Zolo Liberty by Anker – SO CLOSE!
When looking at Bluetooth Headphones, and especially true wireless earbuds, I have specific criteria they must meet.
1. Sound – Quality of Music, Podcasts and Entertainment. I think everyone can agree this is the only real function of a pair of headphones!
2. Call Quality – Mostly, the mic. If I need to start every call with “can you hear me now?” They fail.
3. Bluetooth connection – Easy Pairing, Keeping connection etc..
4. Fit and comfort! I apparently have weird ears.. Until I started looking for in-ear headphones/buds I had no idea my ears were so “off” from the norm.
Battery Case is premium
Left bud keeps cutting out – common issue with True wireless earbuds
The buds don’t sit properly in the case when you have the “wings” on them
They can be hard to grab out of the case
ZOLO Liberty on Amazon
Anker – a Chinese company mostly known for making mobile charging devices has been stepping into other mobile accessories lately. In June they ran a Kickstarter campaign for the Zolo Liberty +, according to them they are supposed to be “the world’s first zero-compromise total-wireless earphones.” A pretty bold statement, but do they live up?
Unlike some of the other Anker products, which tend to be more on the budget side of things, the Zolo Liberty’s packaging is clearly aimed at a premium market. The box is well designed, using thick materials, you get the feeling this is a quality product.
Once you unfold the tri-fold cover, you are immediately presented with the charging case and earbuds and on the inside cover a quick setup guide. When I say quick, I mean quick! Charge, pull the earbuds out and pair. The earbuds turn on as soon as you remove them from the case and turn off when they return.
Under the Earbuds tray, you will find an owners manual, three different size earbud tips, and Three different size optional wings called GripFit. You will also get a nice, microUSB braided cabled which is very Yellow!
The earbuds and the case feel very premium. The case looks good and has three led lights on the front to display the charge level. The case has a nice weight that makes it feel like you could drop it and it won’t explode. The earbuds have an equally premium feel. With just one large button on the side with the ZOLO logo on it, and a single white led they won’t make you look like some sort of cyborg.
I personally have a hard time finding in-ear headphones/earbuds that fit. I typically prefer wings and deep in-ear canal tips. These earbuds are in-ear canal but don’t go as deep as others. You get 3 different sizes and shapes, optional wings to get a custom fit. I found the fit out of the box to be preferable. The wings add a slight bulk that makes it feel a little off for me. Without the wings, they feel very secure. My personal preference is to have them sit a little deep in the ear. After 10 minutes I adjust to them and it’s not an issue.
Anker seems to have focused on this case. Anker claims charging the earbuds in the case for just 15 minutes will give you an hour of charge. Also, the case holds an additional 24 hours of playback time. I’m still testing these claims. The case has a nice weight, visible LED charge indicators, a solid hinge and a microUSB port. The earbuds have a light magnetic connection to snap into place.
I have a hard time getting these to sit in the case without fidgeting with them. If you use the optional Gripfit jackets (wings) then this case will frustrate you. They just don’t sit into the case as well as they should. I feel like they will do some slight tweaks and this case will instantly improve and be more of a feature than a frustration.
This is where they really shine. The sound of these earbuds is fantastic! I’m admittedly not any kind of audiophile, I do however like an untuned headphone. In a world where other headphones are killing you with extra bass, these are super refreshing. Anker has developed what they are calling “graphene-coated drivers”
I really don’t know what that means, but they are marketing it as a difference maker. They clearly sound better than any other true-wireless earbud I have tried. The sound is rich throughout all spectrums.
This seems to be the one part of these units that suffer the most. I am happy to report, call quality with these are great! This is a MUST for me as I take phone calls all day long and need the phones that are connected to my phone have a functional mic. Calls audio will only work with the right earbud. I prefer to have audio in both earbuds, but again, not a deal breaker – more something to note.
Pairing these are smooth as advertised. Anker claims they have “Virtually-Unbreakable Bluetooth Connection.” So far, the Bluetooth to the phone has been all of this. However, they seem to still suffer from the same issue every pair I have ever tested, one side always seems to cut out. In the case of the Zolo Liberty, the left side cuts out from time to time. I can walk around my house, away from my phone and I don’t seem to have any major connectivity issues. Just the pairing between the left and right earbud seems to be an issue, which is a huge letdown.
If you are looking for volume control, advance play controls or touch sensitive earbuds, these aren’t for you. You get one button, just one. I like this setup for one reason, it’s simple. The button has a nice press, so you aren’t pushing the earbud into your head to pause a song. Double press and it will launch your assistant on your phone. Play/Pause is all I really need so I find this to be more than acceptable. There is more control combination with long presses, multi presses and any combination of, I just don’t need them so I didn’t learn what they are.
In my daily grind of phone calls, podcasts, gym, and music, I have been getting about 3-3.5 hours. When the battery starts to get low, they tend to have a less stable connection. Dropping the earbuds into the travel case for 15 minutes overcomes this and isn’t much of a burden at all. The case itself gets several recharges of the earbuds. To be honest, I have not been able to run the case down to zero in normal use.
After my first review of the left earbud cutting out, Anker reached out to me. Without being prompted, they sent me a new pair to replace my old ones. They arrived quickly and Anker was really helpful with things to try to solve the issue. Unfortunately, both pairs suffered from the same issues.
Overall I will use these daily. They aren’t perfect but they are good enough. Premium in most cases but the left earbud connection is more than enough to not be able to rave about these. I will continue to play and test this connection issue to see if I can resolve it but with so many earbuds in this category with the same issue, I fear there will be no solution.