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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Decent sound quality
Premium build & features
Reasonable price point
Very tight fit
Some Bluetooth hiccups
Clunky on-board controls
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 offers a great feature set and sound quality for the price. It’s hard to go wrong if you’re looking for true wireless earbuds.
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 wireless earbuds are a nuts-and-bolts option for those who want true wireless earbuds with passable sound quality and don’t want to spend a small fortune. That sort of middle-of-the-road approach is something that the Soundcore brand does well. As a sister-company to Anker—a brand known for quality, affordable mobile accessories—it would make sense that these earphones aren’t breaking any sound quality records, but also don’t break the bank.
With a look that follows very closely in the Apple AirPods’ footsteps, but a fit and finish that’s actually pretty premium, these earphones might be a good all-around choice for those that aren’t too picky. I put the Liberty Air 2 through the ringer, taking Zoom calls, pumping workout music, and listening to podcasts before bed. Read on to see what I think.
The Soundcore Liberty line has been around for a couple years, but the first generation of earphones looked and felt pretty cheap. That’s mostly okay, considering the entry-level price point of those earphones.
But when Soundcore launched the second generation, they stepped up both the physical quality of the product and the price. The earphones are shaped just like a pair of AirPods, complete with a rounded, inch-long stem dangling from your ears as you wear them. They also use a round rubber ear tip to facilitate a better fit.
I actually really like the aesthetic upgrades that Soundcore introduced on this second-gen. Unlike overly glossy (and inherently cheap-looking) plastic, the Liberty Air 2 is mostly matte black, with the outside of each earbud being a lighter, almost metallic gray. There are a couple of places where a bit of red peeks through (a small slit at the bottom of the stem and the main driver opening under the gray rubber ear tip), which gives this a much more premium look than you might expect at the sub-$100 price point. The battery case is also covered in that matte gray finish, giving the whole package a slightly more interesting look.
As I do in most earbud reviews, I have to stress how personal comfort is when it comes to a product like this. Everyone’s ears are physically different, but so is everyone’s tolerance for fit. Some people can’t stand a loose earbud because they don’t want any chance of the earbud falling out. Other listeners, like me, prefer a little more breathability and tend to feel stifled with a painfully tight fit. The Liberty Air 2 earbuds fall squarely in this second camp. They come complete with five sizes of eartip, meaning you have as much customization as you’ll likely need, but because of the angle they pressed into my personal ear canals, the fit was just way too stuffy.
This can be construed as a benefit, however, especially if you don’t like the precariousness you get from AirPods, and it certainly helps to isolate sound and give you a solid bass response. And I’ve always been impressed with the soft-yet-sturdy rubber that Soundcore uses for their eartips.
One other little touch that is helpful on the comfort front is how the inside of the ear stems uses that soft-touch matte plastic, instead of the tackier-feeling high-gloss finish. This means that the small part that presses against your earlobe is much more comfortable.
-One other little touch that is helpful on the comfort front is how the inside of the ear stems uses that soft-touch matte plastic, instead of the tackier-feeling high-gloss finish.
As already covered, the look and feel of these earbuds is very impressive, from the premium-friendly matte finish to the quality of the rubber used in the eartips. These touches help to make the design much more polished, but they also do a lot to build confidence in the fit and finish. I’m confident that, depending on your daily use, the physical housing of these earbuds will last a long time.
The battery case, at first glance, seems to match the high quality of the earbuds but unfortunately, it feels just a bit cheaper than the rest of the offering. The lid (and earbud slots) do feature sturdy magnets for that satisfying click that true wireless listeners have grown to expect, but something about the light, thinness of the lid makes me feel a bit like Soundcore skimped on the production of the battery case.
I’m confident that, depending on your daily use, the physical housing of these earbuds will last a long time.
The other two points I’ll make on build quality relate to the drivers and the waterproofing. Soundcore bills the speakers inside each earbud as “diamond-coated,” which I’m assuming is their attempt at building confidence in how robust these drivers are. There’s more to cover on this front in the sound quality section, but the diamond coating (much like the similarly touted graphene material other earphones use) might ensure that the drivers won’t as easily erode over time. I can’t confirm this, and my gut tells me that it won’t have much of an effect, but it is nice to see that Soundcore is experimenting with materials and trying to offer something new.
The earphones do feature IPX5 waterproofing, which will be more than enough for even heavy sweating and reasonable rain—just don’t drop the earphones into a tub of water.
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2s come with Bluetooth 5.0, meaning you’ll have plenty of coverage from a distance perspective. I’ve been working inside my 900-square-foot pre-war apartment with thick plaster walls, and try as I might, I wasn’t able to get the earbuds to lose connection no matter how far I was from my source device.
When first opening the battery case, the earbuds should automatically be in pairing mode, and my phone recognized them right away. Where I did run into hiccups was when I wanted to pair them with a new device. The Bluetooth 5 protocol is supposed to allow two sources seamlessly, but even once I got the Air 2s paired to both my phone and my laptop, I wasn’t able to seamlessly switch back and forth.
