To understand how well and consistently the Space A40 reduce noise and how useful they are in everyday life, I have made them my main earbuds for about a month in loud city environments.
I have also conducted systematic noise reduction tests and compared them to the best of the best as well as to moderate noise reduction earplugs (as an alternative for dealing with noise sensitivities).
My main uses cases included:
- Commuting and walking along busy city streets
- Shopping (supermarket, mall)
- Indoor- and outdoor cafés
My summary after having used the A40 for a month
The Soundcore Space A40 are good budget noise cancelling earbuds with a solid fixed noise cancelling function, good sound for easy listening, and effective noise suppression for making calls, even in loud environments.
The touch controls and the app work well, and the earbuds can reliably connect to two devices at the same time.
I enjoy using the Space A40 and feel I got my money’s worth: they are a good, dependable work horse. And, they are small and look cool.
These buds are not replacing my reference ANC earbuds for critical listening and for muting my environment: those still offer significantly better and more flexible noise cancellation and better sound (see the corresponding sections in this review). But then, they also cost a lot more.
Note: ANC=active noise cancellation
- Effective and reliable cancellation of low frequency noise and good passive sound isolation, comparable to that of moderate noise reduction earplugs.
- For everyday noise reduction, the A40 are a good alternative to moderate noise reduction earplugs with the added benefit of better low frequency noise reduction (e.g., against trucks). The ANC function also helps a lot to reduce the occlusion effect that can be bothersome with some earplugs.
- I am getting a good environmental volume reduction but not a feeling of isolation (as you can get with foam earplugs or premium ANC headphones). For stress reduction the A40 work well, but they are not a mute button.
- In my tests, the call mike noise suppression was very good. I was able to take phone calls even along busy roads and in loud coffee shops. The mike sound quality was always slightly below average but good enough for being understood.
- These earbuds sound good for easy listening, e.g., while commuting, exercising, or sitting in a coffee shop. They are fun, but not accurate enough for critical listening. They have a boosted mid-bass but could do with more bass extension.
- The Space A40 can be connected to two devices (e.g., iPad/computer and phone or two phones) at the same time. I like this dual connectivity function, and have had no issues using it.
- A good selection of tips for small and average-size ear canals tips (5 in total) is included. However, even the largest tips are too small for me. I had to resort to third-party tips (see section ear tips). Fortunately, the charging case provides enough space for third party XL-ear tips.
Improvements I would like to see
- The ANC is solid (setting Strong) but adjusting the strength seems to have little effect.
- I want to be able to change ANC presets (e.g., strong, moderate) directly from the buds (without going into the app).
- The largest ear tips should be “real XL.” Alternatively, I’d like to see an ear tip kit for large ear canals. The case has the space.
- I am getting 6 hours continuous playtime with ANC and dual connectivity before the voice assistant alert “Battery low” comes on. This is in line with other buds, but I’d like more to use them at night.
- Connection auto pull: When the buds are connected to two devices (e.g., phone and iPad), you have to disconnect from one to connect to a different device (e.g., phone and notebook). Some headphones remain responsive to connection requests from a third device even when both “connection-slots” are taken.
Charging case size comparison
The A40 case is very compact, a bit thicker than that of the Pro 2, but otherwise of comparable size. It should easily fit into a jeans pocket.
I like the Space A40’s noise cancelling performance in fixed mode (manual mode, ANC set to “Strong”).
The noise reduction provided is similar to that of good, moderate-strength noise reduction earplugs (see charts below).
These earbuds significantly reduce the volume of environmental noise, but they don’t isolate like a foam earplug; they are not a mute button.
The advantage the A40 have over moderate-strength earplugs is that you get good low frequency noise reduction without having to insert the earbuds very deeply.
Also, the A40 ANC can largely eliminate the occlusion effect:
Without ANC, plugging your ears close to the canal entrance (which is what many people are comfortable with) can lead to amplified body-generated sounds.
In fact, this occlusion effect (e.g., amplification of own voice, own chewing sounds, etc.) is precisely what you get when you turn the ANC off. So for the most part, I like to keep it on.
How does the noise cancelling function of the A40 compare to that of my reference ANC earbuds?
Overall, the ANC of these earbuds is not as effective or flexible as that of the Bose QC earbuds II (review) or premium over-ear noise cancelling headphones.
It’s not even close, but neither is the price.
When someone at a neighboring table is shouting into his phone, I am longing for the substantially more effective Quiet mode of the QC earbuds 2 or over-ear headphones.
