Anker Soundcore Spirit X REVIEW Full sound plenty of accessories
When it comes to in-ear earphones, I find that fit is exponentially more important than sound. Truthfully, it does not matter how good they sound when you feel pain and pressure within your ear canals. Even though I have never considered myself to be a card-carrying member of the audiophile elite, I want quality sound just like everyone else. I have had the pleasure of testing multiple devices from Anker and have yet to be disappointed. From power banks to chargers to cables and now to headphones, I have been impressed with the customer-centric quality products from Anker. The Anker Soundcore Spirit X Wireless Bluetooth Earphones arrived in a 3 7/8 inches wide by 4 inches tall by 2 7/8 inches thick white and blue-green retail box. On the cover, you will find an attractive image of a pair of wireless headphones being removed from the water. Towards your left, you will find “Soundcore by Anker” within a blue 1 3/16 inches wide by 5/8 inches tall rectangle, the black Spirit X title, blue-green SweatGuard, and “Bluetooth,” “12 Hour playtime” and “Remarkable Comfort” icons. Rotating the packaging ninety degrees clockwise, you will find an enlarged side-view of the earcups/ear hooks brilliantly contrasted against a white background. I love that Anker chose to allow the image to stand alone, without overcrowding the panel with text. The reverse panel provided five icons, two detailing the SweatGuard properties and three detailing the sound/power qualities. The packaging stated that the earphones were inspired by submarine technology and had an impermeable nano-coating. Beneath these icons, you will find the same “12 Hour playtime” and “Exceptional In-Ear” icons and an “Incredible Sound” icon. Along the bottom, Anker included a useful “What’s in The Box,” which listed the Spirit X earphones, xs/s/m/l/xl ear tips, s/m/l ear wings, cable clip x2, shirt clip x1, micro USB cable, and travel pouch. The top panel was relatively devoid of writing but employed a neat geometric blue-green checkered pattern. The blue-green bottom panel provided all of the typical product labels, company email, and company contact information. Anker did a great job with the packaging design, colors, and layout. As noted, I appreciated that they chose to use icons/images rather than text.
To access the earphones, the left side of the packaging will easily slide out of the main box. Sitting atop a white cardboard divider, Anker provided a 3 5/8 inches diameter clamshell case. The case was surrounded by 10 1/2 inches of a fine-toothed zipper with single zipper pull. Along the top of the case, there is a 1-inch long clamshell hinge and a small non-weight-bearing carabiner clip. I was pleased with the smooth action of the zipper, with the zipper pull and with the stability of the hinge. The top half of the case was found to be empty but had a roughly 2×2 inch area of mesh with an elastic band across the top. The bottom contained the 0.77 ounces (22 gram) Spirit X Earphones. Anker provided a generous 23 1/2 inches of cable between the earpieces. Located 2 5/8 inches from the right earpiece, I found the 1 6/8 inches long by 3/8 inches wide in-line three-button remote. Along the middle of the cable, I found the secure cable clip, which allowed me to adjust the amount of cable that dangled around my neck. Each ear tip had a removable silicone tip and ear wing and an affixed flexible ear hook. Each of the earpieces was labeled with an R or L, and if you are in a low light situation, you can align the device with the remote towards your right. The remote buttons were labeled with a “+” a “|>” and a “-” icon. The top half of the remote has an easily accessible Micro-USB charging port. There were no accessories within the case and also no instruction manual or charging cable. As I suspected, the instruction manual and accessories were included beneath the cardboard shelf.
Anker provided quite a few accessories with this pair of Earphones. You will find a 23 1/2 inches long USB-A to Micro-USB cable, an eleven language instruction manual, a multi-lingual safety manual, a comment card and two separate opaque bags. The bags contained the extra-small, small, large, and extra large ear tips and the second bag contained the small and large ear wings. The medium ear tips and medium ear wings were pre-installed on the earphones. The first few pages showed the accessories, the method to change out the ear tips/ear wings and how to use a single or double cable clip to shorten the cable around your neck. To turn the earphones on, hold the central multi-function button for 1–2 seconds and listen for the ascending tones. If you hold the button again for three seconds, the device will play a descending tone. There is an LED between the “+” and the “I>” buttons. When you turn the device on, the LED will flash blue. When it is connected, the LED will remain solid blue, and when turning off, the LED will flash once. Before you use the device, you should fully charge it. The micro-USB end of the charging cable fit securely within the micro-USB port on the earphones. While charging, the LED will slowly flash red. When fully charged (45 minutes out of the box), the LED will remain solid blue. To pair the device, hold the center button for 4 seconds, and the LED will rapidly flash blue. You can then access your phone settings, Bluetooth and find the “Soundcore Spirit X.” When you select the earphones from the list, you will hear a series of three ascending beeps. Unlike many other models, the Spirit X Earphones did not provide any vocal cues for power on/power off, or pairing status. The controls proved to be straightforward and easy to navigate. I loved that a single press of the volume up and down buttons adjusted the volume on my iPhone X. There was not a separate volume for the earphones than the iPhone X. A long press of either of the “+” or “-” the volume up/down buttons conveniently changed the track. A short press of the central button will play or pause a song or will answer/hang-up a call. If you hold the central button for 1 second, the earphones will activate Siri and if on a call, you can reject a call or transfer the call back to the phone.
