Well low and behold, a week into it, and time to let fly a review . Snag some popcorn and your favourite bevvie, as it’s about to go down… lol…
First and foremost, thanks to @sean.L and Soundcore team for selecting me to test out a pair of the new flagship headphones, the Life Q35. I received these last week (May 5), and have been putting them through the paces since.
If you haven’t yet seen my unboxing video, you can check it out here:
Fair warning, although these have been provided to me for testing, this review is of my own opinion, good, bad or otherwise.
Initial impressions / setup:Right out of the box, the headphones are concealed in a svelte suede case. The zipper sounds pretty solid and got my attention as I unzipped to see what was inside. Opening the case, the headphones looked pretty impressive. The colourway I received was the dark blue. Very nice and classy. A matt finish. Over the course of the week, the earcups and band have started to show some fingerprints, although easy to spot clean.
Life Q35 - Outa 'da box
Life Q35 - Unpackaged
The headphones are “flat” inside the case, and seems like the headband rests on a piece of contoured foam at the top of the case. An extra piece of thin foam snakes between the earcups and a small pouch is nestled beside the top earcup. I suspect that most of those that have purchased / received these headphones have tossed this piece of foam. I’m thinking I’ll keep it, would have been nice to have it integrated into the case though…
Life Q35 - Case w/ support foam
Life Q35 - Case w/ no headphones
In the pouch, the charging cable, inline mic aux cable and an odd adapter (thinking its for the flying tubes….)
Life Q35 - Included bits
Life Q35 - Inline mic aux cable
Life Q35 - USB C charging cable
A quick look at the quick start guide, I was able to get these paired up to my Ipad and Iphone really iFast, and was set to start testing. But first, what about the fit??
Fit / ComfortThe earcups seem to be of a smooth leather, and quite cushy. In trying them on, and comparing to the Q10s, these feel quite a bit bigger and fit nicely over my ears. The Q10s were a bit tight, but still comfortable. The headband on the Q35s is looking to be a shiny blue metal, and I have a feeling this will be snagging fingerprints pretty easy. On the underside of the headband there is a significant amount of padding, seemingly more so / different feel than the Q10s. The Q10s have more of a plasticky band, with a bit less resistance in the sliding of the band.
Life Q35 vs. Life Q10
Putting the Q35s on, they feel very secure and comfortable. I’ve been wearing these for 6-7 hrs a day since getting them, and these are comfy. My ears don’t get too warm or sweaty through out the day. Quite easily the most comfortable headphones I’ve worn… (psst…. I’m an earbud guy… but the dark (blue) side is drawing me in ).
Battery life:At present in for ~ 39 hrs, and battery showing about 30% still (with ANC on!!). No complaints, this is a huge PLUS! Secret hint for iOS users, if you slide left to right, at the first screen, you can find the battery life of your headphones (or earbuds) in with the widgets. This is showing a bit more accurate than the top right corner of your iOS device, or from within the soundcore app!
iOS - Accurate Battery Levels!!
Charging time:As I have not run these down to flat yet, I have not had the to charge them back to full. I suspect towards the end of this week they’ll need a chargin’…
Sound Quality:While I don’t proclaim to be an audiophile, I do have quite the varied / eclectic taste in music. I find it unbelievable that these offer the latest LDAC codec for taking advantage of extreme bit rate music (990kbps!!) at this price point. Add in hi res certs for both wired and wireless??!?!?!
However, the LDAC code is something that Android devices can take advantage of, for those of us that follow the ways of the iOS, we’re stuck with AAC and SBC… Don’t worry, I’d challenge that most would not noticeably appreciate anything higher than 192kbps… CD quality… there’s also the fact that there are limited choices for high bitrate music anyhooos….
For testing out headphones, earbuds, speakers and the like, I’ve amassed quite the collection of songs on my spotify playlist. You can check it out here, and I’ll reference to some of the more challenging songs within the playlist that I use to check how they sound.
Out of all the songs on the playlist, here are the ones that I use to push the limits and assess the playback and soundstage:
For bass response, “Radioactive” is my go to. There are sections that can get muddy during the bass heavy bits. With the Q35s, the bass was very crisp and not muddy or distorted at all. Very impressive.
