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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Amazing battery life
Decent sound quality
Spotty Bluetooth connectivity
Limited on-board controls and features
Reasonably good sound quality, insane battery life, and an affordable price tag makes the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air a smart buy.
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air are true wireless earbuds with a keen eye on keeping the price point down. That isn’t exactly where the story ends, as these earbuds are very capable for a lot of users, but at right about half the price of the similarly designed Apple AirPods, it’s an important fact to open this review on. They also bring a nice fit to the table, as well as perfectly capable sound quality and surprisingly good battery life. Here’s where I landed after testing out a pair for a few days around my home city of New York.
There are two directions true wireless earbuds take from a design standpoint: either they’re hidden inside your ear with a small bud-only construction, or a manufacturer will stretch the battery connectors down in a straight stem-like AirPods. The Liberty Air earbuds go for the stem design, triggering obvious comparisons to Apple. However, they are available in both black and white, so there is a bit more customization available here.
The shape is also a little different because instead of just a simple opening for the speaker grille that rests just inside your ear, the Liberty earbuds extend a silicone ear tip more similar to standard earbuds. In addition, the stem is flattened along its length on the outside edge, giving it a slightly more unique look than a straight-up rounded stem.
The earbuds themselves get about 5 hours of listening on a single charge, an admittedly average number, but with the help of the battery case, you can get up to 20 hours of listening.
In black, I personally love the look as it’s just a bit more interesting than an AirPod—though if you opt for white, just note that it will look much more clearly like a knockoff. Anker has also used a glossy plastic to cover the earbuds, which might be good for some people, but I would have preferred to see a matte finish similar to the case. The case itself is also a little bulkier than you’d expect, but it’s certainly not the biggest dental-floss-style enclosure that I’ve seen. Overall, the design works here.
Some true wireless, in-ear earbuds use a silicone ear tip and a separate silicone wing to provide two points of contact for a secure fit. AirPods don’t have either of these, but the Liberty Airs do have a silicone tip. This tip fits tightly in your ear (and Anker provides multiple sizes), which is good for some people, though a bit stifling for my ears. What I was most surprised about was how well they stayed put.
Most earbuds that go for a silicon tip-only method tend to fall out of my ears much more easily than I’d want. The Liberty Airs, on the other hand, felt secure even when the seal of the silicone tip got jostled. This is likely because Anker has taken the time to ensure that the stem balances the earbuds well within your ear, hanging off the bottom as a nice counterweight. That said, I don’t recommend them for a strenuous workout if something like AirPods don't fit well in your ear. The Liberty Air fit better for sure, but only marginally.
The fit and finish of these affordable earbuds—much like the rest of Anker’s earbud line—is reasonably good. The earbuds themselves, with their high gloss plastic, soft-yet-sturdy ear tips, and resilient build definitely feel better than the price would imply. Anker has even managed to load in IPX5 waterproofing in the earbuds, which is basically a must for earbuds you bring on a possibly rainy walk or to the gym where you’ll be sweating.
The build of the case itself is a little bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the plastic feels a little cheap, and the outside is definitely easier to mark up than I’d like. But Anker has gotten the tactile feeling just right with the magnetic clasp that snaps the lid open and shut. And, the magnets that suck in the earbuds are also super-secure, making it a real joy to take out and put away the earbuds. The whole package is nothing to write home about, but definitely not a complaint either.
The earbuds themselves, with their high gloss plastic, soft-yet-sturdy ear tips, and resilient build definitely feel better than the price would imply.
The Anker Liberty Air earbuds sound just fine. Are they the best-sounding true wireless earbuds I’ve tested? Absolutely not. But for around $80, you’re likely not expecting best in class. So the question is: do they sound better than that $80 implies? That really depends on what you listen to.
For middle-of-the-road pop music, these earbuds are perfectly serviceable, giving plenty of bass and reasonably clear highs. The mid-range of the spectrum gets pretty muddy at points, so if you’re looking for lots of detail, then you won’t find it here.
