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Soundcore Life P3 Review: The Best AirPods Alternative?

Rating: 9/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $80
Holding the Soundcore Life P3 earbuds in my hand.
Andrew Heinzman

Anker’s audio brand, called Soundcore, manages to routinely undercut the competition with its affordable-yet-impressive wireless earbuds. And the company’s latest fare takes things to a new level. The Soundcore Life P3 earbuds cost just $80, but they offer impressive sound quality with stellar bass, solid ANC and Ambient modes, and an app that doesn’t suck.

Here's What We Like

  • Surprising sound quality and bass
  • Decent ANC and Transparency modes
  • Small, lightweight, and comfortable
  • Solid battery life
  • Sync button makes pairing with new devices a breeze

And What We Don't

  • Touch controls are unpredictable
  • Underwhelming call quality
  • No ear detection for automatic pausing

As far as I’m concerned, the Life P3s may be the best stem-styled earbuds that aren’t made by Apple. And although the Life P3s are fairly different from AirPods, they’re one of the only “AirPods alternatives” that I think is worth taking seriously.

Specs

  • Drivers: 11mm
  • Earbud Weight: 4.5 grams each
  • Case Weight:  54.5 grams (63.5 grams with earbuds)
  • Active Noise Cancelation: Yes
  • Transparency Mode: Yes
  • Single Earbud Mode: Yes
  • Bluetooth: 5.0
  • Codecs: AAC, SBC
  • Battery Life: 7 hours on earbuds, 28 hours with case; 35 total
  • Charging Cable: USB-C
  • Charging Time: 2 to 3 hours
  • Wireless Charging: Qi
  • Control Type: Touch controls (customizable)
  • Additional Tips: Small, Medium, Large, XL
  • Frequency Response: 20 — 20,000Hz
  • IP Rating: IPX5

Comfortable Design, Solid Build Quality

The Soundcore Life P3 earbuds in blue, red, white, black, and blue colorways.
They come in many colors! Soundcore

Like most Soundcore earbuds, the Life P3 sport a comfortable stemmed design. They look very similar to AirPods, though they come in multiple colors (including a gorgeous coral red) and have silicone ear tips.

And that’s the first area where Soundcore wins brownie points—the Life P3 buds come with five sets of ear tips, perfectly sized for small, medium, and humongous ear holes. An in-app test helps you choose which ear tips fit you best, which is very important, as the Life P3’s ANC and Transparency features don’t work when your ears are improperly sealed. (A lot of earbud manufacturers seem to overlook this detail.)

Once you find the right ear tips, the Soundcore Life P3s are very comfortable and secure. They won’t fall out during a trip to the gym (unlike AirPods), and their IPX5 sweat-resistance rating ensures that they won’t suffer a catastrophic breakdown during an intense workout, assuming that you aren’t totally soaked with sweat.

Even better, the build quality’s fantastic. The Life P3s are lightweight, but they feel solid and don’t have any sharp plasticy edges. The same goes for the charging case, which has a nice spring-loaded lid (for one-handed operation), three LEDs to show battery life, and a sync button to help you quickly pair the Life P3s to a new device.

As for battery life, Soundcore promises 7 hours of continuous playtime or a total of 35 hours with the charging case (which charges over USB-C). Those numbers drop down to 6 hours and 30 hours with ANC enabled. This is my least favorite thing to test—wearing earbuds for more than a few hours sucks. But I managed to drain the Soundcore Life P3s a few times, and they only fell short of their advertised battery life when listening sessions included a long phone call.

Shockingly Good Sound for the Price

The Soundcore Life P3 earbuds case, charging cable, and replacement eartips.
Andrew Heinzman

Good sound can make or break a pair of earbuds, and I’m happy to say that the Life P3s offer very impressive sound quality for the price. Bass is the big highlight here—the Life P3s feature large 11mm drivers, so they’ve got a ton of rumble.

The default Life P3 sound profile is warm and satisfying, especially for dance music, hip-hop, and modern R&B. While the Life P3s don’t have the flat “studio” sound of Apple’s AirPods, I think that some people will prefer Soundcore’s emphasis on bass.

And for those who are absolutely crazy about rumbling music, Soundcore’s app includes a BassUp toggle to boost low frequencies. Soundcore likes to include BassUp in most of its audio products, and although I usually hate the feature, it’s pretty fun to use with the Life P3 earbuds.

Of course, the Soundcore app lets you pick from various preset sound settings, and you can even build custom presets with an eight-band EQ. But I found that even with more conservative EQ settings, the Life P3s work best with contemporary music. Tracks recorded before the 80s don’t translate perfectly over these earbuds, at least not for me.

