Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro Review: Style Meets Substance

Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro

MSRP $170.00

“Soundcore’s flagship earbuds are now even better, with ANC and hi-res audio.”

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Good noise cancellation
  • Very good transparency
  • Very good call quality
  • Wireless charging
  • LDAC hi-res audio

Cons

  • A bit bulky
  • Slightly awkward charging case

Anker’s Soundcore audio brand has routinely wowed us with wireless headphones and true wireless earbuds that deliver impressive value for money. We thought last year’s $150 Liberty 2 Pro were an excellent choice because of their big and detailed sound quality. With its latest model, the $170 Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro, the brand is taking a massive leap forward with the addition of active noise cancellation (ANC), transparency mode, wear sensors, and hi-res audio via Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec — all features that the Liberty 2 Pro lacked. That’s not bad for what is basically a $20 bump on price. Do these additions make the Liberty 3 Pro a no-brainer for fans of high-quality audio? Let’s check them out.

Smaller and sleeker

Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro seen next to Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro.Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro (left) and Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

As much as we enjoyed the Liberty 2 Pro’s sound, their shape and style didn’t really do it for us. Our reviewer noted that they stuck out from his head quite a bit, and that “anyone around you is going to be acutely aware of the buds; they are impossible to ignore.” The Liberty 3 Pro are considerably sleeker. They’re still hard to ignore, but this time, it’s in a good way. Our Fog Gray review unit’s highly polished exterior looks like jewelry, not a plastic audio accessory.

Soundcore has replaced the Liberty 2 Pro’s tiny, hard-to-use physical buttons with touch controls, which also helps to keep the earbuds in place. Instead of needing to squeeze them between your thumb and index finger, you can just tap.

Also improved are the silicone “ear wings,” or wingtips. On the Liberty 2 Pro, I found them too soft to offer any real added security. But the 3 Pro’s wingtips are more robust and wedge themselves deeper into the folds of my ears. Soundcore continues to offer an excellent selection of both wingtips and ear tips — four sizes of each.

A case for better ergonomics

Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

One of the Liberty 2 Pro’s coolest features — the sliding lid on the wirelessly charging case — makes a return on the Liberty 3 Pro, and it’s just as satisfying to use. The mechanism lets you slide the lid open and closed one-handed and I guarantee you’ll find yourself playing with it like a fidget toy even when you don’t need the earbuds.

Unfortunately, what has also returned is the awkward orientation of the earbuds inside the case. There is simply no way to pull them out and stick them in your ear in one continuous motion — god knows I’ve tried. It’s equally awkward putting them back when you’re done. Something about the orientation they need to be in when you’re wearing them versus how they have to be placed in the case defies every instinct your brain has about how it should work.

But what the case lacks in ergonomics, it makes up for in style. Though larger than many charging cases, its perfectly smooth, rounded contours feel great in your hand, and when you slide open the lid, you’re treated to a light show from the embedded LEDs — the Liberty 3 Pro look like they’re from an imagined sci-fi future.

Sublime sound

Man wearing Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I’ve had the chance to evaluate several Soundcore products: The Life Q30 ANC headphones, Liberty 2 Pro, Liberty Air 2 Pro, and Life P3. Each has performed well above my expectations considering the other products you can buy at similar prices. The Liberty 3 Pro are no exception, delivering beautifully bold sound that will do justice to any music genre you care to throw at them. Their dual-driver architecture, which pairs a dynamic driver for the low frequencies, with a balanced armature driver for the mids and highs, works like a charm.

Bass response is excellent. The Liberty 2 Pro also offered powerful bass, but the 3 Pro do it in a more controlled fashion. Listening to the Dolby Atmos Music version of The Doors’ Riders On The Storm, you can feel the deep thrum of the bass line as it kicks off the track, but at no point does it interfere with the tinkling notes of Ray Manzarek’s Rhodes piano that seem to flit through the air, completely weightless. There’s a slight tendency toward sibilance in the very highest registers, but thanks to the Soundcore app’s huge number of EQ presets and manual adjustments, it’s possible to dial this back if it starts to bother you.

The HearID feature, which is designed to personalize the earbuds to your specific hearing profile, actually worked for me — a surprise given that I’ve not had great luck with these kinds of digital enhancements in the past. Turning it on gave me a much-needed boost to certain frequencies and I enjoyed the way it altered the sound. Your mileage may vary.

Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Soundcore includes a simulated 3D surround setting in its app. This does enhance the feeling of space, but it also hollows out the sound, and it can’t compete with a true Dolby Atmos track.

The hardest part of the Liberty 3 Pro to assess is their wireless hi-res audio, made possible by the inclusion of Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec. In doing so, Soundcore chose to ditch the Liberty 2 Pro’s aptX, but I think it’s an acceptable tradeoff.

In a quiet room, listening to a very high quality recording, you may detect an extra level of smoothness and depth.

