Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review: cut-price noise-cancelling earbuds

4 / 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars.

Anker’s true wireless earbuds sound good and fit well for about half the price of AirPods Pro

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro true wireless earbuds offer good sound and noise-cancelling while undercutting the big-brand competition. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro by the longstanding charging brand Anker look to offer good sound, long battery life and noise-cancelling at almost half the price of Apple’s AirPods Pro – and largely achieves the goal.

The new true wireless earbuds cost £130, undercutting big-name competitors from Apple, Samsung, Sony, Jabra and Bose, with a design that doesn’t reinvent the wheel: a stalk, fairly small earbud and a silicone tip.

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
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Nine sizes of silicone earbud tips are included in the box. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

They are attractive and in blue they don’t look like an AirPod rip-offs. They weigh 5.2g each, are splash resistant and have a light but secure fit that is comfortable for extended listening periods, avoiding putting any undue pressure on the soft parts of your ear.

They clip magnetically into a solid-feeling case with a slide-up lid. It is about twice the size of the best cases for rivals, making it still pocketable but not quite as easily carried about.

Specifications

  • Water resistance: IPX4 (splash resistant)

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, SBC, AAC

  • Battery life: six hours ANC on (up to 21 hours with case; 26 hours with ANC off)

  • Earbud dimensions: 37.3 x 22.1 x 23.1mm

  • Earbud weight: 5.2g each

  • Driver size: 11mm

  • Charging case dimensions: 62.0 x 59.7 x 30.0mm

  • Charging case weight: 50.5g

  • Case charging: USB-C, Qi wireless charging

Controls and connectivity

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The earbuds are touch sensitive on the outside. Tapping the ‘d’ at the top of the stalk activates the controls. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Air 2 Pro are standard Bluetooth 5 earbuds and support the universal SBC and AAC audio standards used by most devices. Each earbud can be used on its own but they do not support seamless switching, meaning you have to manually disconnect them from one device to connect to another.

Pairing is also manual but you only have to do it once per device. Open the case, press and hold the button to put them into pairing mode and find them in the Bluetooth settings of your smartphone the old-fashioned way.

The connection was solid to an iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra but I could not test them in a congested area because of the Covid-19 restrictions in the UK.

The earbuds have tap controls with double tap and tap-and-hold options for either pause/play, track skip, triggering your phone’s voice assistant, adjusting the volume or changing the noise-cancelling mode.

They work fairly well but with only two tap variations, the controls are limited compared with competitors with three options, swipes or buttons.

They automatically pause the music when one earbud is removed and start again once it is reinserted.

The Soundcore app for Android or iPhone takes care of updates, settings, sound and noise-cancelling modes.

Call quality was reasonable, with callers saying that I sounded a bit far away with some echo but still clear. The earbuds let some more background noise though compared with the best competitors.

The earbuds last about six hours of playback with noise-cancelling turned on between charges. The case can fully charge them 2.5 times for a total playback time of 21 hours.

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
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It takes two hours to fully charge the case via USB-C but a 15-minute charge can add up to three hours of playback to the earbuds. The case can also wirelessly charge in three hours. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Sustainability

Anker estimates that the batteries in the earbuds and case last for at least 500 cycles while maintaining at least 80% of their original capacity, but they are not replaceable, ultimately making the earbuds disposable.

The earbuds are repairable through Anker’s customer service or authorised repair centre. The company regularly operates trade-in schemes and recycles devices but does not publish impact assessments or sustainability reports.

Sound and noise-cancelling

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
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The earbuds fit well and make a good seal in my ear, which helps sound quality and noise-cancelling. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Air 2 Pro sound surprisingly good for the money and features. They produce an easy-listening, full sound with plenty of deep bass. You have to like bass-heavy sound but the low end is fairly well controlled, with the warm mids and highs still coming through clearly. Those looking for more balanced sound best look elsewhere.

They sound pretty good with most music genres but excel with dance and electronica, full of energy and deep bass. There is a full equaliser accessible in the Soundcore app, as well as a set of sound pre-sets, including the default “signature” sound and the classic “bass boost” if you really need more bass.

In addition to good sound, the earbuds have effective noise-cancelling. The earbuds have different profiles for transport, indoors and outdoors, which each target different frequencies of noise, such as low rumbles or speech. There’s also a custom mode with a slider that adjusts the noise-cancelling but there are no markings on it to help you understand what is being targeted by each position on the slider, making it a bit of a trial and error process.

Still, the noise-cancelling works better than I expected it to. They match the effectiveness of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro but fall short of the best, such as Jabra’s Elite 85t and the AirPods Pro, which is still impressive for the price.

There are two ambient awareness modes, one for full transparency and one targeted at only allowing voices through. The full transparency mode is reasonable but a bit quiet and less natural sounding compared with the best. The vocal mode is very good, allowing me to have a full conversation with other people while still maintaining some noise-cancelling.

Note that the sound is affected by having the noise-cancelling active, sounding a little more controlled and punchy but with slightly shallower bass. I preferred the sound with it active.

Observations

  • The HearID feature in the Soundcore app creates a personalised sound profile after conducting a short hearing test.

  • The Soundcore app for Android and iOS has a widget for quickly switching between noise-cancelling and transparency modes.

Price

The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro cost £129.99 and come in black, white, blue or pink.

For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro have an RRP of £219, Galaxy Buds Live have an RRP of £179, the Jabra Elite 85t cost £219.99, the Bose QC Earbuds cost £249.95, the Sony WF-1000XM3 cost £169 and the Apple AirPods Pro cost £249.

Verdict

The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro offer much of what makes some of the best true wireless earbuds great but at a marked-down price.

Costing just over half the price of Apple’s AirPods Pro, the Air 2 Pro are comfortable, have a good battery life and connectivity, look good and work well. They also sound far better than you would expect for the money and have surprisingly effective noise-cancelling.

The case is slightly bigger than the best, the sound is bass-heavy and the tap controls are a bit limited. They also lack seamless switching and other more advanced features, which are common to top-dollar earbuds, most of which can be overlooked at £130 or less.

The battery cannot be replaced in the earbuds or case, however, ultimately making them disposable and losing a star.

Pros: solid noise-cancelling, good sound, good value, solid battery, comfortable fit, lots of tips included, good app, Bluetooth 5, either bud can be used independently, AAC support.

Cons: tap controls a bit limited, no seamless switching, case a little bigger than ideal, can’t connect to two devices at once, no higher quality audio standards, only splash resistant, disposable.

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review
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The case feels nice and light but is slightly bigger than ideal for carrying around in a pocket. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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