Trying to define value-for-money in the true wireless earbud market is odd, but Anker has done a decent job figuring it out. It’s not something that can be identified by looking at a spec sheet. For example, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 have only 6mm drivers inside, compared to the beasty 10.6mm drivers you will find in the new Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro. And yet the price of the former is higher and the sound quality is superior.
You can only really figure out what is and isn’t a good value by using them. On the face of it, the Liberty 3 Pro seems to address the key missing pieces in the Liberty 2 Pro — that being active noise cancellation and a 30% smaller design — for an additional $20 (£30), but do they translate into a continually good value?
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Availability and price
You can order a pair of Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro in Midnight Black, Frost White, Fog Gray and Dusk Purple. Prices are set at $169.99 USD, £139.99 GBP, $199.99 CAD and €159.99 EUR.
This is $40 more than the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, more than double the price of the Soundcore Life P3 and $70 more than the Nothing ear (1), which puts them at the higher end of the mid-range tier price bracket.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Design
At 0.7 x 1.1 x 1.1 inches, the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro benefit from the removal of the stem found on typical earbuds like the Liberty Air 2 Pro (1.4 x 0.9 x 0.9) and Nothing ear (1) (1.1 x 0.8 x 0.9). Fortunately, these new buds are 30% smaller than the Liberty 2 Pro and, at 0.2 ounces, they’re lighter too. They’re still slightly heavier than the competition (Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro weigh 0.18 ounces and Nothing ear (1) are a featherweight 0.16 ounces), but with the self-contained stem-free construction, this isn’t such a problem.
Looking past these numbers and buzzwords like “Fusion Comfort” technology, the new lightweight design translates into a stylish pair of earbuds that are comfortable to wear. The variety of tip and ear wing sizes ensure a snug fit regardless of whether your ears are more Gary Lineker-sized like mine, and the IPX4 water resistance makes them durable even when exercising.
The case is a slim, lightweight pebble at 2.8 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches with a weight of 1.6 ounces — smaller than Nothing ear (1) (2.3 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches) and lighter than the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro’s (1.8 ounces). Plus, Anker seems to have worked on its sliding door mechanism, with this one feeling stronger than the Liberty Air 2 Pro case.
Put simply, they are easily pocketable and fit well in the ear.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Controls and digital assistant
You’ve got the use of four different tap inputs on each side, from single to triple taps and a tap and hold that can alter the volume, skip tracks and switch between ANC and transparency mode. Once you’ve figured out the tap speeds, these are easy enough to operate, but weirdly, the hold interactions are hit-and-miss — some gestures are not recognised whatsoever. Hopefully, this is something that can be fixed with a firmware update.
And of course, you can tweak the controls to activate your digital assistant of choice, which picked up my requests just fine both in and outdoors. That’s particularly baffling given the poor call quality, but more on that later on.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Active noise cancellation and ambient listening
The biggest update to the Liberty 3 Pros over its predecessor is the introduction of active noise cancellation, which uses six on-board microphones to neutralize background distractions and immerse you in whatever you’re listening to.
This pairs nicely with the insulating fit of the buds themselves for a more effective noise isolation. Moreover, the HearID test analyzes your in-ear pressure and tailors the level of ANC to what you can handle without it getting uncomfortable — like when you’re in a plane taking off.
And when you need to hear everything around you, the transparency mode is impressive, piping through a decent amount of detail from outside noises while not mixing and distorting what you’re listening to. I heard my partner from across a 15-foot room with ease while she was stacking some dishes.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Audio quality
The Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro sound good. Really good, in fact, after a quick tweak to the in-app EQ, but I’ll talk about that more after the out-of-the-box listening experience.
You will also find the Liberty 3 Pros have hi-res wireless certification, thanks to support for the LDAC codec. But since virtually none of you will listen to music on devices that support this standard (don’t even get me started on the world of wireless audio codecs), you’ll find yourself listening to mostly SBC, AAC or ALAC audio, so let’s judge it on that.
Starting with my new favorite cover, the angrier interpretation of “Bittersweet Symphony” by Four Year Strong, the louder sections didn’t distort whatsoever. The thud of the bass drum kick was satisfying, the chugging guitars have an almost tactile level of bite, and the high-flying vocals shine. You’ll get a similar experience with the Liberty Air 2 Pros and Nothing ear (1)s, but full-on compositions like this are where the Life P3s start to fall behind with a slight distortion.
