The Anker Soundcore Q20 have been a revelation to my dive into wireless audio. This hasn’t been an easy journey for me as I’m still firmly on the camp that favours the headphone jack.
Wireless audio is something I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with. On one hand, the premise of tangle free listening is appealing to me. However, the cost and lower audio quality of wireless buds has kept me at bay.
However in 2021, I decided to take a plunge at the deep end of wireless audio. I have tried many wireless headphones and earphones in my time. I’ve always found expensive KES 35,000 headphones to be very satisfactory to my liking. Cheaper ones tend to have mediocre active noise cancellation. This was after testing the Sony WH-1000-XM3s, the Bose QC35s and the Bose 700s. I’ve also used sub KES 5,000 wireless earphones and I’ve found them to be super disappointing.
So I went looking for relatively cheap wireless audio headsets with certain features in the wireless audio world.
- It had to be less than KES 10,000
- Audio quality had to be up to snuff or better than my JBL wired earphones
- Excellent battery life
So I went shopping. I ended up filtering away wireless earbuds because they tend to have mediocre battery life and get lost easily. This is how I ended up with the Anker Soundcore Q20.
Anker Soundcore Q20 Specifications
The specifications of the Q20 are pretty good for the priice:
- Hi-Res Sound Quality
- Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation
- 40 Hour Battery life
- Extra Soft Ear cups
- Foldable design
- Aux Mode
- Bluetooth 5.0
You were getting all of these features for around $60 on sites like Amazon which sounded insane for the price. It has the same features as the excellent Sony WH-1000-XM3 wireless active noise cancellation headphones. My expectations were high before they arrived.
The box is actually quite lovely, it makes the product more expensive than it looks. It shows you the most important features on the outside with the large Soundcore branding at the front.
The box contains the headphones at the top and the accessories at the bottom. The accessories include paperwork, a nice Soundcore branded bag to store your headphones, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a charging cable.
First impressions of the Soundcore Q20
My first impressions of the headphones was overwhelmingly positive. The build quality was better than I expected. The earcups are plush and soft and combined with the foam on the handle rest comfortably on your head. The drivers are huge so they envelop my ears quite well.
I also absolutely love the button placement. The left cup has the power button and the active noise cancellation button which will cover in a subsequent section. The right cup is the busiest with both forward/reverse/select buttons as well as the earphone jack and micro-USB ports.
I got used to these buttons within a day and I can say I love this implementation more than the fancy swipe gestures of the Sony WH-1000-XM3s.
My first impressions were absolutely great and I was confident of my purchase. It connected rather easy to my laptop and phone and I was ready to officially start my wireless audio life. It first responded by saying “battery low” since it was less than 30% and also said “noise cancelling” when it turned on.
The second thing that surprised me after build quality was the sound. Anker has marketed this headphones as having “Hi-Res” audio and having strong bass sensibilities and fancy marketing aside, they are almost right.
The Anker Soundcore Q20s are quite bassy alright and they remind me of the already famously bassy Sony XM3s. They go further with a bass up feature when you double tap the middle button on the right earcup.
Anker says they are “custom” 40mm dynamic drivers with a frequency range between 16Hz and 40,000Hz. Humans have a normal hearing frequency range of about 20Hz to around 20,000Hz so these headphones cover that well.
These headphones support the classic SBC Bluetooth codec as well as Apple’s AAC codec and has Bluetooth 5 connectivity. It has a range of around 12 meters and as long as you don’t have a wall separating the source from the headphones, the connection is pretty solid.
On wireless mode, they sound rather great for the price with all types of music. I listened to rock, amapiano, trance, EDM, rap and many more and it sounds full. Streaming stuff on Netflix or YouTube was great and they are perfect for watching content like this.
However, I wish Anker would have given us the ability to tune the equalizer to our liking because I believe they can sound even better with a little tweaking.
Interesting enough, these headphones are not ear-shattering loud. Anker says they have set the max volume at around 95 decibels to protect your hearing. I feel that these headphones can get really loud since they really don’t get distorted at high volumes like cheaper earphones.
Unlike the $549 AirPods Max, a headphone jack is included in the box and you can use it to listen to music when your battery dies. The sound is so much better than my JBL Tune 110s where the soundstage feels wider and fuller than the JBLs with their tiny drivers. The sound is almost remarkably similar in default mode to the wireless mode but the bass becomes so much tighter and thumpier when I tune the EQ settings. As a side note, when you insert the headphone jack to the port on the headphones, it will turn off the wireless mode which is a nifty feature.
I am satisfied with the sound which sounds remarkably like the Sony XM3s but at a cheaper price. However, I won’t recommend anyone to use that ‘Bass up’ feature because it is gimmicky and ends up making the bass sound rather poor.
Active noise cancellation
This was the most exciting thing to test out. I have used the Sony XM3s, the Bose QC35s and the Bose 700s and I have an idea of what great active noise cancellation is.
Active noise cancellation is quite a simple trick on paper. The headphone analyzes the sound coming from the environment using its microphones and sends out an antiwave of the same frequency thereby ‘cancelling’ the sound.
The Anker Soundcore Q20 achieves noise cancellation using its 3 mics and its passive noise isolation from its earcups and it is surprisingly decent. It is very effective against low frequency bass hums but just like every other noise cancellation headphone, it is not that good at cancelling high frequency noise.
There is also a noticeable “white noise” when you turn the noise cancellation on which I can deal with. I love that turning active noise cancellation does not lead to having that pressure sensation in your ears that the Bose QC35s give you.
The noise cancellation was effective at cancelling out my neighbour’s bassy subwoofer, the church nearby and a construction going on in the neighborhood. I haven’t tried them with a plane (thanks COVID-19) but I am confident it will cancel out the low frequency ramble of a plane’s engine.
The active noise cancellation performance of this laptop was the most impressive feature from this headphones. It won’t beat the Sony XM3s but it is performing at almost 90% of the XM3s at a fraction of the price. I will take that anyday.
Battery life and charging time
Anker quotes the battery life at 40 hours at 60% volume with active noise cancellation on and they are not wrong. In one test, I measured 19.5 hours on one day, 10.5 hours on another and 10 hours 15 minutes on the third day. The battery life is simply stupendous, better than the XM3s acclaimed 30 hours of battery life.
These are the type of headphones that you can use for 6 hours a day for a whole week only needing to charge at the 7th day.
Speaking of charging, it only takes 2 and a half hours to top up from dead with a 7.5W charger which is fine. Anker says that that 5 minutes of charging will net you 4 hours of listening if you are in a hurry so that is quite nifty.
As you can see, I am very happy with the Anker Soundcore Q20. They punch their way above their class and they are a bargain for the price.
The sound is pretty good, battery life is excellent, active noise cancellation is great for the price and it doesn’t feel cheap. They are perfect for use while chilling in the house or doing work in the office (or at your WFH desk) or for travelling.
I was ready to spend a lot of money on the new Sony WH-1000-XM4s or WH-1000-XM3s but now I don’t feel the need to do that. For a quarter of the price, these headphones get the job done and I’m happy I pull the trigger to buy them.
I can say the only disappointing thing is that the Soundcore app somehow does not support these headphones but they do support the Q30 which replaced these headphones. That is not a problem for me in my books since it doesn’t deter me from using it with my phone and laptop.
I recommend the Anker Soundcore Q20 100% if you have a budget of KES 10,000 for wireless headphones with active noise cancellation and if you don’t mind over the ear headphones.