I’ve only tried a couple of TWS earphones so far but in the past year or so it looks like, as a product category, they are really starting to mature. I have had my eyes on a number of different pairs for a while now, waiting till I see a good deal before I pick them up. One of those is the Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro which I have here. And when Anker reached out to me to see if I was interested in reviewing them, of course, I said yes, please.
I’ve been a big fan of Anker USB cables and chargers for a while now so I know they can make a good product. I have the Soundcore Bluetooth speaker that is able to put out an impressive volume, decent bass and sound quality for such a tiny size.
So I have a certain expectation of quality with an Anker product. But what can they do with earphones? Well, let’s get into it.
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As I mentioned in the intro, Anker did send these over to me for my honest review. As always whether I purchase something myself or get sent something for review I’m always going to give you my honest take on them.
With the whole global crisis ongoing at the moment I haven’t had much opportunity to use the Liberty 2 Pro outdoors so instead I’ve been giving them a test around the house for the past few weeks. So that means sitting at my desk or pottering around the house doing the household chores.
I’ll start with the TL;DR. The Liberty 2 Pro are definitely a very bass focussed and casual sounding earphone with decent battery life and a good fit and features. If that sounds like your bag then keep watching.
There’s a lot to go into with these so let’s get on with it.
WHATS IN THE BOX
Like most Anker products, the Liberty 2 Pro comes in a rather nice packaging. The box is extremely stiff and lined with dense protective material. It seems like Anker has taken a leaf out of Apples book in providing a solid packaging that goes above and beyond in terms of protection.
Inside you’ll find the earphones themselves along with the case, a USB-C charging cable, 7 different pairs of silicone tips, 3 different pairs of wing hooks and of course the documentation. You are also getting an 18-month warranty and lifetime technical support.
Extra points for the little pull tabs that make it a breeze to pull the items out of the box. Also, the card that holds the spare tips and wings is a really nice touch.
Each earpiece weighs 7g per ear without tips or wings and they stay in place in my ears really well. However, they are rather bulky and look a little like an old school Bluetooth headset. If you want something more discreet looking, this isn’t it but at least they have a rather understated clean look rather than a loud or blingy design.
Let’s go over the specs:
Bluetooth Version: 5.0
Codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX so that’s all the most important bases covered. It would have been nice to see aptX HD or LDAC but honestly, for this kind of earphone, these three codecs have all the bases covered so no real complaints there.
In terms of audio sync, I don’t have an iPhone so I can’t test that but I noticed a bit of lag for audio sync with video when watching Netflix on my PC using aptX. However, the audio seemed to be perfectly in sync when watching Netflix and YouTube from my Android phone, also using aptX.
Playtime: 8 hours in a single charge and that seems about right from my testing. Battery life is obviously very dependant on volume and the type of content you are playing but it seems pretty decent if a bit average these days. You also get a further 3 charges from the case for up to 32 hours total and a 10-minute charge in the case will get you up to 2 hours of playback.
Driver: The Liberty 2 Pro uses a single dynamic driver and a single Knowles Balanced Armature per earpiece. These two driver types have been integrated into a single unit, something Anker calls Astria Coaxial Acoustic Architecture. Looking at the diagram it seems like the dynamic driver is rearward facing and the balanced armature is forwards facing.
I found it difficult to find the water resistance rating but it is apparently IPX4 which is resistance against splashes so should be ok for light rain and sweat. But these are not designed as a sports earphone, however, so don’t go expecting them to be as water-resistant or sweatproof as the sporty earphones out there.
The charging case seems like a really nice and compact shape, kind of like a little pebble. It’s a good shape to fit nicely in the hand or a pocket and has a soft-touch plastic finish. Having said that, I’ve seen pictures online comparing the size with others such as the Airpods case and the Liberty 2 Pro case does look to be a bit bulkier than those. Still, it feels ok to me.
The case has a very clean design. To the rear, there is a pairing button and also a USB-C charging port that is protected with a dust cover. When I first plugged them in I thought, well this is going to be a bit of a faff to have to keep opening the flap. However, this case supports Qi wireless charging. They don’t actually come with a wireless charger but Anker would be more than willing to sell you one of their charging pads such as this one I have here. Just drop the case onto the pad and let it do its thing.
The case is opened by sliding the lid upwards and the earpieces themselves are led down inside the case which should allow more room for larger ear tips.
Once paired to your device, sliding the case open will automatically connect the earpieces to your device before you have even removed them which I think is a nice feature.
PAIRING and FEATURES
Regards to pairing when you first open the case they will automatically be in pairing mode and ready to connect. In your device, you will see two listings “Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro” and “Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro-L” for individual pairing to both earpieces. In normal operation, the primary earpiece connects to your device and then shares that connection with the secondary earpiece.
To reinitiate the pairing process, press and hold the button on the rear of the case for 3 seconds.
The Liberty 2 Pro can also be used in single ear mode but switching to this mode is a little bit laborious due to the fact that both earpieces automatically pair to the player when the case is opened. To switch to single ear mode you need to remove both earpieces from the case and then hold the button on the one you don’t want to use until it turns off. You can then place that one back into the case and continue to use the other one in single mode.
Single ear mode is a good feature to have, especially for runners for example who might want to keep one ear free for awareness.
Unfortunately, the Liberty 2 Pro seems to be missing a feature that I would be expecting from a device like this in 2020 and that is multi-device connectivity which would allow seamless switching between devices. I know that Anker has this feature on certain other lower-end devices so it is odd to see this missing from the Liberty 2 Pro. Is it a deal-breaker? Perhaps not, this is a feature that is missing from a lot of headphones and earphones, but as a fussy nerd, it’s just something that I expect to see in 2020.
I’ll now play you a sample of the call quality using the Liberty 2 Pro.
The Liberty 2 Pro has 4 microphones for taking calls with Qualcomm’s cVc 8.0 noise cancelling technology which should help remove background noise. I’ve not really had any opportunity to test this out in anger, having been stuck inside for weeks. But you’re listening to that audio now, I’ll let you decide how it sounds.
Both earpieces have a single push-button for controls on the top. This is a good implementation as it allows easy access to the button without having to push against the earpiece and into the ear. The buttons control the usual play, pause, answer calls and change volume with a single tap, hold or double tap. Each of these options can be reconfigured in the Soundcore app.
APP AND EQUALIZER
Anker provides a Soundcore app to go with their headphones and earphones. With it, you are able to customise the controls on the earphones to perform your preferred action. Firmware updates are also applied using this app. But the most interesting feature in this app is the equalizer.
You are able to select from a ‘default’ sound signature as well as from a number of EQ profiles created by “Grammy-winning audio producers”. This is all part of Ankers marketing for the Liberty 2 Pro, along with claims of “In-Ear Studio Performance”. Most of this seems like a bit of a gimmick but perhaps some people may find one these profiles to their taste.
The most exciting parts of the app are the custom EQ feature, allowing you to tweak the profile to your own taste as well as the HearID personalisation feature. The HearID system works similarly to the Neutralizer app that is available for Android. You are instructed to listen in a quiet environment, to a series of tones at different frequencies. You hold a button until you can no longer hear the tone. The app then builds an EQ profile that suits your own hearing.
In the past, I have found the Neutralizer app to be remarkably effective. Although Soundcores HearID implementation isn’t quite as effective I do prefer the sound signature of the Liberty 2 Pro after customisation than with the default profile.
So how do they sound?
As I previously mentioned, this is a bass earphone. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are a bass-head, I think you’ll probably like these.
Before we go too deep into the sound section, from what I’ve read online I am certain I will get questions about background hiss, is there any and how noticeable is it? Some other reviewers have said that early run units had a distractingly loud background hiss. I never noticed this at all, whether that is because Anker has rectified the issue or not I cannot say. However, if I listen very closely there is a small, and I emphasise small, amount of background hiss that starts a second or so before a track starts and remains for a second or so after a track finishes. It is never loud enough that it intrudes during actual audio playback. Although if you listen to audio with lots quiet passages such as audio books then it may be more noticeable for you. This is something I have experienced on most other older Bluetooth earphones I have tried in the past. However, I don’t have a lot of experience with other TWS earphones so I am unable to say how common this is with TWS in general and how this compares with the competition. Therefore I will say this, on this unit I have here, it is there if you listen for it, but it is generally not loud enough to intrude or become a distraction. Do with that what you will.
Ok with that said, how they really sound depends on whether or not you are going to use the app. I think, in this case, the app is the real killer feature of the Liberty 2 Pro as it allows you to customise the sound signature to taste. In fact, I would say the app is absolutely necessary. Whether you pick one of the producer profiles, HearID customisation or build your own EQ, I think the default profile can certainly be improved upon with the app. I know this reliance on an app is going to be a deal-breaker for some people and that’s fine, it just seems like this is Ankers intended use for these earphones.
Out of the box, the default sound signature is very much the mainstream, big bass, casual sound signature that you might expect from a high street or big-name fashion brand. That means they are going to be a rather enjoyable casual experience that should appeal to a lot of people. In terms of technical performance, they are actually not bad, but you would never know it with the default EQ profile.
This is definitely a v-shaped sound signature with a huge bass boost, fairly scooped mids and an equally boosted upper mids and treble. Despite this, they don’t sound harsh in the treble and are not overly shouty in the upper mids. These elevated upper frequencies are more than offset by the huge bass boost. And surprisingly the low end is not as muddy as you would expect because most of the energy is in the sub and lower bass, there is no boost in the midbass. In fact, if anything there’s a bit of a cut here. Bass is able to reach a much much higher level than the Blon BL-03 but the BL-03 has a bit more of that midbass.
