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Anker Zolo Liberty review: Totally wireless earphones for the budget conscious

The standard Anker Zolo Liberty don't have the extra features of their step-up sibling (the Liberty Plus), but they're arguably the more likeable of the two models.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
3 min read

Anker is better known for its mobile battery accessories, but lately it's been making a serious push into the headphone market. The company is selling two new totally wireless headphones, the Zolo Liberty reviewed here and the Zolo Liberty Plus. They sell for $100 (£70 or AU$130 converted) and $150 (£150 or AU$139) respectively. They're both pretty good but not quite good enough to make you forget about the AirPods or Jabra's Elite 65t.

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Anker Zolo Liberty

The Good

The Zolo Liberty are totally wireless earphones that offer decent sound for their price. They're sweatproof and include a charging case that delivers as much battery life as the AirPods' charging case.

The Bad

Aside from the decent price, they're otherwise pretty generic.

The Bottom Line

The Anker Zolo Liberty do just enough for the price to make them recommendable totally wireless earphones.

These are noise-isolating buds and, from a design standpoint, aren't so different from Jaybird's Run headphones and Bragi's entry-level The Headphone.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The step-up Liberty Plus has a little bit more of a premium look and feel that extends to its charging case. While it's slightly smaller than the standard Liberty's charging case, it has a little bit of metal trim and a higher capacity battery inside so it's a little heavier as a result.

Anker says you can get about six or seven extra charges from the standard Liberty's case and 13 or 14 from the Liberty Plus' case. But the base battery life for both models is rated at 3.5 hours. That's not quite as good as the AirPods' battery life.

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The standard Liberty is pretty no-frills. Unlike the Plus, it doesn't work with the Zolo companion app for iOS and Android that allows you to tweak the sound and toggle on a transparency mode. That mode comes in handy if you're a runner or biker and you want to hear the traffic around you.

Truth be told, though, I didn't really miss the Plus' extra features. When it comes to this type of headphone, the most important things for me are that the buds fit snugly and securely and they operate reliably, with easy pairing and minimal Bluetooth hiccups. The standard Liberty checked those boxes, and it's sweatproof to boot (IPX5 water-resistance rating).
The Liberty Plus does sound slightly clearer and smoother with better defined bass. But here's the problem: The standard Liberty fit my ears better. It's designed slightly differently and for whatever reason, the Liberty Plus just wouldn't stay in my ears as well as the cheaper model. And if you can't get a tight seal with this type of headphone, the sound will suffer. Of course, the fit for your ears may be totally different.

The Liberty's sound doesn't measure up to what you get from a good wired in-ear headphone, but it compared favorably to that of other premium totally wireless headphones I've tested in this price range. If you're looking for great sound, this isn't the headphone for you, but for the genre, it's pretty decent.

One quick note about using these earphones as a headset for making calls. Unlike the Jabra Elite 65t and AirPods, when making a call you won't get stereo sound -- the sound only comes out of one bud. I found call quality to be OK but not great. Both the AirPods and Elite 65t offer superior performance for making calls.

In the end, while I wasn't wowed by the Zolo Liberty earphones I did think they fit well and were more appealing in some ways than their step-up sibling, the Liberty Plus. Sometimes simpler is better and it doesn't hurt that these are more affordable at $100. The problem with the Liberty Plus is that they cost almost as much as superior AirPods and Jabra Elite 65t. At least these have some price separation. 

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Anker Zolo Liberty

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Sound 7Value 7
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