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Top-shelf earbuds come with top-shelf pricing—and sometimes you just can’t spend that much. But even at nearly half the price of more expensive rivals, Anker’s Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro doesn’t feel like a step down. At least, not when it comes to sound quality. In fact its audio chops are so strong that even with its foibles, these buds are a compelling contender.
Note: This review is part of our best wireless earbudsroundup. Go there is to learn more about competing products, what to look for in wireless earbuds, and buying recommendations.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Specs
Colors: Midnight Black, Frost White, Dusk Purple, Fog Gray
Supported audio codecs: LDAC, AAC, SBC
Water-resistance rating: IPX4
Bluetooth version: 5.2 (10m / 33ft range)
Warranty: One year
Release date: August 2021
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Design, fit, and controls
Alaina Yee / IDG
With a sleek oval shape and glossy finish, the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro offers an understated, compact profile that comes in four colors (black, white, light purple, and blue-gray) and looks great out of the box. Its carrying case also has a streamlined shape and finish, though the layout for dropping in the buds can feel counterintuitive. Other brands are more straightforward.
The earbuds have a highly customizable fit—not only do you get four ear tip sizes, but four wing sizes as well. (The latter ensure a more secure fit of the buds in your outer ear.) These accessories mix and match easily, though getting the wings on and off can be fiddly. My combination ended up being the second-smallest ear tips and wings; normally I’m a medium for ear tips with most brands.
Configuring the touch-based controls is also very flexible. You can assign commands for music playback, skipping tracks, and more to single, double, and triple taps, as well as a two-second press. Consistency of the controls is a little less impressive, though—commands don’t always execute even when the tap(s) are recognized. The Liberty 3 Pro is also extremely sensitive to single taps. For some people, this weakness will be a deal killer, though you can largely avoid them via controls in Windows or on your phone.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Sound
These buds perform incredibly well for their price. You get very clear, well-balanced audio for music, movies, and calls. Details are clear and defined, with just the right amount of crispness. For balance, the bass adds warmth and depth without being too heavy or overpowering. The default sound profile isn’t as neutral as other buds, but I liked the fullness you get out of the box. And you can still adjust to your taste in the app via a custom EQ profile, or Anker’s HearID feature, which creates a personalized sound profile based on hearing tests. (Your mileage will vary with HearID—I found myself preferring the default profile, but I’ve also yet to find a form of this technology that works for me.)
For calls, the Liberty 3 Pro were on par with quality buds. Other call participants will know you’re using earbuds (the sound is a bit thin and picks up some room echo), but you’ll still sound clear, if slightly on the quieter side compared to rivals.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Noise canceling and volume
Alaina Yee / IDG
In indoor situations, the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro’s active noise-canceling blocks a palpable amount of background noise. With music playing, most moderately loud chatter or TV programs will get drowned out. When outdoors, the Liberty 3 Pro didn’t block as much road noise as rival buds with stronger ANC—the cacophony of a busy San Francisco street during commute hour was reduced by a rough 40 percent.
The Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro also doesn’t get as loud as other buds. In Windows, Android, and iOS, I generally had to keep these in the 40 to 60 percent range, and about 50 percent on average. More premium buds were usually closer to the mid-30s to 40s depending on time of day. (For context, I have more sensitive ears and prefer lower volumes.) And as already mentioned, the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro also sounds quiet when using it as a microphone for calls.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Battery life
Anker estimates up to eight hours of battery life for the Liberty 3 Pro from a single charge, depending on volume level. At roughly 45 to 50 percent volume on either PC or mobile, the buds lasted between 5.5 to 6 hours for continuous music and video playback.
You’ll get another two to three full charges from the case, for a maximum total of 32 hours by Anker’s count. In the real world, I got closer to 24, which was still plenty before having to charge the whole set again.
One foible I personally found exasperating: Dropping the earbuds into the case always was opposite of what I expected. It took at least a couple of weeks of regular use before my brain could get the orientation correct on the first try.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Pairing and app
Alaina Yee / IDG
You can connect the Liberty 3 Pro to up to two devices at once, though only one can play at a time. If the buds are paired with more devices, you must first disconnect an active device before switching to a different one. (The easiest way to do this is through the Soundcore+ app.)
Anker’s implementation of this feature has a downside, unfortunately—being connected to two devices simultaneously (in my testing, a PC and an iPhone) sometimes introduced hiccups in music or other continuous sound if the second device had incoming audio. You’ll have a smoother experience with only one device connected at a time.
Another quirk related to connection: Occasionally when in the middle of a phone call on an Android phone, pulling the Liberty 3 Pro buds out of their case would disconnect the call I was on, rather than rolling over to the earbuds.
To tweak your earbuds and get the most from them, you must use the companion Soundcore app—it’s the only way to customize controls and EQ settings, as well as turn off features like wear detection, which automatically pauses audio if you take a bud out of your ear. Navigating through the interface is simple and straightforward.
You’ll pay $100 less for the Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro than top-tier rivals like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, but the Liberty 3 Pro doesn’t sound cheaper. If you can tolerate the quirks of these buds, they’re ideal for people seeking great audio and good active noise-canceling on a budget.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.