Anker are a popular brand that appear to be sold exclusively through Amazon. They are particularly well known for their power banks, chargers and cables. But they also sell some very good value portable Bluetooth speakers.
One of their most popular models is the SoundCore 2, a compact Bluetooth speaker, with 24 hours of claimed battery life and an IPX5 rating for protection from the elements. It retails at £40 or $40 but it can be had even cheaper in Amazon’s frequent sales – I bought it for just £25.
The speaker comes well packaged for a budget speaker. The only thing you get in the box with it is an Anker branded micro-USB charging cable and a clearly written, multi-lingual, owner’s manual. There’s no wall charger included, but I wouldn’t really expect one at this price.
The build quality belies the budget price of the speaker. Except for the speaker grill, the SoundCore 2 has a rubberised finish, which feels very grippy, but does attract finger prints. There’s no creaking, however hard you try to squeeze and twist it. I haven’t dropped it yet, but wouldn’t be too concerned if I did. It weighs 410g, which together with its compact size, and long battery life, makes it a perfect candidate as a speaker to take on your travels. It looks well sealed and I’d be more than confident in its IPX5 water resistance rating. It shouldn’t be submersed in water, but it should survive a splash or a rain shower.
The Anker branding on the speaker grill and embossed into the rear is a little overboard, but I don’t feel it detracts too much from the simple yet attractive design.
Getting started and overview
The speaker charges via its micro-USB port, which is revealed by pulling the rubber seal on the side with some force. There’s also a AUX-IN port for connecting your device via a 3.5mm audio cable which isn’t included. I’ll revisit this shortly.
The 5200mAh (5.2Ah) integrated battery has a very respectable 2A input rating, although you’ll need to use a charger that can output that current for the fastest charging speeds. Using a 2A charger will take the speaker from empty to full in around 3 hours.
The advantage of using the ubiquitous micro-USB standard is that you can use almost any charger, including a portable USB charger or a computer. But charging may take longer.
It’s disappointing, especially with Anker’s heritage, that you can’t use the speaker itself as a power bank, since there’s no USB port to charge other devices. In Anker’s range you’ll have to step up to the SoundCore Boost for that.
The power LED indicates the state of charge, changing from flashing red, to steady red to steady white indicating low battery, charging and fully charged respectively.
You can run the speaker while it’s being charged, but it’s not recommended to always leave it charging. Anker also suggest fully charging the speaker at least once every 45 days to preserve the battery life.
A single press of the power button turns the speaker on, and a longer press powers it off. Both accompanied by a sound, which isn’t all together necessary, since a steady white LED also lights up on powering up.
When you turn the speaker on for the first time, the blue Bluetooth LED flashes to indicate the speaker is in pairing mode.
Go into Bluetooth settings on your device and select SoundCore 2 to connect. No passcode is required.
There’s a reassuring sound when the speakers connects, and the blue LED stops flashing.
A single press of the Bluetooth button will disconnect from an already paired device and return the speaker to its pairing mode. You can then connect to another speaker in the same way. There’s no NFC support, where you can establish a Bluetooth pairing just by touching a compatible phone or tablet on the speaker.
You can only connect to one device at a time, and you can’t configure two speakers as a stereo pair. But it’s able to remember at least six devices – a mixture of Apple and Android devices that I tested it with.
If you’re having trouble connecting, you can press and hold the Bluetooth button for more than 5 seconds to reset the speaker and delete all its pairing records. Note that if you do this and need to re-connect to a previously paired Apple device, you’ll need to make sure you choose “Forget This Device”, and then re-pair, otherwise you’ll get “Connection Unsuccessful”. The Android devices I tested this with didn’t have this issue.
When you turn the speaker on again, it will automatically connect to the last connected device.
There’s no battery level indication next to the Bluetooth icon on the paired device which you sometimes get, but unless the battery status light is red, you’ve got hours of charge left anyway.
You can also connect to any device that has a headphone or line-out port, via the AUX-IN next to the micro-USB port, behind the rubber flap on the side of the speaker.
You’ll need a a 3.5mm audio cable which isn’t included, but only costs a few pounds. This is handy if the device has no Bluetooth connectivity but also saves a little battery life, and should slightly improve the sound quality, although I couldn’t notice any discernible difference.
