Soundcore, the newer audio subsidiary of Anker Electronics, has made a name for itself in the audio community for producing a variety of performant and feature rich wireless headphones and earbuds at relatively inexpensive prices.
The A20i and Life A3i are both inexpensive non-stemmed earbuds with interesting designs and features. The A20i is relatively new but has quickly become one of the most popular budget earbuds on the market – my review of it is in fact currently one of the most trafficked articles on this entire site. And while the Life A3i is a little older, it remains very popular and, according to many reviewers, is still one of the best performing value wireless earbuds you can get.
So how do they compare to each other? Is one decidedly better than the other? I have fully reviewed both of them and will answer those questions here.
Soundcore A20i vs Life A3i Side by Side at a Glance
Soundcore A20i vs Life A3i Noteworthy Specs and Features Comparison
|price-tier ⓘbudget: around $30 or less
value: around $30-$60
performance: around $60-$100
premium: around $100-$200
elite: more than $200
|6mm single dynamic driver
|10mm single dynamic driver
|earbuds battery life
|total + case battery life
|active noise cancellation
|EQ app compatibility
|yes (pre-sets only)
Spec wise the A20i and Life A3i are indeed mostly similar, but the two significant differences between the two are touch based vs button based controls, and the ability to create a a custom EQ profile with the Life A3i but not the A20i.
Does the Soundcore A20i or Life A3i Have Better External Noise Blocking?
While the A20i has relatively decent natural isolation for its design style, the isolation of the Life A3i is a bit better, and when you add active noise cancellation on top of that, the Life A3i has significantly better external noise blocking than the A20i does. While the external noise blocking of the Life A3i is quite good overall, I wouldn’t say it’s quite the best you can get at the ~$50 price point.
Winner: Life A3i
Does the Soundcore A20i or Life A3i Have a Better Case?
Despite the Life A3i earbuds being on the somewhat large and bulky side, the case manages to be slightly smaller overall, though is still slightly thicker. The sides and lid hinge of the Life A3i case also feel more dense and sturdy. The A20i case does have the included lanyard and hook which the Life A3i does not have.
Winner: Life A3i
Does the Soundcore A20i or Life A3i Have Better Onboard Control Usability?
The A3i has buttons on the sides of the earbuds that you kind of squeeze to activate rather than having to push in on the back of the earbud. I’ve never seen this kind of design on a TWS earbud and I have to say I really like it, if not only for it being an original alternative. The A20i has standard touch based onboard controls, but I found them to be easy and reliable to use. You can also customize the control schematic for both of these earbuds in the Soundcore app. I would say the “better” choice is a matter of personal preference here.
Does the A20i or Life A3i Have Better Fit and Comfort?
While I was ultimately able to achieve a seal that didn’t break with both of them, the Life A3i fit felt better and more secure. Getting a proper fit with the A20i required some finicking and ultimately felt a little too shallow for me personally. Also, the tips that come with the Life A3i are much better than the rough/matte style tips that come with the A20i in my opinion.
Winner: Life A3iA note before the next section: this page describes how I evaluate the sound quality of headphones and earbuds.
Does the Soundcore A20i or Life A3i Sound Better?
While both the A20i and Life A3i are compatible with the Soundcore app, you can only choose one of the pre-sets with the A20i, while with the Life A3i you can additionally create a custom EQ curve, and the ability to do that can significantly improve sound quality, both objectively and subjectively to your personal tastes.
Why Soundcore makes custom EQ possible with some earbuds and not others is somewhat of a mystery to me. Maybe there are firmware limitations with budget wireless earbuds if I had to wager a guess. In any case, the A20i is limited by the issues of Soundcore’s more recent tuning style – something which I’ve discussed many times now – and, in comparison to the Life A3i, is a bit too bassy, narrow, and lacking in detail.
Though the Life A3i has the same default tuning issues, it does still sound a little bit better out of the box than the A20i does, and with the subsequent custom EQ adjustments I was able to achieve a sound that felt decently balanced and detailed, with the seeming fuzziness going away. While the A3i with EQ improvements still doesn’t sound best in class for its price-point, it does sound good overall.
Winner: Life A3i
Which Should You Choose Between the Soundcore A20i or Life A3i?
While the A20i is a perfectly decent cheap-as-possible option, I think that the relative improvements that the Life A3i brings are definitely worth the marginal price increase – I’d rather just spend around $50 for a great pair of earbuds than save around $25 to go with a pair that merely feels passable. And for that reason, I’d say the Life A3i is the clearly better choice of the two.
Get the A20i wireless earbuds on Amazon (affiliate link)
Get the Life A3i wireless earbuds on Amazon (affiliate link)