pieces better than most competitors, particularly when used with the highest-quality LDAC format and some hi-res audio files.

By default, they have an energised, bass-heavy sound, which will suit pop and electronic music but can override detail in more subtle tracks. There are lots of presets and a full equaliser in the Soundcore app for tweaking the sound to your liking.

However, as with many rivals at this price, the sound is significantly affected by the noise-cancelling. What sounds good and punchy with noise-cancelling active sounds totally overridden by baggy, uncontrolled bass when it is turned off and different again with the transparency mode activated. I recommend never turning the noise-cancelling off, although this will drain the battery quicker, or using the bass-reducer preset if you do.

Long battery life

Anker Soundcore Life q35
A full charge takes about two hours via the USB-C port in the left ear cup, with a five-minute fast charge adding about four hours of playback if they get low. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The headphones have very long battery life lasting just shy of 40 hours between charges with noise-cancelling active, which is 10 more than even Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4. Turn off noise-cancelling and they will last up to 60 hours.

Sustainability

Anker estimates that the battery will last in excess of 500 full charge cycles while maintaining at least 80% of its original capacity but it is not replaceable, ultimately making the headphones disposable.

They are generally repairable through Anker’s customer service or authorised repair centre in the UK. The company regularly operates trade-in schemes and recycles devices but does not publish impact assessments or sustainability reports.

anker soundcore life q35 review
The headphones ship with a good hard travel case, plus a small bag containing a USB charging cable, 3.5mm headphones cable with an in-line mic and an aeroplane audio adapter. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Price

The Anker Soundcore Life Q35 cost £129.99.

For comparison, the Soundcore Life Q30 have an RRP of £79.99, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro cost £129.99, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 cost £289.95, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II cost £249.95, the B&W PX7 cost £349.99, the Sony WH-1000XM4 cost £350 and Apple’s AirPods Max cost £549.

Verdict

The Soundcore Life Q35 are a comfortable set of very long-lasting Bluetooth headphones that offer surprisingly effective noise-cancelling and good sound for less than half the price of top rivals.

They won’t trouble models such as Sony’s WH-1000XM4 or B&W’s PX7 on sound but the Q35 still offer high-end features such as high-res LDAC audio support and simultaneous connection for two devices. Call quality was fairly average and the sound radically changes when you turn noise-cancelling on and off but these things can be overlooked at a cost of £130 or less.

The battery cannot be replaced, however, ultimately making them disposable and losing a star. And if you only use Apple gear, which do not support the hi-res LDAC audio format, then the predecessor Life Q30 are a better buy at only £80, offering similar features minus the LDAC support.

Pros: good value, good sound, good noise-cancelling, very long battery life, Bluetooth 5 with SBC, AAC and LDAC support, good app, full EQ and lots of presets, comfortable.

Cons: sound heavily affected by noise-cancelling, average microphone, battery cannot be replaced, relatively bulky, may be too bass-heavy for some.

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