Great sound for the price
Thick with features
Good noise canceling for the price
Not ideal for active usage
Over the past few years, Soundcore has quietly been assembling an army of quality, affordable true wireless earbuds. The company’s Liberty 2, for instance, are our favorite pair of true wireless earbuds under $100 thanks to an enticing combination of fit, sound, and battery life.
Soundcore's newest buds sacrifice water resistance (IPX4 compared to the Liberty 2’s IPX5) and battery life while adding considerably to the cost. The trade-off is the addition of active noise cancellation. While it isn't on par with the ANC found in pricier buds, budget ANC is better than none. In a nutshell, that’s kind of the Liberty 2 Air Pro’s entire schtick. They aren’t the best at any one thing, but they do offer a lot for an affordable price.
About the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
Here’s a look at the Liberty Air 2 Pro’s specifications:
- Price: $129.99
- Battery life: up to 6 hours with ANC, 7 hours without, up to 26 hours total with case
- Rapid charging: 10 minutes charge for 2 hours of playback
- Wireless charging: yes, Qi-compatible case
- Voice Assistant compatibility: Siri at launch, with more assistants coming in future updates
- Colors: Onyx Black, Titanium White, Sapphire Blue, Crystal Pink
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
- Audio codecs: SBC, AAC
- Water-resistance: IPX4
- Ear tips: nine sizes
- Weight: 5.2 grams per bud, 50.5 grams charging case
The packaging of the Liberty Air 2 Pro opens like a book, with the inside cover promoting both the earbuds’ targeted ANC and Soundcore’s accompanying app. Unlike some earbud apps, this software is essential for tapping into everything the Liberty Air 2 Pro offer. Apart from that app and the nine (!) sets of ear tips included, you'll also get standards like an instruction manual and a USB-C charging cable.
There's something sleek about the way the Liberty Air 2 Pro look and feel, and the miniature hockey puck of a charging case that they rest in shares the same aesthetic. The golf tee look certainly isn't for everyone—heck, up until this point, it wasn't for me. But Soundcore has successfully converted me from a style standpoint, and I suspect the company may have similar results with others.
What We Like
A completely customizable experience
It starts with the nine different pairs of ear tips which, while being a bit over-the-top, is something Soundcore provides to ensure a solid seal no matter the shape of the ear. But the Liberty Air 2 Pro’s customizable options definitely don’t stop there.
The Soundcore app is key when it comes to tailoring the Liberty Air 2 Pro to your specific tastes. The app’s Tip Fit Test will play a tone to determine how well the earbuds fit in your ears, then suggest ways to improve it if the seal is less than ideal. Elsewhere, the app has a HearID feature that will employ different frequencies to figure out the sound signature that best fits your hearing. The profile this feature produces is fascinating, if not slightly flawed. (More on that later.)
If you don’t like the sound the HearID feature has created for you, there are 22 preset profiles to choose from, including podcast, rock, bass booster, treble booster, and Soundcore’s Signature settings. Or, for the do-it-yourself-ers, Soundcore included an equalizer for custom profiles. The app also enables customization of the earbuds’ controls, allowing you to program commands like volume and play/pause, or picking the level of active noise cancellation.
Finally, the app puts noise cancellation customization in the palm of your hands. ANC Mode has four sub-modes: transport, indoor, outdoor, and custom. Transparency Mode, meanwhile, can switch between fully transparent and vocal mode, which is meant to emphasize voices around you to stay alert in your environment. I, for one, firmly believe the everyday earbuds wearer won’t spend time fiddling with noise cancellation modes and sound signatures. But for those who do like to tinker, you'll have trouble finding more customizable buds for the price.
Great sound for the price
As previously mentioned, the Liberty 2 were some of the best-sounding earbuds we’ve tested in the sub-$100 price range. The Liberty Air 2 Pro uphold that reputation exceedingly well. Especially when using the Soundcore Signature sound profile, the buds deliver a balanced performance that makes every artist, from the Bee Gees to Beyonce, enjoyable.
For most people, sticking to Soundcore’s pre-determined sound settings will produce great bang for the buck. There is, however, a palpable difference in sound when turning off ANC. It's not bad without noise cancellation, but having the feature turned on definitely makes music sound more powerful and natural. To enjoy the best the Liberty Air 2 Pro have to offer, keeping the buds in active noise canceling mode and eating the loss in battery life is the way to go.
Opting to utilize Soundcore’s HearID feature can significantly improve the earbuds’ sound or, in some cases, sabotage it. After running the HearID test, I picked up on a noticeable bump in clarity, and music sounded more dynamic. But the results of the test prompted Soundcore to accentuate both the lowest and highest frequencies. I’m not sure what that says about my ears, but I do know that it made for some unpleasant distortion and harsh notes when listening to the low rumble in tracks like Lil Nas X’s "Holiday” or the bright cymbals in Dave Matthews' “Ants Marching” at higher volumes. Luckily, Soundcore lets you adjust the personal profile, allowing me to reign in those opposite ends of the frequency range and get things a bit more under control.
