Soundcore Life P3 Review: Feature-Loaded Affordable Earbuds


Soundcore Life P3 inside charging case.

Soundcore Life P3

MSRP $80.00

“Boasting features normally found on pricey earbuds, the Life P3 are a superb value.”

Pros

  • Customizable EQ
  • Customizable controls
  • Wireless charging
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • No wear sensors
  • Can’t activate transparency during calls

Ever since Anker released its Soundcore line of audio products, they’ve impressed us with their consistently high quality and low prices. The latest product from Soundcore is the Life P3, an $80 set of true wireless earbuds that push this value equation even further with active noise cancellation (ANC) and wireless charging — two features that normally appear on earbuds that cost twice as much. Are the Life P3 as good as they look on paper? Let’s check ’em out.

What’s in the box?

Soundcore Life P3 box contents.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

First, let’s dispense some much deserved praise to Soundcore: Previous Soundcore earbuds have shipped in big, heavy boxes with embedded magnets and lots of plastic — not exactly easy to recycle in most places. The Life P3 come in a much simpler carton that is smaller and uses less material. The magnets are gone, though a black plastic tray remains inside. Still, this is a big step toward more sustainable packaging, something we’d like to encourage.

Soundcore has a winning design formula.

Inside the box, you’ll find the Life P3 earbuds already in their charging case, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, four extra sizes of silicone eartips (a fifth set is installed on the earbuds), and some paper documentation.

Design

Soundcore Life P3 inside charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The Life P3 use a familiar, AirPod-esque design, with slender touch-sensitive stems that protrude down from a small, rounded body. If you want something that doesn’t call attention to itself, the black and blue colors are muted and subtle, but more vibrant options are also available: White, sky blue, and coral red. This kind of color choice is unusual in the true wireless earbud world — most models only offer two colors (usually black or white), if they offer a choice at all.

The matching charging case is smoothly rounded and relatively compact, though not as pocketable as the ones that come with the AirPods or Google Pixel Buds. Previous Soundcore earbuds like the Liberty 2 Pro and Liberty Air 2 Pro have used a slick slider mechanism for their charging case lids, but the Life P3 stick with a more conventional flip-open hinge — an obvious place to save some money.

What’s really impressive is the degree to which you can customize the tap controls.

But while that hinge may make the case cheaper to make, the case does not feel cheap at all. The lid is spring-loaded, flipping open automatically when you lift it, making one-handed operation way easier than with similar case designs. It also stays open when you want it to. The earbuds snap easily into their charging sockets and are just as easy to remove.

With the case’s wireless charging ability and the earbuds’ IPX5 rating for water resistance, Soundcore has a winning design formula.

Comfort, controls, and connections

Soundcore Life P3 box contents.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I found the Life P3 very comfortable to wear for extended periods. You’ll probably get a comfortable fit from several of the included silicone eartips. The handy Soundcore app also includes a fit test function to make sure your chosen tips are actually sealing your ear canal effectively. Too many folks simply use the tips that were installed at the factory because they feel fine, but that can be a recipe for bad sound quality and poor ANC performance, so definitely try multiple sizes.

Without any wing tips or earhooks, the Life P3 won’t lock into your ears as securely as earbuds designed for running or heavy workouts, but they should be fine for all kinds of low-impact activities like brisk walking, cycling, rowing, or weight lifting. They’re definitely more secure than Apple’s AirPods, because of the silicone eartips.

Touch controls aren’t always as responsive as physical buttons, mostly because it can be tricky to tap them accurately each and every time. The Life P3’s touch controls don’t really change this situation — the touch area is quite small — but they do help you know when you’ve tapped successfully or not with a confirmation touch tone that can be disabled if you don’t need it.

But what’s really impressive is the degree to which you can customize these tap controls. You can have up to three tap gestures per earbud — single tap, double tap, and tap and hold — for a total of six functions. Each can be set to control your choice of volume, play/pause, track skip forward/back, voice assistant activation, and ANC/transparency mode selection. Better yet, you get to choose which ANC options you want to flip between: ANC, transparency, or “normal” (both ANC and transparency turned off). You can cycle between all three, or you can pick any combo of just two modes.

Audiophiles won’t be knocked out by the Life P3’s performance, but for their price, they sound great.

The only thing that’s missing are wear sensors — the Life P3 can’t automatically pause your tunes when you remove an earbud.

The Life P3 use Bluetooth 5.0, and I had no problem quickly pairing them to my iPhone 11. That connection remained strong and stable — I was able to leave my phone in my home office and the earbuds never dropped out, regardless of where I roamed, from the basement to the third floor. Each earbud can be used on its own — perfect for calls or simply extending your battery life. Being able to connect to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously would have been a nice touch, but this feature remains a rarity in the true wireless space, so I can hardly knock an $80 set of buds for not having it.

