If you’re anything like me you know what you like by now when it comes to tech, and especially headphones. For me, it’s a comfortable pair of over the ears, with good low end, excellent battery life, and noise cancellation that just works. All of that but without the £300+ price tag that you can expect from the likes of Bose or Sony’s offerings (no matter how amazing they might be). With the Anker Soundcore Space NC (mouthful much?) I think I might just have found them, but I might have to compromise a little. Let’s take a look in our full review.
- Great low end and mids
- Awesome battery life
- Good Noise Cancellation on a budget
- Portable design
- Comparatively well priced
- microUSB charging is outdated now
- Audiophiles will have to slum it with AAC codec
- Slightly muddy high end
Let’s start with just what you get for your £140 in this package. Inside the box is a hard shell case which holds the headphones themselves which are secured with moulded cut outs, with a mesh section on the other side of the hard case to hold additional wires. Those wires include a 3.5mm cable with an inline button to control play/pause and call answering functions, as well as a somewhat outdated microUSB charging port. I’d have liked to have seen USB-C here. There’s also a user guide along with warranty information, but the unit is actually very intuitive.
Aside from the USB cable faux par I was quite happy with what came in the box. I wouldn’t ever use the hard carry case although I’m aware some would, however the fact that the Space NC headphones can be folded somewhat to allow fitting into a tighter space in my bag is a nice option.
Putting these on for the first time I found myself pleasantly surprised by the amount of soft padding in the headband. I’ve reviewed a lot of similar devices over the years now and normally all but the very top end takes some getting used to as the materials used here are usually the first to be cut in order to facilitate the price point. Thankfully whilst Anker may well have opted for faux leather and a plastic material choice, it’s very comfortable.
On the left ear cup is a pinhole microphone along with the noise cancellation on/off toggle, whilst over on the right-hand ear cup sits the majority of the inputs and control. There’s the microUSB charging port alongside the 3.5mm audio jack port just above more pinhole microphones. Further up the edge of the ear cup sits the power button and the call answer button with a notification LED nestled in between. Finally, the right ear cup itself acts as a touchpad to control volume and track skipping by swiping up or down, and front and back respectively.
Once you have these on your head, paired to a device or wired to one, you might be surprised, as I was, with what you hear. Your ears are immediately hit with the low end; regardless of the genre. This isn’t something I normally like. I recall I specifically sent my Razer Kracken headset back to them as it was just too much. Strangely I found myself nodding along and accepting it on this unit. Have my ears changed, or has my bar just been lowered? I think there’s another explanation. The Anker Soundcore Space NCs, whilst big on their low end, deliver more clarity to it. The bass differs depending on the track, and that nuance is enough for my brain to be tricked I think. This, along with the fact that the midrange is also very evident, means I forgave it quite easily.
Where the Space NCs don’t quite do as well is the high end with some of the mids bleeding into the highs making them a little muddier than I’d like. I tested a few percussion only tracks as well as some acapella ones to really identify where the issue lies and it’s simply the dB level of the higher frequency. Putting a +3dB on the 3600Hz or +3 dB 14000Hz ranges really add that one last element to tracks. I suggest all those using these experiment with that in their chosen EQ application.
In terms of comfort, I wrote this review and sat for a further 2 to 2.5 hours with these on connected to a variety of other devices to test, and I suffered no fatigue of my ears or head, thanks to the memory foam in the cup padding. The best part about this is that the depth of the padding on the ear cups means that my ears aren’t hitting the driver mesh either; there is some clearance which is sometimes an issue for me.
My fingers adjusted to the touch panel on the right ear cup very well which is something else I was surprised about. Anker has kept things simple. A swipe up or down changes the volume, whilst a swipe and hold gesture in the same direction continuously changes the volume until you release the pad. A slide forward or back changes the track in that direction. The only slight issue I had here is that the ergonomics of my head meant that sometimes I’d be looking down, and a swipe on the ear cup would register as an up volume rather than a right swipe (track skip) due to the orientation of the ear cup. Bear that in mind and you’ll be fine.
The two main aspects of the Anker Soundcore Space NC headphones that are called out in the marketing are the battery life and the noise cancellation. Starting with the latter first, I can atest that it’s decent. It holds no candle to the likes of the Bose QuietComfort or Sony WH-1000XM ranges when it comes to noise cancellation though, which is to be expected. Hardcore anti-social types (joke.. it’s a joke!) might look at a more premium option for that. The cVc implementation here still holds its own for the price. Testing these by playing a track near a boiling kettle, in a garden with lots of birds, and close to a TV playing a waterfall video all suggested that with constant and inherently consistent noises, these will do a very good joke of blocking lots of the noise. Walking along a street, however (not that I suggest you do this whilst on a busy street) the different types of noises do penetrate due to the technology in use. The rule of thumb is constant and consistent, not varied noises and these will do just fine. These are on a par with many other noise cancelling offerings at a lower price point and I’d expect these to be performing a little better for the price in more challenging environments, where cheaper units fail too, but they do get the job done with my ears, at least.
Where these are supposed to be used is on commutes or flights I’d imagine (based on their marketing) and for this, they will perform well. The other saving grace is that this option can be used in both wired and wireless modes, and even without the noise cancellation turned on, the isolation the padding gives is actually decent.
On to battery life, this is a really easy section to review. It’s awesome, plain and simple. I’ve managed to get just shy of the 20 hours highlighted in the marketing material when in wireless noise cancellation mode, however, that was over the course of 2 weeks, with on and off use so this is within a margin of error. The fact that I’d imagine most users would toggle the noise cancellation on and off as their use case dictates means you should expect more than this and I’m confident in suggesting it would have no issues getting to 25 hours with a combination of both on and off.
The Anker Soundcore Space NC headphones are, as I suggested in my intro, the headphones that I might well be using for some time to come. They aren’t suitable for the gym due to a lack of IP rating, but for commuting, long haul flights, as well as generally blocking out people if you’re feeling particular anti-social, then they fit the bill well. Aesthetically they’re pleasing enough, they’re comfortable, and whilst I can’t suggest ‘cheap’ as an accurate description of their £139.99 price tag, they are factually much more affordable than some of the more premium alternatives mentioned. Only the lack of USB-C, Bluetooth 5, as well as supporting higher bitrate codecs such as aptX HD or LDAC. Connectivity wise though they do very well through a number of walls without causing any interuption, which kind of negates my Bluetooth 5 moan somewhat.
If you’re in the market for some comfy over the ear noise cancelling headphones and don’t have a boatload to spend, then these are well worth the look!