These Cheap Noise-Cancelling Earbuds Give AirPods Pro a Run for Their Money

These Cheap Noise-Cancelling Earbuds Give AirPods Pro a Run for Their Money
Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo

In a world in which Apple is now selling $900 headphones, and the major players like Bose are sure to follow suit with equally pricey devices, it’s refreshing to find a pair of earbuds that offer solid noise cancellation, excellent design, and a great price.

The Liberty Air 2 Pros from Anker sub-brand Soundcore cost $170 and come with a cute little charging case that slides up and exposes a pair of white, black, pink, or blue earbuds. The buds last for about six hours on one charge and have simple touch controls. You can double-tap to start and stop the music or go to the next track and hold a finger near the top of the metal part to turn noise cancellation on and off.

The sound quality is good. You will not mistake these for high-end earbuds. The AirPods Pro, for example, have a cleaner presence, while these ‘buds feature a flat, almost monochromatic sound, with an acceptable amount of bass and treble with little tuning on either end. The noise cancellation was good in both a (simulated) aeroplane environment and outdoors. I wouldn’t recommend these for, say, a long flight — you want over-ear headphones for that — but they knocked out a lot of the low- to mid-range hum of most environments. One odd thing I noticed was that these earbuds let me hear the noise bed, or the slight hissing sound in some songs that are artifacts of the recording process. In fact, it was surprisingly noticeable, especially on older songs.

Liberty Air 2 Pro Noise-Cancelling Earbuds

WHAT IS IT?

A pair of cheap noise-cancelling earbuds that work quite well.

PRICE

$170

LIKE

Solid sound and quality for the price.

DON'T LIKE

Flat sound even with audio tweaks.

The earbuds come with nine different rubber tips ranging from extra small to super large. I swapped out the normal-sized ones for slightly larger ones and got a better fit. You’ll probably find yourself doing the same. Without a tight fit, these earbuds aren’t quite as effective in loud environments, but once you’ve dialed things in, they are light and comfortable.

Battery life was great. I got six hours of use out of these without a charge and the battery case holds another few fill-ups before you need to connect these to a USB-C charger. You could safely put these in your pocket on a daily basis and rarely have to worry about a recharge if you use them sporadically for calls and listening.

I listened to a bit of everything using the Liberty Air 2 Pros and found them more than capable of playing anything from a little Taylor Swift to some Foo Fighters. I wanted a bit more separation in the sound and a deeper soundstage — as I mentioned before, the music is front and centre without much difference between lows and highs. Add in the active noise cancellation and you’ve got a pair of earbuds suitable for subway commutes and walks in the neighbourhood.

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo

I also tried the Soundcore app to “tune” the earbuds to my hearing. This included what amounted to a hearing test that had me listen to various frequencies at various volume levels. The resulting profile sounded slightly better than the default setting but not by much.

One comical little app feature is a noise-cancelling level dial which, I believe, is supposed to reduce certain frequencies. Spinning the dial did nothing.

And, at $170, I wouldn’t expect much more. These little guys work well, fit well, and offer solid noise cancellation. If you’re in the market for something that works, sounds good, and won’t break the bank, the Liberty Air 2 Pros are worth a look.

README

  • A low-cost alternative to Samsung and Apple’s “Pro” wireless earbuds.
  • Comfortable and good fit.
  • Good audio quality, excellent noise cancellation.