Anker has made high-quality chargers and cables for years now; however, you may not know that it has also branched out into wireless audio via its SoundCore line. With this new branding, Anker has started balancing well-made audio accessories with attractive prices.
Under the SoundCore moniker, Anker’s premium offerings are the Liberty Air and Liberty Pro. We loved these two audio devices last year and 2020 brings the 2nd generation with the Liberty Air 2 and Liberty Pro 2. I spent the last three weeks with both devices and came away with some generally great impressions.
SoundCore Liberty Air 2
The first stop of this ride will be the “less premium” Liberty Air 2. These buds come in at $100 but still pack a ton of nice features. The earbuds design has become a very familiar look with the stemmed “AirPod” tear-drop.
I personally don’t care that the Liberty Air 2 buds and the case favor Apple’s product. It’s a proven design that I’ve come to enjoy for comfort and the Bluetooth antenna being in the elongated stem allows the connection to be more consistent.
The Liberty Air 2 offers a more comfortable silicon tip on each bud that offers a customizable fit depending on your ear. The buds also come in two color options of black and a stone white that we have here.
Audio and controls
The Liberty Air 2 are solid contenders in the audio output department, but I’ve found that all earbuds with this design lack in overall volume. That aside, the Liberty Air 2 has a good range of mids, highs, and bass. While the combo won’t drown out a jackhammer, it does offer a good balance of performance and a crisp sound that makes it to the top of my “Android AirPods” list.
There’s also aptX Qualcomm onboard. For those that don’t know, this offers a codec with higher quality than the older AAC and SBC that most other headsets default towards. I’m not a huge audiophile, but the Liberty Air 2 have a better sound than other units I have lying around. No question.
Controls are one of the few limited components with Liberty Air 2. You essentially only get two combinations of playback controls. The buds default to double tap on the right is a play/pause, and the same on the left moves to the next track on your music playlist. Tap and hold for 2 seconds and you’ll be greeted by your voice assistant of choice.
These controls and software updates can be handled via the SoundCore mobile app. Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot of changes you can make due to the Liberty Air 2 having just one capacitive touch area. You can only change two input combinations of double-tap or hold for two seconds. By default, these are set to previously mentioned settings and can only be altered to things such as volume control or reverse track skipping.
I’m in these reviews for more of the music playback, but I’d be remiss if call quality isn’t covered as well. I’m happy to report that both ends of phone calls were top-notch. Callers said my voice was clear and had little issues. The same can be said for my end of the conversations.
Battery and case
Anker rates the SoundCore Liberty Air 2 at seven hours per charge with just the earbuds. I’ve always found Anker’s estimate to be pretty spot on and the Liberty Air 2 didn’t disappoint. I consistently got close to that mark with each power-up.
When you do run out of juice, you can charge the Liberty Air 2 headset with the included case up to three times. This gives you 28 hours of total usage away from an outlet. What happens when you do need to recharge? The Liberty Air 2 supports both USB-C and wireless charging with any Qi-compatible charger.
You can monitor the charge time with the LED indicators on the side but it takes around two hours to completely charge the case and Liberty Air 2 via USB. If using a wireless pad, that time extends to about 3.5 hours to fully charged. Including both modern charging standards is a huge win for the Liberty Air 2 headset.
SoundCore Liberty 2 Pro
I love the look and feel of the Liberty 2 Pro earbuds. These are the first of the more traditional “bud” style devices I’ve used in some time. Most of the truly wireless models of late have been the Liberty Air 2 stemmed design. I was surprised how comfortable and stable the fit was with the Liberty 2 Pro.
The minimal design of just one button and a silicone earloop result in a great balance of function and feel. The Liberty 2 Pro remains seated in my ears better than almost any other wireless headset I’ve used. If the fit is off at first, try one of the other sizes of tips and loops included in the box. The physical button also leads to no ghost touches or incidental input while simply placing the buds into place.
Audio and Controls
This is the section of the review where the Liberty 2 Pro really starts to separate from the Air 2. SoundCore is touting an Astria Coaxial Acoustic Architecture that’s endorsed by 10 different Grammy Award-winning producers. While I immediately took this as marketing fluff, the results of the Liberty 2 Pro earbuds are compelling.
The Pro buds have a great balance of bass, mids, and highs. The overall volume is also a step above most in the segment. There’s just a robust output in volume and quality that is a step above most other wireless headphones I’ve reviewed. The Liberty 2 Pro is indicative that Anker has just as much focus on quality audio for less much like the company has provided chargers and cables over the years.
You can even customize your listening experience with Soundcore’s Hear ID. This takes a noise sample of your surroundings as well as a listening test of each ear. The software then builds a custom equalizer setting for that user. I honestly couldn’t tell a huge difference in the results but those with better-trained ears may see an improvement.
The app is also a great resource to customize your quick controls via the button on each earbud or perform a software update. Much like the Liberty Air 2, the Pro buttons only offer a few options of alterations in the button inputs, but it’s nice to see.
I think it’s worth noting that I received two firmware updates for both models of the Liberty series during my review. Each was shown to be general bug fixes, but it’s impressive to see Anker making it clear that these are not just a money grab accessory to them that will never see any development support.
I did find the call results of the Liberty 2 Pro weren’t as good as its little brother. Many of my callers could hear well and we could carry the conversations just fine. However, a couple said that they could hear a hum or “noise” even when I was in a quiet room.
The Liberty 2 Pro has the same four-microphone system of noise cancellation as the Liberty Air 2 but I’d attribute this to just a weakness in the design. Without the longer stem to pick up better reception of the outgoing conversation, I think the 2 Pro just struggles to separate the outside noise.
Battery and case
I’m happy to report that the battery and case are an upgrade from the standard Air 2 as well. The earbuds will get you around eight hours of playback and the pebble-shaped case will extend that with three full charges of the Liberty 2 Pro buds. That’s a total of 120 hours of up-time.
Oh, and again, we have a modern charging array of options. You have a quick charge via USB-C or plop the 2 Pro down on a wireless charger to replenish the battery. The case is a little larger than most but I had zero issues with its performance.
Anker has proven for years now that the company offers quality accessories for less than its competitors. Soundcore continues this tradition within its new audio brand. The Liberty Air 2 and the Liberty 2 Pro are exceptional options for those looking to join the wireless movement in listening.
At $99 and $149, respectively, both the Air 2 and the 2 Pro offer compelling options to compete with the likes of Apple, Jabra, and Bose. Whether you prefer the Airpod stem look or the traditional aesthetics of the Soundcore 2 Pro, Anker’s new brand has you covered for less.