Anker continues its heavy rollout of new true wireless releases, this time upgrading one of their most popular wireless earbuds to give us the Liberty 2 Pro (Upgraded version). You may have trouble searching for this model online since Anker currently has it labeled as the Liberty 2 Pro Upgraded Version, despite the mobile app and Bluetooth settings recognizing it as the Liberty 2 Pro Plus. Which is it, Anker?
What’s new about this 2021 iteration? An ambient-listening mode, Hi-Res audio via LDAC technology, and slightly stronger quick charging. Much of what made the original Liberty 2 Pro a hot seller has also been carried over, such as the drivers, connectivity, HearID Personalized Sound, and wireless charging. Yet, bizarrely, these buds take a step back in some categories (e.g., battery life, special features), which begs the question: are these really an upgrade?
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro (2021) review: Availability and price
The $129 Liberty 2 Pro (Upgraded) is available at Amazon or directly from Anker. It only comes in one color: Black. Inside the box are a wireless charging case, USB-C charging cable, seven sets of different-sized ear tips, three sets of different-sized ear wings, and a quick start guide.
While marketed as the “upgraded version,” it carries fewer features and a lower MSRP than the regular Liberty 2 Pro ($149), at least according to Anker’s website. The Liberty 2 Pro Plus is also cheaper than sub-luxury models like the Beats Studio Buds ($149) and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149), as well as category leaders like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279). If you’re looking for something under $100, we strongly recommend checking out the Liberty Air 2 Pro, which is on clearance for $84 at Best Buy.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro (2021) review: Design and comfort
Regarding design, the only difference between the new Liberty 2 Pro and the original is the gold logo on the front. Anker left the elongated shape, button placement, charging pins, and matte finish untouched. Build quality is also the same with solid plastic making up the buds’ entire composition. IPX4 sweat and water resistance returns as well.
Much of the same applies to the charging case; the only thing different is the gold logo. The LEDs, USB-C charging port, Bluetooth pairing button, and upward-sliding lid with tiny indent remain intact. However, there seems to be one significant improvement made to the Liberty 2 Pro Plus’s case: IPX4 certification. Unlike the previous case, this one can sustain sweat and light splashing, at least that’s what the product page suggests. Nonetheless, this case is compact, chic, well protected, and won’t create an unflattering bulge when stored inside pockets.
The size of these buds makes for a cumbersome wear. They occupy almost every crevice on your ear, and anyone with a low pain threshold may feel some soreness around the concha after an hour of use.
Anker does make up for the discomfort through optimal fit. Having a wide variety of ear tips and wings assists with keeping the buds stabilized on your ears. The tips produce a tight seal, while the wings fold comfortably into the cymba and stay put.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro (2021) review: Controls and digital assistant
You might experience some confusion when looking over the control setup. In the Soundcore app, the Controls section (where you assign functions) states that the input methods are taps, which can be interpreted as the Liberty 2 Pro Plus having touch controls. Not true. Each bud comes with a multifunctional button that is located at the top.
This was a missed opportunity for Anker to streamline the controls and make the most of the buds’ real estate. No on-ear detection to auto-pause/play when removing or placing the buds on your ears is another mistake on the brand’s part.
If there are any positives to the controls, it’s that they are responsive and take on numerous functions. You’ll be able to control playback, call management, volume, digital assistance, and listening mode activation through the press-and-hold and single/multi-press gestures. Tactile feedback is great to ensure users of intended commands are being met.
The Liberty 2 Pro Plus is compatible with Google Assistant, Siri, and Bixby. Expect mixed results depending on the native assistant. Siri and Bixby function properly, registering and responding to voice commands with precision. Google Assistant is a nightmare on these buds. The piercingly loud prompt when activating Google’s AI bot hasn’t been fixed. On top of that, Google Assistant was super buggy, either playing music while the feature was activated or timing out without acknowledging certain commands.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro Plus review: Audio quality
If there’s one thing that Anker has put a lot of effort into enhancing, it’s the audio quality on their wireless headphones and earbuds. The Liberty Air 2 Pro has served as a high point for the brand and the Liberty 2 Pro Plus proves to be just as good. Anker’s 11mm Astria Coaxial Acoustic Architecture drivers pump out dynamic, lively sound that can also be customized in the Soundcore app in a variety of ways.
Anker’s EQ (Sound Signature) is the default and the ideal choice for those who just want reliable sound right out of the box. The gospel-inspired organs on Drake’s “God’s Plan” were striking, though it was the monstrous 808 drums that pummeled my ears with satisfying bass. Tracks like Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” also sounded great, as the singer’s peaceful vocals were crisp and smooth, while the scratches and percussive elements were reproduced well.
To really test the Liberty 2 Pro Plus’ frequency range, I played Jazz classics like Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” and was impressed by how fantastic the lows and highs sounded. The double bass was strong, and the scatty hi-hats had a crispness to them that I’ve experienced before on high-end models like the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2.