As an aside, if you want to use this feature, it has to be enabled in the Soundcore app first, otherwise, Android devices won’t recognize it as an LDAC-capable set of headphones. It’s also worth noting that iPhones do not support LDAC.

My experience with LDAC is that it can create improvements in audio quality. But the difference is incredibly subtle, even with very high-quality headphones, and when you’re streaming lossless, 24-bit tracks from a service like Amazon Music. Such is the case with the Liberty 3 Pro. In a perfectly quiet room, listening to a very high quality recording, you may detect an extra level of smoothness and depth — like someone has carefully pruned the sharp bits, leaving you with a more natural-sounding signature. Or, you may not notice the difference at all.

Given that turning on LDAC comes with a pretty significant hit to battery life (4.5 hours with it on, versus 8 hours when it’s off) and it prevents the Liberty 3 Pro from connecting to a second Bluetooth device (more on that later), it simply might not be worth it to you.

Not quite quiet

Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

ANC is a good addition to any set of true wireless earbuds, but not all ANC systems are created equal. In Soundcore’s case, it has yet to master the art of complete silence. On the Liberty 3 Pro, I found the same situation as I did on the company’s Liberty Air 2 Pro: ANC definitely reduces external sounds, but if you’re not playing any music, you’ll hear a small amount of hiss. Is it a deal-breaker? No, but it does mean that if you’re buying a set of ANC earbuds in order to silence the world so you can think or sleep, you should probably look toward other options, like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, Jabra Elite 7 Pro, or the Technics EAH-AZ60.

Transparency mode, on the other hand, can be very effective, especially if you turn on the vocal mode option, which does an excellent job of letting you hear voices, including your own.

There are some interesting tweaks to both settings thanks to the Soundcore app’s HearID function, but I didn’t find that they made a big difference.

Good call

Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro box contents.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The Liberty 3 Pro’s multiple mics do a really good job of capturing your voice for calls. It’s a full, natural, and resonant sound that — under optimal circumstances — is as good or better than what your phone’s mic can do.

That changes somewhat when things around you start to get loud. Interestingly, your callers may never be aware of these other sounds because the environmental noise-canceling is excellent. But as the software works overtime to mask these sounds, it also goes a bit overboard, creating a distinct warble to your voice. That compression can be extreme at times. Still, find a relatively quiet spot and your callers should have no problem hearing you loud and clear.

Goes the distance

Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Battery life is more than adequate, with six hours on a single charge (24 total with the charging case) when you keep ANC turned on. This jumps to 8/32 when you switch it off. Those are numbers that put the Liberty 3 Pro on par with some of the best ANC earbuds and give them a healthy lead over the AirPods Pro.

Should you run out of juice, a 15-minute fast-charge in the case will get you an additional three hours, which is excellent: Most of the competition will only get an extra hour from a 10-minute charge.

Extras

Soundcore doesn’t skimp on the bells and whistles. You can customize the touch controls with full freedom to pick each function and each gesture on both earbuds — even the volume, which the Liberty 2 Pro lacked. There’s a fit test to help you identify the right ear tip size, and you can decide if you want the wear sensors to auto-pause your music or not when you remove an earbud.

Each earbud can be used independently for both calls and music, and as I alluded to earlier, you can pair the Liberty 3 Pro to two devices simultaneously —  a huge convenience for folks who need to routinely switch between their computer and phone and don’t want to dive into their settings every time.

Finally, an IPX4 rating for water resistance means they should have no problem surviving even a very sweaty workout or a rainy run.

Our take

Though still beefier than many other true wireless earbuds, the Liberty 3 Pro are easy to recommend, with excellent sound quality, capable ANC, and a ton of useful and convenient features.

Is there a better alternative?

At $170, Soundcore has carved out an interesting niche for the Liberty 3 Pro. If you spend a little more — say $200 — you can get the Jabra Elite 7 Pro, which are, in this reviewer’s opinion, a perfect set of earbuds. They’re smaller and more comfortable and they’ve got better ANC performance, but I’m not sure they sound quite as dynamic as the Libertys. And, ironically, they currently lack Bluetooth multipoint, which has been a signature Jabra feature, while the Liberty 3 Pro have it.

Spend a little less — say $150 — and you can get the Technics EAH-AZ40, with fantastic sound quality, but very few bells and whistles. There’s no wireless charging, no ANC, and no advanced Bluetooth codecs.

How long will they last?

Hard to say with any true wireless earbuds, but the Liberty 3 Pro have a few things going for them that should help with longevity: A good starting battery life of 8 hours (this tends to drop as the earbuds age), an 18-month warranty, and an IPX4 rating for water protection. If you take care of them, they should last for many years of use.

Should you buy them?

Yes. They’re an excellent value in a set of noise-canceling true wireless earbuds.

Editors’ Recommendations



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