I’ve been a fan of Anker’s portable power banks for years now. They saved me in many situations and even the high-end chargers are priced so reasonably. I hadn’t gotten a chance to check out any of their audio products… until now.
In my possession I have two bargain headphones: the SoundBuds NB10 and the SoundBuds Slim, both from Anker. They’re wireless Bluetooth earbuds, mostly geared toward athletes, but really anyone could benefit from having a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Best of all, both are under $40. It’s not easy these days to find a solid pair of wireless cans under that price point.
If you’re stuck between the two, we’re going to break down the differences right here. Maybe both are incredible in their own ways, maybe neither are worth buying. I spend some time using and abusing them to find out.
Design and Comfort
Right away there is a clear distinction between the SoundBuds NB10 and the SoundBuds Slim through design alone. The NB10s have a more rugged look and feel. That doesn’t translate to being ugly because they’re far from it — I mean rugged as in durable and solid. In fact, the look as well as the comfort reminds me of the Plantronics BackBeat Fit wireless headphones.
That’s a compliment, because I’ve worn the BackBeat Fits. Not only do they feel super secure in my ears, but they can take a punch. The NB10s are exactly the same, and in fact I’d say these feel even more secure than the $130 product. They fit snugly in my ear right out of the box, but just in case they don’t for you, differently sized silicone tips are included.
The NB10s also have a weird adjustment strap on the back that I love. It allows you to pull the wire close behind your head to tighten it and keep it in place. Of course, the rest oddly sticks out of your head, but if you can live with that weird quirk, it works beautifully.
The SoundBud Slims fit pretty well in my ear too. I wouldn’t say they’re as snug as the NB10s, but they’re more than adequate. They also come with four sizes of silicone tips, as opposed to three sizes with NB10s. Plus the magnets to keep them together are a plus.
What I’m less of a fan of is the mechanism for tightening the cord. The design here is different from the strap, instead utilizing a clip and slider to mess around with. It’s pretty tedious, though I guess it works once in place.
Some complaints aside, both headphones get major points for comfort and fit especially at their price points. I’d say the NB10s carry the slight advantage.
If you came into this comparison hoping for stellar sound quality knowing both products are under $40, I am sorry to let you down. Don’t get me wrong. Audio quality isn’t bad by any means, it’s just not as good as what you’d get with more expensive headphones. Anker doesn’t try to position these as such though.
Starting off with the SoundBud NB10s, they actually have moderately decent bass to my ear. However, the mids are really lacking and the highs are far too bright and tinny for me. This gives unnecessary prominence to pop vocals and light, airy sounds over the meat of the music. It’s especially apparent listening to a podcast or TV show with someone talking. It sounds akin to a video call.
When I switched over to the Slims, they sounded pretty close to identical. Dare I say they may sound slightly better, but not enough to change my opinion overall. Again, the highs are bright, bass is a bit boomy, and mids could use a boost.
Audio quality isn’t bad by any means, it’s just not as good as what you’d get with more expensive headphones.
I really can’t reiterate enough that really only audiophiles care about this. Do they sound bad? Not at all. They just don’t sound absolutely amazing either.
Features and Battery Life
Both SoundBuds have fairly similar features. They have inline microphones and controls for your music. The NB10s have them right behind the ear for easy access while the Slims have controls on the cord like Apple’s EarPods.
As for battery life, the more expensive SoundBud NB10s get six hours on one charge. The Slims power through for seven hours. I find this a bit odd since the NB10s are larger headphones — you’d think there is more room for battery, but I digress. This is great battery life from headphones under $40.
These are both fantastic headphones catering specifically toward the budget-conscious.
Normally, cheap wireless headphones get 4-5 hours. I expected solid battery life from a company like Anker, known for their charging products, and they delivered.
These are both fantastic headphones catering specifically toward the budget-conscious. If you’re looking for supreme audio quality, you won’t be happy with these. Quite frankly, sound quality is just so-so. But if you want to be able to comfortably listen to your music with style, portability and durability, these are great choices.
Personally, I’d go with the SoundBuds NB10. I like the design and comfort better, plus the higher water resistance rating could come in handy. That said, for their prices, both models of the Anker SoundBuds are solid.