The app’s several presets are also good options for those who consistently listen to a certain type of content. To get the best sound overall, though, I’d suggest one of two methods: either trust in the balanced, but sometimes unadventurous quality of the Soundcore Signature; or, let HearID bring a more exciting sound to your ears and manually fix the flaws that come with it.
Speaking of sound, the handful of calls I did make with the buds and their six built-in microphones produced good, clear conversations on both ends. That being said, thanks to this perpetual shelter-in-place lifestyle we're all in, I haven't been able to test call quality in loud, real-world environments like a busy street or city bus.
A full range of (mostly) effective features
Many of the Liberty Air 2 Pro's features are out-shined by other earbuds. The Liberty Air 2 Pro’s active noise cancellation is trumped by the impressive cancellation offered by standouts like the much pricier Bose QuietComfort Earbuds as well as Jabra's Elite 85t. Even when touching on something like Siri voice assistant integration, there are Apple-centric buds that do it better.
What sets the Liberty Air 2 Pro apart, though, is their ability to do everything well at their price point. Six hours of battery life with ANC isn’t groundbreaking, but it is on par with Jabra’s Elite 85t (which cost $100 more) and better than the AirPods Pro (originally priced $120 more). There are earbuds out there with better water resistance ratings, but the Liberty Air 2 Pro’s IPX4 rating gives them the same commendable splash-proof protection as both pricier pairs.
The active noise cancellation featured in these buds is good, not great, but at this price that’s really all you need to equate to good value. While I did fail to notice significant differences between noise-canceling modes like outdoor and indoor, it was still better to have moderately effective cancellation in general. The two different transparency modes were equally indistinguishable, but they still served their purpose as ways to pipe in sound from the environment around you.
What We Don’t Like
Not well-suited for active lifestyles
For the purposes of “normal” listening, the Liberty Air 2 Pro fit well. They are light in your ears, and longer testing sessions produced minimal ear fatigue. In general, these buds make for comfortable additions to most aspects of everyday life.
They are not, however, properly equipped to be great companions for workouts, despite their IPX4 water resistance rating. There just isn't much keeping these earbuds secure in your ears. For activities that require more movement, like running or at-home workouts, the Liberty Air 2 Pro are dealt a challenge that they just can’t grapple with.
Controls leave something to be desired
Earbud technology has come too far to still have to decide between volume or having the ability to switch tracks. Yet, time and time again, some earbuds manage to fall victim to this blunder. The Liberty Air 2 Pro are unfortunately among them.
Technically, you can have both the ability to adjust volume and skip tracks with these buds. However, there are only two types of commands—double tapping a bud and holding one for two seconds—with the commands corresponding to different actions depending on the bud. You could set your left bud to turn the volume up with a double tap, and turn the volume down with a double tap of the right bud. And you could do the same with the holding gesture and skipping tracks, setting one side to go forward and the other to revert back.
You could do that. But by doing so, you would lose the ability to switch between active noise cancellation and transparency mode without having to pull out your phone. The same goes for pausing or playing a track, or activating a voice assistant. I can understand why Soundcore didn’t add a single tap, because accidentally causing a command just by adjusting a bud in your ear can be far more frustrating than not having track selection at your fingertips. But having to pick and choose which essential command you want to have handy is still an unfortunate issue.
It takes patience to dial things in precisely
The Liberty Air 2 Pro will be a plug-and-play experience for most, since the majority of folks likely don’t want to deal with thumbing through tons of options in order to get the optimal performance from their buds. Once you do start to meddle with things, though, it becomes an addicting and time-consuming endeavor.
It takes time to repeatedly swap out eartips and run the Tip Fit Test once more, only to find that the seal still isn’t up to the app’s standards. It takes time to run the HearID test, audition the sound profile that the app chose for you, then dive into the equalizer to scale down the sharp higher frequencies. It takes time to settle on a set of commands, only to decide 20 minutes later that volume is actually more important than song selection.
The Liberty Air 2 Pro are very good true wireless earbuds out of the box. Making them great, though, demands a prolonged period of trial and error that you likely won’t encounter with most earbuds.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, because finding better buds will cost far more
There are better earbuds than the Liberty Air 2 Pro. The often referenced Jabra Elite 85t are our current favorites for their outstanding set of features, great sound, and impactful noise cancellation. They’re also $230. The AirPods Pro have similar benefits, but also routinely come with a price tag north of $200. For elite noise cancellation, you’ll need to spend nearly $300 for Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds.
For this close to $100, though, it’s hard to find better overall buds than the Liberty Air 2 Pro. The Panasonic RZ-S500W are probably the closest comparison to Liberty Air 2 Pro and, without being able to compare the two head-to-head, the RZ-S500W probably have the edge when it comes to sound quality and ANC. But are they $50 better in those categories?
The Liberty Air 2 Pro sound great, deliver effective active noise cancellation, and have battery and water resistance stats that match standouts in the true wireless field for a much lower price. Factor it all in, and the Liberty Air 2 Pro do something Apple's industry-standard AirPods can't—effectively weave together features that all of us want, for a price that most of us can afford.
Meet the tester
Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.
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