I listen to “Lark Ascending” for testing out the high range, as the violins are excellent to push a set of headphones. With the Q35s, i almost swear i am sitting at the concert hall. But also i just recently added in “Marooned” to supplement the testing of the upper range… very clean and awe inspiring guitar riffs. Using the acoustic EQ setting, these songs played unbelievably clean and pure.
I also added Demi Lovato’s – ICU to the list, as it features some superb piano. Having the Q35s on, I can feel the piano right next to me, and my hands moving to the music on the phantom keys… its that clean and clear.
There are a couple of odd ball songs (maybe more ) that i need to draw some attention to. If you are wanting an ethereal, immersive feeling, I’d suggest “Ava Maria” from the Benedictine Monks [Gregorian Chant]. Although short duration, I could see this being a good restorative song / group to listen to when needing to recharge. Lastly, for shiggles, I’ve had “I am not a vampire” blasting on repeat of late. Great display of what the Q35s are capable of, as the song runs the gamut of classical, choral and hard rock!!!
Overall, I am very impressed with the soundstage. I did notice that the songs sound better with the ANC on, likely due to the isolation of the ears and reducing any noise that would detract from the enjoyment of the music. On Normal and Transparent mode, the songs still sounded good, but after being spoilt by the ANC sound, I am doubtful that I’d use the other modes.
Soundcore App / Equalizer settings:Hands down, a big draw to mostly anything Soundcore, is the app integration. The Q35s, unlike the earlier Q10s, are included within the App. The app allows for a lot of the critical functions of the headphones, like firmware updates, equalizer settings and ANC setup / control. Normally I run earbuds / headphones on the “Flat” EQ setting, but for the Q35s I tried out a few others. The recommended Soundcore Signature seemed to have a good balance, but also a muted volume when compared to the Flat or Acoustic EQ settings.
For reference, if you turn down the volume to zero and click up ~ 8 times for the Sig EQ, equivalent for the Acoustic was 6 times, for loudness. ~ 20% difference in perceived volume. I’ve settled into the Acoustic EQ setting for my general listening, and find it yields pretty good response on the music listen to.
The App has a couple cool features included for the Q35s, one of which I have not yet explored to the fullest. There is a sleep function, that I’d imagine would be great for travel. It allows you to mix in about a doz. different loops, with a sleep timer, to help fall asleep.
Sleep Function w/in App
Sleep Function Timer
I don’t know how helpful / useful this would be if one was looking to sleep in bed w/, but could see this more so for seated upright. The other cool feature is wear detection. The LA2Ps included this, and it works really well. The Q35s on the other hand, the wearing detection works ok. Sometimes it thinks its still on your head, when its off, and the odd time its thinking its off when its still on your head. Within the app, and with firmware 1.11, the wear detection toggle does not seem to work properly.
The App Glitch has been resoved as of May 12
Big deal??? Nope not a concern for me. If needed, I can pause the music using my phone, or the play / pause on the right earcup.
Lastly, the Q35s sport multipoint. For those not familiar w/ multipoint, its being able to connect at the same time to two different devices. I’ve been able to check this out, and was very happy on how it worked. First, I had paired the headphones with my phone and then with my laptop. The process to pair the second device was as easy with the phone. What was a pleasant surprise, was how seamless the two worked together with the headphones. I did try to see if I could do multipoint with the aux cable, but no dice.
ANC testing (indoors work / home, outdoors):These are only my second set of headphones / earbuds that have ANC. The other pair I have are the Liberty Air 2 Pros. Up until getting the LA2Ps, I didn’t think I needed ANC, as the earbuds I use have quite good passive noise cancellation. However, with the LA2Ps, and now the Q35s, I am doubtful that I could make it through a work day without having ANC. Like the LA2Ps, the Q35s have three modes for the ANC. Transport, Indoors and Outdoors. Add to that, transparency mode (ambient sounds) and normal mode, you are well set for anything life (sic) throws at you. One thing noticeably absent in the app, for the Q35s, is the mysterious “Custom” ANC setting. This was found as part of the ANC options for the LA2Ps. Also, a noticeable difference between these and the LA2Ps, is a second transparency mode “Vocal”. I don’t use either on the LA2Ps so, really it isn’t surprising that its not on the Q35s for options. Below are some screen shots from the LA2Ps ANC menu from within the app.