Here is the noise reduction in decibels for the A40 by frequency (red line), I am getting when playing pulsed narrow-band noises at increasing frequencies:
The higher the line at a particular frequency the better: As you can see, the QC earbuds 2 (Quiet mode, black line) play in a different league.
The noise reduction performance of the A40 (Strong) is more similar to that of the Bose in walk mode (blue line, Quiet-3), which is what I often use when walking around town.
The curve can’t be made quite as flat as that of the Bose, and at certain frequencies the A40 isolate a tad much for my taste. They are just not as adjustable as the Bose.
But, considering their price, the A40 do a good job.
I find them to be very helpful for reducing stressful noises in a loud city.
How do the A40 compare to moderate noise reduction earplugs?
The noise reduction performance is quite similar to that of Vibes, one of my favorite moderate-strength earplugs (green line in the chart below).
The A40 are more effective at reducing low frequency noise (good against trucks and low frequency hums), but the noise reduction is not as even across the frequency range as that of the Vibes; for maintaining speech intelligibility Vibes work better.
How adjustable is the noise cancelling function
I like that, in addition to adaptive noise cancelling, these earbuds support fixed noise cancelling (manual mode). In most situations, I prefer the predictability fixed noise cancelling brings with it.
The Soundcore app allows you to set the strength to weak, moderate, or strong, but I have noticed virtually no difference between the different settings so I just keep it at strong.
In adaptive mode, the earbuds attempt to detect the noise level by themselves, but for me they were almost always in noise environment: “Medium.”
Regardless of which setting I chose, not much changed in the performance.
So if you are looking for earbuds that allow you to finely adjust the noise reduction like you can with the Bose, these are not it (unless there is something wrong with my buds).
How do these compare to the AirPods Pro 2?
The Pro 2 have a very capable adaptive noise cancellation function, which in loud environments can block quite a bit more noise than the A40 can.
But, unlike the A40, you can’t switch the Pro 2 to fixed-strength noise cancellation; you have to rely on the optimization the earbuds deem suitable.
While on a plane or in very loud coffee shops, I’d rather have the peak performance of the Pro 2.
But, often, e.g., along city roads and for everyday stress reduction, I prefer the predictability of the Space A40 ANC.
For more info on the noise cancelling function of the Pro 2, read my post The AirPods Pro 2 ANC, Strong When It Wants To.
Comparative noise reduction table Soundcore Space A40 (arithmetic averages, real ear)
Ear tip sizes and fit
I have larger than average “ear holes” and so was excited that the Space A40 come with silicone ear tips in five different sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL).
The smallest size is 10.1 x 6.1 mm (diameter x height, own measurement) and the largest 13 x 8.4 mm.
In the app, there is also an ear-tip fit test, and that’s where things didn’t go well for me:
I wasn’t able to pass the test, even with their XL-size ear tips.
Moreover, the lack of noise reduction clearly indicated that the fit wasn’t right. The largest size tips were too small for my ears.
I contacted Anker. Unfortunately they didn’t have any larger sizes.
They offered to let me try some foam tips, but so far I haven’t taken them up on the offer.
If I can help it, I want to run these with longer lasting, hassle-free silicone tips. And I did find a solution.
I got out my chest of third-party ear tips, and voilà, I found several XL tips that work well with the A40 and with which I was able to pass the fit test and get good noise reduction.
Moreover, with all of them I am getting a stable and comfortable fit and can wear these buds for as long as the battery lasts.
What they all have in common: they are 14 mm or more in diameter.
And fortunately, all of them (see table below) also fit the charging case of the A40.
(With many other true wireless earbuds, the charging case doesn’t fit third-party XL tips: a big oversight, in my opinion.)
Note: Of the third-party XL tips I own and that fit me and the A40, the Spinfit CP360 are readily available. The no-name tips, I believe I bought at a Daiso store a while ago.
Nozzle: In case you’d like to try other third party silicone tips, the earbud outer/inner nozzle diameter is 5.8/4.5 mm. As for max height, I would aim for 8 to 8.5 mm.
How about small and average-size ears?
The smallest ear tips that come with the A40 are really small (10.1 x 6.1 mm, own caliper measurement). And, there are 5 different sizes to choose from, so if you have small up to average/slightly above average ear canals, you have a good chance that one of the sizes fits you just fine.
