Anker has made a name for itself in various affordable consumer electronics markets. Under the Soundcore name, the company is now attempting a coup in the audio industry with premium features at a fraction of the cost of the competition. The Anker Soundcore Life Q35 is the company’s latest pair of flagship over-ear headphones, and seemingly attempts to pack as many features as possible into a sub-$200 headphone.
Let’s see if the quality holds up to the competition, or if your money is better spent elsewhere.
Editor’s note: this Anker Soundcore Life Q35 review was updated on December 3, 2021, to update the scoring with the results of our audience poll, update the frequency response chart, and add to the alternatives section.
Who should buy the Anker Soundcore Life Q35?
- World travelers will appreciate the amazing battery life, noise cancellation, and included airplane adapter that all come with the Q35.
- Remote workers can benefit from the multi-device pairing and decent microphone for conference calls with this headset.
What is it like to use the Anker Soundcore Life Q35?
Anker clearly prioritizes function over form with the Anker Soundcore Life Q35, with a focus on travel and portability. These headphones swivel and fold into the included hardshell protective case, which also stores a pouch for the USB-C charging cable, 3.5mm cord, and an airplane adapter.
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Built from a plastic construction, the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 isn’t rated for any level of sweat or water-proofing. While it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart anytime soon, the headset isn’t nearly as sturdy as ones with some level of metal construction. Don’t expect it to last forever if you are tossing it around your backpack every day.
The memory foam ear pads aren’t as thick as other headphones we’ve tested, and combined with a strong clamping force, they can make wearing the Life Q35 uncomfortable. The ear pads don’t breathe particularly well, resulting in warm ears even in an office setting. You won’t want to wear them for too long on a hot summer day.
One of the most useful features of the headset is the auto-play/pause function, which detects whether or not the headphones are being worn. This feature has appeared on premium headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4, but it’s rare at this price.
Is the Soundcore app any good?
The Soundcore app offers a premium experience that elevates the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 above many other Bluetooth headphones in this price range. Upon downloading it, you’ll get a prompt to update to version 1.20, which adds improvements to LDAC performance, EQ, call quality, and smart wearing detection. Having an app that can push firmware updates such as this one is critical for performance improvements and device longevity.
The Soundcore app features an equalizer within the device settings, which lets you set a custom EQ profile, or select from several Soundcore presets for various genres and listening preferences. The app also comes with a free music streaming service courtesy of Lüm, with tons of playlists to test out headphone settings. There’s even a sleep mode that can play ambient nature sounds for a set period of time.
How well does the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 cancel noise?
With a bevy of noise cancelling modes and features, the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 can adapt to nearly any environment. A single button on the back of the left ear cup switches between passive isolation, active noise cancellation (ANC), and transparency modes. Without ANC turned on, the tight seal with the clamping force of the headphones blocks out most high-frequency sounds above 1kHz.
Turning on ANC attenuates most ambient sounds below 1kHz reducing them to one-half or one-quarter loudness. This is adequate performance for over-ear noise cancelling headphones, but it doesn’t quite compete with top performers in the category such as the Monoprice BT-600ANC.
The Anker Soundcore Life Q35 is one of the most functional and utilitarian headphones you can find in the budget over-ear headphone category
Within the Soundcore app, there is an option to select between transport, indoor, and outdoor active noise cancellation modes. Each mode has a different amount of noise cancellation at different frequencies, based on what Anker feels is important for a given setting, which you can view here. The “outdoor” mode has the strongest active noise cancellation and most listeners are bound to prefer this.
The transparency mode works great for hearing surroundings. The tap to talk feature can also quickly activate transparency mode for a conversation by simply holding the right ear cup for one second.
What Bluetooth codecs does the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 support?
The Life Q35 uses the Bluetooth 5.0 with support for SBC, AAC, and LDAC, Sony’s lossless Bluetooth codec that is theoretically capable of up to 990kbps, along with 24-bit/96kHz Hi-Res playback. Any device running Android 8.0 or later supports LDAC, though you can manually switch to SBC or AAC in your Android phone’s developer settings.
