As Apple pushes new variations of its flagship earbuds, the AirPods, into increased and better worth ranges, it leaves quite a lot of room for rivals to undercut it on worth. That’s precisely what Soundcore is doing with its new Liberty Air 2 true wi-fi earbuds. From the form of the protruding microphone arms to the wi-fi charging case, the Liberty Air 2 earbuds look, sound, and really feel so much just like the AirPods for lots much less cash.
I don’t wish to use a phrase like “you get what you pay for,” in relation to the Apple Airpods since I choose some earbuds—like the Monoprice True Wireless Plus—which are even cheaper than the $99 Liberty Air 2. But, in a comparability strictly between the AirPods and the Liberty Air 2, the Air 2 do really feel like much less of a discount. Soundcore tried to make the Air 2 stand out with some attention-grabbing options, like higher microphones and a companion app with equalizers personalized in your particular person listening to profile. Unfortunately, these options all fell flat for me.
Making a superb impression is a superb begin, and the Air 2 look extraordinarily swanky. They have the modern curves and clean traces that I search for in a really attractive piece of tech. Plus, their matte black exterior helps to cover smudges from pores and skin oils and fingerprints, so that they all the time look kind of superb. I additionally actually wish to name out the splashes of ruddy orange on the finish of the arms and below the silicone ear suggestions. The Air 2 general look actually fancy, and I received stopped by a number of strangers in elevators and grocery shops to ask about them.
That clean, seamless look comes at a worth, although: there’s no bodily button on these earbuds. A touch-sensitive button is hidden someplace in or across the Soundcore brand—I’ve been experimenting, however I’m nonetheless unsure precisely the place it’s. Wherever it’s, the way in which it acknowledges contact inputs is significantly spotty. Sometimes, these earbuds utterly ignore a direct, purposeful double-tap. Other instances, the slightest unintentional brush of a finger alongside the surface edge will skip a music observe, ramp up the quantity, or—most frustratingly—grasp up a telephone name. This isn’t normally the kind of criticism that makes it right into a tech evaluate, however significantly: I’ve by accident hung up on my girlfriend so many instances previously week that I owe her some flowers.
One of the options that I assumed confirmed promise was the Soundcore companion app, which let me outline my very own contact controls. I had horrible luck getting the Liberty Air 2 to acknowledge a double-tap, so I used to be solely too completely satisfied to vary the enter on pausing and skipping tracks to one thing else. Just holding my finger on my proper earbud for 2 seconds takes longer than a double-tap, however it works usually sufficient that I wasn’t irritated by it.
I encountered just a few issues with Bluetooth connectivity, too. Sometimes, customized controls I saved within the app stopped working. One function, which robotically pauses playback when it senses me pull an earbud out of my ear, stopped working and wouldn’t resume till I put each earbuds into the charging case and left them there for a minute.
On one memorable event, the left earbud made a noise like a dying arduous drive and …crashed, I suppose? Putting each earbuds within the case and restarting the connection appears to have put issues again to regular.
It’s a disgrace that I had so many issues with the Liberty Air 2, as a result of they arrive geared up with my favourite carrying/charging case of any true wi-fi headphones I’ve examined. It is small and comfy to hold in a pocket—it’s in regards to the measurement of a field of Tic Tacs. This is slightly element, however I like the way in which the lid has only a tiny little bit of spring help to open and magnetic help to shut. It makes the case lid easy to snap open and closed, however it by no means flaps round or falls open by accident.
The case additionally helps wi-fi charging, which is actually handy. When I’m at residence, the Air 2 earbuds and their case dwell in a charging spot subsequent to my entrance door. I set them down there so I don’t lose or overlook them, they usually’re all the time charged as a bonus.
