Review: Soundcore Q30 - long term review

I bought these with the early adopter discount in late October 2020.

My first unit I was not so sure the ANC was working, so replaced. My 2nd unit there was a fault, so these photos are of the 3rd unit.

The case has changed style between my units, this is a squarer shape than the earlier more oval shape.

You get the headphones, a USB-A to USB-C cable, 3.5mm 3-pole AUX cable.

Very Clear Left vs Right markings.

Left cup

Right cup

Right side volume up , down , play/pause and AUX socket

Left side power socket, power, NC button.

Setup:

  • my first unit would not pair with NFC, this may have been my fault as by my the 2nd unit they’d altered the NFC label to be more explicitly pointing to a spot, that worked perfectly, so I may have placing it wrong initially, but worked eventually. So if NFC is not working for, find the spot towards bottom of the right side.

  • Pairing in bluetooth is trivial. What I have learned from others is the Soundcore app is throwing off some people, they think the app is where you bluetooth pair, no you do pairing as normal without the app, and then only use the app to then configure the headphones.

Audio quality

  • I am not an audiophile. Plenty here in this community are audiophiles. People ask me how they sound - I feel they sound fine but then everything does!
  • When in ANC mode there is a hiss added. The hiss is very similar in the ANC modes - Transport / Inside / Outside.

ANC quality

  • This is one my biggest gripes, as I’ve had 3 units I do not think this is a unit defect but the design limits of the product. I have Bose and Sony headphones, the Sony can block sounds these Q30 cannot. But, the Sony is 4x the cost and less comfortable than these Q30. So I think the ANC is useful but should not be your primary decision criteria. If ANC is your most important requirement, look elsewhere.
  • There is little difference between ANC modes transport/indoor/outdoor. All modes inject a hissing sound you don’t get in normal mode. Marginally indoor makes the least hiss. Again, I don’t think there is a low cost way to fix this. ANC makes hiss unless it is right inside the ear canal with a microphone there which is expensive and potentially uncomfortable. If you bring the microphone nearer to the ear in over-ear headphones then you get more ear pressure and so less comfortable. It is not an easy thing to do well.
  • it is easier to ANC block longer wavelength lower frequency sounds so these should be useful on a flight (but since lockdown, not left more than few miles from house!).

Multipoint

  • I have Linux and Android systems.
  • If connect to Android first, then Linux will not connect. But if I connect to Linux then Android it connects, and the multipoint works fine. I have this issue of connection sequence with Sony but not Bose. I believe this is because my Bose are the oldest so is connected at older Bluetooth version regardless, while Sony and Q30 are newer and cannot connect to new and old versions concurrently.
  • I think the chipset in the headphones is bluetooth 5.0 which is backwards compatible with old (4.2, 4.1, 4.0) but it can only operate at one version at a time. Multipoint is able to connect to two things concurrently, but if the two things are different bluetooth versions it won’t work. I think therefore when you connect to a specific version of device, the headphones are then locked to that version and so can only (backwards compatability) connect to same or older version devices.
  • say your old laptop is 4.2 and your phone is 5.0, an old headphone is 4.2, it will always connect to both laptop and phone at 4.2 so the connection behaves the same regardless of sequence. This is the case with my oldest Bose QC35 they are 4.2 so multiconnect is always 4.2
  • But say your headphones were 5.0, laptop 4.2, phone 5, if headphones do connect to the phone 5 first they are now stuck to 5 so cannot connect at 4.2 but if you connect to laptop first 4.2 then they can connect to laptop at 4.2. The backwards compatibility means multiconnect must connect to the oldest version first. To fix this would involve a chipset capable of running multiple versions of bluetooth concurrently and switching without audio hiccup the different profiles. This would add cost. I looked up bluetooth chipsets used by Soundcore and others which exist, the others which can run two bluetooth versions cost more than Soundcore has used. So to keep cost down, connect to the oldest bluetooth version device first.
  • (mentioned below) a 2020/1 Covid work-from-home situation is causing folks to be forced to be given and use a corporate Windows laptop and people spend hours at home on meetings. Many are buying these for multipoint and connect to phone and Windows, and that is causing huge unreliability and quality issues. Soundcore urgently need to not ignore this large user community and do a good write-up of exact steps. Corporate Windows laptops often do not allow device driver altering so better fixes needed. Me telling people to not use Windows will just make them by another brand which uses non-default drivers. Keep in mind for successor products.

