Colors: Grey, Blue, Silver, White
Size: 1.5 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches (per bud), 2.4 x 2.4 x 1.2 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.4 ounces (per bud), 1.8 ounces (charging case)
Battery life: 26 hours
Speakers: 11mm dynamic drivers
Features: ANC, Transparency mode, touch controls, custom EQ, replaceable tips, wireless charging
With the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, Anker is making a seemingly irresistible proposal: true wireless, active noise-cancelling (ANC) earbuds for just $130.
By comparison, the Apple AirPods Pro are $250, the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are $200 and even the Sony WF-100XM3 are hovering around $165 more than a year after release.
Is there a catch? That's what this Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review aims to find out, but while there some design issues these are generally a good little pair of ANC buds — especially for the price.
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Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: Design
Unfortunately, the styling of these earbuds doesn't get them off to the most auspicious start. Their long, slightly angular stalks manage to be even more off-putting than the cylindrical white tubes of the AirPods family, and the grey model in particular makes each bud look like a shrunken version of those Bluetooth headsets you'd see on businessmen in the early 2000s.
The blue, white and silver color options aren't quite as bad in this regard, but frankly, those stretched-out stalks are ugly in any shade.
It's the practical side of things that saves the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro from being a design bust. The touch controls, for instance, work reliably. Inputs are exclusively double-taps or hold gestures, which helps prevent accidental skipping, and I never had a problem with failed inputs.
IPX4 water resistance is also a very welcome inclusion. This rating means the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro won't survive a swim (or a careless shower), but will cope fine with splashes and sweat, potentially making them a decent pair of sport earbuds. Sure enough, I wetted the buds in the sink, without fully running them under the tap, and no ill effects developed.
The charging case isn't weatherproof, but it at least avoids the misjudged aesthetics of the earbuds, with a smart soft-touch finish to the plastic and a neat sliding cover. It can be topped up with Qi wireless chargers, too, should you misplace the USB-C cable.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: Comfort and fit
To Anker's considerable credit, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds come with a generous nine sets of silicone tips. Seven of these range from XXXS to large sizes, and there are two extra sets that are slightly deeper variations of the medium and large circumferences. You've therefore got a much better chance of finding the perfect fit than with the AirPods Pro, which include only three sets of tips.
These earbuds slip in easily and hold fairly firmly, which is impressive considering the lack of wings or hooks, and they don't use the twist-to-fit shape favored by Sennheiser and Samsung. They're also comfortable to wear for shorter periods — an hour or two, say.
However, for longer listening sessions, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro can start to feel a little fatiguing on your ear canal, especially compared to the more lastingly comfy Sennheiser CX 400BT. It feels like the weight of each earbud is behind held up primarily by the tips rather than the load being spread around the rest of the ear.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: Setup and controls
Setting up the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro with a source device is no more difficult than any other pair of Bluetooth headphones. If they're inside their charging case, simply sliding back the cover is enough to put them in pairing mode, and I could quickly get them connected to my phone without issue.
As with an increasing number of wireless headphones, installing the companion app for the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro is essential for managing its key features. More on those shortly, though for basic play/pause, skipping and call controls, there's always the aforementioned touch controls.
My only complaint with these is that while you can hold down on either earbud to activate or deactivate ANC, there's no tap or hold input to quickly enable Transparency mode, which would save having to dig your phone out to do it through the Soundcore app instead.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: Sound quality
The most immediately striking aspect of the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro's sound is how bassy it is. It's not necessarily to the point of the low end being entirely out of control, and for some songs it kind of works: bass-drum kicks felt like they were thumping my brain around in my skull, in a much more pleasant and satisfying way than that sounds.
Still, in too many instances this bass preference can also rob mids and highs of their sparkle and impact. It was almost a bit sad to hear the gorgeous plucked violins on Marmaduke Duke's "Kid Gloves" dulled under the weight of all that low end.
The good news is that while this is the default sound, it's not the only one. The Soundcore app serves up customization in a couple of different ways, the more interesting being its "HearID" feature. This plays a series of beeps to test how well you can hear different frequencies at various volumes and uses the results to craft a sound profile that's specific to you.
Amazingly, my personalized profile fixed the overbearing bass entirely. It was still present enough to deliver the punch I wanted, but was generally better balanced with the mids and treble. Now those violins had their shine back, and more upbeat compositions like The Electric Swing Circus' "Bella Belle" had an easier time treading the line between fun and boomy.
