You’ve probably heard from the golden age of television, a renaissance brought about by the era of streaming which is sadly in decline. It might not bring us another You better call Saulbut there’s a different golden age that still shines brightly in AV: the wireless headphone market.
From headphones breaking free from their prescription shackles to 3D spatial audio and personalized listening, headphones are innovating at an incredible rate. And new options like Anker’s Soundcore Space A40 prove you can reap the benefits of this brave new world on almost any budget.
A few years ago, you couldn’t find a pair of headphones with effective noise canceling for less than $200. The Space A40 delivers it for half that price, along with good sound, massive battery life, and a ton of extras to help customize your experience. It’s all wrapped up in a comfortable, compact design that looks classier than the price suggests.
The A40 skips a few conveniences, like auto-pausing when you remove an earbud, and the controls can be a little inconsistent. But with great performance in a surprisingly affordable package, the Space A40 is one of the best bargains of this golden age of portable listening.
Sleek and slim
Even though the headphones shrink everywhere around them, the A40s stand out not only for their tiny size, but also for their good looks. The pill-shaped Qi-Ready charging case is sleek and feels great in your hands. Its matte exterior, accented by a metallic Anker logo on top and a trio of LEDs where the clamshell lid meets the base, lends a premium air.
Inside, glossy plastic terminals hold matching glossy earphones, with a more matte finish on the outside for the touchpad controls. The buds are ergonomically shaped and, more importantly, their weight of just under 5 grams per side (for reference, Apple’s AirPods Pro weigh 5.4 grams) meets the unofficial baseline for the buds that seem to disappear in your ears after a few minutes.
The Space A40 does just that, and the fit is relatively stable. Five ear tip sizes outpace most competitors, and I was able to do all of my usual earbud-enhanced activities, from yard work to hikes in my local park, with only a minor readjustment here and there. I felt them jostle a bit while jogging, and their IPX4 water resistance is solid but not dunkable, so those looking for better stability and weather resistance might consider upgrading to the Elite 4 Active from Jabra.
One place where the buds spoil the slope curve is their massive battery. You get up to 10 hours of playtime, with four full charges in the case for a total of 50 hours. I clocked more like 7-8 hours with noise cancellation, but it’s still around 40 hours, beating the most expensive flagships from Samsung, Google and Apple.
The Space A40 lets you customize just about anything. It starts with the fit and extends to touchpads which are reassignable via the SoundCore App. They offer near-complete control, from volume to voice assistants, so you rarely need to reach for your phone.
You’ll need to assign the volume in the app (it’s off by default), and I find double tapping for pausing or song skipping can sometimes get triggered when trying to do a few quick single taps to speed up jams. I’m also not in love with the hold control, which seems to take hours to cycle through noise cancellation and transparency mode (it’s really just a few seconds).