Ameya DalviMay 28, 2021 09:34:33 IST
Price: Rs 9,999
We have reviewed a bunch of true wireless (TWS) earphones from Soundcore in the entry-level and mid-range segment over the last year or so, and none have failed to impress us in some way or the other. The Soundcore Liberty 2 even made it to our list of the best budget TWS earphones of 2020. The company has now released a relatively higher-end model with more modern features and active noise cancellation (ANC) in India, named the Liberty Air 2 Pro. Time to put these buds through their paces.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Build, design and features (8/10)
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro’s design is quite elegant, with a black body and matte grey back with glossy company branding. In addition to what you see here, you get three more colour options with the Liberty Air 2 Pro. The back of the buds is touch-sensitive for gesture controls. The build quality is solid, but the buds are quite light. The preinstalled medium-sized silicone tips fit snugly into the ear canals, offering decent noise isolation. If they don’t fit you perfectly, Soundcore bundles eight more pairs of different-sized silicone tips in the package. Yes, you read that right.
The buds are fitted with an 11 mm PureNote dynamic driver each, to deliver the entire frequency spectrum. Unlike with its own Liberty 2 Pro (Review) or the Oppo Enco X (Review), Soundcore hasn’t taken the dual driver route with this pair. Each bud also has three microphones – one feedback mic, a feedforward mic for noise cancellation, along with a regular one for making calls. It also has wear detection sensors to pause the audio when you remove a bud from your ear, and resume it when you put it back in.
There is no mention of any ingress rating for the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro on the box or on the spec sheet, which places a question mark on its useability in a gym, on a jog or any other activity where one may sweat. These Bluetooth 5.0 earphones are compliant only with SBC and AAC codecs. I would have preferred to see aptX or LDAC support, too. Ironically, the Soundcore Liberty 2 and a few others from the same brand that sell for less than half the price of the Liberty Air 2 Pro are compliant with aptX codecs and have IPX5 or better splash protection as well. It’s surely a questionable decision on the company’s part to leave those features out of the Air 2 Pro.
The earbuds are touch-enabled and let you perform a handful of tasks that can be configured from inside the Soundcore app, which is arguably the best companion app out there. You get to assign functions for single tap, double tap and long press functions on either bud. You can choose between play/pause, previous track, next track, noise cancellation toggle (Normal/ANC/Transparency), volume controls and more. Thus, you get comprehensive control over playback functions without needing to go to the source device.
You can choose from four ANC modes in the app – indoor, outdoor, transport and custom. Custom mode lets you choose the most suitable noise reduction level; something I have never come across in any other earphones till date. Similarly, you can choose between the fully transparent or vocal options in Transparency mode. Transparency mode is useful when you need to be aware of your surroundings, like at an airport, when crossing the street, when you need to listen to announcements or have a quick conversation without removing the buds from the ear. I preferred transport and vocal modes in their respective categories.
The charging case with a slide-out cover is quite compact and elegant, and has a nice soft-touch matte finish with a glossy Soundcore logo, which is in sync with the design language of the buds. It has a USB-C charging port at the back, and a USB-A to Type-C cable is bundled in the package. The case also supports wireless charging using a Qi charger. Three tiny white LEDs at the front indicate the level of charge for the case. There’s a neatly camouflaged button at the back for resetting the Bluetooth pairing. As you can see, this is a feature-rich and highly customisable pair of TWS earbuds.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Comfort (8.5/10)
The earbuds aren’t the smallest around but fit nicely into the ears, and don’t stick out much except for the stems, but even those don’t look out of place. The right-sized ear tips provide good passive noise isolation. The earbuds do not cause any discomfort in the ear even if you wear them for a few hours at a stretch, but it’s always advisable to take them off for a few minutes every hour or two. Do spend a couple of minutes choosing the right-sized ear tips, as that helps achieve better noise cancellation. The app also has a Tip Fit Test that can assist you with this.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Performance (8/10)
Pairing these earphones with the phone was a straightforward process. All you need to do is open the lid of the case with the buds placed inside, find them in the list of Bluetooth devices on the phone/source device and connect. AAC is as high as you can go on the codec front for HD audio. The connection stays strong for more than the advertised 10 metres with a clear line of sight, and for close to seven metres with a concrete wall in between. At times, it maintained a stable connection even beyond two walls – quite an impressive range, that.
