Soundcore C30i review

These budget open-ear buds exhibit some of design's best and worst traits

Anker Soundcore C30i in charging case held up against a blue sky
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Soundcore's entry-level open-ear clip earbuds look and sound good at the price, but their impracticalities can’t be overstated.

Pros

  • +

    Innovative design with secure fit

  • +

    Clear, energetic sound

  • +

    Lengthy battery life

Cons

  • -

    Poor touch controls

  • -

    Ineffective spatial audio

  • -

    Connectivity and software issues

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.

Soundcore C30i: Specifications

Price: $69
Colors:
 Clarity black, white
Battery life (rated): 10 hours, 30 hours (charging case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC
Durability: IPX4 rated
Size: Not stated
Weight: 0.19 ounces (per bud)

The open earbuds market keeps growing at an exponential rate. As tech giants like Bose, JBL, and Sony duke it out for category leader status, we’re seeing accessible brands like Soundcore by Anker trend upward with noteworthy releases across different price points.

Their latest affordable creation, the Soundcore C30i, undercuts premium competitors like the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds by delivering strong sound in a similar design for less than a quarter of the price. Dual device pairing, spatial audio, and voice activation also come part of the package. There’s even an add-on accessory that improves wearability.

Soundcore didn’t fully commit to the basics when developing these buds though, which shows in their awkward control setup and unstable connectivity during my testing. Are the C30i still worth a listen? Read my full review to find out.

Soundcore C30i review: Price and availability

Anker Soundcore C30i with charging case

(Image credit: Future)
  • Only available in the U.S. at the time of writing
  • Available in crystal black or white color options

The Soundcore C30i are sold for $69. They're only on sale in the U.S. right but prices convert to £55 in the U.K. and AU$104 in Australia at today's exchange rates. At the price, they cost similar to many of the best cheap wireless earbuds. They also carry a far lower price tag than Soundcore's flagship AeroFit Pro ($169) and the Bose Open Earbuds Ultra ($299), although these offer better specs to justify the MSRP.

The C30i come in crystal black or white, and can be purchased directly from the Soundcore website or on Amazon.

Soundcore C30i review: Design

Anker Soundcore C30i worn by Alex Bracetti

(Image credit: Future)
  • Stylish and distinguishable
  • Plain-looking charging case
  • Ideal for exercising and outdoor listening

This is one of the more enticing open-ear clip earbuds designs I’ve seen. Soundcore has blended the see-through appearance associated with the Nothing Ear with the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds’ clip-on form. It's more slip-on than clip-on on the C30i though, and they come with attachable grips for optimal stability. The exterior is composed entirely of hard plastic. These are not bendable like the Ultra Open Earbuds, so refrain from stretching them or you’ll break the buds. IPX4 certification means they're protected from sweat and moisture to the same level to the Bose. 

Soundcore’s charging case isn’t as elaborately designed as the buds. Only two details stand out: the translucent lid and the unique charging slots that beautifully display the buds. Everything else is substandard, from the plastic frame to the one LED placed in front for battery level/pairing indication. 

You slide the C30i between the outer part of your ear until the sound port is placed near the concha. Comfort varies based on ear cartilage thickness. The more you have, the more unwanted pressure you’ll feel. I was fine wearing the buds for long stretches throughout the day (5-7 hours sporadically). They provided a pleasant and secure fit during runs. The on-ear design gave full transparency to hear everything around me clearly.

Soundcore C30i review: Features

Anker Soundcore C30i worn by Alex Bracetti

(Image credit: Future)
  • Soundcore app support
  • Very few functional perks
  • Buggy firmware

The C30i are compatible with the Soundcore app. Just don’t expect the wide feature set present in the Soundcore Liberty or Soundcore Space series. You do get upscale listening modes like 3D Surround Sound, along with multipoint technology to pair to two devices at once. That’s about it in terms of prime extras. Rounding things out are battery indicators for both earbuds and the charging case, control customization, and prompt tones.

Soundcore's EQ wasn’t available at launch, but a new software update added it. If only it was downloadable; my unit kept giving me “an error occurred” message.

Soundcore C30i review: Controls

Soundcore C30i worn by Alex Bracetti testing touch controls

(Image credit: Future)
  • One of worst touch control setups
  • No single-tap gesture or wear detection
  • Reliable digital assistance

Most open earbuds come with multifunctional buttons for operation, but the C30i buck the trend by employing touch panels. I wish they didn’t. Soundcore placed them on the back, which was a bad decision and makes locating them more difficult. Touch accuracy is off as well.

The buds accept double/triple taps and the long-hold gesture. These can be assigned to different functions: call management, digital assistant, playback, and volume. There isn’t a single tap function, which is bewildering. Wear detection to auto-pause content is absent too.