Anker is hanging a lot of their sound quality specs on the concept of graphene. This material, an alternative to hard metals like steel, hit the headlines a few years back as a possible speaker material replacement. That’s because, unlike normal metal speakers that have to physically shift against a magnetic field to produce sound, the theory is that graphene can support micro, electrical-field vibrations, allowing them to be much more precise and efficient with space.
Anker has experimented with this material in their speakers for a few of their earbuds, touting it as the reason that their earbuds sound the way they do. I’m not sold on this concept, mostly because many of the marquis brands like Sennheiser and Sony haven’t gone the way of graphene. I will say that these earbuds are light, but still provide a good deal more volume than you might expect—probably thanks to graphene’s lightweight. The spec sheet calls out 6 ohms of impedance and 20Hz–20kHz of frequency response, so there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. This is all a little bit of marketing speak, and as such should be taken with a grain of salt, but overall these earbuds sound decent in real-world tests.
The amount of time a pair of true wireless earbuds lasts on a single charge is a lot bigger of a swing than I would have originally thought. I’ve tested units from all over the price range, and I’m constantly shocked at how different these totals are. The Liberty Air battery life would be impressive even at the higher end of the price range, but at the low-to-mid-range, it’s downright remarkable. The earbuds themselves get about 5 hours of listening on a single charge, an admittedly average number, but with the help of the battery case, you can get up to 20 hours of listening.
This feels right based on the paces I put them through, but what was perhaps most impressive was their standby time. While earbuds from manufacturers like Sennheiser died just sitting in my bag for a few days, I was able to pull the Liberty Airs out of my bag after forgetting about them for a week to find more than half the battery case’s charge still left.
This, to me, is the most important part of the whole equation, because most people will leave a pair of earbuds in their bag for use when they need them. Having the confidence that they won’t drain in your bag in between use is half the battery game. It’s not that big of a surprise to see Anker—a brand known for external battery packs—bringing their A-game in this category.
For a sub-$100 price point, you can’t really expect a whole lot of bells and whistles on the feature front. There’s no sensor to automatically pause music when removing the buds from your ears, there’s no fancy app to go along with the earbuds, and they're certainly isn’t any noise-canceling to speak of.
There are some basic touch gestures to control music and calls, though they suffered from some mis-presses throughout my days with them. Possibly the most frustrating part of the package was the connectivity issues I ran into. During setup, I had to manually trigger pairing mode, and when switching between two devices, I had to forget the earbuds on the first device.
This point is strange because Anker has put Bluetooth 5.0 in, so multiple device support should be seamless. I did notice some light Bluetooth skipping, especially in high traffic areas, but nothing outside the norm for true wireless earbuds. There are no fancy Bluetooth codecs here either, so don’t expect to listen to your lossless files with any level of high resolution. The call quality, highly promised on the website, was just okay—letting in a lot more background noise than I was expecting.
As the first point I made in this review, I can easily say that price is the best part about these earbuds. The Liberty Airs go for about $80 on Amazon, with the Air 2s (offering wireless charging and better codecs) go for about $100.
To be fair, this really isn’t a bargain price, as there are earbuds to be had at about $20–30. But, in my opinion, spending a bit more to step up to these Soundcore earbuds yields amazing bang for your buck.
The Liberty Airs do feel a little cheap and don’t offer the best fit on the market, but the insanely good battery life and perfectly passable sound quality impressed me here.
With nearly an identical design, the obvious Liberty Air competitor comes from Skullcandy—a seasoned name in the affordable earphones game. The Indy earbuds offer the addition of dust protection and a large variety of color options. The Liberty Airs edge out Skullcandy on battery life and are slightly more affordable, though. But, if you have any brand loyalty to Skullcandy, then their true wireless offering is a good one to look at.
Solid true wireless earbuds at a reasonable price.
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air earbuds are pretty easy to endorse, if for nothing else than that they come in well under $100. When so many manufacturers charge upwards of $200, it’s earbuds like these from Anker that beg the question of diminishing returns—does $100 extra give you that much more in sound quality? The Liberty Airs do feel a little cheap, and don’t offer the best fit on the market, but the insanely good battery life and perfectly passable sound quality impressed me here.