If you know anything about Anker, you know that it was only a matter of time before the company tried to take on true wireless earbuds. The company most known for their charging cables and external battery packs also has a surprisingly successful history of trying to bring down the newest technologies to an affordable price point. It’s newest true wireless earbuds dubbed the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air is no exception but did they succeed? Or should they have left this market alone?
Who are they for?
- People who want the convenience of AirPods without the price tag. At about half the price, the Soundcore Liberty Air hold their own against Apple’s true wireless ‘buds.
- Android users. While you could argue that the W1 chip in the AirPods is worth the price tag, Android users can’t benefit from it anyway. In that case, the Soundcore Liberty Air get the job done.
How’s the build quality of the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air?
I’m not going to sugarcoat this, these are knockoff Airpods—but that’s not a bad thing. Basically, everything I found appealing about the AirPods is here too. The case is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and easy to slide in your pocket thanks to rounded off edges and slick plastic build. Up front are three LED lights so you know how much battery is left, and it magnetically snaps shut too. Best of all, they’re matte black. Well, at least the case is.
I wish the ‘buds themselves were made of the same soft plastic material, but instead, they’re made of a glossy plastic that brings the look and feel of the back down to reality. They’re insanely fingerprint prone and get grimy almost immediately. Not to mention the aesthetic choices Anker made aren’t great either. They have a disgustingly large “Soundcore” logo printed down the side of the stem, and very visible tiny holes for the microphone on each earbud. There just isn’t enough real estate on the earbuds to put a logo in a tasteful way, so instead, Anker just sloppily pasted it on. These would’ve nailed the minimal all-black look the AirPods are missing had they just left the logo only on the charging case.
Basically, the build of the earbuds embodies everything that I hate about cheap electronics. Still, you couldn’t tell just by looking at the charging case, which is damn near perfect. The only problem I have with the charging case is that when I swapped the silicone ear tips that came with the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air to my own memory foam tips, the case wouldn’t close properly which is a bummer for anyone hoping to get better isolation with a good set of ear tips. The bright side is that the Soundcore Liberty Air ‘buds are IPX5 certified against liquid and sweat, so if you’re bringing these to the gym you shouldn’t have to worry too much about damaging them.
Putting the earbuds back in the case is an identical process to that of the AirPods as well. They magnetically snap into place perfectly each time and begin charging immediately. Similarly, just talking them out of the case turns them on which makes pairing a breeze as they automatically turn on and enter pursuing pairing mode as soon as you take them out of the device.
What about connectivity?
Once I paired the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air with my phone and put them on, the issues I had with build quality melted away. I experienced basically no skipping whatsoever in average use, which is saying something with true wireless earbuds. They auto-connect to my device quickly when I take them out of the case so I don’t have to fiddle around in my Bluetooth settings, and putting them back in the case automatically pauses the music and disconnects from my device perfectly every time.
Unfortunately, not everything works so buttery-smooth. Connecting multiple devices is possible, but switching seamlessly between them is not. Going between my iPad and Pixel 3 required a few trips to the settings and manually disconnecting and then reconnecting each time. This isn’t a big deal if you’re just going to be on one device, but if you’re like me and use more than one device it can be a hassle. Switching between Google Podcasts on my phone during my commute, to Spotify on my iPad once I reached my destination meant reconnecting multiple times throughout the day which, obviously, isn’t ideal.
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air also don’t have any buttons on them, so playback controls are left to the touch-sensitive spots on the outside of either earbud. Double-tapping the right earbud pauses/plays music and answers phone calls, while double-tapping the left earbud activates your phones assistant. You can also two and hold for two seconds on the right and left earbuds to skip to the next track and return to a previous track, respectively. They work fairly well, save for returning to a previous track. I was never able to actually return to a previous track since you have to hold down the side of the left earbud for a full two seconds to activate the function. By the time it registered, I was already too far into the song to return to a previous track and all that it did was replay the current song from the beginning.
Like all true wireless earbuds, you can’t expect these to say much longer than a few hours. So if you’re going to be on an intercontinental flight you might still want to look into active house cancelling headphones, but for the average commute or trip to the gym, it’s more than enough. Anker claims around five hours of constant playback with an extra 15-hours being provided by the charging case.
In our testing, we found that they lasted 4.82 before needing to go back in the case. Not bad at all considering the average is currently around 3.5 hours. It actually puts it almost at the top of our true wireless battery testing, second only to the Jabra Elite 65t. The downside is that you’ll have to carry around a micro-USB cable in order to charge these. It comes with one in the box, but seeing USB Type-C would’ve made these even more desirable.
How do they sound?
Despite all of the issues I already mentioned regarding playback controls, I’m still tempted to get a pair of these even though I only just bought myself a pair of the RHA TrueConnect earbuds (at full price mind you). The reason is simple: I love how these sound. As useful as the connectivity features are on the AirPods even aficionados will never say they sound good because they don’t. That’s not a knock on Apple, most true wireless ‘buds suffer from bad sound quality. While I won’t ever call the sound on the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air “high quality,” they’re definitely one of my favorite sounding true wireless earbuds I’ve used to date along with the Master & Dynamic MW07 earbuds.
They’re not lacking in bass, but they’re not overly emphasized like how do so many other products are when trying to hide bad sound quality. The song Only You by Joshua Radin is one that I use when trying gauge how much a singer’s vocals get masked by the low end because of the subtle yet strong bass notes on his guitar. The Soundcore Liberty Air handle it spectacularly, giving the right amount of umpf to the guitar in the solo parts of the track without getting in the way of Radin’s soft vocals. While this is great to me, people that prefer more bass while performing activities like working out might not be too keen on these.
While I found the mids and lows were handled nicely, that isn’t the case with the high end. Cymbals in the song Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men have basically no detail or depth most likely due to the fact that the emphasis in the high end can lead to some wonky notes in the ranges we barely hear anyway. This is pretty normal, and something that happens with the vast majority of headphones.
So should you get the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air? If you don’t already have a pair of true wireless earbuds, these are hard to beat. Sure, they’re not perfect. They do stumble on a few important features like volume control and adequate playback controls, not to mention the design of the actual earbuds is atrocious, but they sound great, have exceptional battery life, and a borderline perfect charging case. There are better sounding true wireless ‘buds, and one pair with a better battery life, but these hold their own all for less than $100.