We’ve all heard of the sophomore slump—well, all of us except Anker. The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 exceeds our expectations for how a cheap pair of true wireless earbuds should perform, making it one of my personal favorites. The Qi-compatible charging case feels premium and the call quality is superb. Let’s jump right in and explore the strengths and weaknesses of this generally great headset.
Editor’s note: this Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 review was updated on August 5, 2020, to include information about Bluetooth connections and a microphone poll.
Who should get the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2?
- General consumers should consider these earbuds; at $99, they’re within the limit of most shoppers’ budgets and pack in plenty of features.
- Hands-free callers need to get these earbuds, because the microphone system is among the best we’ve tested in true wireless earbuds. Unless you’re willing to spend upwards of $230 for the Apple AirPods Pro, this is the best mic quality you’ll get.
- Commuters should consider this package; even though the ‘buds don’t offer noise cancelling, they passively block out a lot of sound.
- Athletes may want to shell out for these versatile earbuds as they’re IPX5-certified, meaning they can withstand strong sprays of water from practically any direction.
How are the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 built?
For the attainable price, these earbuds are extremely well built. Yes, it’s an all-plastic construction from the earbuds to the case, but it looks and feels great.
The case is nearly flawless. The soft-touch matte finish tricked me into thinking this was a more expensive headset, and made it a pleasure to use. Flipping the lid open or closed is easy to do with just one hand, and the earbuds fit well in their respective cutouts. Even a forceful wrist flick will opened, too, so be weary: the case will pop open if it falls on the ground. The bottom of the case holds a USB-C input and manual Bluetooth pairing button, while the front has three 3 LEDs to clearly communicate remaining battery status.
If I had to choose one pair of budget earphones, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air two would be it.
The earbuds follow the same stemmed design as before, but this is far from a carbon copy. Thankfully, SoundCore dropped the last model’s glossy finish, which attracted an inordinate amount of fingerprints. The second iteration is more mature and doesn’t try to garner attention with a shiny veneer. The stems are easy to grip, and the circular section emblazoned with the SoundCore logo serves as a multifunction touch panel on each earbud. The one downside to the stems is that earrings scrape against them and produce an unpleasant sound, but this is more or less the case with all stemmed earbuds.
Each housing conceals a sensor that detects when the earbud is inserted or removed from your ear; doing the latter automatically pauses playback. Unfortunately, the earbuds don’t support auto-resume functionality, but double-tapping the right earbud does the trick. Angled nozzles keep things comfortable, and I listened to the earbuds for four consecutive hours without any fatigue or irritation.
You should explore the SoundCore app
The SoundCore app affords a handful of useful features to those willing to download it, the most obvious of which is access to firmware updates. You can also take a basic hearing test via the HearID feature, which tailors the sound profile to your hearing abilities. It takes a few minutes to complete, but it’s just a matter of holding a virtual button down when you hear a tone, and releasing it when the tone is no longer audible. You can toggle this profile and retest yourself at any time.
Aside from that, you may also remap controls, check battery levels, toggle auto-pause functionality, and more. When you remap controls, the custom functions aren’t enabled during mono listening. This means volume controls aren’t usable in mono mode, because they’re a custom command, rather than the default.
EQ settings are saved to the earbuds and are applied when listening from any device.
A drawback to the SoundCore app is how its functionality is limited to just some of its headsets. While this doesn’t affect Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 users, it means anyone with the Anker SoundCore Life P2 won’t benefit from downloading the app. According to SoundCore, more headsets will be supported in the future, but hasn’t offered any specifics yet.
Connection stability is great with the SoundCore Liberty Air 2
These earbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware which optimizes connection stability and power consumption. So long as I kept within the designated 10-meter wireless range, connection consistency was flawless indoors and outdoors.
To my dismay, Bluetooth multipoint isn’t supported, and even if my laptop was shut while the earbuds were connected to it, they wouldn’t let me connect to my smartphone without reopening my laptop and disconnecting from it. However, the Liberty Air 2 earbuds support both aptX and AAC for high-quality streaming regardless of your preferred operating system. Another benefit: reduced latency; audio-visual lag is nearly imperceptible when using the Liberty Air 2, which is great for people who stream video from bed or the treadmill.
Editor’s note: this Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 review was written while using firmware version 04.26.
How to pair the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2
Initially pairing the earbuds is super simple, and requires just moments.
- Open the charging case without removing the earbuds, this automatically powers them on. The right earbud will automatically connect to the left earbud.
- Enter the Bluetooth pairing menu on your device and select the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2.
- A pop-up notification will then request access to the left earbud, which is necessary for properly completing the stereo pairing process.
Some users have reported initial pairing issues, which are addressed in Anker’s user manual. Not all devices are compatible with Qualcomm True Wireless Primary-Secondary dual pairing names, so when you try to pair to the second earbud, you may encounter a “connection unsuccessful” notice— that’s ok. The primary earbud will still relay information to the secondary one.
If you happen to run into repeated connection issues, you may have a faulty unit or need to perform a hard reset of the device. This may be done by inserting both earbuds into the case, and holding the case’s button down for 10 seconds until the earbud LEDs flash red three times.
How long does the battery last?
The batteries exceeded our expectations and lasted 7 hours, 5 minutes on a single charge, which is a huge improvement over the original SoundCore Liberty Air earbuds. The Qi-compatible wireless charging case supports fast charging: a quick 10 minutes in the case supplies listeners with two hours of listening. Said case provides an additional three charge cycles before you have to plug it into the included USB-C cable for two hours. This means you get well over a day’s worth of listening from the entire package—pretty solid.
How do the Liberty Air 2 sound?