There are over 20 presets to select from if you want to switch up the sound profile, several of which complement their respective music genres and content. A few that come to mind are Classical, Latin, Rock, R&B, and Podcast. My personal favorites were Bass Booster and Hip-Hop since they increased bass response for the better when diving into my Ninety Now: Essential ‘90s Hip-Hop Spotify playlist. Anker also lets you fine-tune sound to your hearing by creating your own sound profile via the Custom option and adjusting the frequency levels.
If that weren’t enough, there are calibrations from professional music producers should you want a more skillful EQ. I tried a few of these for good measure and found EQs from Cole M.G.N and Riley Mackin sufficient for bass-heavy tracks, whereas the EQs for Zach Allen and Krish Sharma produced a steady frequency range to enjoy orchestral recordings.
Where things really get interesting is with Anker’s HearID technology, a feature that tailors sound to your hearing. It’s basically a 3-minute test that “maps your personal hearing sensitivity at multiple frequencies and analyzes the results” for personalized sound. My results didn’t affect the soundstage much; it sounded no different than the Sound Signature EQ. There were moments where I felt highs sounded sharper, but I’m still not too certain of it.
The Liberty 2 Pro Plus comes with LDAC. This is an audiophile-grade Bluetooth codec for streaming high-resolution audio up to 32-bit/96kHz. I’m no data transmission expert, but I can confirm that enabling the feature improved sound quality. Unfortunately, there were two compromises Anker made by adding LDAC: higher battery consumption and no aptX support.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro Plus review: Special featurs and app
Most functionality runs through the Soundcore app. I’ve already touched on several key features, including control customization, EQ, HearID, and LDAC. What else is there? Not much.
The only other big-time feature is Transparency Mode for increasing your awareness of your surroundings. Many wireless earbuds have this, but not many have an ambient-listening mode that is this good. Having it on during work hours lets me monitor my baby boy during naps, as well as hold brief conversations with the missus and keep tabs on traffic during afternoon walks.
Battery level indicators for both buds, toggle controls, firmware updates, a quick start guide, and access to the LÜM music service round out the app. That’s it. Low-cost alternatives like the Life P3 ($79) come with extras such as active noise cancellation, Superior Sleep (aka soundscapes mode), and a Find My Buds mode, while the Liberty Air 2 Pro has an ear tip fit test. There’s no reason why more couldn’t have been added to these buds.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro Plus review: Battery life and charging case
Another area where the Liberty 2 Pro Plus sees a decline in battery life. Anker rates it at 7 hours, while the standard version is rated at 8 hours. Factor in LDAC, Transparency mode, streaming, and high volume, playtime decreases by about 45 minutes to 1 hour. I guess there isn’t much to complain about since this is higher than the AirPods (5 hours) and AirPods Pro (4.5 to 5 hours). But, again, the “upgraded” version offers less playtime than the original version.
A full charge kept me entertained for three days straight (2 hours daily) before tossing the buds into the charging case. Speaking of which, Anker’s charging case holds 26 hours, which is good for about 3.5 extra charges. This is also lower than the original charging case (32 hours).
Quick charging is almost identical with the new buds netting 3 hours of playtime on a 15-minute charge. The previous buds get you 2 hours on a 10-minute charge. I’m sure an extra 5 minutes with the regular Liberty 2 Pro will earn you an extra hour.
Wireless charging comes as part of the package as well.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro Plus review: Call quality and connectivity
Call quality on Anker headsets has been hit or miss, but the Liberty 2 Pro Plus is one of the better options out there for voice and video calls. My wife was shocked by how loud and clear I sounded when talking her calls outside. Yes, the wind interfered with our chats. However, she mentioned that my voice was prominent, which showcased just how strong the Liberty 2 Pro Plus’s mics are. Using the buds inside the house offered clearer results.
Bluetooth 5.0 operates well and holds strong connections with minimal dropout. The range is some of the lengthiest in the category, peaking at 50 feet before the audio begins to stutter. The buds instantly pop up on the available devices list of your smartphone, tablet or laptop/desktop and connect when in Pair Mode. Even the auto-connect capabilities are superb, re-pairing to known devices without a hitch.
It would have been nice if Anker added Google Fast Pair and multipoint technology to these buds.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro Plus review: Verdict
I have to say that for the price, the Liberty 2 Pro Plus is somewhat underwhelming. Almost every other Anker model to come out before it boasts similar audio quality and more features. That’s not to take away from this version’s stellar sonic performance. At the same time, you want Anker to provide a complete package of their services, which isn’t available on the Liberty 2 Pro Plus.
If you’re big on LDAC codec support and love having an array of customizable sound settings, these buds will suit your needs at a relatively affordable price. Just know that there are other wireless earbuds in the same price range (and cheaper) that do the same, some of which Anker already sells.