The ANC is quite decent, though not in the league of Sony WF-1000XM3 that costs twice as much, but gets the job done indoors and outdoors by noticeably reducing ambient noise. Noise cancellation is at par with the Oppo Enco X that sell for the same price. The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro isn’t the loudest pair of earbuds around, and I had to often push the volume as high as 90 percent for sufficient loudness when using the default Soundcore Signature sound profile. While it’s loud enough at that level, it does impact battery life, but more on that in the battery section.
One way to make these buds sound louder is to configure your HearID in the app. It maps your personal hearing sensitivity at multiple frequencies to create a personalised equaliser for you. It takes about three minutes in a quiet environment to create the same, and is certainly worth a try. The Soundcore app also lets you alter the sound profile, courtesy an eight-band equaliser and loads of pre-sets, some of which have been configured by a bunch of Grammy Award-winning producers (or so the company claims). The good part being, whichever sound profile you choose gets stored on the earbuds, and even if you choose to use the Liberty Air 2 Pro with a different device without the app, the configuration is retained.
As for sound quality, it is quite enjoyable across various genres of music, and right up there with the best in the sub-Rs 10,000 segment. The sound signature here is pleasantly warm without overshadowing the mids, thus making it more enjoyable for those who prefer their sound on the warmer side of neutral, but without losing out much on detail. Despite the earbuds favouring the lows a bit, the bass isn’t excessive, but there is a definite thump and hardly any auditory masking. The mids are reproduced quite well, with clear vocals and ample instrument separation.
The highs are quite sharp, and while they do not sound sibilant, they could have been tempered slightly better. Overall detail in the sound is quite good for this price range, and so is the imaging. The sound stage is reasonably broad and gives you a good sense of space. And this is all about how they sound on the default profile. There are 22 sound pre-sets to play with, along with the aforementioned HearID to tweak the output to your liking. The sheer range of customisation available for these buds will make them appeal to a broader audience, as there’s something for everybody here.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Call quality (8/10)
Like all Soundcore buds I have tested so far, call quality on the Liberty Air 2 Pro is rather good. The person on the line was clearly audible, and I was heard with a good amount of clarity by the other person, too. The six microphones (three on each bud) do a good job of cutting out some of the ambient noise when outdoors, but not all of it. Though the person on the call couldn’t hear the traffic noise around me, certain background sounds could be heard, but that was not enough to majorly impact the conversation. And there are no issues indoors. Call quality isn’t bad at all, but I was probably expecting better, given the experience I have had with their more affordable models.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Battery life (7.5/10)
Battery life of the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro is decent, but not as great as the Liberty 2 or Liberty Air 2; that said, those models do not support ANC. These buds last anything between four-and-a-half to five hours on a full charge with generous use of ANC and 30 minutes of calling. The case can recharge the buds thrice more, thus taking the total battery backup to the 18- to 20-hours range. That’s a fair distance away from the advertised seven hours (for the buds) and 26 hours (with the case).
The case supports wireless charging as well fast charging (wired). It takes anything between 90 minutes to two hours to charge the case and buds fully when empty. A 15-minute charge gives you about two hours of play time; again, that’s decent, but a good hour less than the advertised three hours. The fact that I had to listen to audio at over 80 percent volume most of the time for normal loudness also contributed to lower battery backup figures. While these figures are on par with other TWS buds with ANC, one is likely to expect a little better, especially from a brand like Soundcore than has delivered on this front in the past.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Price and verdict
The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro noise-cancelling TWS earphones can be purchased for Rs 9,999 with an 18-month warranty. Yes, the price is a bit on the higher side, but these earbuds are loaded with features, and the flexibility that the companion app offers is something special. Let’s not forget the punchy sound output that can be tweaked further to suit your taste, rather good ANC and transparency with a variety of options, wireless charging and customisable touch controls making it worth the asking price.
As for competition, there is only one option that comes to mind – the Oppo Enco X. It is another excellent product that sells for a similar price and offers matching features. The companion app isn’t remotely as good as Soundcore’s, but the overall sound quality is a little better on the Oppo, courtesy of its dual driver design and Dynaudio’s smart tuning. If you don’t care about active noise cancellation and wish to have most of the features of the Air 2 Pro, you may consider the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 for a good Rs 3,000 lower. It has better battery backup and support for aptX as well.