Battery and Fit
For all the problems I had with their connection reliability, the battery energy on the Liberty Air 2 is fairly good. According to specs, their 55 mAh batteries max out at round seven hours. I received about 6.5 hours of playtime on a full cost, and the battery within the charging case can recharge the earbuds thrice. This is completely fantastic, however inferior to different earbud choices that squeeze extra juice out of barely smaller batteries.
The solely different draw back to the battery efficiency was in how lengthy it took to cost. A full cost took about 4 hours on my wi-fi charger. It was sooner than that when plugged in—below three hours—however it was nonetheless a bit slower than different comparable true wi-fi earbuds.
I by no means actually received an amazing match with the Air 2, which was irritating as a result of they arrive with 5 completely different sizes of ear suggestions. I feel the guts of the issue is the general design. Unlike quite a lot of different true wi-fi earbuds, the Air 2 rely completely on a comfortable ear tip match. Without any stability wings or a design that lets the earbud relaxation contained in the bowl of my ear, I discovered myself going backwards and forwards from medium to giant to extra-large, with none of them working fairly proper.
I discovered myself consistently adjusting and reinserting the Air 2 earbuds. Even although I used to be being cautious to solely modify them by the stem or the very edges of the earbud face, it was this fixed fiddling that led to a protracted string of by accident hanging up the telephone on folks. Even although the Liberty Air 2 are fairly gentle, not having any form of bodily assist made them really feel unstable.
In my checks, the Liberty Air 2 put out superb bass, however medium-to-high sounds had been uneven and muddy. The general construct high quality additionally doesn’t appear superb. My bass-shaker take a look at revealed some ringing in a single earbud, and testing the steadiness of the speaker drivers confirmed that they’re not fairly centered. This makes some music—which ought to sound prefer it’s hitting proper in the course of my mind—wander and wobble from left to proper generally.
The Soundcore companion app comes with quite a lot of equalizer settings, together with a particular HearID take a look at that claimed to customise an equalizer for me primarily based on the outcomes of a listening to take a look at. I used to be intrigued by an app that might customise an EQ setting for me to compensate for my particular listening to profile. Unfortunately, this function is only a gimmick. The listening to take a look at confirmed that I had no gaps in my listening to, and my personalised EQ setting was only a pair of flat traces.
Moving on, I put the Liberty Air 2 by way of some music. To combine it up a bit I listened to “Could Have Been Me” by The Struts. The track begins with palms clapping to a driving beat, and I feel the sharp, excessive sound of a hand-clap is a superb illustration of the place the Liberty Air 2 sound the weakest. Where cymbals, palms, or a snare drum ought to sound shiny and distinct, the Liberty Air 2 makes them sound papery and skinny.
Next I attempted out “Do It All The Time” by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me. The track is massive on synth sounds that the Liberty Air 2 dealt with a lot better. In explicit, the opening and repeated guitar riffs overlay completely with the Liberty Air 2’s fats, boosted bass.
Finally I introduced out “What’s Up Danger” by Blackway & Black Caviar, off of the soundtrack for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. As good because the bass sounds, the brilliant ticking-clock sound impact got here off as wood, prefer it was performed on a pair of bamboo chopsticks.
The greatest let-down for sound efficiency, although, was within the on-board microphones. The Liberty Air 2 actually boasts about having 4 on-board microphones and particular background-noise cancelling expertise. I didn’t expertise clear voice high quality in any respect in my checks, and I all the time had an echo-y speakerphone-in-traffic high quality regardless of the place I used to be or how loud the background noise.
Compared solely to the far more costly Apple AirPods, the Liberty Air 2 do some issues properly and look actually attractive for half the value. Unfortunately, there are different rivals on the market apart from simply Soundcore and Apple that do it higher and cheaper. Soundcore’s personal higher-end earbuds, the $150 Liberty 2 Pro, repair nearly each single subject I had with the Liberty Air 2—they’ve a bodily button, they’ve higher batteries, they usually cup properly within the ear with extra wings for stability. If you need nice headphones from Soundcore, spring for the Pro improve.