Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: Anker comes back with a similar pair of headphones that add to an existing model rather than replace it entirely. That means the best of what came before is still there to enjoy, and there's a case to be made that these are among the best headphones you can buy at their price.
Superb audio quality
Outstanding battery life
Great companion app
LDAC codec support
Limited touch controls
Unclear long-term durability
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It almost feels like Anker released headphones that look exactly like the Soundcore Life Q35 only some weeks ago, but it was actually in December 2020 when the Life Q30 came out. Those headphones punched above their weight in many ways that counted, though these are less their successors and more their counterparts.
Anker didn't reinvent or really re-engineer anything here, sticking to the fundamentals that made the Q30 so good. Instead, it just added some extras to make the Q35 feel more premium.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35: Price and availability
Anker launched the Soundcore Life Q35 in April 2021, mere months after releasing the Life Q30, only they come at a higher price at $129.99. Their presence in the market is more likely to drive down the price of the Q30, which are already under $100, but it's always possible that Anker puts them on sale at some point as the year goes on. Unlike the Q30, which come in black, the Q35 are distinct in that they come in obsidian blue.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35 What I like
As I reviewed the Soundcore Life Q35, I wanted to hone in on what makes them different from the Life Q30. Having reviewed those headphones, too, I knew any contrasts or additions would stand out. However, there aren't many in the grand scheme of things, and it is a curious move to release a pair that look, feel, and sound so similar to the ones that came not so long ago.
For those reasons, I came in unsurprised at how good the Q35 were. They are, in many ways, carbon copies of the Q30. Anker didn't remake or refashion anything about the exterior, save for the different color scheme. At first glance, that's really the only way to tell the difference between the two headphone models. It's the same plastic body and soft vinyl, with the buttons also lining up in exactly the same spots. The left earcup still toggles between active noise cancelation (ANC) and Transparency mode, including playback controls on the right earcup.
The comfort level isn't any different, either. Anker retained the same spacious earcups to help with passive noise isolation, and the lightweight build doesn't make the Q35 feel any heavier than their previous counterparts. However, they do fold up exactly the same way and come with the same size case.
Anytime a sequel comes out for a pair of headphones, you count on the manufacturer correcting past mistakes. That's certainly one way to put it for the design. Anker went with a sturdier set of materials to craft this newer gear. It's still plastic and soft vinyl, only that the tighter build makes these headphones feel a little more premium than they otherwise would've been had Anker stuck to the same exact design.
So, what did Anker actually change? For starters, the Q35 are compatible with Sony's LDAC codec, making them capable of playing lossless audio in that format. And there's auto-pause, meaning playback pauses once you remove the headphones from your ears. Those are the obvious differences, though there are a couple of interesting tweaks that were somewhat unexpected.
But first, the sound. Anker didn't make any audible adjustments beyond supporting LDAC. You still get the same bass-heavy sound signature to start, though the Soundcore app gives you the the ability to customize and adjust that however you like. It's the same presets, along with the 8-band EQ, so there's significant flexibility to tailor these headphones the way you want them to play. They don't hit a different level that way compared to the Q30, but that's not a knock against them.
What's interesting is that ANC performance is more subtle with the Q35. I'm not sure why, especially when the onboard mics are perhaps a little clearer when talking on the phone. The same three distinct settings apply, though regardless of whether you choose Transport, Indoor, or Outdoor, higher-frequency sounds tended to be easier to hear than they were on the Q30. Maybe it's just my ears looking for a difference, but in my tests, I did discern a slight gap in performance that way.
At least phone calls continue to get better. I never had an issue with how the Q30 did in that regard, but hey, when things can get better, why not go with that. Anker just never made clear that it did anything with the mics, so again, I can't be certain that a major change occurred on the hardware side.
What I can be sure of is that battery life is the same as it was with the Q30. The Q35 can go up to 60 hours per charge when ANC is off and as high as 40 hours when leaving it on. Even if Anker didn't upgrade that further, the numbers are more than agreeable. It's hard to argue with a pair of headphones that don't need a recharge for days or even a week or two, depending on how often you wear them. Fast charging via USB-C gives you up to four hours of playback when you plug in for only five minutes.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35 What needs work
I'm not sure anything specifically needed work here unless we're counting whatever the Q30 was missing. The two are so close that they share pros and cons, so in fairness, Anker had a chance to probably do more with upgrading other features. On the other hand, the company is already charging more for these cans anyway, so why hold back?
I don't know the answer, and when things are this close, it's hard to recommend one over another for any particular feature. What's even less clear is why ANC would be less effective at higher frequencies in the more expensive pair. Again, it may be a subjective thing because of the subtlety I noted, but either way, ANC isn't better with these headphones.
Having LDAC is nice, and with wider Android support (from 8.0 Oreo and up) means wider compatibility. To get a higher level of fidelity under that codec, you may have to go into Developer Options in your Android phone or tablet to enable that. So long as you're playing content from a source that supports the codec, you can enjoy it freely while wearing these headphones. It's just too bad that Anker didn't add aptX into its codec lineup to build on its Bluetooth chops.
Given the higher price tag, an upgrade in build quality would've been nice, but I can let Anker off the hook on that because these still are much more affordable compared to the likes of Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser.
The Soundcore Life Q30 is the first pair to consider as an alternative because you're mostly getting the exact same experience and for as much as $50 less. The COWIN E7 Pro are in the same boat as a solid budget option. There are some others worthy of your dollars if you're looking at the best headphones under $100, which may be appealing when the Life Q35 cost more than a Benjamin.
The best cheap noise-canceling headphones include the Treblab Z2, a pair of over-ear cans that compare well to the Life Q35, save for the fact they don't have the same app support. That Soundcore app is a big selling point and one reason why Anker's headphones stand out.
Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Should you buy it?
Who it's for
- You have a tighter budget
- You care about audio quality and bass
- You want ANC and Transparency modes
- You want to be comfortable
Who it isn't for
- You want the best ANC performance
- You want something different from the Q30
- You prefer touch-sensitive controls over buttons
- You don't need the features specific to these headphones
Anker continues to show that it can make good headphones at good prices, though the Q35 start to creep closer to a more premium category. Admittedly, the price tag is hardly along the same lines as the best the industry has to offer, but when there is a pair so close in appearance and performance, the Life Q35 are a tougher sell that way. Nevertheless, the headphones are great because they retain so much of what already worked.
4 out of 5
If the extras they offer appeal to you, then you won't be disappointed in what the whole package delivers. And if blue is your preference over black, then you also have a look that works for you.
On the same level
Another upstart with class
Anker takes so much that was recently familiar and applies it to the Soundcore Life Q35, maintaining the same level of audio quality, battery life, and comfort. LDAC support and auto-pause headline the newest features, with slight changes to active noise cancelation and phone calls.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.
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