The next flight you take won’t be complete without a pair of noise cancelling headphones, but if you don’t have much to spend, the Soundcore Space Q45 might be perfectly suited.
One of the pain points in headphones almost always comes down to price: great headphones can be very expensive, and the more full-featured they are, the more you can expect to pay.
Big brands ask for big dollars for big features, and active noise cancellation has long been one of those. Abbreviated as “ANC”, the idea behind active noise cancellation isn’t new and is pretty easy to understand, but the various implementations from different brands can command a lot of different price points, making ANC headphones one of those things not everyone has time for. They’ll change the way you experience a flight by blocking out the drone of the engine, for sure, but they’ll also cost you a pretty penny for the privilege.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Noise cancelling headphones don’t have to be super expensive, and new brands are coming up with ways to show us exactly that.
You might never have heard of the name Soundcore or even its owner Anker, but both are popping up locally more and more, and in the Soundcore Space Q45, you might just find an inexpensive pair of noise cancelling headphones worth indulging in.
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Design and features
First up, there’s how they look, and that’s not hard: they look like headphones.
Circular pads with a slightly ear-hugging circumaural (around-the-ear) design is on display here, with imitation leather on the pads and band, plus a rather noticeable “d” from the Soundcore logo, which looks a little like the “b” from “Beats”, one of its clear rivals.
There’s a combination of materials here, mostly plastic and aluminium, with two microphones for the ANC, support for Bluetooth and high-res audio, with a Type C charging port at the bottom, because that’s about normal for headphones these days.
The look and feel of these headphones isn’t super extravagant, though, with a lightweight plasticky feel that’s simple enough, and that’s about the same for how you use them.
It’s not unusual to see some style flexed for the controls on noise cancelling headphones, but you won’t find that here. There’s no classy wheel or knob like on the AirPods Max, nor is there the neat touchpad Sony uses on its WH-1000XM5.
Rather, Soundcore relies on buttons and buttons alone, and though they’re simple and easy to get at, they can be a little clicky. It’s a control system for sure, and the good news is perhaps that it won’t confuse you, provided you remember the position of each.
There’s also an app, something we were surprised to learn came with Soundcore’s inexpensive ANC Space A40, though unsurprisingly, it’s the same app.
The good news is that the app is already pretty solid, so you get some decent features from using it, including volume limiting for safe listening, a form of adaptive noise cancellation or a manually set variation you can trigger, button customisation, and custom EQ modes to tweak the sound profile of the headphones.
Deciding whether to tweak the sound profile connects with what is clearly the most important aspect of the headphones — performance — and for that we turn to the Pickr Sound Test, our method for testing any sound-related gadget that drops by Pickr’s reviews desk.
This one is no different and starts with the electronic from Tycho and Daft Punk, offering a sound that booms the bass a little larger than expected, with the mids and highs just behind. Most of the instrumentation is clear, but there’s a little muddled sound, ever so slightly, with the focus on the lows first, almost as if Soundcore was trying to deliver a warm sound, but wasn’t quite getting there. Balanced with some boom is where we are, but it’s good news for most listeners, we think.
In pop and R&B, there’s a punchy, vibrant sound that delivers a good solid thwack, as Carly Rae Jepsen’s smacks you with a comfortable rendition, while Ariana Grande delivers a meaty bass amongst a wide and spacious sound, with that similar feeling echoing over the hard slap of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”.
Less aggressively mixed tracks in rock, jazz, and classical delivered a decent sound, too, with a little less over-emphasised bass, but still enough of everything else. This isn’t quite the sound you can find in more expensive cans, missing out on the total balance Bose delivers in the QC45 or the solid warmth Sony pushes in the WH-1000XM5. But it’s still a good sound altogether, and better than what you might expect for the money.
The noise cancellation isn’t quite as strong as the sound, though. It does the job, and will handle repeatable noises that have become the very basis of what ANC is used for, but you can definitely find better active noise cancellation technology out there.
You really only need to look at the in-ear options in the Bose QC Earbuds II and Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-gen this year to see how much this area is pushing ahead. Unfortunately, the Soundcore Space Q45 can’t quite match those, but should handle flights, transport, and the choir of humans all talking as you walk about the streets just fine.
One of the most surprising features in the Space Q45 comes down to battery life, and it’s here the headphones do extraordinarily well.
While most noise cancelling headphones tend to top out around the 30 hour mark — a little under or a little over — Soundcore flexes some serious battery life muscle here by going well over, pushing as high as 50 hours from its headphones with the ANC tech turned on.
If you don’t need noise cancellation, you can actually get more, but we’ll just leave you with this thought: noise cancellation blocks the hum and drum of the real world, plus the annoying engine noises on buses, trains, and aircraft, too. Leave it on, and if you need more than 50 hours, charge these up using the USB Type C standard, which they support out of the box.
The price is possibly the other major feature worth thinking about in the Space Q45, because with a recommended retail price of $219.99 locally, these are seriously inexpensive noise cancelling headphones.
To Anker’s credit, you can already find less expensive noise cancelling options in the Soundcore Space A40, and they’re quite good, too, offering a formidable option made in a more compact in-ear style. The Space Q45 aren’t quite the same, blowing up the size and encompassing the ear, hardly throwing things inside of it.
However, these are also equally inexpensive, with $220 being a great price for what you get. Hey, you even get a firm case, which is something you don’t typically see on inexpensive headphones. We certainly didn’t see that on the $250 Skullcandy Hesh ANC.
What needs work?
So the price is right, and the battery life is right, too. The sound is also nice and spacious, and if you don’t like what’s on offer, Soundcore makes an app to let you tweak things. So what needs work?
Mostly the design and materials, which don’t benefit at all from the inexpensive cost, and help you to see that yes, you really are buying something made for budgets.
There’s nothing wrong with gadget made for budgets. Devices with solid value are always in-demand and desired at the best of times, and with all the economic turmoil and cost of living adjustments so many of us are facing lately, Soundcore’s Space Q45 deliver a budget pair at just the right time.
But they also feel that way; these feel cheap, and that’s not always a good thing. You can feel it in the quality of the materials and the slight creak of the plastic. And you can feel it in the controls, too, which are basic button pushes that lack the premium aesthetics of touchpads and simple minimalist controls.
It’s not just the design and controls that lack the premium feel, but also the active noise cancellation, which does the job, but doesn’t handle all noise brilliantly. This feels like ANC from a few years ago, rather than the modern AI-assisted adaptive tech we try these days.
In short, the ANC on the Space Q45 will do the job for engine noises and regular repeating sounds, but you can do much better with newer and more premium noise cancelling options.
While Soundcore may well have managed to get the price down in some areas, noise cancelling performance doesn’t appear to be one of them.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Those issues might not matter in the grand scheme of things, though, because Soundcore has nailed some basics.
With a great price and battery life, not to mention acceptable sound and noise cancellation, the Soundcore Space Q45 delivers comfy ANC for budgets.
This is what value looks like. This is what value buyers are looking for: enough of the tech in the package they can afford, and they can afford the Space Q45.