Let’s get straight to the point. If you’re in the market for one of the best cheap true wireless earbuds right now, the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC by Anker should be on your short list. After all, paying less than $100 for a pair of earbuds usually comes with sacrifices, whether that’s having a limited amount of features but great sound or having tons of features with sub-par audio.
The Soundcore Liberty 4 NC buck that trend, offering an experience similar to earbuds twice the price. While they won’t reach the heights of the best wireless earbuds, they’re among the best for the price.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC
The Soundcore Liberty 4 NC by Anker has some flaws such as way too much bass (which some might actually like), capacitive controls that require careful presses, and some unfortunate echo on calls. However, they’re fantastic overall thanks to overall high-quality sound quality, tons of features like active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency mode, and a budget-level price that’s much lower than one would expect for earbuds of this caliber.
- Soundcore by Anker
- Battery Life
- 10 hours (earbud), 50 hours (with charging case)
- Noise Cancellation
- Mono Listening
- 6 mics
- IP rating
- Supported codecs
- Not specified
- Weight (earbuds)
- Not specified
- USB-C, Wireless
- Driver size
- Price (MSRP)
- Velvet Black, Light Blue, Navy Blue, Clear White, Pastel Pink
- Spatial Audio
- Special features
- Earbuds battery life
- 10 hours
- Charging case battery life
- 50 hours
- Sounds as good as earbuds twice the price
- Good adaptive ANC
- Very affordable
- Too much bass!
- Capacitive controls require precise presses
- Call quality can be a little echoey
Price and availability
Available in five colors – Velvet Black, Light Blue, Navy Blue (reviewed here), Clear White, and Pastel Pink. The Soundcore Liberty 4 NC’s first most noticeable feature might be its price of $99.99. That’s budget earbud level. Sure, you can go cheaper, but those earbuds might not have things like ANC, Transparency Mode, or Fast Pair. And, they probably don’t look as good either.
For the price, the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC are quite the deal. On top of that, they’re widely available whether you get them direct or through retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and the like.
Design and fit
Design-wise, the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC follow the AirPods template – namely, they have stems. While I don’t have a preference between stem and stemless models (I’m a big fan of Jabra’s petite design for instance), the way these fit in the ear is balanced nicely by the stem. I don’t have to do too much adjusting as the stem seems to guide them into my ears at the right angle. Like AirPods, these also use capacitive controls.
Their fit is comfy enough for hours worth of wear. I won’t say they’re the most comfortable I’ve ever tried, but they’re more than good enough, especially considering they’re hiding 11mm drivers. And, if you find they don’t fit quite right, Anker has included three different sizes of silicone ear tips along with the pre-installed ones to get them in properly.
As far as the charging case goes, it looks like a wider version of the Airpods’ egg-shaped case. A press of a button on its side and the door to the earbuds pops right open. There aren’t any other buttons on the case (Bluetooth pairing is done through presses on the earbuds themselves), just a USB-C port on the bottom and an LED on the single button to indicate charging and when that door is open.
Features and app
While there are a lot of features on hand worth keeping in mind when comparing to other earbuds, namely Google Fast Pair, wireless charging, multipoint connectivity and in-ear detection, there are a few specific ones I want to focus on. After all, those are the kind of features that either work or they don’t — and they work fine here.
Some of the features worth digging into include the active noise cancelation and transparency mode. Both are above average here, and good for the price. The ANC offers a lot of variation. You can either choose adaptive noise canceling where the earbuds will automatically adjust to whatever ambient noise is around, manual mode that lets you choose from five levels, and transportation mode where you select between plane, train, bus, and car.
Whatever you go with, the ANC does a good job of blocking out lower frequency noises, but higher frequency ones still spill through a bit. That said, it will do the trick and is more than I would expect for the price. The transparency mode doesn’t have the same level of control, instead providing either fully transparent or vocal mode with an adjustment for wind noise reduction.
Using the Soundcore app, the available EQ is pretty powerful as well. There’s custom EQ with an eight band EQ where you can boost or cut by 6 dB, a section for a number of very different sounding presets, and a personalization section called HearID. I’ve been seeing this kind of personalization pop up more and more.
At first, I wasn’t a fan and would prefer more natural sounding frequency curves, but the implementation here is pretty good. It uses a combination of playing different sounds to see what you can hear and A/B-ing different presets to come up with its final custom EQ. Very clever.
The app also has a toggle for 3D surround sound, which is just okay, and the ability to remap the capacitive controls on each individual earbud.
Performance and audio quality
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and that’s certainly the case with the audio quality of the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC. Namely, they generally sound very good with a generally high-quality sound, especially since they support LDAC and Hi-Res audio. Specifically, I spent a week listening to these thinking I really like the sound, but there’s something that’s slightly off, but I just couldn’t figure out what.
That’s because the mid-range is very smooth and pleasant and the high-end is very detailed with only a tad too much brightness. In essence, for the most part, they sound very balanced. However, the low-end is massive in a way that’s slightly indistinct so it bleeds a little into the mid-range. It’s so big that music that doesn’t have a big low-end such as The Stone Roses sounded like it was being played through a subwoofer. Even with a bass reducer preset, a lot of music had a big low-end.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that these earbuds have a lot of volume on tap. I usually had them around 80% and they still felt loud. The call quality is another area where the quality was mostly good with just a misstep. When on a call, my voice would come through clear and very audible. Yet, there was a decent amount of echo on my voice which can be distracting to the listener on the call. I’m not sure why it does that, but it certainly detracts.
Another area where it’s a slight miss is in those capacitive controls. They’re not bad at all and the ability to remap a single, double, triple, or long press is a nice touch. However, you have to be deliberate about your presses otherwise the earbuds won’t register every press – something to think about if you plan on using these on a job.
Battery and charging
Any pair of earbuds that can offer 10 hours of use on a single charge is impressive and that’s exactly what you get with the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC. Of course, that’s without any processing like ANC or transparency mode on. But, if you’re on a long-haul flight and need aggressive ANC, these will still pull through as the case itself provides an extra 40 hours of juice (for 50 total). On top of that, it comes with fast charging so placing the earbuds back in the case for 10 minutes will give you an extra four hours of use.
While there are plenty of budget options out there, there are just a few that compare favorably. The Jabra Elite 4 have the same $100 price tag and come with good audio and ANC, but don’t have quite the battery life or customizable controls. They do have a higher IP rating (IP55 to the Liberty 4 NC’s IPX4) and slightly better comfort. Plus, Jabra has a history of discounting their earbuds regularly, so you can often get these cheaper or get one of their higher-level (read:better) earbuds for the same $100 price tag.
If you’re comparing these to other earbuds that are more expensive, I would happily put them next to the Beats Studio Buds or non-Pro AirPods.
Should you buy them?
If budget’s not a concern and you’re looking at these or something like the Sony WF-1000XM5, then go with the Sony. However, for the price, these are excellent and should make your short list as it does just about everything really well. Even the things that I have issues with like the capacitive controls and echo-ey call quality are fairly minor. And, you can EQ out some of that low-end.
If you’ve got $100 and want a pair of wireless earbuds, you can do much worse and not much better than the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC
Need good ANC for cheap? Invest in the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC earbuds by Anker. These buds deliver rich, clear audio within noisy environments. The adaptive ANC tunes itself to suit the space you’re in, eliminating up to 98% of predictable background noises. Plus, the buds use HearID 2.0 to sculpt the perfect audio profile suited to your ears, which turns out excellent with LDAC support. With Bluetooth 5.3 multipoint connectivity, you can seamlessly connect and switch between your devices.