Comfort:

  • these are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever owned.
  • With Bose, my ears hurt eventually. With Sony my ears are sweaty and eventually a rash forms.
  • I can easily wear these for many hours

Ambient mode:

  • This is awesome! Excellent! Due to these being very comfortable, I am wearing them in situations where I want to hear other’s talking to me, but I don’t want my sounds bothering them. The ambient mode works perfectly for this, in fact the mids frequencies are amplified.

AUX

  • I have not used myself, although my tablet’s 2.4Ghz wifi and bluetooth don’t get along so sometimes I need to use wired. I carry a USB-C to 3.5m adapter if required.
  • from other’s criticism of these, and the earlier Q20 and Q10, seems one ask is for the cable to transmit microphone, so a 4 pole socket and cable. That would help a lot with those with worst operating system ever Windows 10 where a lot of issues with bluetooth, profiles, headphone vs headset and microphone. If they could make sucessors 4-pole then a wired connection would transmit microphone so fully cabled no-bluetooth operation would be viable.
  • Soundcore has decided to not force Windows to use Soundcore certified device drivers, generic drivers used as a result. The issue is the generic drivers often do not switch correctly between headset and headphone mode and often have low bitrates. Other brands avoid this by forcing a different driver.

Controls:

  • if you swap between headphones, the fact they all have different controls means it’s hard to find the right button
  • but if you keep at these then the buttons become easy to find.
  • I like the hand on right side to go between Ambient and other mode.
  • This is better than Sony who have volume / pause controlled by swipes you can accidentally trigger, the way Q30 does is perfect.

Battery Life:

  • awesome no complaints. When I take them off I plug into charge and never seen less than about 70% charged ever, would easily last a few days between chargers.

USB-C

  • perfect. Anker and Soundcore, and everyone - just make it USB-C on everything!

The App:

  • you need it for firmware upgrades, which is trivial.
  • as the headphones have a lot of button controls, you don’t need to use the app often.
  • I am not an audiophile, I played with EQ settings and just stick with flat.
  • the ANC modes transport/indoors/outdoor has little different impact for me.
  • Edit: day after I wrote this the app was changed in the direction I wanted, so crossing out the now out of date words.
    - the app is getting bigger, more complex and so making it harder to find the device controls. I recommend Soundcore revisit it’s app strategy. I need the app to do upgrades and control where the buttons cannot control, but I do not want the app to nag me or be more complex by features unrelated to my listening experience. I’d like to see the Lum integration removed, and marketing messages like countdown to launches all removed.
  • by all means place Lum into a different app.
  • I had to de-install and re-install and disable all notifications in the app and in Android to stop it nagging me, I’d prefer if the app designer erred on the side of minimalism.


Niggles:

  • minor one is the volume up when connected with multiple devices causes a mute / low-volume and I have to hit volume up multiple times to get desired level. This for me is not a deal-breaker and easily fixable in firmware. A workaround I found was to disable absolute volume in Android audio settings.

Recommendations for successors:

  • I am not an audiophile, I cannot suggest improvements, they sound fine to me. I know there’s more codec support coming in successors, it would likely not do anything for me.
  • ANC improvement. For me this is the biggest weakness of these. I did research on how to improve and they all added cost (more microphones, higher end chipset). I know a $80 RRP headphone has to make compromises but I’d like ANC placed higher in the next product decisions.

