Update, November 11, 2020: This review was updated to include a microphone poll.
Sequels don’t always live up to the original, but Anker must have missed the memo. The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 exceeds any and all expectations we had for a cheap pair of true wireless earbuds. The build quality and Qi-enabled charging case feel premium and the microphone is particularly impressive. Stick around for the strengths and weaknesses of this solid budget-friendly pair of earbuds.
Who is the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 for?
- Hands-free callers will love this setup, as the microphone is one of the best we’ve tried at the price point.
- Commuters can tune out their trip easily, as these earbuds block out a decent amount of sound without the extra cost associated with noise-cancelling.
- Athletes may want to check these out, as they’re IPX5 certified to resist jets of water from any direction.
What’s the build quality like on the Liberty Air 2?
For the price, these earbuds are extremely well built. Everything is made of plastic, but the buds have a premium weight and feel.
The soft-touch matte finish on the case makes the Liberty Air 2 feel like it’s punching above its weight. It’s easy to open the case with just one finger, and the earbuds fit snuggly in place with magnets. Be careful of drops though, the magnetic lid can open and the earbuds can pop out as the magnets aren’t too heavy-duty.
See also: The best true wireless earbuds
The stemmed design is familiar, but the second time around is the charm. Gone is the fingerprint-magnet gloss finish in favor of matte. The stems are easy to grip, and the SoundCore logo serves as a touch-capacitive panel on each earbud.
The housing for each earbud has a sensor that detects when the earbud is inserted. Your music will stop when the earbuds are in the case, though it doesn’t auto-resume when you pop the earbuds in your ears. The angled nozzles are easy to grab, and listening for hours is pretty comfortable.
Get the SoundCore app
SoundCore’s app offers a number of useful features, such as firmware updates and a basic hearing test. The test does more than just tell you that you can hear — SoundCore actually tailors the sound to your abilities via SoundCore HearID. You can toggle this profile and retest yourself at any time.
It also allows you to create a custom EQ, or choose from over 20 presets. No matter which route you go, the EQ will be saved directly to the headset and applied when listening from any device — much like the Jaybird X4; it will only be cleared if you manually reset the earbuds. What’s more, listening with an EQ preset applied doesn’t downgrade Bluetooth codec streaming from aptX or AAC to SBC, according to a SoundCore support team specialist.
Custom EQ settings are saved to the headset and applied when listening from any device.
The app is also essential if you’re looking to remap controls and adjust settings. Custom functions aren’t applied when listening in mono mode; instead, the controls revert to the default for the in-use earbud. Unfortunately, volume controls are one of the settings that fall victim to this situation. This means you won’t be able to adjust the sound with just one earbud in.
Bluetooth 5.0 makes a difference
The Liberty Air 2 earbuds make the jump to Bluetooth 5.0, which is an improvement in both connection strength and battery life. As long as you stay within the 10-meter range, you should be able to enjoy the crisp sound. Bluetooth multipoint isn’t an option, but the earbuds support aptX and AAC to make up for it. This means Android and iOS smartphones can stream high-quality audio to the buds. You won’t notice much delay between the audio and video, which is a huge plus if you’re bingeing Space Force.
See also: The best AirPods alternatives
Some users have reported challenges with the initial pairing process. This is apparently a common problem, because Anker covers most of the issues in the user’s manual. One of the main causes of the issues is that some devices do not support Qualcomm True Wireless Primary-Secondary dual pairing names. Even if you see a “Connection Unsuccessful” notice you should still be ok. The primary earbud will still relay with the partner, though both are not connected individually.
What’s battery life like?
If you’re looking for a pair of comfortable true wireless earbuds that can last all day long, you’ve got a winner. We managed seven hours and five minutes of battery life on a single charge, which is a big improvement over the originals.
The Qi-enabled charging case supports fast charging. A meager 10 minutes of charging gave us an additional two hours of juice to keep the music on. We also found that the case provided three charging cycles before it had to be recharged, which takes just two hours with the included USB-C cable.
How do the Liberty Air 2 sound?
The frequency response might not be up to snuff for true audiophiles, but it does the trick in a pinch. It’s aimed at hitting equal loudness as a pair of $99 earbuds, though the bass reproduction is heavy-handed. If you’re thinking you can do without the extra bass, you can always pop into the SoundCore app to choose a different preset.
The midrange frequencies are accurate, but the bass notes can be too loud and lead to a phenomenon called auditory masking. That means that the bass can overwhelm the midrange sounds and make it sound like they’re missing. We promise that they’re not actually missing, you just might have to adjust your preset to find them.
We mentioned that these are a solid pick for commuters, especially those who want to tune out the clatter of daily life. The Liberty Air 2 aren’t equipped with true noise-cancelling, but not many earbuds at this price point are. They aren’t one size fits all, but Anker SoundCore includes five different pairs of ear tips to help you get the right fit.
The microphones are great for phone calls
One of the biggest scene-stealers is microphone quality — four microphones work together to capture your voice and eliminate background noise simultaneously. The system is impressive, and it outperforms a few of the pricier competitors. Give our sample a listen right here:
Background noise reduction is much improved, although not completely eliminated. You might notice some wind noise, but it should be tempered enough that you can confidently take calls outdoors. If your goal is call quality, these are the buds to get if you can’t shell out the cash for Apple AirPods or Google Pixel Buds.
How does the Liberty Air 2 stack up to the competition?
We’ve established that the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 knocks out the cheap competition, but let’s see what happens when we put it against the heavy-hitters.
Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Buds
The original Samsung Galaxy Buds are inching closer to the $100 threshold, and Samsung keeps adding new perks. Samsung recently added direct Spotify access — a feature previously limited to the Galaxy Buds Plus.
SoundCore’s Liberty Air 2 top the Galaxy Buds with an IPX5 rating compared to Samsung’s IPX2. They isolate sound better as well, and both options offer touch controls. Samsung’s controls are almost too sensitive, but Anker’s don’t always feel sensitive enough.
If you have a Samsung phone, you’re probably better off with the Galaxy Buds thanks to Wireless PowerShare. Other Android users and even iPhone users might prefer the Liberty Air 2 for the aptX and AAC support.
Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 vs JLab JBuds Air Executive
Both pairs have stemmed designs, but the JLab JBuds Air Executive feel far less premium. The synthetic leather on the charging case feels fancy, but that’s about it. JLab’s charging case also sacrifices the wireless charging that you get with the Liberty Air 2.
JLab’s JBuds support AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, but the Liberty Air 2 tops it by adding aptX to the mix. The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 also gets the edge for battery life and microphone quality.
Should you buy the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2?
The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 are impressive budget-friendly true wireless earbuds, and they run laps around the originals. Whether you’re a commuter, athlete, or you spend your days on the phone, you’ll be happy with the durability and microphone quality. We really can’t say enough about the microphones, but you’ll have to see for yourself. As long as you can take the time to get the sound right with fit and EQ tweaking, these might be your new favorite pair of earbuds.