Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


These sleep earbuds are a dream for side sleepers. But there's a catch

Soundcore's Sleep A20 earbuds offer a new, comfortable design with side sleepers in mind.
Written by Nina Raemont, Associate Editor
Soundcore sleep earbuds A20 against rug
Nina Raemont/ZDNET

ZDNET key takeaways 

  • The Sleep A20 are Soundcore's newest earbuds designed for sleep, retailing for $150 on Amazon. 
  • The specially-designed sleep earbuds are comfortable enough to wear the whole night through, and are perfect for listening to ambient noise before falling asleep.
  • However, the noise masking isn't strong for dampening environmental sounds, so I wouldn't recommend these for people looking to silence bedroom noise. 

Listening to audiobooks, podcasts, or ambient soundscapes to fall asleep has become a trend among the tired. Although you can stick in any pair of earbuds to help you clock out at the end of the day, you'll probably experience some discomfort before you get your full eight hours -- especially if you sleep on your side. 

That's where sleep earbuds come in. With their discreet and lightweight design, the Sleep A20 earbuds are made to not only stay in your ears all night, but be comfortable enough to sleep soundly with. 

Also: Best sleep headphones 

When my colleague reviewed Soundcore's Sleep A10 earbuds last year, she wrote that they had some pitfalls, but were ultimately a refreshing addition to the emerging market of sleep wearables. A year later, with the release of the Sleep A20, I was pleased to see that Soundcore took the feedback to heart in designing the new earbuds, correcting the issues mentioned by reviewers, while introducing a host of new and improved features.

View at Amazon

The earbuds come in a sleek, matte sandstone case, and their flat, smooth design exude a subdued and relaxing form factor. This is important, as there are two essential traits sleep earbuds need to get right for me to approve them: comfort, and sound-dampening. If a brand can nail these two things, they're 80% there. 

Let's start with comfort. As someone who has used sleep mask headphones and earplugs that jut out while laying on my side, the best sleep wearables in my opinion lie flush to my ear. These earbuds are smaller than your thumb, and feature a flat bud design with two silicon covers: one on the earbud tip and one on the wing. As a regular side sleeper, I can say that I experienced no discomfort, pressure, or obtrusion while wearing these buds. The A20 buds nail comfort, first and foremost, and get close to being altogether unnoticeable because of their thoughtful, flat design. 

Also: Our favorite Anker sleep earbuds are still $40 off

In other respects, however, the earbuds fell short of masking environmental noises. My bedroom overlooks a busy two-way street in Brooklyn that sees its fair share of nighttime traffic, so it's a great testing ground for all things noise-cancellation. Even with the earbuds on medium volume (high volume kept me awake) and a soundscape playing, I could hear the sirens outside my apartment. Soundcore made some pretty bold claims about these earbuds' ability to block out "a partner sawing wood, chopping logs, or grinding gravel." I don't think they can. 

While I wouldn't recommend these to people who need a noise-canceling earbud to ease them into sleep or dim down their loud environment, I'd recommend these to people who already have quieter bedroom environments and need to listen to something, like the sounds of running water, audiobooks, or brown noise, to fall asleep. 

Hand holding a Soundcore Sleep A20 earbud
Nina Raemont/ZDNET

Other supplemental features make up for what the earbuds lack in noise cancellation. There are more ambient soundscapes in the Soundcore app than you could hope for, including ambient sounds that replicate a spaceship taking off or click-clacking keys on a keyboard. There are snore-masking, storm, and campfire sounds -- and even more obscure selections like microfire sounds (whatever that is). There are also some calming piano sounds, and a singing bowls option for those who like to meditate before bed.

You can also layer certain sounds, like the piano music with white noise and snore-masking, for a personalized soundscape. Even if you don't use these for sleep, the A20 earbuds could be delightful for taking quick naps or short meditation sessions during a stressful workday. After you find a sound to help you hit the hay, add it to your library, and it'll play through the earbuds for the night. 

Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds

However, the app experience isn't perfect. After choosing a sound to fall asleep to, I would close the app, and the sound would stop completely. I realized that I had to enable "Sleep" mode instead of "Bluetooth" mode for the sound to keep playing if my phone turned off or I swapped to a different app, which was frustrating and counterintuitive. 

The sleep tracking feature is a nice touch for people who can keep the buds in their ears all night, but it's useless if you're anything like me and lose track of your earbuds while you're dozing. Speaking of losing track of your earbuds, one feature that Soundcore implemented into the A20 buds is the "Find my earbuds" feature. If your sheets end up swallowing your earbuds during the night, you can play a chime on the app to find them -- it's handy and an excellent example of the brand taking feedback from its first iteration and applying it to the next generation. 

ZDNET's buying advice 

The Soundcore Sleep A20 earbuds are great for people who snooze in a quiet room and are looking for sweet sounds to help them fall asleep. The form factor is comfortable and flush to the ear, making them far more suitable for side sleepers than almost any other wireless earbuds you'd use during the day. The A20 sleep buds nail comfort and tack on a few special touches that keep this new edition fresh and innovative. 

Due to their middling noise-masking properties, however, the A20 earbuds may not be ideal for people actively trying to silence their sleep environment. If you want sleep earbuds that have strong noise-canceling capabilities, try the QuietOn 3.1 earbuds. If you aren't fond of objects stuck in your ears while you sleep but still want a level of passive noise-canceling, an eye and ear sleep mask like the LC-Dolida sleep headphones might be a better fit.

Editorial standards