I have owned the Soundcore Q30 for over a year now, but only recently have I done detailed tests of the active noise cancelling function.
Compared to top-of-the line active noise cancelling headphones, they are very affordable.
But are they good enough?
Well, in my experience, if your main reason for getting ANC headphones is relief from low frequency noise, the Q30 may well be.
If your objective is blocking office or coffee-shop chatter and other mid-frequency noises, some top-of-the-line options still work a lot better (see charts in the section noise reduction).
All in all, the Q30 are comfortable budget noise cancelling headphones with outstanding battery life (> 40 hours) and large-enough, comfy cushions for my ears.
In contrast, the Q20’s (smaller sibling) ear cups are bit small for me.
I find the Q30’s default sound signature too bass-heavy; the bass boost is wide and bleeds heavily into vocals.
But, after equalizing the headphones with the Soundcore app, they sound very pleasant. The EQ adjustments are stored on the headphones so they work across devices.
The Soundcore Q30 shine when it comes to reducing low frequency noise (LFN) <= 125 Hz, such as heavy traffic or the bass of your neighbor’s overly bumped up sound system.
The Q20, their smaller, even more economical sibling, are no match when it comes to reducing LFN. They are, however, somewhat better at blocking chatter and other mid frequency noises than the Q30.
The ANC on both the Q30 and Q20 does not work when used wired, which is a bummer if you want to plug them into an airplane’s entertainment system.
The Anker Soundcore Q30 have three noise cancelling modes, Transport, Indoor, and Outdoor.
You toggle between the three in the Soundcore app:
Note: There is a button on the headphones to switch from ANC to transparency and normal (ANC off), but no button to toggle between ANC modes.
Transport mode is the strongest, in particular in the low-frequency range, so let’s look at the chart (own ears) for that mode first.
(The higher the line the better.)
In my tests, the low frequency noise reduction of the Q30 (red line) has been excellent, in particular in the range from 40 to 125 Hz.
Against music bass, trucks, generators, and AC hums the Q30 work very well:
In the range <= 125 Hz (which is where most of the truck rumble and EDM bass are), the most effective over-ear ANC headphones I have tested are the Sony WH-1000XM4 (blue line, my current over-ear reference):
The Q30 are not nearly as good if you look at the whole low frequency noise range (<=250 Hz), but they are pretty close up to 125 Hz.
Compared to the Q20 (green line), the Q30 offer quite a bit more relief against bass noise.
As I write this, I am sitting in a coffee shop with a thumping Bose speaker above my head and alternating between the Sony, the Q30, the Q20, and the Space A40 (Anker’s ANC earbuds in the same price bracket as the Q30).
Subjectively, with the Sony, the thumps are 95% gone and with the Q30 90%; with the Q20 and the Space A40 they are perhaps reduced by 60%.
Let’s turn to mid-frequency noise (250-2000Hz) and again compare to the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Q20:
In particular in the range from 250 to 1250 Hz, the Sony headphones do a lot (!) better than the Q30, both in my more formal tests and in daily life.
Because of this, chatter, shouting, barking dogs and honking all are a lot more effectively suppressed by the Sony.
Alternating between the Sony and Q30, you’ll notice the difference immediately. It is not even close.
The Q30 do help (in particular if you play a masking sound) but overall they are mediocre against mid-frequency noise.
In fact, the cheaper Q20, while not nearly as good as the Sony, are also better against coffee shop chatter.
How about high frequency noise (>2000 Hz)?
The Q30 are very good passive mufflers of higher frequency sounds, such as sizzling sounds, high-pitched screeching, s- and f-consonants in speech, etc. and subjectively on par with the Sony in that range.
This is useful to improve focus and very soothing. Most environments are full of random higher-pitched sounds that would otherwise be distracting.
A closer look at the other ANC modes the QC30 headphones offer
Anker states that Indoor focuses more on voices, but in my tests (see chart below) and experience, Indoor (yellow line) doesn’t block human speech any better than Transport (red line).
Indoor is a good ANC mode though:
It dials back the aggressive low frequency noise cancellation (to which some people are sensitive to) while offering the same amount of noise reduction across the mid and high range.
If you are in an office or coffee shop and not directly sitting underneath a bass speaker or being pestered by trucks, Indoor should work just as well as Transport.
Outdoor (green line) dials back the noise cancellation even further and across a wider range:
It is a mild noise cancelling mode, yet still pretty effective against booming background noise and rumble.
