These $79 fully wireless earbuds are a more affordable alternative to AirPods

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Tue April 23, 2019

AirPods are nearly ubiquitous, and these earbuds jump-started the true wireless audio category. However, at $159.99, this Apple product isn't cheap. Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air Earphones ($79.99; amazon.com) are a more affordable solution that has a similar design.

The Liberty Air earphones offer well-balanced audio in a relatively small size. The included carrying case acts as a charger for each earbud and delivers long-lasting battery life. These connect to your phone, laptop or tablet through Bluetooth 5.0, and Anker has enabled a one-step pairing process.

On paper and from Amazon reviews, the Soundcore Liberty Air shape up very well. I've been testing them for a few weeks to see how they do in the real world.

For starters, third-party brands like Anker can't really replicate the easy pairing experience that AirPods offer with iOS devices. So you still need to open Bluetooth and connect to the Soundcore Liberty Air. Once you open the lid of the case for the earbuds, it will cast a signal. When you take them out in the future, they will auto-connect to the paired device. This works for iOS and Android and ensures a stable connection.

Also unlike AirPods are the included rubber ear tips, which allow the Soundcore Liberty Air buds to fit comfortably and tightly into your ears. You get a few sizes in the box, so definitely take the time to find a good fit. A tighter fit helps for noise isolation. This means that the content you're listening to stays in your ears, and it minimizes the sound coming in from the outside world. Overall, it makes for a better sounding experience and pairs with the well-balanced mix that the Soundcore Liberty Air offers.

These earbuds are definitely on par with previous Anker earbuds. They put some emphasis on bass while also delivering lower and higher tones. For instance, with a song like "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift, you can clearly hear the opening drums and then the smooth vocal laid on top. You'll hear all the instruments clearly and it's mostly balanced.

When using the headphones to watch a TV show or a movie, the latency was pretty minimal. I only experienced a hiccup once, and a simple play and pause resulted in the audio getting in sync with the video.

If you plan on using Siri, Amazon Alexa or the Google Asistant with these headphones, the built-in microphones do a decent job. In windy conditions it can be hard to take calls and to get commands through with a virtual assistant. But it's a not a deal-breaker, especially at the price. Plus with IPX5 water protection (on the earbuds and case), there's no need to worry about using them while working out or commuting in the rain.

And like most true wireless earbuds, these charge in the included carrying case. On average I got about five hours of listening time from the buds and the case was able to charge those four times over. So in total you can expect 20 hours of listening time with a few quick recharges from the case.

Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air earphones offer a big a value for the price, and thanks to Amazon Prime, you can have them in your hands -- and your ears -- within a couple of days.

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