Overall:

  • just buy these, they will complement other products.
  • Extremely comfortable “use and forget” the long battery life complements the comfort perfectly.
  • Ambient mode is very useful, particularly with the comfort and battery life as you can wear these for long periods including when you need to hear something (postman, family, etc).
  • the comfort of over-ear and good sound quality makes these a viable central component of your use.
  • Consider avoid if you’re tied to Windows 10 bluetooth for collaboration (Zoom, Teams keeps coming up), at least until there’s a decent simple fix found and written up. Better still would be to buy these and avoid Windows :slight_smile:
  • ANC is probably useful for flights but is not that significant, it does add hiss so may not be everyone. Improving ANC will likely make these less comfortable so it’s a balance of matching how important ANC with comfort for you.
  • only avoid if: ANC is important, or you need a reliable Windows collaboration and paired with phone setup.
  • You can work around the app’s tendency to bloat and notifications by only touching the device control, disable all push notifications and in Android block it’s ability to notify, but I’d prefer if Soundcore were to de-bloat the app themselves so out-the-box it is a quiet app.
  • out the box the app is bloated, but if you disable all options in preferences, it becomes much cleaner simpler.

I recommend Soundcore work (with Windows 10 owners) to do a write-up with screenshots of steps to debug and improve the sound quality, in particular how to use Windows Teams and Zoom while also connected to a phone. This write-up would save what is a lot of headaches for Q30, its predecessors Q20 Q10 and future products. Windows 10 is a common corporate standard, device driver updates usually are locked away from the user, so some simple step by step fix guides are required. I can’t write them as I don’t have Windows 10.

10 Likes

Nice review. Nice pictures. Very detailed.

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Update: a day after I asked for the app to de-bloat, they did!

So I’ve edited the review to reflect the update.

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Super review from an independent user.
I was thinking about buying them. Could you please compare the sound quality to the Liberty 2 Pro?
Is it better or the same?
Bass and sporan - stronger or weaker?

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Thanks.

I don’t own Liberty 2 Pro, so can’t compare.

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Ok- I thought you already have almost everything from Soundcore products …

No, from memory:

  • Soundbuds Slim, wired in-ear
  • Neo wireless
  • Liberty Air 2
  • Life P2
  • Mini 2
  • Motion+
  • Icon Mini
  • Q30

I’m sure out there is someone who has both L2P and Q30…

I’m not an audiophile, I don’t feel I’d be qualified and not attach much weight to my opinion. I can read others’ opinion, and my prediction is the L2P would be deemed to be the better audio quality, but wireless buds fall out my ears very easily, I only use them when sat still and often just one bud (what they are best suited for, to be half listening half present in the room). My LP2 cost me £33, the LA2 I won in competition, I’d not spend money on L2P they’d be wasted on me. I’d take something for free and try it though…

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A couple of the more senior members of the community come to mind… (in terms of time on the community)…

@jercox
@shenoy
@ktkundy

Maybe they have both and can do some comparison?

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Thanks for the answer - if you want to win Liberty 2 Pro then you will make a comparison😄.

yeah right, no chance of winning anything here, don’t do social media, etc.

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I dont think it makes sense to compare over ear with earbuds.

Me too!
I am an unsocial person. :rofl:

We are proud hermits

Typo / translation error?

Nice review. Makes me wonder if the hinted new headphones of fcc will have better noise canceling for a slightly higher price point.

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I doubt it.

I’m trying to not write a scientific paper on the topic.

You can easily improve audio quality, offer more codecs, more non-audio functions. But to improve ANC would involve many substantially physically different changes I doubt will happen in next release. To improve ANC would require the seal around the ears to be tighter which would make them less comfortable, and you’d have to bring the microphone nearer to the ear also making them less comfortable.

The hiss can be reduced, that’s the clockspeed of the chipset, just spend more money on more expensive faster electronics. You might not like the price.

I’m more interested in the Liberty 2 Pro successor, if you can insert a microphone in that very constrained space in the ear canal, next outside is an armature, next is a driver, and it to not weight so much it falls out, that’s where a true genius would be required.

I don’t have the L2Ps still. And I just got the Q30s - haven’t worn them yet, because they had that plastic smell out of the box that needed time to dissipate.

So no ability to compare.

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Oh that’s right, the L2Ps got switched to the la2ps… looking forward to your take on the 30s

Yes, it’s a mistake. I’m sorry.

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Nice review

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Great review as always professor! I can tell you’re a geek because the largest section on here is about multipoint :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:.

I’m shocked you joined a preorder for an unreleased product :joy:.

1 Like