Sound quality

Soundcore keeps wowing us with how great its earbuds sound, especially when compared to much more expensive products. The Life P3 are no exception. You get a very full-frequency response and really good clarity across the spectrum. There’s plenty of low-end bass power on tap for genres like rap and hip-hop, but it doesn’t muddy the midranges.

Out of the box, the P3 are set to a flat EQ. This is a good, neutral starting point, but you owe it to yourself to dive into the Soundcore app’s huge variety of EQ presets. Whether you want to emphasize bass or vocals, or deemphasize them, there’s no end to the options. Can’t find what you want? The eight-band custom EQ function lets you create your own presets.

I found that the Acoustic preset did the most to enhance clarity and energy, without detracting too much from the bass.

Audiophiles won’t be knocked out by the Life P3’s performance, but for their price, they sound great. The only way you’ll get better sound for the same or less money will be if you can find a much more expensive model on sale.

Noise cancellation and transparency

Soundcore Life P3 earbuds outside of charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

At this price, you’re not going to get the same kind of ANC performance as you would from the Sony WF-1000XM4, AirPods Pro, or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, but the Life P3 nonetheless deliver really noticeable noise reduction in a variety of scenarios, from the constant, droning sound of a loud fan to background conversations at a coffee shop.

That ANC function can be tuned using the Soundcore app with a selection of three modes: Indoor, Outdoor, and Transport. I found that Outdoor introduced a very slight hiss when not listening to music, but Indoor and Transport were both nice and quiet. That might lead you to think you should just stick with Indoor or Transport, but when the wind begins to blow, you’ll be glad Outdoor is an option: It almost entirely kills wind noise, where the other two modes struggle. Transparency mode can also be tuned with your choice of Fully Transparent or Vocal Mode. Vocal Mode, as the name suggests, helps home in on voices. It works really well, but for one minor drawback — you have to engage it before hopping on a call, as you can’t switch between ANC/transparency once a call is in progress. In fact, you can’t access the Soundcore app at all when on a call.

Battery life

Soundcore claims the Life P3 get seven hours of life per charge with ANC and transparency turned off, and a total of 35 hours when you include the charging case. Those numbers drop to six hours/30 hours respectively when you engage ANC or transparency. In testing, I actually got a little more than this, with about 7.5 hours of non-ANC time. Either way, these are really solid numbers that are better than many other earbuds at this price, and considerably better than both the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro (4.5 to 5 hours per charge, 24 hours total).

Topping off the Life P3’s power specs is a fast-charge feature which gives you an extra two hours after 10 minutes of socket time, which is also very good.

Call quality

Despite the presence of six microphones, calling on the Life P3 is only average. Outdoors, there were no dropouts, and most background noises were kept at bay, but my voice sounded thin and at times quite distant. Your callers may have to turn up their volume to hear you clearly. Indoors, as with most earbuds, call quality was much better.

Extras

Within the Soundcore app, you’ll find some fun extras like a Find My earbuds feature. It doesn’t actually locate them for you the way some other companies like Apple and Jabra offer, but you can cause each earbud to emit a loud sound, which should help you find them if they’re nearby.

You’ll also find that Soundcore has curated dozens of its own playlists, pulled from tracks available on the Lum streaming service. I didn’t know any of the featured artists, but that makes it an excellent companion to traditional streaming services as a discovery tool.

Soundcore also throws in a sleep soundtrack tool that lets you mix and match a variety of ambient sounds like the crashing of waves or the chirping of birds to help you drift off. You can play them on an endless loop or set them on a timer.

Our take

The Soundcore Life P3 pack an unbelievable number of features into a compact, comfortable, and affordable set of true wireless earbuds. For the price, they’re an exceptional value.

Is there a better alternative?

The closest competitor to the Life P3 is the $90 Earfun Air Pro. They’re very close when it comes to things like ANC, sound quality, and battery life. The Earfuns have wear sensors for auto-pausing music, but they lack wireless charging. Where the P3 have a huge edge is their app-based adjustments for EQ, controls, ANC, and more. The Earfun do not have an app, which limits what you can do with them.

How long will they last?

It’s always hard to say with true wireless earbuds, but the Life P3 should deliver years of use. With IPX5 protection, they’ll survive encounters with water, but avoid splashing their case — it isn’t protected. Battery life will drop over time, but with seven hours to start, they should still be quite usable even after that gets cut in half. Thanks to the Soundcore app, the company can issue firmware updates over time should problems arise. Soundcore backs the Life P3 with an 18-month warranty — six months longer than most companies.

Should you buy them?

Absolutely. Unless you are an audiophile with exacting standards, the Soundcore Life P3 have the features, quality, and price to make them an excellent choice for everyday use.

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