Soundcore Sleep A20 Review

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In the video above, I cover all the features of the Soundcore Sleep A20 and share the results of some tests I did to see how well they mask external noise. I also compare the size and comfort alongside some other headphones and earplugs. If you prefer to read about them rather than watch, you’ll find a summary and the entire video transcript below.


Summary

The Soundcore Sleep A20 earbuds strike a good balance between comfort, audio quality, features, and value for money. I think if comfort in different sleep positions is your main priority, then these may be as good as it gets at the moment. I’m able to wear them all night, even as a predominantly side and front sleeper.

Their small size is in part due to the lack of active noise cancellation, which those who prefer silence to audio might miss. But in several tests I did, I found they can mask noise like snoring and music very well using the sleep sounds on the app or your own audio.

Pros

  • Comfortable in all sleep positions.
  • Good audio quality for sleep headphones.
  • Long battery life.
  • You can stream your own audio.
  • White noise and nature sounds mask external noise well.
  • Stable Bluetooth connection.
  • Option to turn your phone off in sleep mode.
  • Useful features like tap controls and Find Device.

Cons

  • No active noise cancellation.
  • Changing the wings and tips can be fiddly.
  • Unreliable sleep tracking, mistaking being still with asleep sometimes.
  • Only four audio files at a time in sleep mode, none of your own audio.
  • Confusing app.

Price: At the time of writing, they cost £119.99 in the UK and $149.99 in the US.


Full review / video transcript

Please note that I’ve edited the transcript a little to make it read better. I’ve also added a few extra notes I thought would be useful.

Soundcore Sleep A20 earbuds and case

Introduction

The Soundcore Sleep A20 have ticked a key box that’s rarely ticked when I review sleep headphones. All too often, when I test headphones in bed I end up removing them after an hour or two because they’re uncomfortable. But I’ve had no problem wearing the A20s all night long on the many nights I’ve used them in the last month.

Before I dive into the review, I think it’s important to clarify one of the main reasons they’re so comfortable, and that’s because their very small size is largely possible because they don’t have active noise cancellation. The good news is that they make up for the lack of ANC with a ton of white noise and ambient and nature sounds on the app, which you can use to mask noise. You can also play your own audio if you prefer.

Later in the video, I’ll be talking about some tests I did to see how well they block out snoring and music, as well as how they compared to some other headphones. But before I do, let’s take a closer look at the earbuds.

In the photo below, I’m wearing the Sleep A20 on my back. They are very comfortable in this position, as many earbuds are. The real difference is when you lie on your side or front as their small size is more practical than standard headphones.

man wearing soundcore sleep A20 earbuds

Parts and earbuds close up

They arrived in a small and smart-looking box. The earbuds are housed in a round-shaped case, which has a beige color and a smooth feel. It takes a while to get used to opening the case as the top slides open rather than flips, and the arrow symbol is very small.

The earbuds are remarkably small with interchangeable wings and tips so you can get a good fit. The tips have a double layer to improve noise isolation, though they aren’t as effective as earplugs if you don’t play audio in my experience. I like the wing shape, which helps them sit flush in your ear without falling out. The material feels like very soft silicone, and they do feel much softer in your ears than earbuds with solid plastic shells.

In the photo below, you can see all the parts that came with the Soundcore Sleep A20 – the earbuds, case, charging cable, extra wings and tips, user guide, and box.

Soundcore Sleep A20earbuds, case, charging cable, extra wings and tips, user guide, and box.

They come with three different wing sizes as well as seven different sizes and styles of tips. Some supposedly increase airflow while others block more noise, but I haven’t noticed much difference between them, to be honest. It’s great that there are so many sizes though, and both my partner and I have managed to get a really good fit with them. Changing the wings and tips is a bit fiddly, but it’s worth experimenting with the different sizes to get the most comfortable and effective seal.

There’s also a very short USB-C to USB charging cable and an easy-to-understand instruction manual. All in all, they look good out of the box, with enough options to customise them for your ears.

Battery life

One big plus with the A20s is the really long battery life. I found that as long as you don’t use them extensively during the daytime as well, you just don’t need to worry about them dying during the night.

