The Soundcore Liberty Air 2’s are an upgrade to last year’s version with a more premium feel; promising a longer 28 hours of battery life, improved phone call quality, aptX support, easier pairing and wireless charging. And they now integrate with the accompanying Soundcore configuration app that lets you test your hearing to create a personalised EQ profile.
They don’t have some of the advanced features of Apple’s AirPods Pros like active noise cancellation or transparency mode, but sound quality is comparable at a lot less than half the price.
I’ll compare them not only to Apple’s earbuds but also Anker’s more expensive Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros I reviewed last month and the hugely popular budget TrueFree+ from SoundPeats that I reviewed last year.
Inside the box you get the earbuds themselves with their charging case, an Anker branded USB-C charging cable, 5 sizes of ear tips including the ones already fitted, and a quick start guide.
The charging case measures 58mm x 50mm x 26mm, significantly bigger than the AirPods Pro case but still pretty compact and smaller than the Liberty 2 Pro’s case.
It still fits comfortably into my jeans pocket. The case with the earbuds weighs 53g and the pair of earbuds weigh 10g.
The Liberty Air 2’s come in black or white – I’ve got the black version.
The case has an attractive matte black finish and the hinged lid has almost no play and open and closes confidently.
The flat bottom of the case has the USB-C charging port and the pairing button. It’s a small detail, but I like being able to stand the charging case upright – even with the case open.
When you open the lid for the first time, the earbuds pair with each other and then the right earbud’s status LED flashes white quickly to indicate it’s ready for pairing. Tap on Soundcore Liberty Air 2 in your Bluetooth settings. If your device supports it, you’ll then be prompted to accept a pairing request for the left earbud so you can use either earbud later in mono mode.
To pair to another device either disconnect from the currently connected device or, with the lid open, press and hold the pairing button for 3 seconds until the right earbud again flashes white quickly, indicating the earbuds are ready for pairing as before. If you want to switch back to a previously paired device, again press and hold the pairing button for three seconds, and then tap on Soundcore Liberty Air 2 in your previously connected devices list.
They work exactly like the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros. If you remove both earbuds, they’ll work in true wireless stereo mode. If you return the left earbud and close the lid, the master right earbud will still be connected. If you return the right earbud and close the lid, your device pairs automatically to the left earbud. You’ll notice an additional Soundcore Liberty Air 2-L entry in your Bluetooth device list. In mono mode it’s possible to pair the right and left earbuds to two seperate devices, something not possible when the earbuds are paired with each other in true wireless stereo mode.
You can turn off the earbuds without returning them to the case with a 8 second press of the touchpad.
You can factory reset the earbuds and delete all pairing records with a 10 second press of the pairing button with both earbuds in their case and the lid open. Both earbuds will flash red before the right earbud again flashes ready for pairing.
You can charge the case either with the included USB-C cable, or wirelessly with any Qi compatible charger. With a wired connection a full charge of the case’s 500mAh battery takes around 2 hours. Wirelessly charging takes around 2.5 hours. The earbuds themselves take around one and a half hours to charge their 55mAh batteries.
The earbuds have a decent 7 hours of playback with a full charge and the case will provide an additional 3 full charges for a total of 28 hours of usage.
With faster USB-C charging, a quick 10 minute charge conveniently provides 2 hours of usage. With the supplied USB-C cable I measured just under the quoted 0.5A charging current. They’ll charge with the supplied USB-A to USB-C cable, but also with a USB-C to USB-C cable.
The 3 LEDs on the front of the case indicate the case’s charge status whilst it’s charging and when you open the case. When you close the case, the left and right LED flash to indicate the earbuds are fully seated and both charging.
The earbuds are easy to remove from the case and drop back.
They feel much more premium than the original Liberty Airs, with a mainly matte finish and a nicely designed gunmetal face with the Soundcore logo over the touchpad and an orange accent at the bottom of the stem.
The stem is longer than that of the AirPod Pros – similar in length to the standard AirPods at around 40mm from the top to the bottom.
Each earbud has two microphones for suppressing noise during calls, one at the bottom of the stem and the other at the top beside the status LED.
But unfortunately they have no active noise cancellation for playback and even more disappointingly like the Liberty 2 Pros, they don’t have any transparency or passthrough mode, to let you hear your surroundings.
The earbuds come with medium silicone ear tips fitted with four spare sets from XS to XL which are easy to swap out. They recommend fitting them in your ears vertically and then twisting them so the microphone points to your mouth, theoretically locking them into place.
But like the previous versions these just aren’t a good fit for my ears. I spent some time experimenting with all the different sized ear tips but still found them less secure than other earbuds I’ve tried – even earbuds without the in-ear design, like the original AirPods or the Soundpeats TrueAir I reviewed recently.
They’re ok for general use and walking around, but not usable for running – for me at least. But everyone’s ears are different, so they may fit your ears perfectly!
If you don’t mind the look of stem-based earbuds they look fine, and I prefer their matte black finish to other stem-based earbuds I’ve tried.
The earbuds have touch controls which can be configured in the accompanying app I’ll come to shortly. By default, a double tap of the right earbud will pause and resume playback, a double tap of the left earbud will skip to the next track and holding either touchpad for 2 seconds activates your voice assistant.
The double tap works ok, although it’s always a little tricky when you’re moving around. The 2s press I found less reliable and didn’t always work – I think mainly because holding for 2s is quite a long time so it’s too easy to release your finger early. For me, a 1s hold would have been better.
