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AirPods Max alternative: The excellent Soundcore Life Q30 for $65 (Update: Expired)

This is the best deal on record for headphones that offer multimode noise canceling, an equalizer app, transparency mode and USB-C charging. Plus, three sweet bonus deals.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

Hey, look: These headphones come with a nonridiculous case.

David Carnoy/CNET

Even if I won the lottery, I wouldn't spend $549 on Apple's AirPods Max. Not when there are so many good (and even great) headphones that cost less. Way, way less.

Case in point: For a limited time, and while supplies, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 is on sale for $65. That's only $15 off the regular price, but it's also $484 off the price of the AirPods Max. The only bummer here: Amazon currently shows an in-stock date of Dec. 21, so if you're eyeballing this for a Christmas gift, it might not make it in time.

The Q30 is an over-the-ear set of headphones that offers multiple modes of active noise canceling: Transport promises to minimize airplane engine noise; Outdoor is for traffic and wind; and Indoor tackles "the sound of busy offices," which I guess means voices. There's also a transparency mode that lets the outside world in.

Like to fine-tune your listening? There's a Soundcore app that offers a whopping 22 equalizer presets and lets you set your own as well. In addition, the Q30 offers NFC pairing, multipoint connections, a 40-hour battery (according to Soundcore) and a nonridiculous carrying case.

Read more: Apple's AirPods Max Smart Case looks like an 'over-the-shoulder boulder holder'

That's a pretty impressive feature set given the price, but how does the Q30 sound? I haven't tested it myself, but here's what CNET's David Carnoy had to say:

As far as sound, comfort level and build quality, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than Anker's SoundCore Life Q30 for the money. It doesn't have quite the clarity or bass definition as some of the top premium models, but it's less than a third of the price and gets you about 75% of the way there in terms of sound: It's well balanced overall, with punchy bass. Noise canceling is good for the price, though not up to the level of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

Carnoy also notes that while the Q30 performs reasonably well for phone calls, it doesn't do a great job reducing background noise.

So, are these on the same level as the AirPods Max -- or, for that matter, the latest from Bose or Sony? Of course not. Are they damn good headphones for the price? No question about it.

Read more: $549 AirPods Max: All the things you could buy instead of Apple's new headphones

Want to hear more thoughts on the AirPods Max and how they stack up to the competition? Check out this episode of the Cheapskate Show podcast!

Bonus deal roundup: $18 hand warmers, $20 Wyze Cam, $40 Immortals Fenyx Rising

A few quick-hit items you don't want to miss today:

Enjoy your day!

Watch this: AirPods Max hands-on: New noise-canceling king

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