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Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro earbuds go after Sony’s wireless hi-res crown

Anker’s Soundcore brand of personal audio devices just released the latest in its Liberty line of true wireless earbuds, and the company seems to be throwing everything it has at them. The $170 Liberty 3 Pro feature a 30% smaller shape than their predecessor, the Liberty 2 Pro, plus they come equipped with active noise cancellation (ANC) and hi-res Bluetooth codecs, things the original version of the older model lacked. The Liberty 3 Pro come in four colors — black, white, gray, and purple. If you buy them between today and October 14, you can save $20 at Amazon and at other retailers.

Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro.
Anker Soundcore

We were blown away by how great the Liberty 2 Pro performed. We only noted a few drawbacks — a bulky design, and some fiddly buttons. Soundcore was apparently taking careful note — the Liberty 3 Pro are notably smaller (though they’ll likely still stick out from your ears a bit), and the tiny physical buttons have been ditched in favor of touch controls. They also look decidedly more high-end, with a mirrorlike finish and chrome accents. Soundcore says they’ll feel more comfortable thanks to the shape of the redesigned silicon earwings.

Internally, Soundcore has revised its “astria coaxial acoustic architecture” — a fancy way of saying the earbuds use a hybrid driver system featuring a 10.6mm dynamic driver mated to a Knowles balanced armature. What’s changed? Other than a slightly smaller dynamic driver, it’s hard to say from the brief press release the company issued, but we’re told that they’re “the best-sounding TWS earbuds” Soundcore has ever made, with powerful bass and crisp treble.

Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro.
Anker Soundcore

The Liberty 2 Pro featured the company’s HearID system for personalized sound EQ, and it returns on the 3 Pro. But now, HearID is also being used to customize the ANC function. We’re not entirely sure how this works, but the company is clearly excited by it, saying that it’s capable of “automatically customizing noise reduction based on outside conditions while creating a unique, tailor-made sound profile by analyzing in-ear pressure for the most precise and comfortable experience.” That’s a lot of hype to live up to.

The Liberty 3 Pro also sport Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec, in addition to the more standard SBC and AAC codecs. Under optimal conditions (and when connected to a compatible phone), LDAC can transmit up to three times as much data as other codecs, which should help preserve more detail from high-quality streaming music like Apple’s new lossless tracks, or similar content from places like Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal. Unfortunately, iPhone owners will have to make do with AAC — Apple has so far refused to implement anything other than SBC or AAC on its mobile devices.

Right now, only two true wireless earbuds that we know of can claim to meet the wireless hi-res audio standard: Sony’s $279 WF-1000XM4 and Edifier’s $130 NeoBuds Pro. But the Liberty 3 Pro have an edge over the Edifiers — the NeoBuds Pro use the LHDC wireless hi-res codec, which isn’t anywhere near as widely supported as LDAC, which means that, for U.S. buyers at least, it’s now a two-horse race between Soundcore and Sony.

They’ve even got in-ear detection, yet another feature the Liberty 2 Pro lacked. Battery life claims are decent, with six hours of life in each earbud per charge with ANC on and an additional 24 hours in the wireless charging-compatible case. Those numbers rise to eight and 32 if you turn ANC off. Fifteen minutes of fast-charging will get you an additional three hours of playing time. An IPX4 rating for water resistance rounds out the specs for these earbuds.

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