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Soundcore Life Q35 Review Comparison Against Life Q30 ANC Headphones

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Life Q35 is the newest addition to the Soundcore family and the third ANC headset in the Soundcore headphone line up. The Life Q35 brings several new improvements, including on ear detection, LDAC support, beamforming microphones, AI noise reduction (for calls), new hardshell case design and a right angle audio cable with inline remote/microphone.

Visually, the Life Q35 is identical to the Soundcore Life Q30, retaining the same body frame, folding yoke design and similar weight too, coming in at 270 grams on the weighing scale. The Life Q35 retains also the same plastic ratchet adjustment headband, which makes a clicking sound. The top section of the Life Q35 headband has a wide metal band too, which adds structural integrity to the headband, as well as provide adequate clamping force to keep the headset secure on the head. 
Like with other headphones, the level of clamping force you experience will depend on the shape and size of your head. The underside of the Life Q35 headband is padded too, to minimize hot spot, which can develop on top of the head usually with heavy headphones (400 grams+). The headband padding on the Life Q35 is firmer than on the Life Q350.

The Life Q35 folding mechanism is also made of plastic and free of squeaking noises. Aside from folding the earcups inwards, you can tilt them up and down and swivel them around, one way, 90 degrees. The Soundcore Life Q35 feature the same clicky physical button design as the Life Q30 with thin, narrow buttons located below the earcups. There is also a USB-C charging port, which supports fast charge, giving you 4 hours of runtime from a quick 5-minute recharge.

There are three ways to control the active noise cancellation and transparency modes. These include the physical NC button on the left earcup, the touch control on the front of the right earcup panel and via the Soundcore app. The ANC touch control works really well (without any delay) and, it's the most convenient to enable ANC because you only have to touch the front of the right earcup with your palm. That said, it's a good thing there is a physical ANC button that you can use for when you are wearing gloves. Active noise cancellation works in wired mode too. Compared to the Life Q30, the ANC performance is similar to the Life Q35.
There are a total of 5 physical buttons on the Life Q35, two of which are volume controls designed to adjust the volume in the earcups, not the source the headphones are connected to. As far as sound signature, it changes slightly if you have active noise cancellation turned on. The stock sound signature in normal mode (without ANC) has a bit more emphasis on the midrange and treble, while the bass is clear and defined.

With ANC turned on, the bass frequency becomes boomier over the higher notes, although it doesn't muddle the midrange and treble. That said, you can tweak the Life Q35 default sound signature via the Soundcore app, which features built-in presets, as well as an 8-band equalizer. The Life Q35 stereo drivers produce spacious soundstage and detailed imaging too. Max volume is adequate, although the volume sounds a bit louder via wired cable than via bluetooth.

The Soundcore Life Q35 supports LDAC, as well as SBC and AAC codecs. The Life Q35 bluetooth chip does not support aptX. That said, AAC codec works well without any noticeable syncing issues when watching YouTube videos. To use LDAC, your Android phone has to support it and most new phones do. If your phone runs Android 8.0 or higher, it will support the LDAC codec. Multipoint pairing connection is also supported.

As well as being able to tweak the sound, the Soundcore app lets you tweak the level of active noise cancellation from three sub-modes: transport, indoor and outdoor. Transport mode targets lower frequencies (e.g car engine), while indoor mode targets higher frequencies (e.g. people talking). Outdoor mode is middle ground, targeting both high and low frequencies. Transparency mode works well at letting natural ambient sound into the earcups, although you may find yourself having to remove the headphones when talking to people. Transparency mode cannot be adjusted.

From the Soundcore app, you can also disable wearing detection, which is basically the on-ear detection feature that automatically pauses the audio when you take the headphones off and automatically resumes the audio when putting the headphones back on. 
The wearing detection feature works intermittently and, it's not clear why. This could be because the feature may still in beta stage or because the Life Q35 uses a gyro accelerometer sensor versus a light proximity sensor, which is more responsive. In the battery life department, it is similar to the Life Q35, delivering around 40 hours with ANC turned on and 60 hours with ANC turned off. This is based on medium (~55%) volume. The status led indicator flashes blue during audio playback and there is a beep when reaching max volume.

