The only thing more popular than AirPods right now are cheap AirPods alternatives. At the top of that list is the $100 Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2. An entry-level pair of wireless earbuds with an impressive spec sheet, Anker’s latest release is a noteworthy upgrade that offers better audio, battery life, and durability than every AirPods model, at a competitive price point.
Should you be in the market for something affordable and don’t care much about appearance or coveted features like active noise cancellation, then the Liberty Air 2 is a smart investment. It even earned a place on our Best Wireless Earbuds page.
In the case you’ve already splurged on the AirPods 2 or AirPods Pro, then there’s no need to swap models. Although, you might find Anker’s buds offer more bang for the buck.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: Price and availability
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 is available for $99.99 at major online retailers, including Amazon and eBay, or directly from Soundcore. Specific retailers like Best Buy currently have the Liberty Air 2 discounted to $79.99. You can purchase the earbuds in two colors: Black and White.
What's in the box?
Anker ships the Liberty Air 2 with a wireless charging case, a USB-charging cable, a quick start guide, and five pairs of ear tips (extra small, small, medium, large, and extra-large).
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: Design
Some find the AirPods’ long-stem design innovative while others (myself included) find it hideous. While Apple managed to slightly shrink the stems on the AirPods Pro, Anker decided to make them bigger and thicker on the Liberty Air 2. The end result is a design that draws unflattering attention; you’ll be singled out in a crowd, and not for how cool you look wearing them.
If color variety is what you value in a pair of wireless earbuds, take some solace knowing that Anker offers ONE more option than Apple. We got a chance to test the white model, which features a matte-gray finish on the front and red accent near the bottom stem. It’s much flashier than the clean all-white look of the AirPods and works for those who want a bit more flair. The black version opts for a slate-gray finish instead.
Another area where Anker one-ups Apple is the build quality of the buds themselves. The all-plastic construction is much sturdier than the recycled plastic used to make the AirPods Pro. For testing purposes, I had my cat bat the Anker buds around the living room floor, which also led to some chewing action, and the casings didn’t take on any bite marks or scuffs (don't try this at home).
I’m not entirely sure how to feel about the charging case. The pebble-gray shade is unique and adds more distinction (no one will mistake them for the AirPods case). On the other hand, it’s bigger and wider than all AirPods cases. The lid is very flimsy as well; you can easily open the case by flicking your wrist. As cool as it sounds, this leaves the buds vulnerable to spilling out when the case is dropped on hard surfaces.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: Comfort and fit
The Liberty Air 2 is decently comfortable. Depending on your pain threshold, you’ll be able to sport the buds for about an hour before fatigue sets in. Those with sensitive ears might tap out after the 45-minute mark. Some will find that the large, round cavity applies slight pressure on the concha that intensifies the longer you wear the buds.
I prefer the fit of the AirPods Pro, as its elongated frame feels more pleasant and sits steadily on the ear. The Liberty Air 2 feels a bit unstable, especially when walking fast, which may trigger nightmares for those who’ve already lost their first pair of AirPods down a sewer drain. At first, I thought it was the tip size, so I tested different tips and had my fiancée test the buds for a day as well. She thought the tips felt fine and locked onto her ears without any slippage, while I had to adjust the buds several times to achieve a temporary, secure fit.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: Touch controls and digital assistant
Not every tech company does touch controls right on a pair of wireless earbuds. I give Anker credit for the attempt, but the company didn’t do the best job developing its touch gesture system.
There were times when I was furiously tapping the touch panels just to resume/play music (2x tap). Holding my finger down to enable the digital assistant showed some lag too. The only time the touch controls worked properly was when I initiated long presses to power the buds on or off. On-ear detection also worked fine with playback automatically pausing every time I removed the buds from my ear.
This is one of those situations where you’ll want to execute tasks either directly on your phone or hands-free via a digital assistant. Google Assistant and Siri operate smoothly, dishing out responses to inquiries as quickly as they receive them. Siri’s voice was a bit crackly at times when replying to responses, which created some distortion. Either way, the speech recognition on these buds was pretty good.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: App and special features
There is more to the Liberty Air 2’s extended functionality than just a built-in EQ. Yes, the option to create your own sound profiles by tweaking the frequency levels manually or selecting from 22 EQ settings is awesome, and these options work well. But where Anker really earns brownie points is for including its more advanced features on its low-tier models.