To start the audio tests, I used the Headphone Check App on the iOS App Store. The App showed that the left and right channels of the earphones were appropriately labeled. I then turned to audiocheck.net and ran through the gambit of audio tests. With my iPhone X set to 8 volume clicks, I navigated to the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10–200 Hz) and heard a refreshing rumble starting at 20Hz. There was an intermittent high pitched whining noise from 10Hz-20Hz, which I did not appreciate during music testing. I suspect that this was likely part of the audio file on the website. Using the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22–8 kHz), I was able to hear sound starting at 15kHz. The upper range of the earphones was less dependent upon the earphones and more dependent on my ability to hear. As we age, we lose the upper range of hearing before we lose our lower range. People may refer to this as a muting effect or a dulling. There is a range for the upper sounds, and I can often hear anywhere from 14–16kHz depending on the earphones/volume. My nine-year-old son was able to hear the high pitched sound at 18kHz, which is about right for his age. The maximum ranges of hearing are reported to fall between 20Hz and 20kHz. With the range testing done, I again tested the channels with the Left/Right Stereo Audio Test and then tested the stereo perception using the original binaural recording. If you have never tested “The Real Thing,” prepare to jump and look over your shoulders. This test is my absolute favorite part of the audiocheck.net site, and I love to test it out on unsuspecting friends and family.
I like to test each pair of earphones with a standard set of tracks to allow me to compare Apples-to-Apples. I have added a few new tracks over the past few years but I still like to use the same core group of songs. To test the bass, I love to listen to the bouncing standing bass line of Holly Cole “Train Song.” This song provides a sultry voice with a very pleasing background bass line. The second test track that iI typically use is the Joker Theme from the Dark Knight Rises “Why So Serious?” If you listen from the 3:00 to the 4:00 mark on the track, you will appreciate the ascending grinding bass and then at the 3:27 mark a helicopter-esque call/response between the two earphones. This continues to build from a bass feeling to an audible bass line. The song is very action heavy, and the headphones sounded great. Next, I turned to Cee Lo Green “Bright Lights Bigger City.” I love the opening bass run and the interjected bass pulses up to about the eighteen-second mark. The vocals entered smoothly at the thirty-six-second mark, and the strong bass was accented with smooth vocals. I also love to use “Hotel California” by the Eagles and then the opening from Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones. The Naboo N-1 Starfighters and the J-type 327 Nubian Royal Starship, provided a great bass test and then a good test for the audio/visual sync. The first two tracks of the Gladiator soundtrack sounded great. With these tests complete, I turned to Pandora and listened to the Johnny Cash and Josh Turner channel. The bass vocals from Josh Turner “Long Black Train” were enjoyable as were the sounds from “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire.”
Pleased with the bass testing, I turned to the Far and Away and Braveheart soundtracks to test the upper and mid sounds. The earphones provided smooth uppers and mids and did not feel distorted or muddy. I also like to use Caribbean Blue Enya and the Wandering EP from Yosi Horikawa to show off the staging effects. The earphones provided good round sound from 1 click through 8 clicks on my iPhone X. After these tracks were completed, I listened to “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf, “Chain Breaker” by the Gaither Vocal Band, numerous songs by Anthem Lights and my four favorite songs “Seven Spanish Angels” by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles, “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers and Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Somebody to Love.” I enjoyed songs by the Beach Boys, Alabama, Pentatonix and others from Charlie Puth, Taylor Swift, and Meghan Trainor. The presence of sound is just as important as the pauses and absence of sound. I thank nechstar.com for their list of 8 songs, and for the mention of the Beverly Hills Cop Theme song. Interestingly, I agreed with the songs and had many of them on my standard test tracks. I have now added the Beverly Hills Cop Theme song to my repertoire. Using Amazon Prime Video as well as Movies Anywhere, I enjoyed the ability to watch videos with fully synced audio. The Xfinity App allowed me to enjoy my recorded TV programs and On-Demand features. My wife does not like Big Brother and will not watch it. I enjoyed the first two episodes of Season 20, using the Anker Spirit X Earphones. YouTube was hit or miss, but I have found this to be true for most of the Bluetooth headphones that I have tested.
I was pleased with the earphones and with the accessories. The medium tip/medium ear wings came pre-installed, but the accessories allowed me to customize the fit to my ears. I left the medium ear wings alone and changed to the extra-small ear tips. The smaller tips fit more securely within my ear canals, which enhanced the sound. Additionally, the deeper seated ear tips, combined with the ear wings and ear hooks, eliminated movement of the earphones around my ear. I did notice quite a bit of microphonics without the use of the cable clip. For those who do not know, microphonics is the term used to describe the conversion of the mechanical sound from the cable into the digital sound heard through the earphones. Interestingly, the included cable clips decreased cable movement and improved the overall experience. The earphones will charge to full in 1.5 hours and will provide just at 10 hours of continuous use. I tested this multiple times over the past two weeks and was able to listen for about two hours per night, recharging roughly every 5–6 days. Since I charge most of my devices nightly, I found it easy to add this to my charging station every few days. The earphones remained firmly seated while running, jogging, jumping, doing squats, Burpees, pull-ups and with side-to-side head movement. I did not experience any ear canal fatigue and enjoyed the ability to listen to music and watch movies while lying on a pillow. The flat surface of the earpiece rests mostly within the plane of the earlobe, and the ear hook prevents the ear tip from impaling your ear canal with pressure on the ear.
The Bluetooth range proved to extend to the typical 10 meter (30 foot) range, even with a wall in the way. I did find an occasional connection issue when surrounded by other Bluetooth devices and when placing my phone in my pocket. This was rare and did not interfere with the device testing. The location of the microphone, at the jawline, prevented some ambient noise and wind noise. My wife noted that the sound was reasonable and she liked that it did not sound like I was talking to her from a tunnel. I wish that they would have included oval tips, dual flange tips or foam tips, to provide a near universal fit for these earphones. They are listed as IPX7, suggesting submersion is possible. I do not know that I would swim in them, but rain, sweat and shower water did not slow them down. I have learned to trust Anker products and enjoyed the Spirit X Earphones from Soundcore.
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Originally published at macsources.com on July 2, 2018.