Now, to something on the other end of the spectrum: “Lost” by Frank Ocean. The finer details of this composition are well defined through the dual-driver construction, as the different octave pitches of Frank’s voice throughout the chorus surround you in a way that give even the AirPods Pro a run for their money. Through the sheer size of the 11mm driver and tuning by teenage engineering, the Nothing ear (1)s manage to provide more personality to the mix than the Liberty 3 Pros, but to their credit, they jump out ahead of the Liberty Air 2 Pro and Life P3s for spaciousness.
And putting this through my standard “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles test, the Liberty 3 Pro more than held their own against the onslaught of the 50+ instruments in the cacophonic orchestral uprising section. Every element is given space to breathe and express itself in a way that proves the versatility of these buds. This is something that the cheaper Soundcore Liberty 2 Pros also excelled in delivering and you’ll struggle to notice any real difference.
So, you won’t be disappointed by the sound quality on offer, but you can get sound that’s just as good for a lower price from its competitors.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: App and special features
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (until a legitimate competitor appears): Anker makes some of the best earbud companion software in the market today with the free-to-download Soundcore app on iOS and Android.
The user interface is clean and you get easy access to the vast feature set available to you with the Liberty 3 Pro, from the fully customizable EQ to the HearID test that caters the noise cancellation to your ear shape and eliminates pressure-related discomfort you can get with certain ANC buds.
Other special features include the option to turn on 3D surround sound for a more spatial experience, touch control customization, and access to Soundcore’s streaming partner Lüm, an interesting niche music streaming service tailored to show you grassroots artists.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Battery life
Anker promises six hours of listening time with ANC on, which is extended to 24 hours with the charging case. Turn ANC off and those numbers go up to eight and 32 respectively, but let’s be honest, you’re very rarely going to be using these without this feature switched on.
I’m happy to say I hit those numbers comfortably, which exceeds the Nothing ear (1)’s four-hour listening time and matches the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro’s six hours. Plus, thanks to the fast charging tech in the wireless charging case, you can squeeze an extra three hours of playtime out of a 15-minute charge.
This isn’t what I’d call worry-free battery life. That trophy belongs to the Master & Dynamic MW08’s bonkers 10-hour listening time. But for the average daily use of listening for a few hours in the morning, popping them in the case for lunch, and listening for the afternoon and commute, these were good enough.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Call quality and connectivity
Let’s start with the good news. Bluetooth 5.2 ensures a strong connection, which remains strong at up to 30 feet away when tested on my iPhone 13 Pro, Xiaomi 11T Pro and M1 MacBook Pro. Having that distance is great for someone like me, who walks around the flat alot when on conference calls!
However, it’s those very calls where things begin to fall down. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fine to use indoors. The six-mic AI uplink noise reduction does help minimize background noise like my partner stacking the dishwasher or during the classic running tap test.
But once you step outside, you face problems. I’m not sure whether it’s the lack of a stalk bringing the microphone closer to your mouth or the AI failing to isolate your noise, but the moment you put it up against anything other than a very quiet street, you become hard to hear to the person on the other end. About 50% of the time, I was forced to switch back to my phone.
For a far cheaper pair of earbuds, this would be something you could look past, but not only are these pricey, but they are Soundcore buds. The Liberty Air 2 Pros are amongst some of the best earbuds for call quality that I’ve ever used. What on Earth went wrong here?
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Verdict
When figuring out whether I like the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro, my mind kept coming back to this memorable quote: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
That was what I absolutely loved about the Soundcore Life P3 and what my colleague Alex Bracetti adored about the Liberty Air 2 Pro: they gave you an amazing listening experience worth way more than what Anker was actually charging.
But it’s this pedigree that makes the Liberty 3 Pro a disappointment. Sure, they address the issues of their predecessor and they still sound good, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. Call quality is mediocre, touch controls are finicky and the MSRP puts these in the upper mid-range category. You can get better Soundcore buds for cheaper.
This problem will likely disappear with a big discount that drops these down to £100, but at their current cost, I’d opt for better value-for-money options instead.