When you’re connected via Bluetooth on an iPhone or iPad, the volume controls and the play button, are in sync. So the maximum volume on an iOS device will also be the maximum volume of the speaker. And the speaker play button, will pause or play the music or video. With the Android devices I’ve tested with the speaker, the volume controls on the speaker are independent, so you’ll have to adjust the volume on the speaker and the tablet or phone. But the play button does start and stop your music and video.
The speaker does interrupt the music with a beep when you reach full volume, which may be an annoyance to some.
If connected via the AUX-IN port, there is no synchronisation with either platform.
Connected via Bluetooth, double pressing the play button will skip forward a track. And pressing and holding the play button for more than a second will activate voice control via Siri or Google Assistant using the built in microphone.
The speaker’s microphone, also allows it to handle phone calls should you wish. The play button will answer or end a call.
Performance and sound quality
One of the biggest selling points of the speaker is the battery life: quoted as a whopping 24 hours at 60% playback volume. Whilst it’s hard to test this, and it will vary depending on your preferred playback volume, battery life is impressive. On a two week holiday, with moderate use I didn’t charge the SoundCore 2 once. This is a welcome feature on a light, portable speaker like this.
The speaker supports the latest Bluetooth 4.2 standard, which Anker claims extends the range up to 66ft. I can’t find any confirmation that the 4.2 standard does in fact extend the range of Bluetooth, like the upcoming Bluetooth 5.0 will, but the range was good. I could happily continue playing music in an adjacent room away from my iPhone X in my fairly standard 50s built house. I tested against a JBL Charge 2+ and got a similar range.
The speaker has two, 40mm full range 6W drivers, and a passive radiator for the lower frequencies. Playing music delivers much better sound quality than you’d expect from a speaker of this size and cost. There’s a surprising amount of bass, and there’s little distortion until you get close to maximum volume, but the speaker would easily fill a small room at a more pleasant sounding 60-70% volume. The rubber feet and solid construction prevent the speaker bouncing around playing loud tracks with lots of bass.
For podcasts, and spoken audio off YouTube, it still sounds good but I found it very slightly muffled.
I compared the SoundCore 2 against a range of speakers including the more expensive, and bigger JBL Charge 2+. Unsurprisingly the Charge sounds better, with a much fuller sound. But the Anker still does a very decent job, and is a significant step up from the speaker in my iPhone X or the Amazon Echo Dot. You can listen to the comparison of the sound quality, in my video at the top of the article. I’d recommend using some decent headphones for the best experience.
Pairing with an Echo Dot
The SoundCore 2 could be a useful upgrade for the disappointing audio on the Amazon Echo Dot. Tap the Bluetooth button on the speaker, and ask Alexa to pair: “Alexa, pair”. Turn up the volume on the speaker so you can control the volume using Alexa. Now all Alexa’s responses and any music you play through the Echo Dot will sound a lot better.
If you own more Echo devices, and connect with a cable to the Echo Dot via the AUX-IN port, you can also setup a budget multi-room system using the Alexa Multi-Room feature. In the Alexa app, go to Settings | Multi-Room Music and configure your group. Now you can choose to playback in perfect sync to multiple rooms.
Even at its retail price, the Anker SoundCore 2 is an attractive proposition. It’s well built, very compact, has excellent battery life and sounds good. It’s one of the best value Bluetooth speakers I’ve tested. If you keep an eye on Amazon, you can probably get it even cheaper, which would make it all the more appealing.
It’s hard to criticise, but if I was being picky, I’d like to have seen a USB charging port and I did find the sound very slightly muffled for spoken audio. It’s unlikely you’d notice this though unless your were comparing to other speakers, and it’s a huge step up from the built in audio off even a top of the range smart phone.
- Good value speaker with impressive sound for the price
- Up to 24 hours battery life
- Excellent build quality for a budget speaker
- Micro-USB charging
- Fast 2A charging support
- Auxiliary input
- IPX5 water resistance rating
- Good Bluetooth range
- Spoken audio very slightly muffled
- No wall charger or 3.5mm cable supplied
- There’s no way of pairing two speakers
- No USB charging port
- Maximum volume audio alert interrupts music
I hope you found this article useful. If you have any specific questions, please do ask below in the comments section – I do my best to reply to any questions.
And as ever if you have found the review helpful, please consider using the affiliate links below for any purchases including but not limited to the speaker! It doesn’t cost you a penny, and the small amount of commission I get will keep the site going! Thank you.
I got the speaker from Amazon, which was also the best price: