You’ve probably never heard of Soundcore, but its $130 ANC Space A40 earphones could just change that, and convince you to try your hand at a new earphone player.
It can be all too easy to think that value isn’t something every gadget maker thinks about. In an age when everything seems to cost more and more, the idea of value appears to be changing rapidly.
From phones that can hit the two grand mark to earphones and headphones netting between five hundred and a grand, the idea of value is one that is often hard to qualify, or even to quantify.
And then there are the cases of value that are so clear, it’ll have you scratching your head as to why no one else is thinking about value in this way.
As we got stuck into writing our review for the Soundcore Space A40, that’s where this journalist found himself. At $130 in Australia, the Space A40 aren’t priced like many noise cancelling options, and yet they come with such a massive feature set, it boggles the mind. They come from a fairly new brand in Australia, with Anker’s Soundcore brand only having just recently rocked up, indeed with the rest of what Anker makes, projectors and such.
So is the new brand worth checking out? Do these work really well, or are the Soundcore Space A40 cheap for a reason?
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Design and features
Another pair of compact in-ears, Anker’s Soundcore Space A40 aren’t going to win design awards for a creative design. While they’re not another pair of Apple inspired in-ears, they’re also exactly like pretty much
A small touch surface sits on the outside of what are clearly buds, but you get five sizes of in-ear tips, so that’s nice, and a change on the usual maximum of three.
For those interested in the question “will my ears fit these earphones”, the Space A40 covers not just small, medium, and large, but also extra small and extra large, in case you’re worried in an almost Fleabag-esque fashion if you have really massive ear holes.
Regardless of what size you rock, using the earphones is easy: throw them in, twist slightly, and they’ll hold, or did they did for us. They’re relatively comfortable, but very generic all the same.
Inside, there are six microphones (three per ear) with 10mm drivers, and the hardware also handles Sony’s LDAC format for high-res audio. If you’re someone who wants to dabble with high-res on Apple Music and Tidal, these could be an inexpensive option, given the tech doesn’t normally make its way to inexpensive earphones.
Controls are touches to the pad where the logo is, though you can tweak it in the app, which is surprisingly full-featured, offering wind noise reduction, a low latency gaming mode, a fit test, and the ability to let the phone jump between adaptive noise cancellation and manual mode, basically changing the level of ANC based on what the microphones pick up.
For the most part, it’s the typical control scheme we’ve come to expect from button-based earphones, even if this is just a touch surface. Hold down the pad and wait a second to jump through noise cancellation modes, double tap to skip a track, and if you want it switched on, you can tap once on each side for volume up and down.
It all works for the most part, though you might find some of the controls are a little delayed at times. Just something to be aware of.
As we do with every earphone review, we’re testing the Soundcore A40 by running it through the Pickr Sound Test, which you can listen to for yourself.
It starts with electronic, with the sounds of Tycho and Daft Punk, and as we hear both of those, we picked up more in the mids and low-end sounds than we usually expect from budget earphones. There’s solid sound here, and it’s echoed in the pop and R&B sounds from Ariana Grande and Mark Ronson. You’ll find a tight snap and punch from the bass, a relatively balanced approach to the rendition, with just a little warmth.
With heavier stuff, we find some guttural bass from FKA Twigs’ “Two Weeks”, delivering a great sound most ears would appreciate, even if it may not be as nuanced as the earphones we’ve heard from the likes of Sony and Sennheiser.
The sound here is good, and easy to appreciate. It is surprisingly detailed offering a nice soundstage for most music.
Going from pop to rock to jazz and classical, we found little in the way that showed the Space A40 as offensive in the slightest. On the contrary, these budget earphones sounded like they should cost a lot more, and that just about shocked us. Budget earphones rarely sound this good, and some more expensive ones typically don’t, either.
We were surprised by the performance, and the battery life offers quite the same emotion, because the Space A40 is such a great offering.
You’ll find up to a good 10 hours before needing a charge, though that’s with ANC switched off. It means if you desperately need more battery life and can go without life in a bubble, the Space A40 can deliver plenty of life.
There’s less battery life with ANC switched on, rocking closer to 5 to 7 hours depending on if you listen to music in high-res with LDAC, which this supports. However, the case itself is good enough for a good five more charges, you’re basically getting anywhere between 25 and 50 hours of battery life from Soundcore’s Space A40, and that’s not bad.
To Soundcore’s credit, the inclusion of wireless charging is a total surprise, as well, since it’s a feature you normally have to pay quite a bit extra for. Wireless charging in an earphone case is largely seen as a truly premium feature, and yet it’s here in a pair of $130 truly wireless noise cancelling earphones. Crazy, but in a good way.
It’s pretty clear the Soundcore Space A40 are vying for a spot in your life, and there’s a pretty compelling reason to consider them: the value.
At $129.99 in Australia, the Space A40 are tremendous value.
Noise canceling earphones already come at a premium, and even the cheapest models normally skip over extras like wireless charging and an app. These don’t skip over anything.
Granted, the currency conversion and Australia tax consumers are likely used to seeing means the USD price of the Space A40 jumps from $99 to $129 local, but the conversion isn’t too harsh, and the value is still considerable.
What needs work?
Easily one of the year’s best surprises in sound, the economical Space A40 are worth looking into if you fancy a cheap pair of noise cancelling earphones that go beyond the word “cheap” in every way.
Don’t call these cheap. Call them incredible value, because that’s what they are.
They do still have quirks here and there, though, such as touch controls that can be a little fussy at times, and an app that doesn’t always play nicely and find your earphones quickly. Another feature of the app, the fit test, is so loud we actually had to rip the earphones out of our ear, promising to never touch it again.
In short, most of the problems with the Soundcore Space A40 aren’t with the earphones themselves, but with the app, and they are incredibly minor issues in the grand scheme of things.
We’re sure fixes will pop up over time, and right now, Soundcore does let you turn off parts of the touch control in the app, so once you’ve managed to connect it all up, at least you know the controls may not be an issue for very long.
Overall, most of the package is pretty strong, with the app one of the only sour points, and that’s when you dive in deep.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Last year, inexpensive noise canceling earphones that hit value in the head beautifully started to become a genuine thing.
We were astonished when Earfun offered a pair of warm-sounding truly wireless earphones for $130, and gave them a Best Pick nod at the end of 2021. This year, we might have to give one to Soundcore.
There is just so much value you be had here, as a name you’ve probably never heard of comes out swinging, and swinging hard.
Anker is just becoming a presence locally, but its audio-specific division Soundcore is already proving very interesting, offering inexpensive alternatives that sound great and deliver real and solid value.
It’s surprising how solid the Soundcore Space A40 are. They’re a benchmark for budget ANC in 2022 and a worthy upgrade from any mediocre earphones you might be using. Mediocre might be gone forever with these on the market. Recommended.