When fully charged, the earbuds will apparently last up to 14 hours in sleep mode or 10 hours in Bluetooth mode at moderate volume levels, and you get up to 80 hours total time with the additional charge in the case, which is great. You can also see the battery life of each earbud in the app, which is very useful.

I streamed continuous music from Spotify on my phone at 50% volume during the day and got just over nine hours from one charge. The battery life for the case is so long that I don’t particularly worry about this though. As long as I remember to charge it once a week, the earbuds never seem to die on me.

App sleep sounds & main features

The Soundcore app is great in many ways because it has so many useful features but can be a little bit frustrating to use at times. The main thing to understand is that there are two main modes: Bluetooth mode and sleep mode.

In Bluetooth mode, you can play any audio you like through your device, so it’s great that you can use other relaxation apps, YouTube, or Spotify, for example. In Bluetooth mode, you can also browse and select which sleep sounds you want in sleep mode.

You can see that my library here only has three sounds, with a maximum of four that you can currently send to your earbuds to use in sleep mode. And in the sounds, there’s a range of presets and custom options to build your own.

Below, you can see some of the noise masking presets on the app. You can also go into the custom section and choose single sounds, like rain or crickets, or combine up to three to make your own presets that you can then save on the earbuds.

soundcore sleep A20 app screen showing noise masking sounds

You can combine three of them, such as rain, river, and crickets, and I found this helps make the short loops on less constant sounds less noticeable. You can also adjust the volume of all three independently and then use the tune sounds feature, which I really like. And actually, it makes a huge difference to the way they sound – it’s not a subtle change at all. This feature comes up later in my noise masking tests because I found ‘soft’ makes the sounds bassier and therefore better at blocking snoring.

Once you’ve chosen your sounds, you can transfer them to your earbuds, and then when you go into sleep mode, you can listen to them and even turn your phone off if you like.

There are a couple of other key features to note here. Firstly, you can stream your own audio and use Smart Switch to change to the sleep sounds when you fall asleep, but since I don’t trust the sleep tracking, I don’t bother with that.

You also have Smart Volume, which adjusts the volume automatically as the earbuds’ microphone picks up changes in the bedroom audio, but again, I don’t use that because I prefer a more constant volume.

So the app has some great features, but it does take a bit of getting used to, and I think it’s a shame that one of the best features, the equalizer, is hidden behind several button presses. I experimented with all the sleep sounds and various weird combinations like the cat drinking, singing bowls, and keyboard. In the end, the one I’ve used most nights is just the spaceship. It’s kind of like a distant fan sound in a cave, and I just really like the sound.

Comfort & size comparisons with other devices

In the photo below, you can see how they compare to other earbuds. From left to right: Philips Kokoon, Soundcore Sleep A20, Quieton 3.1, Apple AirPods Pro 2.

Soundcore Sleep A20, Philips Kokoon, Quieton 3.1, Apple AirPods Pro 2

For me, the best point about the Soundcore Sleep A20 is that they manage to balance being comfortable enough to use in bed with audio quality that’s more than good enough for bedtime listening, and actually, better than previous sleep headphones I’ve used.

To give you a better idea, here you can see them compared to the Philips sleep headphones with Kokoon, which I’ll refer to as Philips Kokoon in this video, the Quieton 3.1, which are no longer sold but were also very small, and the Apple AirPods Pro 2.

The AirPods Pro 2 are the only ones with active noise cancellation and audio, and you can see the difference in size that the extra tech creates. The Philips Kokoon were previously the most comfortable sleep earbuds I’d tried, so it’s interesting that the shape and interchangeable wings concept is so similar. And here you can see them with my favorite foam earplugs, which themselves are on the smaller side.

Pillow comfort test

To compare the comfort, I spent a week wearing each option and gave them a score out of 10 when lying on my back or on my side and front with different pillows.

DeviceAny pillow (Back)Feather pillow (Front / side)Memory foam pillow (Front / side)Total
Nothing in ear10101030
Soundcore Sleep A2099826
Acousticsheep Sleepphones99826
Foam earplugs99826
Philips Kokoon79824
Quieton 3.198623
Apple Airpods Pro 285114

You can see in this table that on my back, I gave the A20, SleepPhones, Quieton, and foam earplugs a 9 out of 10.

On my side with a soft feather pillow, the A20, Philips Kokoon, SleepPhones, and earplugs all got a 9. On my side or front with a firmer memory foam pillow, though, the earplugs, SleepPhones, A20, and Philips all got an 8 out of 10.

Overall, the foam earplugs, SleepPhones, and A20 came equal first with 26 out of 30 points, but earplugs obviously can’t play music, so that just leaves the SleepPhones matching the A20 for comfort as a like-for-like comparison.

Despite my test, it’s important to remember that comfort is a subjective thing, and you might not have the same experience as me. I have quite large ears and ear canals, and I find that the A20s fit quite snugly inside, but even I have to make some small adjustments to the angle of my head sometimes when I lie on my side, particularly if I’m using a firmer pillow.

Compared to bulkier headphones, though, I think it’s very easy to find a comfortable position. But if you have very small or sensitive ears or a very firm pillow and sleep a lot on your side, it’s possible you’ll find them less comfortable.

Below, you can see how well the Soundcore Sleep A20 fit inside my ear:

man wearing soundcore sleep a20 in left ear

Audio quality

Okay, let’s talk about the audio side of the A20s. Personally, I was really surprised by how good they sound considering they were made specifically for sleep, but I do think it’s relative to what you’re used to.

If you listen to high-end headphones or a speaker system during the daytime and then you suddenly switch to the A20, you’re going to notice a drop in overall quality. For example, compared to my Sony WF-1000XM4, the bass isn’t as punchy or rounded, and music lacks a bit of warmth.

However, if you’re listening to more basic speakers or normal headphones, not really high-end headphones, and then you switch to the A20 at night, then I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised by how good they sound. And perhaps most importantly, the audio quality is better than any other sleep headphones I’ve tested.

One caveat is that I didn’t test the discontinued Bose Sleepbuds 2 or the Ozlo, but they definitely sound better than the SleepPhones, the Philips Kokoon, the Cozyphones, MaxRock, Dubslabs Bedphones, and all the other budget sleep headbands I’ve tried. And by better, I mean more bass, richer sound, clearer mids and highs, and more volume than all of those.

Noise masking tests

I also did some different tests to see how well they mask external noise without active noise cancellation, as well as how well they compare to other headphones and foam earplugs.

Test 1: moderate snoring

For the first test, I tried different sleep sounds on the app as well as some brown noise from YouTube to try and mask moderate snoring. I played a snoring track next to me in bed through the Soundcore Boom 2 Plus Bluetooth speaker and set the volume so that it peaked at 55 decibels.

Device and audio usedBlocks /10Tolerable?
A20 – no audio4yes
A20 – 2 rain tracks, 70% volume8yes
A20 – train + brown noise, tune soft, 50% volume10yes
A20 – snore mask 1 and 2 + brown noise, 70% volume10yes
A20 – YouTube brown noise, 70% volume10yes
Sleepphones – YouTube brown noise, 70% volume10yes
Philips Kokoon – YouTube brown noise, 70% volume5yes
Airpods Pro 2 – just ANC9yes
Airpods Pro 2 – YouTube brown noise, 50% volume10yes
Foam earplugs (Mack’s Ultra Soft)9yes

You can see in this table that with no audio at all they don’t block much snoring, but I was able to completely block the snoring in various different ways, shown as a 10 out of 10. I had the best results from combining multiple sounds such as snoring mask 1 and 2 along with brown noise. I could also completely block it using my own brown noise track on YouTube.

Test 2: severe snoring

For the second test, I turned the volume up to a level that would be considered severe snoring, peaking at 65 decibels.

Device and audio usedBlocks /10Tolerable?
A20 – no audio2yes
A20 – snore mask 1 and 2, 70% volume6yes
A20 – snore mask 1 and 2 + brown noise, max volume10no
A20 – train + brown noise, tune soft, 80% volume10maybe
A20 – 2 rain tracks, max volume9no
A20 – YouTube brown noise, 70% volume8yes
Sleepphones – YouTube brown noise, 70% volume6yes
Philips Kokoon – YouTube brown noise, 70% volume3yes
Airpods Pro 2 – just ANC6yes
Foam earplugs8yes

This time it was impossible to completely mask the snoring without playing audio at a volume that would be hard to sleep with and probably bad for your hearing. The closest I got to a tolerable level was combining the train and brown noise, tuning it to soft and turning the volume up to 80%, but even that was hard to listen to for long. Unfortunately, the reality is that severe snoring right next to you in bed is incredibly difficult to fully block out.

Test 3: music in an adjacent room

In my third test, I played some electronic music in the room next door quite loudly.

Device and audio usedBlocks /10Tolerable?
A20 – no audio3yes
A20 + train + brown noise, tune soft, 50% volume10yes
A20 + 2 rain tracks, 70% volume9yes
A20 + YouTube brown noise, 70% volume10yes
Sleepphones + YouTube brown noise, 70% volume9yes
Philips Kokoon + YouTube brown noise, 70% volume6yes
Airpods Pro 2 + YouTube brown noise, 70%  volume10yes
Airpods Pro 2 just ANC6yes
Foam earplugs8yes

This was easier to block out than the severe snoring, and I was able to do so with various different app sound combinations and volume levels. The brown noise and train tuned soft or double rain both worked well, for example.

Test 4: app sounds at 50% volume Vs light snoring

In test 4, I played lighter snoring and tested multiple app sounds at a reasonable volume of 50%. Personally, I could listen to any of these at that volume level.

App sounds at 50% volume (all tolerable)Blocks /10
White noise5
Pink noise6
Brown noise7
Snore mask 18
Snore mask  27
Pink + brown + snore mask 1, tune soft10
Rain4
Rain + rain + thunder5
River + ocean + seaside5
Wind + storm + campfire, tune soft9
Forest night + birds 1 + birds  25
Airplane + spaceship10
Train, tune soft9
Divine meditation, tune soft7

Again, I found that combining sounds such as the airplane and spaceship was the most effective way to block the snoring.

Test 5: music and podcasts Vs snoring

In my final test, I played some songs and a podcasts to see which would mask snoring peaking at 60 decibels.

Song/Podcast70% volume (tolerable) Blocks /10Max volume (too loud) Blocks /10
Chicane – Saltwater710
Boogie Belgique – Goodnight Moon710
Eagles – Hotel California710
Taylor Swift – Fortnight610
The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun610
Ali Farka Touré – Ruby610
Bob Marley – Could You Be Loved510
Claude Debussy – Clair de Lune410
Calm Sleep Stories – Stephen Fry – Blue Gold38
BBC Earth Podcast – Reflections37

At a tolerable volume level for me of 70%, none of them completely blocked it, though a few songs got close such as “Saltwater” by Chicane. Interestingly, all the songs but neither podcast completely blocked the snoring at maximum volume, but again it was too loud to listen to.

So I think the key takeaways from my audio test are that even without the active noise cancellation, with the right audio choice, you can use the A20s to block out light to moderate snoring and music from another room. For severe snoring, you might be able to take the edge off but probably not block it out completely. And importantly, the bass was better than other sleep headphones and so it did a better job of blocking out noise than those did.

Noise isolation

As for the noise isolation, in case you’re wondering, it’s actually really good. I also asked my partner to have a listen when I was playing different songs, and she said she couldn’t hear anything unless I had the volume turned right up, which I don’t generally do in bed anyway.

Sleep tracking feature

One of my biggest criticisms of the Soundcore Sleep A20 is that the sleep tracking doesn’t seem very accurate. I think probably the biggest issue is that they only use an accelerometer to infer your sleep stages and there’s no heart rate monitor. And for me, they make the classic mistake of thinking that you’re asleep when you’re just in bed lying still.

Below, you can see a typical sleep stage graph on one of the nights I wore the Sleep A20.

Soundcore Sleep A20 sleep tracking graph on a phone

For example, on one particular night, if you compare the data of my Eight Sleep Pod 3 cover with the Soundcore Sleep A20, you can see the A20 say I fell asleep at 10:54. The Eight Sleep correctly recorded that I was awake in bed though and didn’t fall asleep until 11:37.

So if the sleep tracking is unreliable, it means that the Smart Switch feature and the Audio Timer are going to be a bit hit or miss. So personally, I don’t use the Smart Switch feature. And for the Audio Timer, I either set it to two hours or for the whole night, and that seems to more than make up for the fact that it doesn’t really know when I’m falling asleep.

Other issues with the sleep tracking are that there’s only deep sleep recorded, no REM sleep, and there are no trends over time. But that makes sense because if you take the earbuds out in the middle of the night, it only records two or three hours sleep, for example.

The only sleep tracking points I did like were the times you roll over and the percentage spent in one position, but even those aren’t particularly useful as I already know I sleep on my right side and sometimes roll over in the night.

So personally, I don’t use the sleep tracking. I wouldn’t miss it if it wasn’t there, and I’m just glad that you can fully enjoy the audio without the sleep tracking. And there is part of me that wonders whether it would have been better to completely ignore sleep tracking and just focus on the comfort and the audio, which they do so well anyway. Maybe there would also be some extra space for some more files in the sleep mode rather than just the four.

Other useful features and points to know

Let’s run through a few other points to note about the Soundcore Sleep A20.

Alarm

I think the alarm feature is very useful; it’s always good to have an alarm that doesn’t wake your partner up, but it obviously relies on you wearing them all night.

Customisable tap controls

I like how you can customise the controls and have a different control on each earbud with a double or triple tap. However, I personally just have them set to turn the volume up or down with a double tap because I find the triple tap too fiddly and it doesn’t always work.

Snug fit

I really like how well they stay in your ear; mine haven’t fallen out once during the month I’ve used them.

Bluetooth connection or sleep sounds with your phone off

The Bluetooth connection seems very stable, and I’ve had no problems with it. I also like how my sleep audio automatically plays when I take them out of the case at bedtime, and it’s great that you can turn your phone off if you want to and just listen to the sounds stored on the earbuds.

Robust / accidental water test!

They seem relatively robust, and actually even though there’s no waterproof rating, I dropped my right earbud in a glass of water two weeks ago and after drying it with a hair dryer and leaving it for a couple of days, it’s been fine.

Obviously, I don’t know if it will slowly degrade over time and just conk out one day, but for now, it seems to have survived.

Find device

The Find Device is a really useful feature. If they do fall out, you can make each earbud beep independently to find them.

Custom EQ

I really like the custom EQ, which is great if you want to boost the bass of your music, for example. You can also use it to try and mask external noise that’s disturbing you more effectively.

Price

As for the price, at the time of filming, they cost £119.99 in the UK and $149.99 in the US, for example. While more expensive than some standard headphones, they are more affordable than high-end headphones and also less than the Philips Kokoon and similar to the SleepPhones Effortless.


Pros

Before I give you my final verdict, let’s have a quick look through the main pros and cons as I see them. Starting with the pros, they’re comfortable to wear all night in any sleep position. The audio quality is very good for sleep headphones. They have excellent battery life. You can stream your own audio. The customizable white noise and nature sounds mask external noise well. They have a stable Bluetooth connection or an offline sleep mode with your phone off, and there are useful extra features like tap controls and Find Device.

Cons

As for the cons, there’s no active noise cancellation. Changing the wings and tips can be fiddly. The sleep tracking is unreliable, mistaking being still with asleep sometimes. You can only store four audio files at a time in sleep mode and none of your own audio, and the app is a bit confusing to use.

Verdict

My final verdict is that the Soundcore Sleep A20 strike a really good balance between comfort, audio quality, features, and value for money. I think if comfort in different sleep positions is your main priority when choosing sleep headphones, then these are as good as it gets at the moment, with the exception of maybe one or two of the headband styles which are also comfortable to wear in bed.

As I said at the beginning though, for earbuds, it’s very rare that I can wear them all night long considering I spend so much time on my side or my front.

Compared to other sleep headphones and many regular headphones, the audio quality is surprisingly good. While they don’t match high-end headphones, they deliver clear sound and enough bass to enjoy a wide range of music genres, ambient sounds, and podcasts in bed.

As for the lack of active noise cancellation, if that’s what it takes for them to be this small with current technology, I’m okay with that. I found they’re capable of masking a lot of external noise with the customizable sleep sounds or your own audio anyway, so I don’t really miss the ANC in bed, but I can see why some people would prefer to have ANC.

So overall, if you’re looking for headphones specifically to use in bed, I think the Soundcore Sleep A20 are definitely worth a shot.

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