Ever since Apple hit the jackpot with AirPods, the competition has been ramping up from other audio brands. CES 2019 revealed even more truly wireless earbuds on the way. That’s in addition to an already robust marketplace from well-known names in the industry along with a host of low-cost options. One new player in this space is Anker, who recently expanded its Soundcore lineup with the new Liberty Air True-Wireless Earphones. With AirPod-style for nearly 50% less, how does Anker’s latest audio release compare to the clubhouse leader? A quick look and comparison below.
Anker Liberty Air finds a home between value & high-end
Anker’s new Liberty Air buds retail for $79.99 at the time of publishing, which sits nicely between the lower-end market of Asian brands and the pricier $159 AirPods. It’s easy to see Apple design cues here but the Liberty Airs don’t feel like a blatant copy by any means. They are available in both white and black while also shipping with a matching case that I’ll dive into shortly.
Much like AirPods, Anker’s latest features touch controls on the side that enable playback, call features and support for both Siri and Google Assistant. My testing revealed a somewhat difficult experience when it came to actuating these features. Although admittedly it was tough to remember which control required how long of a tap or how many.
A water-resistant IPX5 rating plays well with the belief that truly wireless earbuds are made for workouts first and foremost. You’ll note that these aren’t waterproof but will generally hold up well enough against sweat, according to Anker. There are various eartips included, which is always a welcome sight that also plays well with any fit concerns during workouts. In my testing, I found that the Liberty Airs generally stayed in place during workouts with more success on the treadmill and elliptical versus any type of circuit training.
Podcasts yes, music maybe
Any headphone review is ultimately going to be largely subjective to the listener. If you have a more sensitive pair of ears or pride yourself as an audiophile, your impression may be different than more mainstream users. Anker’s Liberty Airs performed admirably in my testing when considering the following factors: fit, playback at varying volumes, and usability. I’ve already covered the inclusion of different eartips make these buds as solid pair for most users, scoring high on usability as well. So lets jump into the audio side of things.
Truly wireless earbuds are designed for workouts. Most are going to opt for speakers or a more serious pair of headphones when critical listening is required. Through that lens, Anker’s Liberty Airs score high marks from me. Podcast and spoken word audio were clear and easy to understand, on-par with various other wireless options I’ve tried in recent years.
When listening to music, results varied. Bass can be muddied at times and the high-end can certainly be tinny. This was more prevalent when listening at higher volumes. But here’s my caveat: when you’re working out, what’s your ability to listen critically to music? Personally, mine is low. I’m just trying to get a sweat in and enjoy a podcast. In that regard, I can recommend what Anker is doing here from a value perspective, especially at this price point.
Liberty Air vs AirPods
Things get a bit more complicated if you’re looking for a pair of earbuds that check every box. Anker rates Liberty Air for 20 hours of use total when the charging case is accounted for, otherwise around 5 hours on a single charge. That’s ok but not great. I quite rarely need to charge my AirPods in between one hour workouts. It’s one of my favorite features. I’ve not tested the Liberty Air buds long enough to speak to their duration, but they are not likely to holdup to Apple’s in-house W1 chip technology in this regard. It’s simply an advantage Apple has over the competition.
Another knock is the inclusion of microUSB on the charging case. Man, I’m so ready to move on from that. It just instantly makes a product feel old and antiquated. Sure, I’m being picky but it’s also 2019. microUSB is played out.
To wrap up, Anker’s Liberty Air earbuds are a solid buy at $80 but would be even better under $50. I’m sure they’ll go on sale at some point, as Anker products generally do. If you want AirPod-styling but don’t want to shell out the cash, then it’s hard to go wrong here.