Mid-frequency noise (speech etc.) is reduced significantly less than in Transport/Indoor mode; this helps to stay in contact with the environment. I like it in an otherwise quieter room with low-pitched HVAC noise, and it is, as the name implies, a decent outdoor option.
But Outdoor is not a volume-reduced transparency mode where all frequencies are reduced equally.
The reduction of noise >1000 Hz in all three ANC modes (Transport, Indoor, Outdoor) is the same; basically it is all owed to the passive noise isolation of the ear cups.
The headphones muffle higher-pitched noises regardless of the mode.
This is good if you want to focus on your work or studies.
It is also good for reducing piercing or harsh high-pitched sounds, but not so much if you want to follow a conversation or keep track of your surroundings and just reduce the volume.
If you don’t want to muffle, but are mostly looking for moderate, even noise reduction, the Space A40 ANC earbuds (review and noise reduction test) are an option to consider.
As an outdoor mode for walking around town, I prefer the Space A40’s noise reduction character:
The Q30 have large ear cushions and ample padding on the underside of the headband. I can wear these for several hours without any issues. The headband can be well-extended, so they should fit even very large heads.
In contrast, the Q20 have smaller ear cushions that start pinching my ears after a while. For an hour they are fine, but after that they start becoming a bit uncomfortable. To me they feel like a hybrid of over-ear and on-ear.
The headband itself is comfy though, so if you have smaller ears, this might not be an issue.
Sound quality and EQ
The Q30 have a good EQ included in their app. They come pre-set to “soundcore Signature,” which I find too bass-heavy with these headphones.
The whole bass range is emphasized (20 to 250 Hz), which can make music sound bloated and vocals “bassy” in both music and podcasts/audio books.
Fortunately, the Q30 can be equalized for a very pleasant sound.
To my ears, the preset “Flat” is a good starting point and works well with most genres.
Using Flat (and depending on the song, 50 to 70% volume), I have tried the Q30 with Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, and Classic music – there still is enough bass and sub bass there, and vocals sound right. Treble is slightly emphasized, but not harsh.
These are not $200 headphones; but, for the price they sound good after changing the EQ.
Even at maximum volume, the Q30 don’t go super loud. They are not high volume headphones. For me they are more than loud enough and I wouldn’t recommend listening at max volume anyway, but I still want you to know.
At times, I like to tone the bass down even more using the custom EQ (starting from the flat preset, by tapping custom):
The active EQ settings (preset and custom) are stored in the headphones, so you only need the app on one device (iOS or Android).
The adjustments also work when you are using the headphones with a PC, for which there is no app available.
Since the Q30 support two active Bluetooth connections at the same time, you can control the EQ from your phone while listening to music/watching YouTube on your PC or iPad and hear the changes as you adjust the EQ.
Note: I have not had to set up an account with Anker for this to work and skipped suggestions to do so.
How does the Q20 sound compare to the Q30?
Out of the box the Q20’s bass is a bit tighter. They sound decent, but are still way too bass-heavy for me.
Unfortunately, they don’t have app support, so I had to adjust the sound using my phone’s audio player. This becomes a hassle if you have multiple devices and may not work in apps like YouTube.
So far I could not get the Q20 to the point where I liked their sound as much as that of the Q30.
Notably, there is a “bass-up switch” on the headphones. I would have preferred “bass-down” instead.
If you prefer the Q20 for their smaller size, I would look into the Soundcore Q20i, an upgraded, usually slightly more expensive version, that does have app & EQ support.
Bluetooth connection, pairing and multiple active connections
In my experience, the Bluetooth connection has been hassle-free and very stable.
If the Q30 are not connected to any phone/other device (e.g., first time, out of range), they automatically go into pairing mode; you should be able to find them in your phone’s Bluetooth list.
Once you have connected them to a device, the headphones attempt to auto-reconnect the next time you power them on.
(Double-pressing the power button also puts them into pairing mode, unless you already have two active connections. See below.)
The Q30 can maintain two active connections at the same time (multi-point connectivity).
Suppose, for example, you are already connected to your phone and want to additionally connect to your iPad to watch YouTube:
Double-press the power button (twice in short succession) to re-enter pairing mode. Then locate and tap the Q30 entry in your iPad’s Bluetooth list.
Voila, you are now connected to both your phone and you iPad.
