I, as a commenter on my last headphones review astutely observed, am not an audiophile. I don't have a four- or five-figure home stereo setup. I've never spent more than a couple of hundred on a pair of headphones, and I usually spend a lot less because I keep losing the buggers. So when Anker got in touch to see if I wanted to review the Soundcore Life 2 headphones, I had to have a word with myself.
First of all, I haven't reviewed many headphones in my time, and the last pair I wrote about were also by Anker. My last review was favorable, and clearly that's not going to hurt the chances of them offering another review unit. I don't want to appear an Anker shill, much less be one. But on the flipside, I was impressed by the quality of the in-ear Soundcore Spirit Pro and curious to see if the Life 2 could offer an equivalent offering for over-ear phones, i.e. good quality and performance and a reasonable price.
And second, I'm not, as I said, an audiophile. But here's the thing: neither are (I reckon) about 99 percent of the other headphone users out there. That's not to say audio quality isn't important to the rest of us – but good enough is good enough. No, I didn't have to mortgage my house to buy my latest amp and speakers (I don't own a traditional amp and speakers), but then neither did you.
So let's get this right out of the way: so far as audio quality goes, the Life 2 is more than good enough. It supports Hi-Res audio, apparently, which I suppose is Anker's way of saying these will do high bitrate files and streams justice. I'm sure they do. I thought they did, until I double-checked my Spotify mobile settings and saw I'd downloaded my playlists in standard quality and hadn't noticed. That's how much of an audiophile I'm not.
As I did last time, I could pay lip service to what one might expect from a headphones review at this point. I could make reassuring noises about its balance and fidelity on frequencies high, low and middling. But suffice to say, the audio quality is great at this price. In the UK, they can currently be had from Amazon for £55.99 (about US$72), which for decent wireless headphones with some noise-cancelling is a steal in my book.
What else is important to your everyday headphone user? Comfort? I've no complaints here. The memory foam cushioning around the ears is extremely soft, as is the mesh covering the speakers. If there's any discomfort, this is down to the seal formed around your ear which can get a bit warm with extended use, but that's true of any noise-cancelling headphones. It also helps to prevent noise leakage, which is a huge deal if you mean to use these on public transport.
Appearance-wise, the Life 2's are understated. They come in black. The branding is written in black, on black, so not ostentatious. This is right up my alley. If you like brash headphones with pink skulls and orange kittens and purple kitten skulls all over them with flames shooting out of your nostrils as you wear them, these may be less to your tastes. But they look great, as far as I'm concerned. They look like headphones.
Next up, let's talk battery life. Anker claims the Life 2 supports 30 hours of playback on a single charge. Without going on a round-the-world flight, I'm not going to put this to a true test. Sure, I could leave them running for 30 hours, but I haven't done that. What I have done is give them a full charge, and used them every day for several hours. I charge them when I can be bothered: once or twice a week.
I'm going to plead "think of the everyday user with everyday needs" here and say that the Life 2's battery life is more than ample. They never ran out of power on me. Charging them never annoyed me. You can charge them from a plug or a USB port. How often are you near one of those? Precisely.
Now, if you are going to fly round the world, or even long-haul every once in a while, you probably are interested in the Life 2's battery life. But let me cut this short: these probably aren't the headphones aren't for you. The active noise cancellation doesn't match the offerings of your more expensive offerings from the likes of Bose and Sony. No, I haven't tested this on a long-haul flight, but I have tested it on the next best thing: a rural bus to Chelmsford. And on that basis, I would characterize the noise cancelling of the Life 2 as a bonus rather than a core feature. It's a welcome addition. It helps. But it doesn't cut out the same degree of noise as top-performing models. If you're splashing that much cash on plane tickets, drop an extra hundred bigguns on top-notch noise cancelling.
If I have another minor complaint it's that I find the play/pause button a little hard to find while wearing, nestled as it is between the volume up and down buttons. And the on/off button and noise cancelling button are the same size and shape, so you have to remember their relative position to not turn them off accidentally when trying to activate noise cancelling. A different shape or feel would give you more to go on.
But, noise-cancelling aside, these are minor complaints. And even factoring in the noise-cancelling performance, this is an excellent pair of headphone for the price. Which is annoying, because I don't want to look like I'm shilling for Anker. So that's enough Anker reviews from me now, lovely Anker PR people. You make great headphones for everyday use. Now leave me alone.
Company website: Anker
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