The TWS headphones market is an extremely competitive one. Its boom last year has carried over into 2021. And one of the more notable additions thanks to active noise cancellation (ANC) support is Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro. Available for Dh499 in the UAE, how does it stand out?
Design and build
Anker has opted for a rubber feeling case with the Liberty Air 2 Pro with a smooth and rounded finish. Its aesthetic reminds me of a pebble with the case also able to sit flat thanks to a squared off bottom. The case is compact and grippy however over time, it may attract smudges due to wear and tear. While we have the white version of the headphones, they are also available in black. Ease of operation is another factor that is done well here. Instead of a typical lid, the case of the Liberty Air 2 Pro has a sliding outer panel. There is a slight indent for additional grip which makes it easy to reveal the earbuds. The overall finish and experience of the Liberty Air 2 Pro exudes quality however, the sliding outer panel does have a bit of a wobble. This is not concerning but worth pointing out.
Distributed along the edges of the case are various ports and LED indicators. The rear houses a Type-C USB port for charging along with a reset/pairing button. On the front, you find battery status LEDs to keep you informed of how much juice is available. Speaking of battery, the case also supports wireless charging. As for the earbuds, those too feel extremely premium. There is a dual-accented colour finish to them with just the right amount of branding. They are also fairly lightweight however they have a long stem design. This means they stick out a fair bit from your ear which certain users may not prefer.
Carrying over from the design of the earbuds, it is worth talking about customisation. Soundcore offers a vast suite of ear tips which can be used to adjust fit. However, we feel the fit of the earbuds is still subjective because of their design. The part intended to fit in the ear is rather bulky which does lead to trouble at certain times. Even after adjusting the tips multiple times, the right earbud fit better than the left. This is not the earbuds’ fault but rather depends on each person’s ear shape.
When these do fit properly though, the experience is snug. They do not fall off and are ideal for exercising especially with their IPX4 rating. While you cannot go swimming with these, some exposure to light splashes or rain will not be a problem at all. The earbuds also have touch-sensitive panels for ease of use. Double tapping the left earbud skips forward whereas double tapping the right earbud pauses or plays a track. You can also configure these gestures to some degree using the Soundcore application. Conveniently, the earbuds also support a wear detection feature which can be configured from the application. It works well when placing or removing the earbuds in your ear. For those who like to listen with just one earbud, the feature works fine too.
Sound quality and ANC
Inside, you find 11mm drivers on the Liberty Air 2 Pro with a frequency response of 20Hz to 20KHz. The headphones connect via Bluetooth 5.0 and also support AAC and SBC codecs. Unfortunately, we did face some connectivity issues with the headphones when using them with multiple devices. Sometimes, this led to only one of the earbuds working at a time however after repairing, they worked fine.
The audio quality from the headphones is good but not for everyone. Audiophiles in particular will not like that sound feels inaccurate. But for the vast majority of listeners, the headphones’ sound signature will feel appealing. The headphones seem to boost lows and highs but there is not much emphasis on high-mid or mid-range sounds. This is applicable even for vocal and orchestral tracks. Via its application, Soundcore does provide ways to change equaliser settings with up to 16 different pre-built ones or via a custom experience. However, our listening was done on the default ‘Soundcore Signature’ equaliser preset.
Likewise, ANC also boasts a robust amount of customisation options. You get modes including ‘Indoor’, ‘Outdoor’, ‘Transport’ and ‘Custom’. For the best experience, we recommend using the ‘Transport’ mode because it eliminates most common repetitive rumbles well. However, ‘Custom’ is also worth taking a look at when in certain noisy situations. Unlike high-end ANC headphones though, you do hear a high-frequency sound when ANC is enabled with no music playing. It is not particularly annoying but is part of the experience when it comes to ANC at this budget. Additionally, sound quality also changes with ANC especially in terms of high-frequency response.
With typical usage, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro last anywhere between 5-7 hours. This is not bad especially with the three charge cycles available via the case. For long-haul travel, you may want to use one earbud at a time to conserve battery, which obviously eliminates the ANC experience. In addition to the wireless charging support as mentioned earlier, you find a Type-A to Type-C USB cable of generous length to charge the case when required. A 15-minute quick charge session here gets you about 3 hours of use.
For those who prioritise ANC and want an experience that comes close to premium, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro are it. We agree that there are headphones that definitely sound more realistic and offer better ANC performance however they are not priced as aggressively as these. But if ANC or a TWS design is not a priority for you, there are better options available on the market.