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The headset supports is quick and easy to pair the headphones to multiple devices, although audio can only be played back from one source at a time. Anker included NFC pairing inside the headphone, all it takes is a single tap for Android phones.
How long does the battery last?
The battery life on these headphones is really good. Anker claims the battery lasts 40 hours per charge, but in our battery test with music playback at 75dB(SPL) with active noise cancelling turned on, the headphones lasted an incredible 52 hours, 21 minutes.
The headphones also support fast charging, which Anker says can achieve a 4-hour charge in only 5 minutes. In our testing, after only 5 minutes of charging the headphones were up to 20%, enough to power through pretty much a full day of normal use.
How does the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 sound?
Sound quality on the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 headphones is what you would expect from an affordable consumer headset. Out of the box, there is a strong boost in low-end frequencies below 150Hz that bass-heads will appreciate.
Throughout Peaches by Justin Bieber, the kick drum and bassline are extremely present in the Life Q35 headphones. However, this strong bass emphasis means that vocals and backing synth instruments suffer from auditory masking, and don’t come through quite as clearly as they would on studio headphones.
For the best sound quality and frequency response, you should plug the Q35 into your smartphone.
Since there is an option for a custom EQ setting within the Soundcore app, it is possible to create a much more accurate sound from the Life Q35 with a bit of tweaking. Or you can go wild and crank the bass up even more, if you’re into that kind of thing.
You get a different output when you listen over wire
The mode that the headphones are in has a direct impact on the overall audio reproduction. As you can see in the wired playback chart below, the bass is less emphasized and more accurate when the headphones are wired compared to the Bluetooth LDAC connection. Similarly, turning on noise cancellation affected the sound and minimally decreased the bass output compared to playback with ANC off.
Can you use the headset for phone calls?
The microphone on the Life Q35 is more than good enough for taking calls on the go or having quick meetings. Anker states that the beamforming microphones on the Life Q35 use an AI algorithm to detect voice without unwanted noise. We didn’t run into any problems with the microphones while testing, though you can listen to the microphone test for yourself and let us know what you think.
As of December 3, 2021, a total of 87% of readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “okay” and “good.” This is pretty darn good for a headset of this price.
Should you buy the Anker Soundcore Life Q35?
The Anker Soundcore Life Q35 is one of the most functional and utilitarian headphones you can find in the budget over-ear headphone category. Multiple noise cancellation modes, full customization through the Soundcore app, and exceptional battery life make the headphone a great companion for nearly any lifestyle.
Where the headphone falls short is in performance, with sound quality and noise cancellation that leaves a lot to be desired. Anker doesn’t have a lot of experience in the premium headphone market, and it shows. The Life Q35 looks, feels, and performs much more like the company’s other more affordable headphones than premium offerings from Sony or Bose.
If you plan on traveling a lot, or if battery life is extremely important to you, by all means, pick up the Anker Soundcore Life Q35. Others should take a look around the competition or wait for a price drop before jumping on them.
What are some alternatives to the Anker Soundcore Life Q35?
Anker’s other headphone models may provide better value for many people. Most prominent is the Life Q30, which brings a nearly identical design with Bluetooth and ANC. Right now, it’s on sale for only $59.99, less than half the price of the Life Q35.
The Monoprice BT-600ANC has Bluetooth 5, incredible active noise cancellation, and touch controls for less than the price of the Life Q35. The biggest drawback of the BT-600ANC is the lack of a companion app for firmware updates or EQ tweaking, although it has a more neutral sound out of the box compared to the Life Q35.
If you’re looking for the top sound quality in this price range the Sennheiser HD 350BT is also worth a look, although it doesn’t have active noise cancellation. Those with fairly small ears who want a pair of affordable Sennheiser ANC headphones should look at the Sennheiser HD 450BT. You can check out all these models on our list of the best Bluetooth headphones under $100.