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

Sarah Tew/CNET

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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