It is increasingly difficult to stand out in the wireless headphone market. You can find a pair of headphones at almost any price point with a range of different features dotted around. Being part of a particular ecosystem, such as AirPods for iOS users or Galaxy Buds Live for Samsung users, is an easy way to choose the headphones that are right for you. Anker doesn’t exactly have their own phone to sell alongside their Liberty line of headphones, so their strategy is to provide desirable features at a competitive price.
The $ 129.99 Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro headphones do a lot, but so do a lot of other headphones at this price point. It’s their competitive active noise cancellation and well-designed app that helps them stand out.
The buds themselves are the same rod design with a silicone tip as Apple’s AirPods Pro. (I guess the name isn’t the only way Anker got inspiration from Apple.) The Liberty Air 2 Pro has a gold fan-shaped cover over its speakers, which is no use. other than looking cool and a textured matte finish. They are available in “onyx black”, “titanium white”, “sapphire blue” and “crystal pink”. The box includes nine silicone tips in different sizes, ranging from XXXS to XL, to create the best seal and hopefully prevent movement in your ear canal.
Fit is extremely important in headphones, not only for ANC, but also for the best sound quality experience, especially in low frequencies. To confirm that you have chosen the best size tips, Anker offers a tip fit test in the Soundcore app. The app plays approximately 10 seconds of ringtone orchestral music, then displays a “good seal” or “bad seal” result for each earphone. (Yes, it’s basically like what Apple does with the AirPods Pro. Inspiration.)
There is also an audio test called HearID which claims to map your personal hearing sensitivity to multiple frequencies to better customize the EQ settings for you. It plays around 30 different tones per ear and asks you to confirm whether you hear the tone or not. Then you are presented with a graph of your results and an EQ preset saved in the app. My test resulted in deep bass and less treble which made my music richer.
Fit testing and EQ parameter testing is something that several other headphone manufacturers do these days, and while not everyone finds these tests useful, I appreciate having this option. .
The large, almost stone-like case slides open and closed with a satisfying click. It most closely resembles the Galaxy Buds Pro case – it’s longer than it is tall – but its larger size makes it less sticky than most headphone cases. There are three battery LEDs on the front and a pairing button on the back. It might seem like a small detail, but I really appreciate the headphones that have a physical button for pairing. It is much easier to use than pushing down on the headphones to pair them like you have to on the Jabra Elite 85t.
Like most headphones, the Air 2 Pro has touch controls when you’re wearing them: double-tap the left earbud to skip to the next track, double-tap the right to play and pause, or press and hold for two seconds on either bud to switch between ambient sound modes. It’s great that the headphones respond quickly to my tapping, but I’m frustrated with the limitation of the controls. All of them can be customized in the app, but I would like there to be a one-tap or even a triple-tap option.
The two headphones can be used independently of the other, and in-ear detection can be turned on and off in the Anker app. Remove an earphone from your ear and your music will stop; put the bud back in your ear and it will pick up. The in-ear detection was a bit sensitive for my taste. When I had a balaclava, for example, every time the earpiece was hit by my balaclava, my music would stop even though the earpiece was still resting in my ear. A quick readjustment of the bud would restart my music, but completely disable the in-ear detection feature.
The battery life is comparable to that of other ANC headphones. Anker claims seven hours of battery life with ANC off or six hours with it on. There are three additional charges in the case, which can be recharged wirelessly or via the USB-C port on the back. It was more than enough juice to get me to the point where my ears needed a break from the tight in-ear seal of the heads. There’s also a 15-minute quick charge that can get three hours of listening when the case is plugged into an outlet via USB-C.
The Liberty Air 2 Pro supports SBC and AAC audio codecs. They have 11mm drivers which create a heavier sound in the highs. While the music was full and immersive with crisp separation, I often wanted more bass. Lifting the lows in the app’s EQ helped, but it wasn’t as clear as the lows of the AirPods Pro. 1970s funk and soul sounded great, but more contemporary R&B seemed a bit flat.
I was very impressed with the active noise cancellation on the Liberty Air 2 Pro. Outside of Amazon’s Echo Buds, there really aren’t many options at this price point that even include it, let alone do it well.
The Air 2 Pro has three ambient sound modes: total noise cancellation, transparency mode and normal. In the full ANC and transparency modes, there are more specific controls to manage the passing sound levels. You can activate a transport mode to cancel low frequencies, such as train rumbles; Indoor mode for medium frequencies; an Outdoor mode which, according to Anker, is best for urban spaces; or create a custom mode to dial the best setting for you. I set my ANC to Transport and left it there most of my time and found it comparable to the ANC of the Jabra Elite 85t, a set of headphones that cost $ 100 more than the one in the Jabra Elite 85t. ‘Anker.
The noise cancellation let the outside world fade away, but it wasn’t as insulating as the AirPods Pro or Galaxy Buds Pro. And while the transparency mode is usable, it also doesn’t have the same earphone feel as the AirPods Pro. There is a voice transparency mode that removes low frequencies while allowing higher frequencies, such as vocals, through. It was useful for listening to train announcements, but ultimately pulling out an earpiece to hear an announcement was much easier.
Most of the wireless headphone apps are so bad that I open them once to set the EQ settings and some custom touch controls, and that’s it. The Soundcore app kept me coming back time and time again, especially to play around with all the different controls it offered.
When I was bored on the train, I would open the app and start testing all the transparency modes while strangers were talking to each other on the other side of the car. I also had fun raising and lowering the equalizer settings. The app is filled with pleasant colors and is easy to navigate, which is surprisingly rare in the headphone market.
In a wireless headphone market full of worthy (and not-so-worthy) competition, it’s harder and harder to be impressed with a new pair of headphones. But the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro’s competitive price of $ 130 got me in there, and their true active noise cancellation and well-designed app kept me coming back for more. They could certainly use a bit more bass and a smaller body, but Anker made a pair of wireless headphones that bridges the gap between a more budget option and a great, reliable, all-round earpiece that I was delighted to put in. my ears every day.
Photograph by Becca Farsace / The Verge