I also want to praise the Life P3s for their soundstage. Stereo effects feel super wide with these earbuds, and I can clearly hear when a sound is panned to the left or right channel. It’s another thing I didn’t expect for $80.

Unfortunately, the call quality stinks. There are three microphones in each earbud, but the sound they pick up is quiet and tinny. That said, I didn’t experience any dropouts, and I found that call quality remained usable whether I was indoors or outdoors.

Soundcore also neglected to include aptX with the Life P3s. This codec would maximize sound quality on Android devices, though I don’t think the average person would notice the difference. It’s just a shame that manufacturers keep neglecting the technology in mid-range products.

Unpredictable Touch Controls

The Soundcore Life P3 earbuds and charging case.
Andrew Heinzman

Thanks to robust touch controls, you can adjust most of the Life P3’s settings without pulling out your phone. There’s play and pause support, the ability to activate ANC and Ambient modes, and even a “tap and hold” command that brings up Google Assistant or Siri.

These touch controls require that you double-tap the earbuds, which should prevent accidental inputs. Additionally, you can customize the controls from Soundcore’s app—a handy option for those who want single-tap controls.

Here’s my problem; the touch controls are unpredictable. They aren’t always that responsive, so I often find myself tapping the earbuds over and over again just to pause music. It doesn’t help that the controls are slow, so I always have to wait for a second to see if the earbuds are being finicky or just taking their time.

Also, there’s no ear detection. This feature makes earbuds automatically pause when you remove them from your ears, and it would be really nice to have in the Life P3s, considering the wonky touch controls.

Usable ANC and Ambient Modes

The Soundcore Life P3 earbuds and charging case.
Andrew Heinzman

You really can’t expect an $80 pair of earbuds to deliver world-class ANC. That said, Soundcore managed to pull off something special, and I’d happily recommend these earbuds to anyone looking for an affordable noise-canceling solution.

The Life P3s are surprisingly good at blocking out the rumble of an engine or the sound of an air conditioner. You can control ANC on the fly by tapping the left earbud, or opening the Soundcore app to adjust ANC intensity.

My only major complaint is that the strongest ANC mode, called Transport, noticeably reduces music quality. Not to the degree of similarly-priced ANC earbuds, but enough to make me reach for a more expensive product when I know I’ll be in a super noisy environment.

Soundcore also knocked it out of the park with “Ambient mode,” which is the company’s name for Transparency mode. It just works—I use Ambient mode to bring in external noise while cooking, as it saves me from pulling out the earbuds when someone decides to bug me. (That said, I found that Apple’s Transparency mode is a bit more effective.)

Holy Crap, I Love the App!

There’s a lot of stuff that I hate about Bluetooth headphones and earbuds. But headphone apps hold a special, dark place in my heart, and I avoid them as much as possible. The Soundcore app (iOS/Android) is an exception; it’s excellent.

I’ve already mentioned some of the app’s many features—you can choose from preset sound profiles, build custom EQs, adjust ANC intensity, and perform a test to find which ear tip fits you best. This stuff is pretty run-of-the-mill, so why is the Soundcore app so special?

Simply put, the app’s easy to use and hasn’t given me any problems. Everything you need is right there, clearly labeled. You can even activate a low-latency gaming mode with a single tap or quickly program a sleep playlist using built-in ambient sounds.

My favorite part of the app is the detailed eight-band EQ. Changes you make to the EQ are immediately noticeable on the earbuds; there isn’t a crazy delay. It makes dialing in a sound super easy, which hasn’t been my experience with other earbuds.

The Gist: An Awesome, Bass-Heavy AirPods Alternative

The Soundcore Life P3 packaging.
Andrew Heinzman

Those who hope to find the form factor, quality, and style of AirPods at a lower price should give the Soundcore Life P3s a shot. At just $80, they’re less than half the price of what Apple has to offer, yet they deliver a killer listening experience with ANC and Ambient modes.

Now, to be clear, the Life P3s aren’t a copy of the AirPods. Both products have their own characteristics, and the Life P3s are unique in the emphasis the company put on bass. If you’re looking for a more neutral sound, you may want to look elsewhere or pony up the $180 for a pair of AirPods.

Rating: 9/10
Price: $80

Here’s What We Like

  • Surprising sound quality and bass
  • Decent ANC and Transparency modes
  • Small, lightweight, and comfortable
  • Solid battery life
  • Sync button makes pairing with new devices a breeze

And What We Don't

  • Touch controls are unpredictable
  • Underwhelming call quality
  • No ear detection for automatic pausing

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »