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You’ve probably heard of the golden age of TV, a renaissance brought on by the streaming era that is now, sadly, on the decline. It might not bring us another Better Call Saul, but there’s a different golden age that’s still very much shimmering in A/V: the wireless earbud market.

From hearables breaking free of their prescription chains to 3D spatial audio and customized listening, earbuds are innovating at an incredible rate. And new options like Anker’s Soundcore Space A40 prove you can reap the benefits of this brave new world on nearly any budget.

A few years ago you couldn’t find a pair of earbuds with effective noise canceling for under $200. The Space A40 deliver it for half that price, alongside good sound, massive battery life, and a ton of extras to help you customize your experience. That’s all packed into a comfy and compact design that looks fancier than the price suggests.

The A40 do skip a few conveniences, like auto-pause when you pull an earbud out, and the controls can be a little inconsistent. But with great performance in a surprisingly affordable package, the Space A40 are one of the best bargains in this golden age of portable listening.

Stylish and Slim

Anker SoundCore Space A40 Earbuds and Charging Case

Photograph: Anker

Even as earbuds everywhere shrink around them, the A40 stand out not only for their minuscule size but also their good looks. The pill-shaped, Qi-ready charging case is stylish and feels good in your hands. Its matte exterior, accented by a metallic Anker logo on top and a trio of LEDs where the clamshell lid meets the base, lends a premium air.

Inside, the glossy plastic terminals hold matching gloss earbuds, with a more matte finish at the exterior for the touchpad controls. The buds are ergonomically shaped, and, most important, their weight of just under 5 grams per side (for reference, Apple’s AirPods Pro weigh 5.4 grams) meets the unofficial baseline for buds that seem to disappear in your ears after a few minutes.

The Space A40 do just that, and the fit is relatively stable. Five sizes of ear tips goes beyond most competitors, and I was able to do all my usual earbud-enhanced activities, from yard work to hikes at my local park, with only a minor readjustment here or there. I did feel them jostle a bit on a jog, and their IPX4 water resistance is solid but not dunkable, so those looking for better stability and weatherproofing may want to consider jumping up to Jabra’s Elite 4 Active.

One place the buds muck up the grade curve is their massive battery. You get up to 10 hours of playback, with four full recharges in the case for 50 hours total. I clocked more like 7 to 8 hours with noise canceling, but that’s still around 40 hours, besting pricier flagships from Samsung, Google, and Apple.

Customize Anything

The Space A40 let you customize just about everything. That starts with the fit and extends to touchpads that are reassignable via the Soundcore app. They offer near-comprehensive control, from volume to voice assistants, so you rarely need to reach for your phone.

You’ll need to assign volume in the app (it’s off by default), and I find the double-tap for pause or song skip can sometimes be triggered when you’re trying to do a few rapid single taps to ramp up the jams. I’m also not in love with the hold command, which seems to take hours to cycle through noise canceling and transparency mode (it’s really just a couple of seconds).