Soundcore is the newer audio subsidiary of Anker, a prolific electronics company, and now produces a wide variety of popular wireless headphones and portable speakers.
The Life P3i is a stemmed true wireless earbud that has button based onboard controls, which is now something that’s much less common than touch based controls but is still something that a lot of people like and prefer. So how does the Life 3Pi fare against the increasingly stiff and evolving competition in the budget TWS niche? Let’s dive in.
Specs and Features at a Glance
- single 10mm dynamic driver
- active noise cancellation, transparency modes
- 9h earbuds/ 36h total with case purported battery life
- rapid partial recharge (2hr in 10 min)
- Bluetooth v5.2
- 1.5 year warranty
I looked everywhere but could not find an official IP code given to the Life 3Pi, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen – almost all TWS products have at least IPX4 water resistance in 2023. The similar Life P3 does have IPX5 water resistance though. I imagine the Life 3Pi is probably fine for basic outdoor and active use? But don’t quote me on that.
Update: they do have IPX5 water resistance, which I finally found in a spec comparison table of one of Soundcore’s other products.
Soundcore has an 18 month warranty on its budget earbuds which is somewhat better than the minimal 1 year warranty that most budget wireless earbuds have.
Packaging is pretty minimal but the fitted plastic packing piece seems decent enough to protect things during shipping.
Fit and Comfort
The Life 3Pi fits very comfortably and securely. I was able to easily achieve a proper seal that didn’t break at all no matter how I moved my head, face, or jaw around.
Stemmed earbuds tend have a lighter and shallower fit, but the Life 3Pi has a deeper feeling seal that’s closer to what traditional non-stemmed in ear monitors feel like – which I personally like. If you like the stemmed design, but also want the feel of a more traditional earphone, the Life 3Pi is a nice best of both worlds here.
Taking the buds off and putting them back on is also easy. You have to do a little push and twist to lock the tips in – just rotate the stems a bit forward from the bottom.
Stemmed earbuds with smaller housings and shallower nozzles tend to have relatively poor natural isolation but the Life P3i has surprisingly decent isolation without ANC turned on (you can turn either ANC or transparency mode off if you don’t need it, which extends battery life).
With ANC on the overall noise attenuation is excellent for the price, and honestly not far off from premium industry leading ANC earbuds (that cost multiple times more). High and sharper sounds do get through a little more, but overall the Life P3i has great isolation for non expensive wireless earbuds.
Most true wireless earbuds now use purely touch based onboard controls, which can sometimes be finnicky and unreliable, but Soundcore still makes a variety of earbuds that have button based controls, and this includes the Life 3Pi.
Sometimes buttons have their own issues, like they require an amount of force to press that’s enough to move an earbud and mess up the fit, or is otherwise just painful or uncomfortable. The Life 3Pi buttons are good though – they give a nicely emphatic and feelable click. The travel of the buttons is good as well, meaning they don’t require too much force to depress, and I didn’t run into any issues of accidentally moving the buds and messing up the fit or seal.
The default Soundcore control schematic is a little random and nonsensical – there’s no reset/backtrack command and the cycling between modes is mapped to both the left and right earbud which is redundant and pointless. Also the transparency mode isn’t in the mode cycling by default.
But, in the Soundcore app, you can add transparency into the mode cycling function and change each of the six commands to whatever function you want, including a reset/backtrack command that you can add in. I just gave it one of the two spots that mode cycling was mapped to and that solved the usability issue. Why doesn’t Soundcore just have it this way out of the box? I really have no idea, but whatever.
Pairing the Life 3Pi is easy and straightforward – just open the case with the buds still inside, after an initial charge, and they’ll automatically enter pairing mode. Simply select “Soundcore Life 3Pi” from the menu and you’re good to go.
Charging Carrying Case
The Life 3Pi case feels sturdy and decent enough. The lid hinge also feels solid, which is often a place of flimsiness with budget wireless earbud cases. The little edge that protrudes that makes opening it easier is kind of neat too. And all the while the case manages to stay relatively light and compactA note before the next section: this page describes how I evaluate the sound quality of headphones and earbuds.
The Important Question: Does the Life 3Pi Sound Good?
The out of the box the tuning, which defaults to the “Soundcore Signature” in the app, is very bassy with slow roll off towards the top. The accuracy is decent overall, but the balance is somewhat off – as a result there’s some lack of detail in the mid-highs and the vocals sound kind of far away and stuffed behind the bass. I’m seeing this default style of tuning more and more but I just don’t think it’s that good.
But we have a the Soundcore EQ app! which the Life P3i is compatible with, and unlike some of the other newer and very broken apps the Soundcore App is actually decent:
The app has a bunch of alternative pre-sets to the default “Soundcore Signature” that are each designed for various genres or listening purposes in general, like “rock”, “pop”, and “spoken word/podcast” for example. I quickly tried some pre-sets just to see how they sounded and how their curves looked in the app, but none of them noticeably improved the musical issues I found with the default tuning. Onto the custom EQ option then:
You can slide the EQ up and down at eight points along the response range and when you start moving one a little icon pops up saying +/-X dB so you know where you’re at there. It’s very easy and usable, much more so than some of the other EQ apps out there that frankly need a lot of work.
Anyway, I did quite a lot of tweaking using various songs and the above is the best I was able to come up with, and I do think it improved the Life 3Pi sound profile considerably. Bumping the mid-highs up brought the vocals forward and gave high percussions and vocal consonants the detail that I felt was missing. The rest of the styling helped mitigate some resultant thin sounding sibilance. I feel like this got the Life P3i sounding about as good as it can, especially in the context of most casual users not being willing to micro-tweak an EQ app for hours on end.
So how is the sound quality “at its best”? Solid, but not best in class. There’s a little sibilance and general suck out, and the accuracy and detail isn’t quite all there. Single 10mm earbud drivers are nice for deep and satisfyingly thumpy bass, but they generally can’t quite get that nice crisp detail that a smaller or multi driver design can achieve.
The bass feels a little loose as well, no matter how I tune it up or down. There’s a bit of tone loss there as well. The bass extension is decent – the drops I normally test got all the way down, but there was a bit of noticeable roll off and jump back.
If you’re looking for a stemmed earbud that still has a deeper and secure feeling fit, and you want button based onboard controls, and you’re willing to spend at least a little time optimizing things with an EQ app, then I think the Life 3Pi is a very solid choice for the price.
But I strongly recommend using the EQ app with the Life 3Pi, even if just to choose a different preset that sounds better to you than the “Soundcore Signature” default tuning, which is not that great. With EQ tinkering the overall fidelity of the 3Pi is very solid, but not quite best in class for the price. Still, I do think a lot of people will like it though.
Get the Soundcore Life 3Pi on Amazon (affiliate link)
For those who are curious how the Life P3i fares against similar and popular competitors:
• Soundcore Life P3i vs QCY T13
• Soundcore Life P3i vs Soundcore Life A3i
• Soundcore Life P3i vs Soundcore Life P2i
• Soundcore Life P3i vs Soundcore Life P3
• Soundcore Life P3i vs SoundPEATS Capsule3 Pro
• Soundcore Life P3i vs Soundcore P20i