Anker may not be a brand name that’s as ubiquitous as some of its competitors, but for years now it’s built a solid reputation for building technology that hits the sweet spot of price and performance. The Anker headphone and speaker line are sub-branded as Anker Soundcore. Within that line, they have a wide range of models designed to meet the different needs of consumers. For comparison sake, I will take a look at two pairs of active noise cancelling, in-ear headphones in this review – the Anker Life Dot 2, and their premium Anker Liberty Air 2 pro model.
Features on Anker Soundcore headphones
I tested out the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro and the Anker Lifedot 2 in-ear headphones. Both have active noise cancelling and good battery life, but they vary as far as audio performance.
Specs on Liberty Air 2 Pro
The Liberty Air 2 Pro has Active Noise Cancelling, 7 hours (26 hours total playtime before recharging the case), PureNote Drivers, and HearID Personalized EQ.
Specs on Anker Life Dot 2
The Life Dot 2 has Active Noise Cancelling, 8 hours (100 Hour Playtime before recharging the case), 8mm Drivers, and a USB-C charging case.
Testing Anker Life Dot 2 and Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro
While reviewing these Anker Soundcore headphones I looked at comfort, design, battery life, sound quality, and active noise cancellation.
Unboxing Anker Soundcore headphones
Both the Anker Life Dot 2 and Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro headphones are housed in plastic shell cases used for storage and charging via a USB-C cable. The actual USB-C cable wall charger is not included.
The Anker Life Dot 2 case flips up like a clam shell, while the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro slides towards the back in a quite satisfying fashion. The cases magnetically hold the headphones in place, and they are activated as soon as the door is open.
For both sets of headphones, pairing with my phone was absolutely seamless and setup was almost instantaneous. A shared Anker Soundcore app is used for both configuration and firmware updates, and both immediately benefitted from a fast download on first use.
Comfort and fit of Anker Soundcore headphones
Both the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro and Anker Life Dot 2 include a number of additional ear pads that can replace the factory mounted pads, allowing for more comfortable fit. The Life Dot 2 has a thin rubber handle that better adjusts placement, while the Liberty Air Pro 2 has an extended arm-like protrusion that helps sit a bit better in your ears.
The right earpad fit is important, not only for comfort but to block as much outside noise as possible. These headphones do a terrific job of filtering most outside noise, obviating the need to turn on active noise cancelling for those that prefer to not use it. Both also do a decent job at keeping the music pointed inside your head, rather than obnoxiously spilling out to your neighbours as you crank your favourite track.
Both models of Anker Soundcore earbuds are moisture resistant. I wouldn’t worry about too much sweat or a rain storm, but I wouldn’t take a swim with them in your ears while wanting them to work afterwards.
Sound quality of Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro and Anker Life Dot 2
While the aesthetics and fit are of course critical components, your main focus should be on getting the best sounding buds for the buck. Testing with a wide range of music, from polished pop and electronic music to more challenging acoustic folk and jazz tracks, the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro and Anker Life Dot 2 headphones provided satisfactory sound with a moderate amount of coloration. Both were definitely bass heavy (a boon, or “boom”, for those that want to feel their head shake), and combined with some shimmering highs you get an expected “scooped” sound that makes the mid-range a bit meagre.
While listening to them, I felt as though there was a focus on the very high and low aspects of the sound field, and it’s more noticeable in the Anker Life Dot 2 model. The Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro actually overachieved expectations when some of the frequencies were tamed via EQ.
Bluetooth 5.0 and latency perform well
Both the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro and Anker Life Dot 2 have decent Bluetooth 5.0 reception, but neither supports APT-x or other competing technologies for those craving better digital audio for music or movie playback.
I also performed a latency video test on both PC and mobile and found each pair did a decent enough job in keeping things in sync with the game. In my opinion, under more gruelling gaming conditions where every millisecond matters, a set of gaming headphones would be a better choice.
Battery life on Anker Soundcore earbuds
The battery life for both models is pretty impressive, with the more diminutive Anker Life Dot 2 promising a whopping 100 hour playing time, while the beefier and better sounding Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro still get a respectable 26 rated hours with active noise cancellation engaged.
Those numbers sound amazing, but as with almost all headphones of this type there’s a bit of a caveat – you can’t actually access all those hours via continuous playback, and the rating is really about how long you can go without recharging the case. Without having to take them out of your ears and give them a boost the Life Dot 2 gives you about 8 hours of playback, but thanks to a beefy battery in the charging doc you can recharge them dozen times before having to plug back into a wall. The Liberty Air 2 Pro has around 7 hours of continuous playback, and given their higher power draw you’re limited to three times for in-case recharge before plugging that in.
Active Noise Cancellation on Anker Soundcore
Both of these headphones have active Noise Cancellation (ANC) settings that can be quickly tweaked in the app, including settings for transit and for being able to filter out specific frequencies while leaving others audible. The Life Dot 2 headphones suffer from a slightly tinny sound when ANC is engaged, while the Liberty Air 2 Pro managed to maintain more of its regular sonic characteristics.
The microphones used for ANC also are repurposed when making phone calls, which provides a major differentiator between the pair. The Anker Life Dot 2’s ANC resulted in distorted sound, making several calls almost unintelligible. The Liberty Air 2 Pro, on the other hand, employs what’s advertised as a six microphone array. That array made this higher-end model far more reliable for calls and conferencing.
Comparing the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro and Anker Life Dot 2
Besides the differences in shape and battery life, the audio improvement and additional features of the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro truly do set them apart. I was quite skeptical about the advertised personalized EQ setting that they dub HearID, but I actually had fun messing around with the settings to better sculpt playback from that model. This feature is sadly lacking on the Life Dot 2, though they’re likely requiring a more nuanced sound curve to make up for a meagre mid-range performance.
The drivers (the “speakers” inside the headphones that produce the sound) promise to have stiffer construction using “nano-layers”. In my opinion, they sound much more accurate in the bass range than their Life Dot 2 cousin and provide a far more satisfying listening experience, especially for low acoustic bass instruments.
Useful tap control
As someone who craves the simplicity of wired headphones, I didn’t take advantage of tap control on these earbuds. If you’d like to use tap control you can adjust the volume or even bring out your virtual assistant with a given tap combination.
There are single-click options (off by default) and you can re-configure what the double click does on a per-ear basis. Thumping the side of the headphones feels boomy in your ear canal, so I’d much rather just futz with the volume or track control on my device.
Bottom line on Anker Soundcore headphones
Despite some key reservations, I was genuinely pleased with the performance of both the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro headphones and the Anker Life Dot 2 headphones. The Life Dot 2 seems to be a cost-effective solution, particularly as a spare pair for when you’ve got to charge your main unit. The sound is satisfactory at best, but they’re comfortable and do a pleasing decent job considering where they fit in the product range.
The Liberty Air 2 Pro headphones, on the other hand, actually exceeded expectations. Thanks to the ability to dial the EQ in with greater granularity, the more comfortable fit, and the more balanced sonic signature, I can enthusiastically recommend these to a wide variety of users. They’re a good, solid pair of headphones, and I’d absolutely pit them favourably against competitor’s models.
It’s with the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro that it feels that Anker’s Soundcore line truly gets its groove, and while they don’t fall into a true “audiophile” category with the sculpted sound and lack of lossless Bluetooth, I’d nonetheless be very pleased to have these as my regular set of wireless in-ear Bluetooth headphones.