I mostly listened to these using the default EQ setting “Soundcore Signature.” I have tried other EQ settings, but Signature worked best for the largest variety of music.
For easy listening, e.g., while working on a computer, relaxing, or exercising, the Space A40 sound good, in particular with ANC on. I also like them for listening to podcasts or YouTube videos.
I can hear a treble spike in some music, but otherwise the sound is not aggressive or in your face.
The A40 have an emphasized mid-bass (e.g., kick drums), which I like for rock and pop music. The low bass is somewhat subdued, so they lack “umpf.”
(The bass in EDM, including house and modern pop, often covers both mid and low bass. With these I hear mostly mid bass but don’t get the rumble.)
The higher mids and lower treble frequencies are also somewhat recessed, so the A40 don’t sound “shouty.” On the flip side, vocals are at times a bit veiled; and female vocals could sound more energetic.
There is a narrow range in which the treble is emphasized. I am getting treble but for my taste not enough sparkle, and cymbals can sound thin.
For critical listening and immersing myself in music, I prefer other earbuds, such as the Bose QC earbuds 2 (better bass, vocals, and treble) or AirPods Pro2 (better clarity and more refined sound).
But to put things into perspective:
Given their price and solid ANC, the A40 sound fine to me; they work well for walking around town, watching YouTube, or working on a computer, which I did a lot with these.
I made phone calls with the A40 in a quiet room, in coffee shops (moderately noisy and very noisy), and along busy roads.
I found the earbuds to be very good at separating my voice from the noise background, even when it got loud.
On the flip side, while people were almost always able to understand me, my voice sounded a bit thin, even in a quiet environment.
At times, loud honking turned into high-pitched annoying sounds. Again, my voice was still intelligible but I wouldn’t want to hold long conversations amidst these high-pitched sounds.
There was a point where my voice was getting drowned out by background noise. You could call this “the twilight zone.”
Surprisingly, as it got even louder, the earbuds switched to a different voice mode: My voice then sounded more muffled, but the background noise was again effectively suppressed.
How do these compare to other earbuds for making calls?
I would say the voice-noise separation is clearly better than that of the Bose QC earbuds 2, and even better than that of the AirPods Pro 2.
On the other hand, in a quiet environment the voice quality of the Bose was best, followed by that of the AirPods Pro 2; the A40 came in last.
The A40 buds get the job done even in louder environments. I like that resilience. The drawback is that even in a quiet environment my voice sounds more like it is coming from a budget phone.
The A40 have two transparency mode settings:
- Fully Transparent
- Vocal mode
Vocal mode is what I use almost exclusively. I use it for situational awareness (e.g., approaching traffic) and for having a brief conversation or ordering a coffee.
All in all, vocal mode is a very decent transparency mode.
I like that It cuts out some low frequency noise, compared to not wearing buds or turning ANC off.
However, it doesn’t sound as natural as if you had nothing in your ears.
For comparison, transparency mode on the AirPods Pro 2 (and the Bose) is still quite a step up.
Even with those though, out of courtesy I remove at least one earbud when I have a longer conversation.
“Fully transparent” carries too much hiss for me, so I rarely use it. It seems to amplify certain frequencies. It often sounds as if there was light rain in the background.
As is typical with earbud transparency modes, both settings are sensitive to wind; I wouldn’t use these while riding a bicycle.
With dual connection and ANC (Strong) enabled, I am getting about 6 hours continuous play time using Android or iOS or both before a voice says “Battery low.”
According to the manufacturer’s specs, you can get up to 8 hours with ANC on (and 10 hours with ANC off). I have not been able to achieve 8 hours. (I have not tested continuous battery life with ANC off.)
For me, the battery life of these is in line with that of many other true wireless earbuds, such as the AirPods Pro 2.
Surprisingly, with dual connection disabled, battery life doesn’t change much (perhaps 20 min more), so I keep it activated.
After “Battery low,” comes on, there are 10% left, and the buds do play quite a bit longer, but it gets annoying being reminded repeatedly every couple of minutes.
There are four additional charges in the case, so I am getting 30 hours total. The case can be charged via USB-C or wirelessly.
While good for daytime use and napping, the A40 don’t last me for a whole night as I had hoped.
This is a bit unfortunate:
The buds are small, and using a microbeads pillow, I was able to sleep comfortably on the side. But I repeatedly got woken up by “Battery low” after about six hours (playing a waterfall sound at a moderate volume).