The Soundcore Life Q35 remote/microphone is built inline 17cm down the cable. This means, the inline remote microphone will dangle at collar bone level. The remote has a single button, which is clicky and made of plastic. The remote housing itself is made of plastic and it's small, measuring 3cm long, 0.7cm wide and 0.7cm thick. The audio cable weighs 14 grams. 
The single button controls seven functions: play/pause, answer/end calls, skip tracks both ways (back and forward) and reject calls. Functions are controlled via a series of button presses. The audio cable that is included measures 1 meter long too and has rubbery plug connectors, one of which is a right angle plug.

The Soundcore Life Q35 earpads are oval with square in shape rather than round like on the Life Q30. The inner hole is narrower on the Life Q35 than on the Life Q30. Internal dimensions are 6cm high and 4cm wide with a 2cm depth to the 40mm driver, which is thinly padded on top. The outer dimensions of the Life Q35 earpads is 7.5cm wide, 9.5cm high and 1.5cm; hence the Life Q35 have the same thickness of foam padding as the Life Q30, although the padding on the Life Q35 is a firmer, which is better for longevity. 
The comfort is very good overall, although you will need breaks after a couple hours of use, which is common with over ears that use protein leather. The good news is that the Life Q35 earpads can also be removed so, you can potentially get velour earpads replacements, which are more breathable. That said, Soundcore doesn't currently sell any replacement earpads so, you will have to source aftermarket ones.

The Life Q35 has the same button design and functionality as the Life Q30, letting you play/pause, skip tracks both ways, volume up/down, control calls (answer/end/reject) and activate voice assistant. The Soundcore Life Q35 features two dedicated microphones for calls, just like the Life Q30, although the Life Q35 uses beamforming microphones with AI based noise suppression, which works way better because it's able to also cut out some non-stationary noises such as keyboard typing (similarly to how Microsoft Teams' AI noise suppression does it).

The Life Q35 audio cable inline microphone also sounds good, although it uses standard noise reduction, which doesn't suppress as much background noise as the AI based microphones. Having the inline remote/microphone definitely makes the Soundcore Life Q35 more versatile though, because you can control audio playback remotely, as well as take calls when the cable is plugged into the phone, which is super convenient when the headphones aren't connected via bluetooth. Essentially, you have two ways to handle calls, which is nice.

The Soundcore Life Q35 headphones have a similar soft-touch matte rubber plastic finish to the Liberty Air 2 Pro, although the rubber coating on the Life Q35 seems a bit more prone to fingerprint oily smudges. The Life Q30 headphones don't have this rubber finish coated on the exterior so, they don't seem to mark as easily.

In wired mode, there is passthrough audio, meaning you can charge the headphones and listen to audio at the same time but, you can't do it wirelessly because bluetooth mode gets disabled during charging mode. Speaking of wired, Soundcore seems to have made the audio jack passive in the Life Q35, which means you can use them when the built-in battery is flat. This is something you can't do with the Life Q30 because the audio jack is active, meaning once the headphones battery runs out you can't use them in wired mode.

The list of accessories include a soft drawstring pouch, an unbranded USB-C to USB-A charging cable, a plane adapter and a hardshell carrying case. Compared to the Life Q30 carrying case, the Life Q35 case feels more premium because of the suede-like outershell material and rubberized zip puller, which has Soundcore branding on it.

The Life Q35 travel case is also lighter in weight too, weighing just 144 grams, compared to the Life Q30 hardshell case, which weighs 186 grams. In terms of ruggedness, both travel cases have a hardshell frame to protect the headphones, as well as a concealed teeth zip to minimize water and dust ingress. That said, the Life Q30 case material feels more weatherproof and has an internal mesh pocket;whereas the Life Q35 doesn't. That said, the Life Q35 travel case is a bit more functional because it's empty. It doesn't have preformed cutouts (other than Nazca Lines type markings) so, you can use the Life Q35 travel case for storing other things, making it more versatile.

To round up, the Soundcore Life Q35 has better microphone call quality, which is suitable for working from home, as well as an inline mic/remote on the audio cable and LDAC support, which is good news for Android users only since iPhone's iOS does not support LDAC. The earpad and headband stitching also seems better quality on the Life Q35. You can buy the Soundcore Life Q35 from amazon.

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