At least the digital assistant works well. Google Assistant and Siri can be enabled manually, and the former can be activated via wake-word phrase (“Hey Google”). Soundcore's mic array demonstrates solid speech recognition to execute commands with ease.

Soundcore C30i review: Sound quality

Soundcore C30i control app

(Image credit: Future)
  • Satisfying soundstage
  • Underwhelming spatial audio
  • Let in too much ambient noise

Audio on open earbuds has gotten a lot better. The C30i are proof. These buds do a commendable job of balancing airy mids with punchy lows for lively listens.

Frequency range was adequate on contemporary tracks with heavy basslines. Press play on Kendrick Lamar’s “Euphoria” for reference. The introductory horns and snappy snares were loud and vibrant, while the rapper’s aggressive vocals showed great articulation over the upbeat production.

Mids soared higher on bluesy recordings like Teddy Swims’ “Lose Control.” Vocal reproduction took center stage, which made it simpler to follow the individual’s gritty and soulful singing. Reverberation was also impressive, as the brass stabs, drum strikes, and electrifying riffs provided plenty of depth with wide acoustical presentation. 

Higher data rate handling audio codecs like aptX Adaptive and LDAC are MIA, but their omissions don’t hurt playback. SBC and AAC perform well when using the best music streaming services on my iOS/macOS or Android device.  

These buds could have done without Soundcore’s 3D Surround Sound mode. In my tests, everything sounded hollow and lacks realism. Furthermore, the open design allows too much ambient noise onto the soundstage.

Soundcore C30i review: Call quality and connectivity

Soundcore C30i worn by Alex Bracetti testing call quality

(Image credit: Future)
  • Weak voice calling
  • Finicky wireless performance

I wouldn’t recommend the C30i as a calling headset. While calls were clear on my end, several people complained about background noise and my voice sounding tinny. You’ll be lucky to hold a conversation in quiet settings. 

Bluetooth 5.3 provided fast pairing and up to 50 feet of wireless range. Dual connectivity worked well for the most part, allowing me to seamlessly switch from my Android phone to my MacBook Pro and vice versa. I did encounter some connectivity troubles. The buds would occasionally stay connected to my last used device when stored in the charging case (this drained power overnight). There were several times when only one bud was working, which forced me to reset and re-pair the entire unit for stereo sound. Let’s not forget the firmware update issue either.

Anker Soundcore C30i review: Battery life

Anker Soundcore C30i in charging case held up against a blue sky

(Image credit: Future)
  • Last longer than most open earbuds and wireless earbuds
  • Substantial quick charging

You’re getting up to 10 hours per charge and up to 30 hours via charging case. That’s higher than some of the best wireless earbuds and the pricier Ultra Open Earbuds (7.5 hours from buds and 27 hours with charging case). Be advised that battery drainers such as high volume and spatial audio drop playtime by about 2 to 3 hours, depending on usage. Soundcore’s quick charging technology fills up the power tank at a speedy rate: a 10-minute charge equals 3 hours of listening time.

Soundcore C30i review: Verdict

The Soundcore C30i are a nifty attempt at inexpensive open earbuds that could also use plenty of polishing. Battery life and sound are powerful, plus the design is attractive and fit-friendly for most ear shapes. However, Anker didn’t think every component through, specifically the controls, which are frustrating to access and enable. Other disappointments are the limited feature set and software bugs.

Is the budget price enough to compensate listeners? Certainly. Are there better options? Yes, but they’re all significantly more expensive. The C30i’s value should increase once Soundcore fixes the bugs. Until then, you can work around the functional flaws and enjoy their dynamic sound or settle for something pricier that offers more performance.

More from Tom's Guide

Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.

  • Mos Chops
    The reason they don't have a single tap option is the control surface is on the rear so it avoids accidental activation if your ear buds are flapping around. I've read reviews on Amazon where someone complained of that - but they did say they had especially large and flappy ears. I don't have that problem thank goodness although my ears are fairly large.

    My larger ears causes another issue which is that the sound producing point is further from my ear canal than someone with small ears or minimal lobes. That means I don't get as much bass athough I did boost the bass a bit with the app and that helped. The preset "bass" option was too much and muffled.

    They do get loud enough with most sources - enough to block out the outside world. However it can sound tinny to me. If I press the buds a little bit further into my ear they sound great but as soon as I release it goes back to normal.

    I agree on the spatial sound option - it's pretty much worthless.

    I like that the tap options can be set up differently for each ear although maybe that is standard. But at least I can do vol up/down, next/prev, pause, assistant all from tapping but triple tap can be a bit hard to hit right and I find if I lightly hold the bud between my thumb and middle finger and tap with the index it often doesn't register. I think the swipe up/down would be great for volume but you'd want that on the front.
    Reply