Meet the Absolute Best Pair of Affordable Wireless Headphones

At $79.99, Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air wireless earbuds, are, for the price, the absolute best wireless earbuds you can buy on the market today. The build quality is top-notch, the audio is clear and full-bodied, and the user experience is on par with some of the best out there. They offer welcome comfort and customization and are full featured and easy to use. Oh, and that sleek black is a heckuva lot sleeker than a certain shade of white a certain pair of wireless earbuds comes in.

Soundcore Liberty Air Wireless Headphones Review

Small, compact, and portable, wireless earbuds are without question the most convenient way to listen to music on-the-go. But, for years, issues with comfort, connectivity, and sound quality made most experiences an extremely frustrating fumble.

That is until Apple came out with the AirPods.

As with all things Apple, the AirPods became a bona fide status symbol—thanks in no small part to the hefty price tag. Apple entered a flat market and revitalized it with a product that, at launch, felt nothing short of magic. (In other words: They did the Apple thing.) Sure, AirPods can fit a bit wonky, and they don't exactly have the world's greatest sound, but that didn't stop them from quickly dominating the wireless earbud space for one simple reason: They worked.

Well, that dominance is on the brink, thanks to a new, shiny market entry. The folks at Anker—or, more specifically, their audio division, Soundcore—have introduced a new contender: the Liberty Air wireless earbuds ($79.99). In short, Anker took the base style of AirPods, addressed a few common complaints, added a few cool innovations, and shaved the price down by nearly 40 percent.

Liberty Air Review

When pulling the Liberty Airs from the packaging, you're greeted with a small flip-top case that serves as a storage case and a charging base—fairly standard fare for most wireless earbuds. They have a similar form factor to the AirPods: a 'bud with a longer stem that projects out and down from your ear, which each hold a built-in, noise-canceling microphone. They have that similar "Q-tip"-looking vibe as Apple's signature offering, though they have a more industrial-style look, with flat portions mixed and sharp edges and rounded corners, compared to the more organic AirPods. (Thankfully, they come in black or white, in the event you want to be a bit more incognito in your earbud wearing you can choose the more subtle option.)

The Liberty Air earbuds are packed with some of the latest audio and connectivity tech, using Bluetooth 5.0 and flexible printed circuit antennas for quick pairing and a strong connection—I didn't notice any distortion until I walked about 20 feet away from my phone. The microphones uses dual-mic uplink noise reduction, which basically means that each mic in the earbuds process both signals, which I found makes for sharp and clear conversations when using them for calls.

Out of the box, setup is easy. You just have put the earbuds in your ear (they turn on once you pull them from the case), make sure your Bluetooth is on, and then pair with the "Soundcore Liberty Air." It worked seamlessly for me—no tapping or fiddling around or pressing buttons multiple times. And there's also no need to try to get each earbud to sync with the other. That happens automatically.

Controlling the Liberty Airs is also insanely intuitive: everything is controlled by touching the flat part of the earbud outside of the speaker. Tap the right one twice to pause or play music (or to answer or end a call). Tap the left earbud twice to activate Siri (or some other voice-controlled virtual assistant). Tap the right earbud once and hold your finger down to skip to the next song (or do the same on the left earbud to go to a previous song). Tapping and figuring out the right touch and area to make things happen took a little bit of time and patience, but after a half day of use, I had little problem get the little 'buds to do what I wanted. (For a full set of instructions, consult this guide provided by Anker.)

Another advantage to the Liberty Airs is that they come with rubber ear tips—four pairs in all—that will fit different sized ear canals for enhanced audio and comfort. On first listen, the 'buds sounded tinny and washed out to me, but, after I selected a slightly bigger ear tip, the graphene-coated drivers really came to life: the sound made leads and bounds in quality and came close in clarity and fullness to some of the better headphones I've used.

A few other bonuses: They're rated to IPX5 waterproofing, meaning that they can withstand a jet of water being shot at them for 15 minutes (but not total immersion in water, the case has no water resistance). They'll last for about 20 hours on a single charge just sitting around, and can keep playing tunes for about 4 hours of solid use.

The Bottom Line

At $79.99, Anker's Soundcore Liberty Airs, are, for the price, the absolute best wireless earbuds you can buy on the market today. The build quality is top-notch, the audio is clear and full-bodied, and the user experience is on par with some of the best out there. They offer welcome comfort and customization—with the included ear tips, which also helps to enhance the sound—and are full featured and easy to use. Oh, and that sleek black is a heckuva lot sleeker than a certain shade of white a certain pair of wireless earbuds comes in.

Soundcore Anker Liberty Air Earphones ($80; amazon.com)