Q30 with Imperfect Earplug Fit: Can the ANC Compensate?

Soundcore-Life Q30 plus Pretty in Pink earplugs performance

In this post, I am looking at the noise reduction performance of the combination Soundcore Q30 headphones and Hearos Pretty in Pink (PiP) earplugs.

This is part 2 of a series. In part 1 reported on the Q30 together with Mack’s ThermaFit earplugs.

The idea of this series is to devise ways to maximize noise reduction on a budget.

I have found PiP to be good earplugs, in particular for folks with smaller ears. Mind you, I have larger ears and they still work.

(For a comparative review of Pretty in Pink, see my post on earplugs for small ears.)


But, I can’t always get the fit needed for optimal lower frequency noise reduction.

This is precisely what I experienced in this experiment.

Quite a few people can’t get their foam earplugs to sufficiently reduce “tough noises” such as music bass, snoring, barking, and honking.

Here is the good news (reported on in this post) in a nutshell:

You don’t have to get a perfect deep fit to make the combination of these ANC headphones and earplugs an excellent noise reduction tool:

  • These “imperfect earplugs” still helped a lot to boost the mid-frequency noise reduction of the headphones.
  • And, crucially, the Q30 active noise cancellation compensated for the mediocre low and lower mid frequency noise reduction provided by the shallow seal of the earplugs alone.


In part 1, I reported on using the Q30 headphones together with Mack’s ThermaFit earplugs.

  1. In that experiment, unlike in the one reported on in this post, the deeply inserted earplugs offered very good low frequency noise reduction all by themselves.
  2. The resulting overall noise reduction of the combination was excellent—far better than what I was able to achieve with either the headphones or the earplugs alone.
  3. In the LFN range<125 Hz, there was no benefit by combining the two. In fact, noise reduction somewhat deteriorated. But, the resulting performance was still very good.

But can we still get close to this noise reduction if fit and performance of the earplugs aren’t perfect?

Important notes:

This post reports on my experience in the context of noise annoyance reduction in everyday life, not hearing protection! These headphones have no noise reduction rating and are not tested or marketed as a hearing protector!

Response to a reader question: I selected the Q30 for this series of experiments because they offer very good low frequency noise reduction for the price, and I find them comfortable. Both the Q30 and the PiP earplugs were purchased with own money at standard retailers!

For more information, also read my review and noise reduction test for the Q30.

Let’s first look at the noise reduction for PiP with the headphones’ ANC turned off

Note: the higher the line at a particular frequency the better the noise reduction.

ANC Off Soundcore Life Q30 plus Pretty in Pink vs ThermaFitAs you can see, with Pretty in Pink (black line) underneath the headphones (in off mode) I got a lot less low frequency noise reduction <250 Hz than with Mack’s ThermaFit (green line) in the same situation.

(In my ears, Pretty in Pink’s low frequency noise reduction is typically quite respectable, but not always good enough against loud snoring or bass noises.)

From 250 Hz, the performance of both earplugs was comparable when combined with the Q30 in off mode.

Here is what happens when I turn on the ANC

ANC On Soundcore Life Q30 plus Pretty in Pink vs ThermaFit

The performance of Pretty in Pink plus Q30 with ANC on (blue line) is now as good as that of ThermaFit plus Q30 with ANC on (yellow line).

Again, take a look at the green and red lines to appreciate the huge gap that existed between the two earplugs with ANC off.

The Q30 ANC completely compensated for the LFN performance gap between the two earplugs.

It didn’t add to the performance of ThermaFit below 125 Hz, but it made a big difference when used together with the “weaker” Pretty in Pink plugs.

Finally, how much of an improvement do we get by adding the earplugs compared to the headphones alone?

Soundcore Life Q30 plus Hearos Pretty in Pink vs Q30 alone

The green line shows the noise reduction when wearing only the Q30 with ANC on.

Again, the higher line, the better.

As you can see from the blue line, adding the Pretty in Pink earplugs underneath, I am getting a huge improvement over wearing the headphones alone.

In the low frequency range<125 Hz, the ANC headphones alone worked about as well as they did in combination with the earplugs.

But, for noise from 125 Hz to 4000 Hz, the combination won by a large margin.

Shouting, barking, snoring, honking, and even most crickets are going to be a lot more effectively suppressed when adding the Pretty in Pink earplugs underneath the Q30.


The Q30 ANC headphones compensated for the low frequency “weakness” exhibited by the Pretty in Pink earplugs.

In the LFN range <125 Hz, the ANC did not help the performance of the already excellent ThermaFit but it did help that of the Pretty in Pink earplugs!

By combining either one of the two foam earplugs with the Q30, you can get vastly better overall noise reduction than by using either the earplugs or the headphones alone!

Don’t get too caught up with the particular earplugs I used in this experiment. This stuff takes a lot of time, and I can’t test all combinations and insertion depths.

If you have a favorite pair of foam earplugs or / and noise cancelling headphones, give those a try.

A while ago, I did a similar experiment combining premium noise cancelling headphones with earplugs. The results were also excellent, but obviously came at a much higher price.

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