Anker’s Soundcore sub-brand is a hidden gem for those chasing studio quality specs at a reasonable price. They’re not being mentioned in the same breath as Sennheiser or Bose (even though we just did) and are more likely to appear at the affordable end of either best headphones list, but still a brand to consider if your budget is limited to around £150. Case in point: the Soundcore Liberty 4.
This set of buds promises a nuanced experience for the average listener – and their wallet. They’re not truly in the bargain zone, but well within range Apple AirPods 3rd Generation and recently launched nothing ears 2 , Can they match their rivals – or even eclipse them – with some health-focused features?
Design and Comfort: Let’s Get Physical
The Liberty 4 is a good example of not judging a book by its cover. You’d hardly call them inspired, and could easily be mistaken for a series of all-black buds. They give an air of function, not fashion, with simple stems and fairly prominent branding.
More thought has gone into the charging case. Instead of a simple flip top cover, here a panel slides up from the front to reveal the buds inside. Once paired, swiping the cover will wake up the buds and begin the connection process before you can even pop them both in your ears – and it doubles as a satisfying fidget slider for restless hands gets doubled.
The buds dig themselves deeper into your lughole, which helps with noise cancellation and provides a greater sense of immersion when using Anker’s Spatial Audio smarts. But there is a comfort compromise. We could happily wear them for a commute of an hour or two, but now that wears off a bit.
They held up solidly for a treadmill sprint, though, so we’re confident they’ll survive a HIIT class or a light workout. IPX4 resistance means you don’t have to worry about sweat damage.
Features: in a pinch
The Liberty 4 is billed as a pair of buds for the health conscious. A built-in heart rate sensor lets them act like a personal trainer of sorts, with the ‘SoundCore Wellness’ suite offering a series of guided workouts via a smartphone companion app. They may also monitor your posture. Pop them on and sit up straight; The app will know when you are leaning at an awkward angle. Sit in an improper position for more than five minutes, and it’ll send you a reminder to sit down.
Both work as intended, and may be helpful if you haven’t invested in a fitness tracker or smartwatch yet, but may be a little too basic for dedicated gym-goers. The overly monotonous, robotic voice that gets you pumped during a workout also quickly becomes jarring.
A simple squeeze (or three) is all it takes to control the buds. A pinch on the stem of any bud rings and pauses a song. A double press turns on ambient sound, while three pinches play the last track. There’s no touch tapping like we’ve seen in other buds, such as Bose Quiet Comfort IIWhich means accidentally skipping tracks or running into itchy ears while fixing your hair is totally avoided here.
Compared to the six hours of listening time with managed ANC managed by the Nothing Ear 2, the Liberty 4’s claimed nine-hour battery life is impressive. That said, we found it delivered a bit below that, and it gets louder when you turn on noise cancelling. We lost 20% after just one hour of use, but nearly six hours of total use is still a decent performance. Spatial Sound is even more draining, ending in less than five hours.
Charging case gives peace of mind on long journeys, more than enough for a full day of music before it even needs topping up. Wireless charging support is a welcome addition, which is always guaranteed for no less than £150.
Sound: DIY Remastering
The Liberty 4’s adaptive noise cancellation adjusts intensity based on ambient sound, so you don’t have to constantly fiddle with the companion app. It worked well at our local gym, with the buds significantly reducing all outside sounds including the drone of the air conditioning. They mask even the loudest volumes of gym bro grunts without turning them up at their highest levels, and don’t color the sound to any great degree.
With dual drivers set up in a coaxial (one in front) arrangement and support for LDAC high-quality Bluetooth, the Soundcore certainly aims high on the audio front. And on first listen they really deliver, albeit relative to the asking price. There’s a light energy to Autechre’s see on view, where fractured synth lines float over a Moog-like bass. Sometimes we could pick out every note in this highly complex electronic arrangement. The soundscapes are bold, but never overwhelming. It’s a reassuring quality, and avoids cranking up the volume to get more oomph.
jazz records, such as Herbie Hancock head hunterRich and balanced. We listen to records that were originally recorded on broken instruments in the 1970s, and find that they’ve been DIY remastered by the buds. However, sometimes the buds boost the high frequencies a bit too much. But this can be changed.
Heard Sound, essentially an audio tailoring feature that tests your listening sensitivity and style preferences, is a simple yet well-tuned feature that divides listeners into two main preferences: balanced and subtle , or bass heavy.
Custom EQing can either be set manually via an eight-point curve, or designated to one of 22 preset sound profiles. It caters to fans of classical, dance, hip-hop, Latin and pop, with further settings for podcasts and spoken word. Fit test and in-ear detection also work as expected.
The other major addition is spatial audio, which gives well-mastered tracks plenty of immersion, but can muddy others. The Liberty 4 has both fixed and head tracking modes, which are easily toggled through the companion app and work as you’d expect, but also highlight our main gripe with the technology. track like the magic number The songs by De La Soul sound like they’re being played in an empty building. There’s too much headspace, which ruins the overall sound quality. You are dependent on mixing the tracks properly for this, as upscaling is not there yet.
This is far from a gaming headset – you’d better invest in this Soundcore’s VR P10 If that’s what you want – but buds give extra depth to the expansive open world. As a recent PS5 owner, this is a revelation. I hear the leaves rustling under my feet ghost of tsushima And the piercing swing of Kratos’s ax rang out in crisp clarity when playing my PS5 via PS Remote Play. There was no noticeable latency in dialogue scenes either.
Soundcore Liberty 4 Verdict
There’s very little to complain about when it comes to the Soundcore Liberty 4. But it’s also not much to write home about. The buds sound great, and the good battery life and spatial audio technology are a bonus. Other than that, there isn’t much that should surprise you, especially when it comes to design and comfort. Some features are a bit redundant as well. They won’t particularly cause annoyance, but we’d prefer to see that focus elsewhere.
Soundcore Liberty 4 Technical Specifications
|the drivers||9.2mm + 6mm dynamic|
|codec support||LDAC, AAC, SBC|
|bluetooth version||bluetooth 5.3|
|battery life||9/28 hours (ANC off, total with buds/case)
7/24 hours (ANC on, total with buds/case)
5/15 hours (total with spatial sound on, buds/case)
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