In the year since I reviewed the excellent Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro and Liberty Air 2 wireless earbuds, the market continues to shift in two directions: value, and active noise cancelation.
Now Soundcore, which is owned by popular California-based accessory maker, Anker, is following up that release with a single product: the $130 Liberty Air 2 Pro. After teasing the release for weeks, the company is banking on a CES announcement to generate the kind of hype usually reserved for much larger brands, and after using them for a few days, it's easy to see why.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
Bottom line: The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro fit nicely into the increasingly competitive $100-$150 price tier of ANC wireless earbuds. With a fun, dynamic sound and better noise cancelation than I've heard from a pair of TWEs at this price, these wireless earbuds are a must-buy — unless you hate the AirPods look, or need them for working out.
- Fun, accessible sound signature
- Extremely comfortable
- Excellent battery life
- Great call quality
- Soundcore app lets you personalize EQ for better sound
- Lacks AptX codec
- Earbuds feel a bit cheaply made
- Tap gestures aren't always reliable
- IPX4 rating isn't ideal for regular exercise
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro Pricing & Availability
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro are now available for $130 at retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Soundcore.com. They're available in four colors, including black, white, pink, and blue.
Soundcore Liberty 2 Air Pro What I like
Soundcore, like its Anker parent, makes the case for good-sounding, high-quality headphones and earbuds at lower prices than big brands. It took a while to get there, and with the company's latest batch of products — from its $80 Q30 noise-canceling headphones — to these, a compelling $130 AirPods Pro competitor, that's truer than ever.
The Liberty Air 2 Pro buds themselves look strikingly similar to their predecessor, the Air 2 (released in late 2019), but the company has taken customer feedback to heart by slightly lengthening the head, allowing the tip to fit more comfortably in the ear canal. This makes the body and stem protrude a few millimeters more than before, but with the right tip — and there are nine silicone size options in the box — these are among the most comfortable wireless earbuds I've ever worn.
|Category||Soundcore Liberty 2 Air Pro|
|Driver||11mm PureNote driver|
|ANC||Yes, with four modes|
|Transparency Mode||Yes, two strengths|
|Battery||7 hours (ANC off), 6 hours (ANC on)|
|Case battery||26 hours (ANC off)|
|Wireless charging||Yes, Qi|
|Earbuds Dimensions||1.47" x 0.87" x 0.91"|
|Case Dimensions||2.44" x 2.35" x 1.18"|
|Colors||Onyx Black, Titanium White, Sapphire Blue, and Crystal Pink|
Of course, by being strikingly similar to their predecessor, they also look very much like a pair of darker, wider AirPods Pro, a design decision that seems to have been accepted among many companies, from OnePlus to Razer, as simply correct, from a user experience perspective. It provides ample room for the electronics and battery, and moves the primary microphone closer to the mouth for phone calls.
The main draw here is the sound for the price. These have a warm, accessible sound profile out of the box, and the Soundcore app supports HearID, an easy-to-configure personalized EQ that adjusts the sound to suit your ears individually. I have trouble hearing some higher frequencies in my right ear, so the end result of the process compensates for that. The buds are bumpy without being boomy, and have Soundcore's signature velvety midrange and ever-so-slightly sibilant treble.
Anker tells me that the 11mm driver inside each bud is similar to the one found in the Liberty 2 Pro, but has been tuned to produce the entire frequency range instead of just the lows and mids; the older, larger earbuds boast a second Knowles Balanced Armature driver that exclusively takes care of the highs. As a result, these have considerably more falloff in the highs, and feel a little more bloated throughout the whole range than the more expensive Liberty 2 Pro, but these are way smaller and more comfortable, so it's a fair trade.
I listened to a variety of music with the Liberty Air 2 Pro, from Radiohead's The Bends to Kamasi Washington's The Epic to Run The Jewels' RTJ4, and the main takeaway is consistency. Nothing sounds fantastic but nothing sounds bad, either. Out of the box, the bass is a little heavy-handed, but I toned it down and felt the range open up as a result. There's a slight veil over vocals that makes these less great for ballads than records where the vocal track is mixed within the instrumentation, but overall it's a warm, generous, and most-of-all fun sound that's adjustable enough to meet most people's sonic requirements.
These are also the first Soundcore earbuds to offer active noise cancelation, and it's very good. Available in four adjustable modes — transport, indoor, outdoor, and a granular "custom" option — I made direct comparisons to the AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM3, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, and the Sennheiser Momentum 2, and it held its own against all of them. I did the back-to-back testing on a morning where a neighbor was removing an external wall, causing my entire office to shake.
Without earbuds the cacophony was intense, and each pair of earbuds performed admirably, with the Liberty blocking surprisingly more of the racket than Apple's best and certainly more than the Sennheisers, falling behind the Sonys and Bose. Soundcore does this by introducing a relatively high noise floor, potentially coloring some more quiet recordings, and the stronger passive seal also creates a bit of a suction effect that aren't present on the AirPods Pro, but you should be able to compensate for that somewhat by adjusting the in-ear placement.