In terms of technical performance, their detail retrieval is heavily dependant on the EQ. But once you get the EQ dialled in right they have a surprisingly decent level of detail hidden underneath. Not up the same level as the Tin T4 or Moondrop Starfield of course but for a casual earphone, they hold their own. (and yes I have a review for the Starfield coming up soon) They also have a certain level of urgency and energy as well as being decently punchy although they don’t quite have the biggest slam ability. There is also no sign of harshness or edginess in the upper frequencies and they come across as rather smooth.
So whilst these don’t have a particularly audiophile sound, if a casual, big bass, v-shaped sound signature is what you are looking for then the Liberty 2 Pro is pretty spot on. For example, these are absolutely perfect for hip-hop and big bass EDM. Buggin’ Out from The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest, I was getting all the bass I would want for this track, perhaps more than enough. Big bass energy with plenty of that sub rumble; minus the sound of the windows rattling and that thump in the chest of course. Same goes for Deep Jungle Walk by Astrix which has a massive bassline and the Liberty 2 Pro do this a great justice. Bass-heads can stop searching now, this is it. Seriously, if hip-hop and big bass EDM is your bag, there are pretty awesome. These might be the bassisest earphones or headphones I have ever heard. As just a part-time bass-head, these are a bit much for my taste but I can imagine some people will love this.
Deep Jungle Walk also has some nice little psy elements that move across between left and right channels, on some headphones with poorer imaging, this can sound like it almost jumps between ears. On earphones that image well, you can track it moving from one side and across the centre. The Liberty 2 Pro did pretty well for this. However, in terms of staging it is a little intimate. They don’t have active noise cancellation but passive isolation is pretty good, so those wanting to shut out the world, these have you covered.
Switching over to my personalised HearID profile and things get a lot more balanced. It’s still a fairly bass-heavy and v-shaped sound signature but it’s a definite improvement for other genres. This could be a good feature and it’s definitely worth playing around with the various settings for HearID.
But I think a lot of people might be more interested in the custom EQ profile. I ended up pulling down the bass and treble to even out the frequency response a bit. I was able to get closer to a signature that was a lot more versatile but the problem is that even then it’s still a fairly bass-heavy sound. I don’t think it’s possible to get a truly neutral sound signature from these earphones even with the EQ.
Even when pulling the bass all the way down to -6dB which is as far down as the EQ will allow, it is still a rather boosted sound. I saw Crinacles graph and it looks like they have a good 10dB up from the Tin T4 at 30-40Hz by default. That is a lot of bass.
So with that in mind, and setting our expectations for this sound signature, these are very much a bass earphone more suited to modern genres pop, R&B, hip-hop and EDM and less so for classic rock, blues, jazz and classical. Having said that, with my custom EQ profile I did find tracks like Hotel California to be casually enjoyable with a certain musicality not tainted by any midbass bloat. Sure the bass is boosted way beyond what would be ideal for this track. But I found the lead electric guitar to cut through nicely without being harsh and they manage to sound quite smooth without any edginess.
I found them to be acceptable for a bit of jazz with the right EQ settings. I was able to get the sax sounding decently forwards without being shrill and the bass down as far as I could to clear up the mix a bit. But its never going to sound accurate on the Liberty 2 Pro. From a purist perspective, they won’t cut the mustard.
Value and Conclusion
All in for a casual, bass-focused earphone they do a rather good job. Lots of fun bass, plenty of upper-frequency energy without being harsh and shouty. I’ve said before that I prefer a more casual sound signature for my walking around music and actually, I really like these for that casual kind of use.
And there’s a lot to be said for the convenience factor of TWS earbuds. Throw them in a pocket, carry them everywhere, no messing with wires. I can see myself reaching for these frequently for trips to the shops or when working out.
I should say that I don’t have much experience with other TWS so I can’t really do a proper breakdown against the competition so all I can really do is tell you how I feel about these and talk about their sound versus wired IEMs as I have been doing. Also due to the way these have been designed with EQ in mind, it is a little difficult to properly compare their sound. Having said that, regardless of the EQ, these are always going to be ‘fun’ and v-shaped earphone, there is just no way to EQ the bass down far enough for this not to be the case. Regardless, of all of the ‘fun’ v-shaped earphones I have tried to date, these are the most ‘fun’ for sure.
The biggest issue I find with the Liberty 2 Pro is value. Currently, on Amazon you can pick up the Liberty 2 Pro for around £140 and whilst they are a fair bit cheaper than the Airpods Pro, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are going for £125 and the Sony WF-1000XM3 for £166. I’m not sure they are priced quite right considering how competitive this price point is. I think in terms of feature set they are probably outgunned at this price. I’ll leave you to decide that, but I suspect that decision is going to hinge on how much you like bass!
In summary, whilst the pricing is a bit odd, there is still a lot to like about the Liberty 2 Pro. If you’re looking for a smooth and fun sounding earphone with big bass and true wireless convenience, the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro should certainly be on your radar.
Ok, I think that’s it, was there anything I left out? There is so much to cover with Bluetooth devices, leave your comments below if I missed anything out.
Thanks to Anker for sending these over for me to check out and thanks to the Patrons.