Bluetooth pairing and two active connections
The A40 have Bluetooth 5.2. They support two active connections at the same time (has to be enabled once, e.g., in the app).
So you can, for example, watch a YouTube video on your iPad or computer and still respond to an incoming call via your phone.
This has been working well for me, once I got the hang of everything.
With these, I am often connected to an iPad and a phone at the same time, watching videos and answering calls. At other times, I might listen to music on a phone and then pause and watch a video on the iPad.
The only downside I have noticed is that when you answer a call (e.g., by double-tapping one of the earbuds) while watching a video on a different device, video playback isn’t paused. You just don’t hear it anymore.
Upon hanging up, the earbuds’ audio stream returns to the video, but you may have to rewind depending on how long you have been on the phone.
Alternatively, pause the video first and then answer the call by double-tapping one of the earbuds. After finishing your call (double-tap the earbud to hang up), press play in your video player to continue.
In general, when in multi-connection mode, to switch audio from one connected device to another one, just pause audio on the first device (e.g., your phone) and press play on the second device (e.g., your computer).
Pairing and connecting the Space A40
Initially, upon opening the charging case, the earbuds automatically go into pairing mode. To pair them with your first phone, go to your phone’s Bluetooth list and tap the entry Soundcore Space A40 to connect.
To pair with another device while you have the earbuds in your ears, long-tap both earbuds until you hear a tone (pairing tone). Again go to your device’s Bluetooth list and tap the A40 entry to connect.
Alternatively, you can also put the earbuds in the charging case and connect by following the following three steps:
- Put them in the case and keep it open.
- Press the charging case button (at the back) until the LEDs flash consecutively.
- Locate the earbuds in your device’s pairing list and tap the entry to connect.
Enabling dual-connection mode
On my A40, dual-connection mode was initially disabled. To enable it, I installed the Soundcore app (available for Android and iOS) on my phone.
After you have everything set up, in the app go to Settings (cogwheel)->Device List and enable “Dual device connection.”
With this enabled, Device List allows you to see to which (paired) devices you are currently connected to and switch to a different device from within the app.
You only have to install the app on one device (either iOS or Android), and that is what I recommend, in particular if you have one primary device (e.g., your main phone) and multiple secondary devices (second phone, iPad, notebook). When I had it on multiple devices, at times the app couldn’t connect to the buds.
You don’t have to sign-up to use the app. I didn’t, I just pressed the X-button when asked to sign-up/sign-in and was able to continue.
Controls and app
I find the controls responsive, easy to use and fairly complete. Adjusting the fit without accidentally engaging the controls also works well.
What I particularly like is that you can enter pairing mode on the buds without placing them back in the case to connect to a new device or swap out devices.
If you want to, you can reassign the controls to different functions in the app.
This is how I use the touch controls on the buds:
- Volume control: +/- single-tap right bud/left bud
- Play/pause/answer call/hang up: double-tap right bud
- Cycle ANC, transparency, ANC off: long-tap either earbud
- Skip to next track: double-tap left bud
- Enter Bluetooth pairing mode: long-tap both earbuds
What I don’t have assigned is going back to a previous track and calling up a voice assistant.
I could assign one of the two to “left earbud long tap,” with the right earbud still allowing me to cycle through ANC modes.
Upon installation, the app brings up a splash screen encouraging to sign-up for an account or sign-in.
But this is optional. I have not created any account. Just tap X and continue if you don’t want to sign-up.
I recommend installing the app on only one device to keep things simple. The settings (e.g., EQ) apply to all connected devices. Initially I had it on both Android and iOS which sometimes caused connectivity issues.
- Ear tip fit test
- EQ (presets, plus customizable 8 band EQ (100 Hz to 12.8 kHz): I use Soundcore Signature.
- Adjust ANC strength (Strong, moderate, weak) and toggle between adaptive and fixed (manual) ANC: I have it set to Strong. I don’t notice much of a difference between different modes.
- Toggle between two different transparency modes (full and vocal): I have it set to vocal.
- Device list to swap out active devices (in dual connection mode, two can be active).
After finding fitting ear tips, the Soundcore Space A40 have been hassle-free earbuds for me.
Some of the specs I couldn’t replicate (with ANC on, battery life 6 instead of 8 hours, limited ANC adjustability).
But the A40 get the basics right; I enjoy using them.
They are easy to use and have solid and predictable ANC, a fun sound, effective noise suppression when making calls, and a dual-connection mode that works.