It should be stressed that the post-HearID sound still doesn't quite match the lovingly detailed signature of, say, the Sennheiser CX 400BT. The soundstage isn't as wide, either. But for $130, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro sound great, with clearly defined instrument separation and clean vocalisation.
Remember, also, that HearID isn't a magic "fix the bass" button. It tailors the output to individual users, so your results may sound different from mine. But even if you don't find the results as agreeable as I did, you can still manually adjust the EQ using the Custom profile in the app to get these earbuds sounding however you want.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: Features
HearID is far from the only tool in the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro's kit. Even more crucial is active noise cancellation (ANC), which is an extremely pleasant surprise to see on a pair of $130 earbuds.
It's not even a particularly basic implementation of the tech. ANC comes in three flavors — Transport, Indoor and Outdoor — as well as in a Custom option that lets you adjust the noise-cancellation effect's intensity.
While Transport is clearly designed for passengers of planes, trains and automobiles, I found it more effective than the Outdoor profile for quieting traffic while walking near roads. Unsurprisingly, these little earbuds can't entirely silence harsh sounds like generators or speeding cars, but they can bring them down enough that music drowns them out at moderate volumes.
The Indoor profile works great, too. Granted, it's tuned for less naturally noisy environments, but it does feel like the most successful at silencing ambient noises. Walking through a store with this mode and no music playing felt almost eerily quiet.
There's also a choice of Transparency modes: Fully Transparent and Vocal Mode. The latter puts extra emphasis on speech so you can hold conversations more easily. It works well enough on that count, and I actually preferred using it exclusively, at Fully Transparent's expense. Vocal Mode still lets in enough sound from, say, traffic or the beeps of a checkout machine, and Fully Transparent boosts the volume of droning sounds beyond my liking. Turn Fully Transparent on near an air-conditioning vent or a refrigeration cabinet and the exaggerated whirring is hard to ignore.
Again, though, some imperfections are forgivable when you remember you're getting a premium feature like ANC for $130. If we're picking holes, you could probably say the AirPods Pro have a generally clearer-sounding ambient mode, but the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro are more than good enough.
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro also demonstrate their smarts by detecting when you take them out of your ear. This detection feature automatically pauses playback so you don’t miss a beat, and dutifully kicked in when I accidentally knocked one out while removing my face mask. It proved effective in more intentional uses as well.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: Battery life
Anker promises a compelling 7 hours of playback, but presumably this is with ANC switched off. At 50% volume and with the Indoor noise-cancelling setting engaged, we got 4 hours and 42 minutes of continuous music from these earbuds.
Still, while that might be an underwhelming result for non-ANC buds, it's a pretty good showing when you factor in the extra drain of constant noise-cancelling. They even narrowly beat the AirPods Pro, which lasted 4 and a half hours in our testing, though Sony's WF-1000XM3 seem to be the overall ANC earbud winners on longevity.
The charging case is listed as providing an additional 19 hours, though again that's likely not counting ANC. Based on our testing, you can expect the case to add around 12 hours of ANC playback.
Recharging speed impressed me too. From a quick 15-minute rest in the case, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro regained 2 hours and 34 minutes, more than half of their full capacity.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: Call quality
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro make for a respectable voice-calling tool. The friend I called reported lower overall clarity than if I were speaking directly into my phone, but I was still coming through strongly and at least sufficiently clearly.
Likewise, on the receiving end, speech could perhaps be slightly sharper, but sounds full rather than scratchy and metallic (like on the Sennheiser CX 400BT), with good volume.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: Verdict
It's disappointing that Anker couldn't match the design quality of the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds to the standards of their personalized sound quality and ANC capability. If they looked better and were more comfortable to wear for longer periods, they'd be too good to pass up, such is the excellent value of that $130 price tag.
Then again, their flaws are not completely ruinous. It's better to have a capable pair of headphones that look lame than a stylish pair that sound awful, and if you're willing to spend a minute or so tweaking the app, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro punch above their weight again and again.
The earbuds' waterproofing, active noise cancellation and battery life are also on par with much more expensive in-ear headphones, including the AirPods Pro. If you want ANC on the cheap and can live with a few rough edges, these are absolutely worth a look. Or a listen.