Instead, you have to put the earbuds back into pairing mode to get them to switch back and forth between devices. This is easy enough—just pop the buds back into the case and hold the bottom button for a few seconds. But in a world where so many earbuds are intelligently switching between different devices, this is a frustrating component of the Air 2s.
The other big improvement that Soundcore has purported to make on this second-gen is the sound quality. They’ve brought out all the big guns here: fancy materials for the drivers, top-quality Bluetooth codecs, and fancy software to customize the sound.
For the most part, I was impressed with the sound response these earphones offer. Bass-heavy music-packed plenty of punch during my workouts. When it came to podcasts and phone calls, I found plenty of detail with the sound and with the 4-mic array. Some of this is thanks to the solid driver construction—while I think that “diamond-coating” the speakers can’t have much of an effect on the inherently lossy quality of Bluetooth audio, it’s clear that Soundcore has taken time to focus on the performance of the drivers. The inclusion of Qualcomm aptX is also nice because it allows for less lossy compression of your audio over the Bluetooth protocol.
Unfortunately, none of this gave me a very dynamic sound stage to work with. The earphones, simply sound like decent Bluetooth earphones. You aren’t getting the full, rich spectrum you would get on more premium earphones, but you will still be satisfied that your audio is being represented well. Soundcore’s fancy HearID software gives you a little more control and customization, as the software actually aims to map your ear and hearing capabilities to better serve the audio you need. But all in all, though the raw sound was impressive and powerful, it wasn’t as well-balanced and nuanced as the more pro Soundcore products.
- Bass-heavy music-packed plenty of punch during my workouts, while when it came to podcasts and phone calls, I found plenty of detail with the sound and with the 4-mic array.
Somehow Soundcore has managed to pack a full 7 hours of use into the earbuds themselves with the Liberty Air 2—an impressive feat when you consider that most earbuds settle for around 5 hours. With the battery case in the mix, that total climbs to nearly 30 hours of use. By the numbers, this battery life is punching way above its price point. However, while the earbud total seems accurate, the battery case drains a bit faster than the claims would imply. To be fair, you’ll still get more than 24 hours of playtime, but keep in mind that you might not be able to push that much further.
Another area in which Soundcore is trying to offer premium quality for a lower price is the manner in which the Liberty Air 2s charge. The USB-C charging port is capable of fast charging, provided you use an adequate brick, giving you about 2 hours of playtime on a single 10-minute charge. In fact, charging up the whole battery case was pretty quick in my anecdotal tests. What’s extra-impressive here is that there are wireless charging capabilities built into the battery case. Considering how portable true wireless earbuds are, I’m surprised at just how rare this feature is. Even Sony’s top-tier offering does not feature Qi wireless charging, yet here you have it at less than $100.
On paper, Soundcore seems to be offering all the right things—a robust app to customize your sound, simple touch controls to interact with your devices, and a four-array microphone setup to interact with your voice assistant.
In practice, everything is just a little awkward. The touch controls, for example, don’t register very easily. While most touch controls require a bit of an adjustment period, I just couldn’t get the Air 2s to work. If you can get past the mis-presses, then the software does allow the earbuds to work well with your phone, but a lot of these software features seem more like bells and whistles than useful functions.
The HearID hearing test is a nice little trick, but I can’t be sure that it does a lot to improve sound quality. The 22 EQ settings are also nice to have, but I can’t help but think that Soundcore could have done more if they spent longer perfecting even half of those settings. While I definitely applaud Soundcore’s effort here—especially at the entry-level price point—I feel like they did too much, and didn’t do anything terribly well in the “extras” column.
Anker and Soundcore are always price-conscious brands—they aim to offer excellent value for high-quality products. At an average retail price of $99, the Liberty Air 2s definitely fit the value bill. These are most comparable to Apple AirPods, and even the first-gen of those will cost you closer to $130, without the battery case and without the solid fit. Anker did cut a few corners to get the price below $100—namely on some of the fit and finish and on the interface features—but all in all, compared to the rest of the budget AirPod copycat market, these are a real steal.
With the design of the Liberty Air 2s, it’s clear that they are putting AirPods (see on Apple) in the crosshairs, and on price alone, Soundcore has Apple beat. Even the fit and finish of the Liberty line rivals AirPods. What you won’t get is the convenience of the H2 chip (easily pairing your AirPods with Apple’s operating systems) and the status of owning an Apple product. But the Air 2s will give you wireless charging, arguably better sound (thanks in part to the tighter seal in the ear), and they’ll do it all for a full $30 less.
An all-around solid option for wireless Bluetooth earphones.
If you’re in the market for true wireless earphones, but can’t stomach paying Apple or Bose prices, then the Liberty Air 2 earbuds present an interesting option. For one, they check a lot more boxes than even some of the more expensive alternatives from other brands, like wireless charging, aptX codecs, stable fit in the ear, and more. They aren’t without their shortcomings, and some of the offering shows its price more than others, but at this end of the range, you won’t find much to complain about.