Tom's Guide Verdict
Don't let the substandard ANC put you off, these $99 Soundcore by Anker earbuds are backed by strong audio, battery life and special features. You get superb sound quality, 10 hours of playback and a durable design.
Up to 10 hours playback from a single charge
Impressive features including LDAC support
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Price: $99 / £79 / AU$199
Colors: white, light blue, navy blue, pink, black
Battery life (rated): 10 hours; 50 hours (charging case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (codec support: SBC, AAC, LDAC)
Water resistance: Yes (IPX4)
Size: Not specified
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud); 1.53 ounces (charging case)
Soundcore by Anker’s grip on the bargain buds’ market has gotten tighter with their latest release: the Liberty 4 NC. This less expensive follow-up to the $149 flagship Liberty 4 carries over many upscale features (e.g., LDAC, spatial audio, wireless charging), while updating a few others such as adaptive active noise cancelation (ANC) and battery life.
The powerful spec sheet should warrant a higher MSRP, though less impressive characteristics like second-rate ANC 2.0 technology and buggy connectivity keep these $99 buds earnestly priced. Flaws aside, the Liberty 4 NC rank among one of the best cheap wireless earbuds for sound. Read on for my full Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC review.
Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC: High-end sound for less
I thought the $119 Sony WF-C700N came loaded with premium features, but Soundcore's entry-level buds give them a run for their money. The Liberty 4 have an adjustable EQ with multiple customization settings, fine-tuned 11mm drivers, LDAC codec support, and spatial audio. You can expect an engaging and satisfying listening experience across the board.
Anker’s default Signature EQ is nicely balanced with deep bass that’s prominent on contemporary tracks. Listening with ANC on gives the low end a minor boost. You can swap out Signature with 21 other EQs, many of which are engineered well for their categories, or you can create your own profile via manual EQ.
However, the best performance comes from the HearID Sound feature. This analyzes and tailors sound to your hearing through a series of hearing tests. It’s effective and complements most music genres. The amalgamation of instruments on Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” had a livelier presence with HearID turned on. Snares hit hard, horns were vibrant, and the teetering hi-hats tickled my eardrums. Vocals were also crisper due to the raised midrange on my HearID initial curve. Anker lets you combine your profile with any of their EQs, though the results aren’t convincing.
A stripped-down version of Anker’s 360-degree audio format (3D Surround Sound) comes included and sounds surprisingly good. Bass-heavy tracks like Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” would often produce minor distortion, but 3D Surround Sound helped clean that up and expanded the soundscape. Action films were just as rewarding to hear; melee combat and special effects sounded convincing.
Streaming quality on Apple Music and Spotify was pleasant on my MacBook Pro (AAC) and OnePlus 11 phone (using SBC), but it was noticeably better when enabling LDAC on my Android device. Tracks streamed at a higher rate from Tidal Masters using LDAC gave a noticeable step up, with near-CD-quality sound.
The Liberty 4 NC come with multipoint technology to pair to two devices simultaneously, but the feature is buggy. There were times when the buds struggled to pinpoint my primary audio source, causing serious lag or stutter, or dropping the connection from my secondary device.
Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC: Lengthy playtimes in a handsome design
Anker rates battery life at 10 hours with noise canceling off. Enabling the feature reduces playtime to 8 hours, while LDAC use brings it down to 7 hours. By comparison, this is higher than the top-selling AirPods Pro 2 (5.5 to 7 hours) and on par with the Sony WF-1000XM5 (8 to 10 hours). I was happy with the 3 days of moderate use these buds provided per charge.
The charging case holds up to 50 hours, which is considerably longer than the AirPods Pro 2 case (30 hours) and WF-1000XM5 case (34 hours). Wireless charging adds to the Liberty 4 NC’s appeal. I’m also smitten with the design, which is functional, solidly built, and very stylish. It can survive falls and withstand scratches much better than the MSRP suggests. The curved square design with glossy finish and lit-up push button are nice touches. Popping the case open gorgeously displays the buds in their docking stations.
The long-stem design isn't as trendy these days, but the Liberty 4 NC feels attractive and comes in a choice five color options. The bright and bold color options are distinctive. Unique details like the etched Soundcore logo at the top and tiny mic grille at the bottom stand out. A solid plastic frame with IPX4 coating for sweat and water resistance completes the Liberty 4 NC’s look.
Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC: Weak ANC
Noise cancelation isn’t the greatest on the Liberty 4 NC. Anker’s adaptive ANC 2.0 technology supposedly adjusts ANC in real-time for optimal performance. That’s not what I experienced. Common distractions like chatty pedestrians and loud televisions went unheard, along with several low-frequency sounds (e.g., gardening tools, humming from a fan), but that was it.
Using the buds when working from home didn’t provide much silence. My son’s laughs and cries were audible from a room away. Doorbells and smartphone ringers always caught my attention. Even the music blasting from a portable speaker in the pool area outside of my apartment clashed with the Liberty 4 NC’s sound.
The Environment Detection setting wasn’t effective, nor was the four-setting Transportation Mode, which is engineered to adjust ANC based on your commuting vehicle: airplane, buds, car, or train. I used the car setting during rides, but I could still hear the electronic sounds from my son’s toys, as well as my wife’s Spotify playlist.
The Manual Mode offered the best performance and minimized some high-frequency noises when set at the highest level.
ANC might have worked better if the buds had provided a stabler fit. Constant slippage and the lack of a dependable seal not only affected wearability, but also let outside noise creep onto the soundscape.
The two-setting Transparency Mode was much more useful. Full Transparency increased environmental awareness, while Vocal Mode emphasized vocals to hear and communicate clearly. I felt secure monitoring traffic and sharing conversations with the missus during strolls.
Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC: Verdict
For $99, the Liberty 4 NC are fantastic-sounding buds that should be marketed towards budget audiophiles. Strong drivers combined with customizable settings give these buds plenty of sonic versatility, be it booming bass, crisp mids, or well-balanced frequency range. Excellent audio quality via Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC support for compatible devices allows listeners to fully absorb details and nuances as music makers' intended.
Anker should have chosen something other than “NC” in the moniker because noise cancelation on these buds is not worthy of top billing. It struggles with mid- and high frequency sounds, and the unstable fit didn’t help isolate noise either.
However, any shortcomings are forgivable when factoring in feature set and price. Ultimately, the Liberty 4 NC are a noteworthy budget option for music lovers that value depth and detail.
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A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.