In addition to ANC, Anker has also improved its call quality and transparency mode — there are now two, one for general usage and one specifically to highlight voices — and I'm seriously impressed. I went on record as saying the Liberty 2 Pro, which relied on Qualcomm's cVc background noise reduction technology, was among the worst-sounding earbuds I'd ever used for calls. These have no such Qualcomm enmeshment, and the three microphones used for noise reduction work wonders. I made a bunch of phone calls while connected to a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and everyone I asked said I sounded great. What a turnaround.
The transparency modes, while not quite as impressive, get the job done. I'm spoiled by Apple's incredibly natural-sounding version, and the Soundcores sound a bit stuffy and enclosed in comparison, but I appreciate the specific tuning and hope that Anker can improve the algorithms over time. I also like that there's an ambient sensor to pause what's playing when I remove one or both buds from my ears.
Anker redesigned the Liberty 2 Air Pro's case, opting for a larger horizontally-sliding top than the cheap flip top of the Liberty 2 Air. I like the design a lot, and the plastic feels much more robust this time around — I accidentally dropped it onto hardwood from four feet up and they came away scratch-free — though it's a bit bigger than I'd like, especially for pocketing. The case holds between two and three additional charges for the buds (a little more or less depending on whether you use ANC) and tops up via Qi or an included USB cable. I love that the USB-C port has that familiar blue Anker color — a really nice touch.
I also want to point out the bevy of ear tip options that come in the box. A closed wireless earbuds' sound quality and comfort are only as good as the seal it creates in your ear, and Anker includes nine size options, from tiny to extra-large. More of this, please.
Soundcore Liberty 2 Air Pro What's not great
Soundcore nailed the basics here, but there are a few red flags I'd be remiss not to point out before you shell out $130 for these. First, eschewing all Qualcomm tech in the Liberty 2 Air Pro likely saves a few bucks per unit, but it also means there's no aptX or aptX HD support. That leaves just SBC and AAC, which isn't ideal if you're going to be listening to higher-bandwidth tracks. Not a deal-breaker, but it's worth mentioning.
The buds themselves, while not necessarily chintzy, are definitely on the cheaper-feeling side of the spectrum. At 10.5 grams per bud, they're not especially light, but the plastic used in the construction doesn't give me the utmost confidence that in a year or two, after (inevitable) repeated drops to the floor, these are going to make it through unscathed.
Soundcore also dropped the water ingress rating to IPX4 from the IPX5 on its previous line of earbuds. That means you'll want to avoid sustained water inundation, though I worked out in the earbuds a few times and don't think I'll see any long-term issues with continuing to do so.
My primary issue is actually with the included silicone tips: while I found it relatively easy to get a good seal with the larger sizes, their relatively shallow depth causes the tip to rattle around in my ears ever-so-slightly, causing a rustling noise inside my head that I can both hear and feel. It's only distracting when sound isn't playing from the earbuds, but I often tend to leave earbuds in place when running errands or, in transparency mode, having a conversation, and during those times I found the rustling to be very distracting.
I was able to get rid of the issue by using a pair of similarly-sized but deeper silicone tips from another pair of earbuds, ones that sit deeper in the ear canal and produce a more locked-in seal (which also improved sound quality), but the extra size meant that the buds no longer charged comfortably in the case. This could just be a me problem and not an everyone problem, but it's worth bringing up only because of its severity and because it's one of the few pairs of earbuds with which I've encountered it.
Oh, and I had some weirdness with the tap gestures on both earbuds. Most of the time they worked perfectly — double-tap for play/pause or next song, hold for volume — but occasionally they just wouldn't respond. I could pound my ear to oblivion and nothing would happen until I put the buds back in their case and reconnected them to my phone. I feel like it's a software bug that will likely be addressed in a future software update, but it's a pretty egregious one I'd prefer didn't exist at all.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro The competition
I get anxious when I think of the competition section for an earbud review. There are just so many good options out there. At $130, the Liberty 2 Air Pro are well situated in the "premium value segment" right beside stalwarts like the Samsung Galaxy Buds+, which are often around $100, Jaybird's excellent but aging Vista, which sit around $170, and if you grab them on sale, Jabra's superb Elite 75t.
If you insist on ANC with your Buds, 1More's True Wireless are underrated for their $180 price and sound better than the Soundcores, though they are massive and heavy, and Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro are going on sale soon for $200.
Conversely, if you don't need ANC, Soundcore's still-excellent Liberty 2 Pro are around $110 right now and sound better in every direction compared to the similarly-named Liberty Air 2 Pro. Again, bigger and heavier, but you can't beat the cost-to-performance ratio.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro Should you buy them?
You should buy these if ...
- You want a pair of earbuds with excellent noise cancelation
- You enjoy a bassy, energetic sound
- You like (or at least don't mind) the AirPods Pro look
- You want a wireless charging case
You shouldn't buy these if...
- You want a neutral sound
- You want a small charging case
- You want to use them primarily as workout earbuds
4 out of 5
I love being pleasantly surprised by a product, and Soundcore easily exceeded my expectations with the Liberty Air 2 Pro. Combining the best parts of its predecessors and adding an impressive set of adjustable noise cancelation algorithms, Soundcore finds itself outclassing many earbuds $50-100 more expensive while also maintaining the comfortable and fun form factor that made the original Liberty Air 2s so good.
Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.