I’ve been testing more and more Bluetooth earbuds lately, and a brand that has been shooting to the top of those charts a lot of the time is Soundcore, a sub-brand of well known and well-loved peripheral maker Anker. These are their first “Pro” branded buds, and you know what, I feel like they’ve earned that name.
- Great Sound
- Great Battery
- USB-C and Qi!
- Svelte case
- Very Large Case in X and Y
- Awkward to get buds to fit properly
- Some might find them expensive
Disclaimer: Anker provided us with these Liberty 2 Pros for the purposes of review, These have been used for almost 2 months with multiple devices, including a Huawei P30 Pro, BlackBerry KEY2, Samsung Galaxy Book and Xiaomi Mi A2. In this time the buds received no firmware updates.
The Liberty 2 Pro’s aren’t what I’d call pretty but in the grand scheme of things they have a design theme taken to its limit. a sleek, relatively slim professional-looking earbud, and it works. Whilst they don’t look as large and unwieldy as the Microsoft Surface Buds, they’re a far cry from the smaller, more svelte buds like the Galaxy Buds or the Redmi AirDots.
The outer casing of the L2P’s is a flat oval shape in a two-tone matte black and gunmetal grey. The gunmetal is a disk in the middle of the oval, this is where we see a metallic Soundcore Logo, as well as the noise-cancelling microphone for calls. This gunmetal oval doesn’t cover the entire face though, there is a purposeful lip at the end and it’s a nice design choice.
On the top of each bud we have a multifunction button. Yes, a physical, honest to goodness button and I am very happy. It requires just the right amount of force to hit, unlike some others (I’m looking at you NuForce Be Free5) and the button combos aren’t ridiculously hard to learn either, and much like the Liberty Air 2s I reviewed a little while ago the buttons are actually remappable in the Soundcore App. I love it when they do that – neat! Flipping these over we see the 2 pogo pins for charging as well as the magnet in the centre for keeping each bud in place in the case.
Then we get to the inner ear portion of the buds, and this is where these get a bit weird. They’re angled, but they’re angled upwards? It makes sense when you realise you’re meant to put them in flat then twist them down a third of a turn or so so the front of the oval is facing your mouth, for better microphone reception. The problem with this is that it’s not clear how to insert them, and for the first week or so I was obviously doing it wrong as they were very uncomfortable after about 20 minutes of use. Since learning to put them in and twist to lock them in they’ve been a lot more comfortable. Of course, they also come with wings for your ears and replacement sizes of both wings and ear tips at the bottom of the packaging.
Now onto the case; a perplexing unit if ever I’ve seen one. First off, it’s kinda huge, but not in a bad way. It’s almost like a pond pebble that’s been softened over the years so whilst it’s pretty large in X and Y, it’s still thin and curved enough that it easily slips into a moderately sized pocket. The lid slides open from front to bad, another weird but kinda cool touch that I actually really like, though it sadly eliminates one of the best parts of truly wireless earbuds, which is using the case as a fidget toy, and whilst you can still play with the case, the lid snapping open and shut is sadly not an option here.
At the back of the case is the USB-C port and the manual pairing button. The USB-C port is covered by an annoying flap, but Its there to stop lint getting into the port. It also contains the serial number of your particular earbud. I guess they ran out of space on the rear of the lid. Something you can’t see on the case though is that on the inside of the flat base is a Qi coil. Not only do the Liberty 2 Pro’s have USB-C for charging, but also wireless charging: Huzzah!
Anker makes a lot of noise (get it) about these being the first “Astria Coaxial acoustic earbuds” but what does that mean? Well not a lot, but the important thing is that the Liberty 2 Pros aren’t set up like traditional earbuds with single or multiple dynamic drivers, instead, the Liberty 2 Pros are made with a relatively large dynamic driver for the bass frequencies, but embedded in the centre of that driver is a Knowles Balanced Armature driver for the mids and highs, and oh my lord, these sound great.
You don’t need this wacky set up in order to reproduce amazing sounds, the HiFiMAN TWS600s showed what you can do with a single Dynamic driver. But there is something different about this setup. The separation between the bass it just clearer, it’s there and it’s powerful but it’s not overpowering. Highs from string instruments also don’t get lost in the shrill part of the frequency spectrum. I was listening to “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack a lot whilst reviewing these and I found myself accidentally stopping what I was doing and just enjoying the music for a few minutes at a time.
These don’t have the widest soundstage of any buds I’ve tested, but due to the separation of the bass and everything else it feels more ethereal, not quite full 3D sound but I could swear when I was listening to “The Other Side”, Zac Effron was singing behind my left ear and Hugh Jackman was singing in front of my right ear; much more than just stereo sound. Of course, this all depends on the type of music you listen to, but I can say that this noticeable separation exists in musical theatre, orchestral, opera and pop music. Dance and rock music its still kind of there, but there is often so much other stuff going on that it makes it harder to differentiate, but nothing sounded bad, which is impressive, as most of the buds I’ve tested that sound this good at one thing usually suffer on another, maybe these suck at Podcasts?
What is the likelihood that an Anker product was going to have bad battery life? So low that it hasn’t happened yet, including these. The Liberty 2 Pro’s boast a whopping 32 hours of playtime if you include the charges from the case, but that’s not the impressive number. They claim 8 whole hours of use per charge on the buds! That’s insane, I feel compelled to test that but I’m not sure I can listen to anything for 8 hours.
As you can imagine with battery claims like that, I haven’t had any issues with battery on the Liberty 2 Pros. If I had, the case uses USB-C, the same as pretty much everything else I own at the moment, and if I run out of type-C cables, I can always just throw it on the Qi charger to top it up that way, so no issues whatsoever.
The connection hasn’t been an issue for me either, whether it be the intra-bud connection (the connection between each earbud) or the connection to the phone. With Bluetooth 5.0’s increase in range and reliability, I’ve had great success on newer earbuds but I cannot remember as much as a single blip on the Liberty 2 Pros, even when walking out of my office to the Kitchen, about 20 meters away with walls in between, neat!
Connecting to the buds for the first time was very easy as well, go into the Bluetooth settings of your phone and slide open the case of the earbuds, that will wake them up and put them in pairing mode, on your phone simply press on the Liberty 2 Pro to get connected. now whenever you slide the case open it’ll automatically connect to your phone, no mus, no fuss.
So there are two things to talk about here, the app, and the microphones. One is great whilst the other sucks.
If you’ve read my Liberty Air 2 review, you know that I actually really quite like the Soundcore app. It’s well laid out, fast and fluid and doesn’t try to do more than it can offer. It shows you the battery life of each bud active, it shows you what EQ setting you’re in (I leave mine in HearID) and what the controls are mapped to. You can also go and check whether there are any firmware updates for the earbuds. Overall a really nice app – good job.
Then we come to the microphones, which, no matter how many Soundcore put on the earbuds, just suck. People said I sounded distant, some said robotic, some said flat, and even when talking to the Google Assistant it got confused as to what I was asking for. I would think that if they’re this proud of the mics that they put it on the Amazon listing and the box, maybe I just have a bad set? Nope, Daniel Bader of Android Central has the same issue as me on his Liberty 2 Pros.
These are great, hands down, and at £150, not that expensive for what they offer, which is clear, bright sound, stable connection and practically endless battery life. Sure the microphones suck, but that is a small part of the picture when everything else here is so good.
They comfortably blow away every other truly wireless bud I’ve tested in sound quality other than the Optoma NuForce Be Free8’s and the HiFiMAN TWS600. These are cheaper than those are/were, they also don’t have some of the issues that both of those do, so these, as a package are something that I can wholeheartedly recommend.