HearID is a fairly new mode that analyzes your hearing at multiple frequencies and factors in other information (e.g. age, environment) to tailor the sound to your ears. It takes a couple of minutes to complete, which seems long by modern standards, but the feature is worth testing and is fairly effective. The profile it created for me offered more low-end action, something I always appreciate when zoning out to my Spotify playlists.
It's also cool that Anker included several additional custom EQs in the Soundcore app that were designed by Grammy-winning producers. The app doesn’t offer any insight on which is best suited for specific genres, so you’ll have to listen to music and cycle through each one to get a feel for them. I found Craig Allen’s preset ideal for hip-hop and EDM tracks.
Lastly, the Soundcore app allows you to swap out the controls, enable the auto-pause function, push firmware updates and check the battery levels on each bud.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: Audio quality
Anker has made praiseworthy improvements to its audio performance, from consulting award-winning recording producers to the inclusion of diamond-coated drivers. The decisions paid off because the Liberty Air 2 pumps out rich sound that is exceptional for $100 buds.
Bass lovers might want to give Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” a listen to get a feel for the Liberty Air 2’s warm signature. Mids are handled much better on these than the AirPods Pro, with Freddie Mercury’s fiery performance blending gracefully over the record’s effervescent and powerful bassline. Most models in the same price class struggle to do this song justice, but not these.
Moving onto more melodic jams, I pulled up Kanye West’s “Everything I Am” and was taken aback by how clean and detailed the piano chords sounded after switching to the Piano preset. The EQ also placed more emphasis on Ye’s vocals, which added to the song’s intimate presence. Switching over to the Hip-Hop preset was equally gratifying, especially when blasting Nas’ “It Aint Hard to Tell.” The record’s boomy production pounded my eardrums with head-banging lows that I'm accustomed to hearing from premium wireless headphones.
Noise isolation on these buds is 50/50. Any loud noises around you find their way onto the soundstage. I could hear what was playing on my TV in the background, as well as the children running in the apartment above me. My fiancée even caught my attention a few times when calling out my name from several feet away. When I got the chance to listen in a distraction-free zone, the music sounded cleaner and fuller.
Note: Anker gives you the option to use the Liberty Air 2 in mono or stereo mode. However, I found listening to all media formats in mono made audio sound bloated and tiny.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: Battery life and charging case
Anker rates battery life at 7 hours on a full charge. Realistically, it’s about 6.5 hours and slightly less when factoring in high volume and heavy wireless streaming. It’s a sufficient amount of playtime to keep you entertained on weekly commutes to the office and 2 hours longer than the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours).
There is no mention of quick charging, though the company states on the product page that a 10-minute charge gets you 2 hours of playtime. The story checks out. In addition, the move from micro-USB to USB-C guarantees a full battery quicker than the previous version.
The charging case holds up to 28 hours, which equates to 4 additional charges. This places the Liberty Air 2’s case in the same company as the Jabra Elite Active 75t (28 hours) and in a higher bracket than the AirPods Pro (24 hours). If you want a more convenient way to recharge the buds, feel free to do so wirelessly by placing the case on a Qi charging pad.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: Call quality and connectivity
My editor was convinced I was speaking directly into my phone, which shows how great the call quality is on the Liberty Air 2. Anker’s all-new 4-mic system with cVc (clear voice capture) noise reduction technology does a great job picking up vocals in quiet settings. We were able to communicate loudly and clearly on both ends, but she did notice some occasional crunchiness throughout the call.
Bluetooth has never been an issue on Anker headphones, and that hasn't changed. Pairing to my Android phones (Google Pixel 2XL and 3XL) and MacBook Pro was a breeze, while connections remained strong when streaming Spotify from mobile devices. The Liberty Air 2 also offers lengthy wireless range; I roamed around my apartment during calls with my smartphone in the bedroom and never experienced any dropout.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: Bottom line
Audio performance alone places the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 in the conversation for best wireless earbuds under $100. You get clean and vibrant sound that can be personalized through the Soundcore app via EQ, presets or special listening mode. Call quality is just as rewarding, as Anker’s adaptive mic system allows for clear-sounding phone calls and web chats. Battery life is longer than the AirPods Pro, too.
The design, while an upgrade from the scratch-fest of the original Soundcore Liberty, won’t appeal to those who dislike the AirPods’ look. There is also some concern over the charging case’s fragile lid; a poor closure system increases the risk of damaging or losing the buds. You’ll also want to limit interactions with the touch controls since they don’t provide the most accurate results.
Overall, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 may not be an AirPods killer, but the buds are a practical and inexpensive alternative for those who want great sound and extended playtime without breaking the bank.