Liberty Air 2 Pro - App
Liberty Air 2 Pro - ANC Mode - 4 Choices
Liberty Air 2 Pro - ANC Mode - Custom
Liberty Air 2 Pro - Transparency Mode - 2 Choices
I’ve been able to test out the indoors setting on these, and they are one word…. WOW! The reduction in noise in an office setting was quite remarkable. Cycling through the modes using the NC button on the left earcup, allowed me to appreciate how well it works.
Life Q35 - Power, NC buttons, USB C port
In transparency mode, the voices seem to be augmented. One really nice feature of these, is by cupping your hand over the right earcup to shift between ANC and Transparent modes.
Mic quality through iOS (Iphone 11 SE):I have made a few phone calls through my Iphone out and those I spoke with indicated that the call quality was quite good.
Mic quality through Teams (aux vs. wireless):I used the aux cable to connect into my work laptop running win 10. The aux cable has a 3-pole jack on the end that plugs into the headphones, and a 90deg – 4-pole jack that you can plug into any aux port (in my case the laptop). The 4-pole jack is an update from earlier Life Qxx headphones, as they’ve been 3-pole plugs on both ends (at least on the Q10s). The 4-pole plug allows the inline mic to work and function well with teams.
Life Q35 - Aux Cable - 3 pole / 4 pole jacks
Life Q35 vs. Life Q10 Aux cable
The inline mike sits about mid chest, and does a really good job of picking up audio. I was able to hold clear conversations with those on the other end of the call. I’ve used this function quite a bit at work, as we still conduct quite a few remote conference calls. When asked, those on the other end have indicated that the volume and clarity is really good.
What may make the inline cable better, is a small lapel clip to fix the mic to your collar. The length of the cable is sufficient as long as one doesn’t move / bop around in their chair, too much.
I did try the Q35s through the laptop wirelessly. They paired really easy (almost tooooo easy), and seemed to all set to work with teams well. I was about 5 minutes into the meeting, and ooof, mic audio dropped. This was similar to my past experience with the Q10s, and isn’t a fault the headphones, but more so the drivers and windows. Being on a work laptop, admin rights restrict any updates to the drivers to fix. Too bad, as for the 5 mins it was working, the quality was superb. Thankful that the inline mic aux cable was included with these.
Once the aux cable is disconnected from the Q35, the power powers off.
One really cool thing I found out this past week about using the aux cable, is that you can power on the headphones and use ANC at the same time!!! You can even step through the ANC / Transparency / Normal modes using the NC button on the left earcup.
Bluetooth RangeAt the time of this review, I have not yet pushed the limits of the BT 5.0 w/ the Q35s. I've been utilizing these almost exclusively at work as the ANC is fanastic!!
Summary:What I really liked about these headphones, was the ANC features and how well it was integrated into the app and function buttons. A simple motion to cup your hand over the right earcup, allows you to seamlessly switch between transparency (ambient mode) and ANC. The NC button on the left earcup will actually let you switch between all 3 modes (transparency, normal and ANC). Multipoint was also a great feature, as I was able to have them connected to my phone at the same time as my laptop. They switched between the two with ease, The soundstage, despite me being on iOS and not able to take full advantage of the LDAC codec, was very very good. Some of the songs on my playlist that give other earbuds / speakers troubles, played without missing a beat. Radioactive usually causes distortion, but on these headphones, very clean bass, not overpowering. The classical music comes through crisp and clear (see Lark Ascending). And for left / right separation, Crazy Train from the venerable Ozzy plays fantastic.
What could be improved, likely with a firmware update, would be the wear detection. While not a big deal for me, it is a little moody and tends to switch off or not, when you wish the opposite. The inclusion of the vocal mode for transparency, would also be a nice update via the app, so it functions similar to the LA2Ps.
Feature Design Improvement SuggestionIt would be really a nice selling feature, to have a replaceable earcup. What comes to mind is a simple tab / slot design with a ½ turn to lock securely / unlock in place. Tabs on the earcups, slots on the headphone plate...
Final Verdict - 9.0 / 10Coming from the Life Q10s, the new Q35s are definitely HOT and i'd say a great purchase if you are in the market for some new headphones. A couple minor nit picky points, but nothing major!
Thanks again to Soundcore for sending me these to test out, and hats off to you, the reader for making it this far!