If you power them off, the Q30 remember the device that was last active, so if you last listened to music from your phone they’ll auto-connect to your phone; if it was your iPad, they’ll auto-connect to your iPad.
So they don’t auto-connect to two devices upon power on.
To regain the second connection, you have to go into Bluetooth list of the device that is not yet connected and tap the Bluetooth entry.
If you already have two active connections (e.g., with you phone and iPad) and want to connect to a third device (e.g., your PC), you first have to disconnect from one device:
- Disconnect by going into one of the connected device’s Bluetooth list.
- If it is the first time you are connecting to that third device, put the Q30 into pairing mode by double-pressing the power button. If it’s not the first time, locate and tap the Q30 Bluetooth entry in your device’s Bluetooth list.
(Alternatively, power off the Q30. Then turn the headphones on and keep the power button pressed until you hear the pairing sound.)
On the Q30, you can activate transparency mode by cupping the right ear cup with your hand. To deactivate it, touch the surface of the right ear cup again.
Alternatively, the noise cancelling switch allows you to cycle through ANC, normal, and transparency mode.
Transparency mode on the Q30 lets in the whole frequency range, including lower frequencies.
Since the ear cups slightly amplify environmental low frequency sounds when ANC is off, transparency mode sounds quite loud and boomy. It’s a bit much for me.
If you want a volume-reduced awareness mode to deal with noise sensitivities (as I would prefer), these headphones don’t offer that.
This is in contrast to, for example Soundcore’s A40 and A3i ANC earbuds, which do reduce low frequency sounds even in transparency mode.
All in all, I find transparency fine for ordering a meal or a coffee, but wouldn’t want to use it for any longer conversations.
Note: the Q20 don’t have a transparency mode.
I tested call quality for the Q30 and Q20 by making real phone calls with these headphones while progressively increasing the volume of background coffee shop noise played via a sound system.
For better comparison, I have again included the Soundcore Space A40 ANC earbuds, one of my favorites for making calls.
With the Q30 headphones, I am getting very good call quality in quiet and moderately noisy environments. My voice sounds natural and loud and clear. However, they struggle in louder environments above 70 decibels. They only modestly suppress noise, so at some point background noise overwhelms my voice.
The Q20 sound a bit quieter and slightly muffled in quiet and moderately noisy environments, but the overall call quality is still good. Their noise suppression is more aggressive but in loud environments they struggle as well: my voice becomes choppy, often too choppy to maintain a conversation.
In loud environments, the Space A40 work substantially better than both over-ear models. They aggressively suppress background noise (and even switch suppression modes) while keeping the voice intelligible.
Overall, the Q30 are best-sounding when calling in quiet to moderate noise. The A40 sound thinner but are as loud and clear. For loud settings, the A40 earbuds are a lot better.
I find the Soundcore Q30 to be good sounding budget ANC headphones (once the bass is turned down). Their large ear cushions give my ears enough space and I find them comfortable.
They shine as an effective low frequency noise blocker to fend off music bass, truck noise, AC hums, etc.
They are also good mufflers of high-pitched sounds.
Against mid-range noise (speech, barking, honking, etc.,), the Q30 are acceptable but not great.
In that range, they are outdone by their smaller sibling, the Q20. Overall though, I prefer the noise reduction character of the Q30.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 (my over-ear noise cancelling reference) are more effective overall, and a lot more effective in mid-range noise reduction than both models.
Since many everyday noises fall in this range (e.g., in a louder coffee shop), the Q30 and Q20 are not even close to being a match for the Sony (which I also find the most comfortable among the three). So if money is no issue…
Considering the price, I like the Q30.
The Q20 ear cups are a bit small for me. If you prefer the smaller headphones, I would go for the Q20i instead.
That way, you are getting app support with EQ, and can adjust the phones to suit your sound preference. And, you are getting transparency mode and USB-C charging like with the Q30 instead of micro USB.
Both the Q20 and Q30 don’t support ANC in wired mode, which is a bummer if you want to use them on a plane and connect to inflight entertainment.
You could get an extra Bluetooth transmitter and connect that to the entertainment system, but that’s an additional gadget to take care of and keep charged.
You may read conflicting information as to ANC in wired mode with the Q20 and Q30:
My version of the Q20 actually does support ANC in wired mode. Unfortunately, this feature is no longer available on the Q20 in later releases.
The same applies to the Q30; earlier releases supported wired + ANC, but here I purchased a later release that didn’t.