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House of Marley Liberate Air
July 30, 2019
8.7 x 4 x 2.9 mm (case)
Climate change is a seemingly ever-growing problem, and House of Marley is striving to combat it by supporting global reforestation efforts. The House of Marley Liberate Air is made from renewable, recyclable, and upcycled materials. Not only are these earbuds good, or at least less bad, for the environment but they sound and look good, too. When you buy into the House of Marley brand, you’re making a statement about who you are: someone concerned about their ecological impact.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on January 24, 2021, to adjust formatting to match SoundGuys’ current style.
Who is it for?
Eco-conscious consumers should get the House of Marley Liberate Air. The company contributes to the One Tree Planted organization, a non-profit championing a reforestation campaign. If you need true wireless earbuds but don’t want to deal with the climatological guilt that accompanies new purchases, the Liberate Air is a good compromise.
What’s it like to use the House of Marley Liberate Air?
The design aligns with House of Marley’s other products: the Liberate Air charging case and earbuds have bamboo accents. Each panel is touch-sensitive. Depending on what combination of taps you use, you can skip tracks, accept or reject calls, and access your virtual assistant. Initially, I thought I had to tap the circular divot for any taps to register. However, it turns out tapping anywhere on the bamboo plane works just as well.
As has become the norm, the earbuds have angled nozzles to alleviate excess pressure on the ear canal. Preinstalled silicone jackets keep the earbuds in place; though, I always felt they fit precariously in my ear. Wing tips, similar to those provided with the Jaybird Vista, would make me feel more confident about exercising with the Liberate Air. However, feel free to exercise with these ‘buds as they’re IPX4-rated, so they can endure your sweatiest workouts.
The cloth-wrapped charging case is compact and easy to transport. It has a USB-C port and a pairing button on the back. Other than that, it just serves as a vestibule for the earbuds. Even with the textured cloth exterior, I dropped the case many times when opening it. Those with larger hands than mine may struggle even more often.
How long does the battery last?
A single charge of the earbuds provides 5.55 hours of playback when listening at a constant 75dB output. You’ll likely get closer to House of Marley’s stated 9-hour battery life if you listen to quieter volumes, though. The charging case gives you an extra 2.5 charges for when you’re out and about.
To fully charge the case, you’ll need to set aside two hours and use the included USB-C cable. Coincidentally, a complete charge cycle for the earbuds also requires two hours. Unfortunately, they don’t support quick charging, which is a rarity for this breed of earbud.
How do you connect the earbuds to your phone?
There isn’t yet a universal pairing method for true wireless earbuds. By opening the Liberate Air case first time, the earbuds automatically enter pairing mode. From there, you can pair them to your phone. If you want to add an additional source later, place the earbuds in the case, keep it open, and hold the button on the back of the case for six seconds.
These Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds don’t support multiconnect and offer an average 10-meter wireless range. SBC is the only supported Bluetooth codec, which means no one benefits from high-quality streaming. Connection strength is ok. When outside, I noticed far more connectivity stutters than other earbuds like the JLab Epic Air Sport. Additionally, the left earbud tends to sporadically transmit a crackling sound. It’s quiet, but once I noticed it, the sound grew impossible to ignore.
Static is occasionally relayed through the left earbud, a horrible nuisance at this price point.
That said, one of my favorite things about these earbuds is the ability to listen in mono mode. By removing just one earbud from the case, it automatically connects to the last used device. You can then enjoy your music and playback controls through the designated earbud. This is great for anyone who runs outside and wants to remain safe while doing so.
What do they sound like?
The Liberate Air have a tame bass response compared to the over-ear Exodus headphones. The sub-bass appears markedly attenuated, but realistically, you’re unlikely to register the nuances of those frequencies anyway. Instrumental separation is fine, but nothing noteworthy. Anytime my phone’s volume exceeded 50%, I could hear some harmonic distortion, especially with high-pitched sounds like cymbal hits.
Isolation isn’t very effective. If you’re unable to get a proper fit, you’ll immediately notice that it’s difficult to hear bass notes. That’s because external noise may permeate the earbuds and mask your music.
Lows, mids, and highs
Tobi Lou’s song Darlin’ highlights the Liberate Air’s strengths. Introductory finger snaps come through clearly and avoid sounding grating, a consequence of overemphasis. The accompanying bassline is audible but is less present than Lou’s vocals. Midrange frequencies are only slightly more emphasized than bass frequencies, which allows vocals and the guitar to remain centerstage.
The earbuds sound pretty good, but their isolation is not effective.
If you listen to a lot of hip-hop and want the bass to be headshaking, these aren’t the earbuds for you. Fortunately, you can pursue one of two avenues: EQ the sound to your liking, or get a pair of Creative Outlier Air earbuds.
Is the House of Marley Liberate Air good for phone calls?
Yes, microphone quality is superb as long as you’re in a relatively quiet environment. Wind noise was relayed to my friend, but it didn’t completely mask my voice. I don’t have any qualms about using these both for personal and professional use when in my apartment. The frequency response is fairly neutral across the board. No matter how high or low your vocal range is, the Liberate Air will reproduce your voice accurately.
House of Marley Liberate Air microphone demo:
How does the microphone sound to you?
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Should you buy the House of Marley Liberty Air?
Those who need true wireless earbuds and want to curb climate change to their best ability should consider the House of Marley Liberate Air. By purchasing a pair of these earbuds, you can rest easy knowing you’re supporting reforestation without giving up ingrained consumerist tendencies. I was pleasantly surprised by the microphone quality and as someone who bikes often, mono listening is a precious feature.
If you’re not completely sold on the Liberate Air, there are plenty of alternative true wireless earbuds available. Whether you’re on a budget, need something for exercise, or want a great pair of AirPods alternatives, the true wireless space has something for your needs.