I’m pleased to see these earbuds have ear detection though. Playback will pause when you remove either earbud. Although unlike Apple Airpods and AirPods Pros you’ll have to manually double tap the right earbud, by default, to resume playback and you can’t turn ear detection off.
You can optionally download the Soundcore app for iOS and Android. This will let you install any firmware updates, customise EQ and configure the multi-function touchpad.
From the Home screen you can check the battery level or each earbud by tapping the L or R.
I was prompted with a firmware update when I first launched the app, but you can also tap on the 3 dots at the top right of the screen and select “update firmware”. In this menu there’s also a Call Effect option – Call Effect 1 is meant for quieter environments and Call Effect 2 for when it’s noiser, but I couldn’t hear any differences in my tests.
The equalizer screen offers an exhaustive list of options. By default the “Soundcore Signature” EQ profile is selected, but you can create custom EQ settings by tapping on Custom and dragging the graph to your tastes.
You can create multiple profiles and name them and organise them as you like.
There are also a number of professional Custom EQ profiles you can choose from.
And if you tap on the Default option there’s a huge choice of more familiar EQ profiles.
Finally there’s the HearID feature, which basically conducts a hearing test on your left and right ear, to determine a custom EQ profile tailored to your specific hearing. This takes a few minutes.
I’ll discuss how these profiles sound shortly.
If you return to the Home screen and choose the Controller screen, you can customise the multi-function touchpad’s double tap and 2s press. I prefer configuring a 2s press on either earbud to control volume. These settings only apply if you’re using the earbuds in stereo mode, otherwise they’ll revert to their default settings.
Audio quality and performance
The Liberty Air 2s use diamond-coated drivers. I’m not really sure what they mean by that, but like the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros these do sound very good and crisper than the original Liberty Airs.
There’s an impressive amount of detail particularly in the mids, whilst still providing decent bass. To my ear they don’t sound quite as good as the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros which are more immersive with a fuller sound and better bass, but they aren’t far off the AirPods Pros with a lot of the music I listened to. For some tracks they sound better. It’s interesting to compare them to the popular budget Soundpeats TrueFree+ which cost a third of the price. These earbuds fare surprisingly well against the more expensive earbuds. They sound a little muddy in direct comparison to the Soundcores, but still pretty good.
The Liberty Airs 2 don’t handle highs so well with their default EQ – something the AirPods Pros handle very well. Sibilant sounds, particularly at louder volumes can be almost shrill. Again with their default EQ, these aren’t my favourite earbuds for podcasts. Knocking down some of the higher frequencies just a touch in the custom EQ does help though.
But for general listening to a wide range of music I usually preferred the default Soundcore Signature EQ profile which sounds balanced overall. Depending on your tastes it may be worth experimenting with some of the professional EQ profiles – they do sound quite different to one another.
Like with the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros, I found the HearID feature an interesting concept but overall I still preferred the default profile.
The earbuds also have support for the higher quality aptX and AAC codecs.
The earbuds don’t have active noise cancellation which I’m still waiting to appear in less expensive earbuds. Their passive noise isolation is ok and will depend more on fit than anything else. As will noise leakage which was audible at louder volumes and these earbuds are quite loud at maximum volume.
The Liberty Air 2s also have no passthrough mode to hear your surroundings, another feature that I hope will make its way to earbuds under £100 or $100 soon. This is one advantage of the less than perfect seal in my ears – I still had some sense of my surroundings with these earbuds even without any transparency mode.
The earbuds have an IPX5 waterproof rating, higher than the IPX4 rating of both the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros and AirPods Pros. Although their fit wasn’t secure enough for me for running, they worked pretty well on the cycling turbo trainer where they certainly need to be at least sweatproof.
The four microphones, two on each earbud have Qualcomm’s Clear Voice Capture 8.0 for voice calls and they did a good job in a quiet environment, with their stem based design picking up my voice slightly better than the Liberty 2 Pros.
As a more extreme test, I tried them on the cycling turbo trainer, a noisy and windy environment with two very powerful fans pointing towards me. I compared them to the AirPods Pros too. And the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros. You can listen to all the microphone tests in the video at the top of the page.
They did a decent job, but the AirPods Pros are still the ones to beat by a fair margin.
Battery life is quoted as 7 hours and I did get close to that, playing back at around 60% volume and often louder.
The earbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 and they were quick to connect to and their range was good, easily maintaining a connection even when my phone was in the next room over 10 metres away.
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2s are some of the best sounding earbuds I’ve tried under £100 or $100. They conjure up an impressive amount of clarity for earbuds at this price point, particularly in the mids. By default, treble can sound very harsh so depending on what you listen to, you may want to download the Soundcore app and experiment with the almost overwhelming EQ customisation. You’ll most likely want to download the app anyway to configure the buttons to enable volume control.
I would have liked to have seen at least an audio passthrough mode – hopefully we’ll see that in their next iteration. I also was a little disappointed with their fit in my ears, but Anker do have the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros in their lineup that I reviewed last month, which are more suitable for running or the gym.
But I do really like the design and the matte finish of the case and earbuds, as well as the USB-C fast charging and wireless charging and their support for the higher quality aptX and AAC codecs. And their battery life too. I’d keep a close eye on the price – check my links down below. Anker are often reduced around Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day and I’d expect to see these drop by at least 20%.
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