The frequency response isn’t accurate, but it is enjoyable for casual listening. This type of response targets something akin to the “equal loudness” curves, which is more common among the sub-$100 options out there. While it may look like it’s got emphasis all out of control, it really isn’t as wild as it looks. However, because this standard is applicable in only a narrow sort of circumstances, headphones and earphones with this type of response may sound a little too bass-heavy and less clear than you might want.
Thankfully, you can always enter the SoundCore app to equalize the sound, or choose from any number of SoundCore’s presets.
Related: How to read charts
Despite the emphatic bass exaggeration, midrange frequencies are very accurately relayed. This is great, though bass notes are two or three times louder than mids, which can cause auditory masking— a phenomenon which occurs when a loud sound makes it hard to perceive a relatively quiet one. This can make it seem like something is “missing” from your music. It’s not that these sounds disappeared, they’re just harder to hear above the louder bass notes.
Passive isolation is excellent, as indicated by the consistently boosted bass response we tested. External sounds like background chatter and outside traffic is rendered half as loud with the earbuds in than without. This is great for commuters who don’t want to pay a premium for noise cancelling true wireless earbuds. To achieve this kind of isolation performance, you have to take the time to find the best fit for you; Anker SoundCore supplies listeners with five pairs of ear tips (XS-XL), so you should be able to get a proper seal.
Editor’s note: for the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 review, we enabled the SoundCore Signature sound profile.
Lows, mids, and highs
In Taylor Swift’s song I Think He Knows, an understated bass line enters and remains throughout in tandem with a steady pattern of fingersnaps until the chorus starts at 0:39. Prior to the chorus, Swift’s vocals are relayed relatively clearly with minimal masking. Once the more dominant bassline ushers in the chorus, though, the nuance of Swift’s vocals are lost. As she sings “Got that, oh! I mean…” all harmonic resonance on the vocalization of “got that” is rendered imperceptible relative to the instrumental noise.
It isn’t as bad as it sounds though: speech is still intelligibile. I was never left wondering the fundamental content of her words, but it can be hard to appreciate self-harmonizations. This is immediately reduced when you switch from the default profile to the Flat profile in the SoundCore app, though, or by creating your own.
These are good earbuds for phone calls
Microphone quality is fantastic. The four-microphone array works in tandem with noise reduction technology to relay speech clearly and minimize background noise. Voices of all pitches will come through loud and clear with the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2. This microphone system is amazing, especially considering the cost of the earphones, and it blows pricier competitors like Master & Dynamic out of the water.
Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 microphone demo:
Even when outside, background noise was slightly reduced. Wind noise, while not completely nullified, is also mitigated, which made me much less wary of answering calls while on my daily walks with the Liberty Air 2 earbuds. If you prioritize call quality above all else, these are the true wireless earbuds to get—unless you’re willing to shell out for the Apple AirPods Pro, Google Pixel Buds (2020), or Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, all of which are significantly more expensive than the headset in question.
How does the Liberty Air 2 compare to other true wireless headsets?
Suffice to say, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 fare exceptionally well compared to other cheap true wireless earbuds, but let’s pit them against some popular alternatives.
Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds
The original Samsung Galaxy Buds retail for little more than $100 these days, and are a great buy for Android and iPhone users. Samsung is fastidious about rolling out software updates to its older earbuds, and recently enabled direct Spotify access—a feature previously reserved for the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus earphones.
The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 are more durable than the IPX2 water-resistant Galaxy Buds, and they have about the same battery life. Isolation is much better with SoundCore’s earphones, but I loved the fit of the Galaxy Buds. Both use touch controls; Anker’s aren’t quite as sensitive as I’d like, while Samsung’s are a tad too sensitive.
Readers with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone will benefit more from the Galaxy Buds as they support Wireless PowerShare charging from atop a compatible smartphone. What’s more, users can take advantage of the scalable proprietary codec. However, for other Android users and iPhone users, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 may be preferable, as they support aptX and AAC.
Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 vs. Anker SoundCore Liberty Air
Anker SoundCore’s first-generation Liberty Air was an absolute hit, but the sophomore model is much better and costs just $20 more. Unless you’re on an extremely tight budget, get the Liberty Air 2. Heck, if your cutting costs that much, turn your attention instead to the JLab Go Air which costs just $30.
Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 vs. JLab JBuds Air Executive
The JLab JBuds Air Executive also have a stemmed design, but feel much cheaper than what Anker SoundCore is working with. Sure, the charging case is unique and looks premium thanks to the synthetic leather wrap, but it doesn’t add much functionality to the headset. JLab’s integrated USB charging case is one of my favorite features of its true wireless products, but it lacks wireless charging afforded by the Liberty Air 2’s case.
Plus, the Anker SoundCore earbuds support aptX, AAC, and SBC Bluetooth codecs whereas JLab’s only support AAC and SBC, limiting high-quality streaming to iOS. Battery life is significantly better with the Liberty Air 2, as is microphone quality.
Should you buy the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2?
Absolutely, yes. These are my favorite affordable true wireless headphones yet, and I’m thrilled with how SoundCore has improved its popular headset. My days are filled with conference calls and private calls with family and friends, so microphone quality is of the utmost importance. The fact that this mic array punches well above its weight class is wonderful. If you don’t mind taking a few moments to EQ the sound, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 are a top-tier set of ‘buds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Great question! We reached out directly to the SoundCore support team who responded with the following: Since the setting remains on the [Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2], the EQ remains in effect when listening from your laptop if the headphones are not reset. Also, when an EQ is applied, it will not change the Bluetooth codec that is used. This means if you use a custom-made EQ, you are also able to stream over the aptX or AAC codec.
No, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 Pro do not support Bluetooth multipoint. You can switch from one device to another manually, but unfortunately cannot connect to two devices at once.