Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC
“Anker’s Soundcore Liberty 4 NC check every box, and then some.”
Very good call quality
Superb battery life
Mediocre transparency mode
What can you expect from a $100 set of wireless earbuds? If they’re the newthe answer is a whole heck of a lot. Go ahead and consult your list of must-have features — I can virtually guarantee the Liberty 4 NC check all of those boxes, and then some. And unlike some other value-oriented brands, Soundcore is making real strides in its designs. The Liberty 4 NC aren’t just decent earbuds, they’re also a joy to use.
First, let’s address Soundcore’s somewhat-confusing naming strategy for its earbuds. The Liberty 4 NC might be newer than the 2022 Soundcore Liberty 4 ($150), but they’re actually Soundcore’s step-down model.
Soundcore gives plenty of reasons to spend the extra $50 on the Liberty 4, like better drivers, head-tracked spatial audio, and even built-in heart-rate sensors. But if you just want to focus on getting the best earbuds for the lowest price, the Liberty 4 NC won’t leave you wishing you’d spent more. At the same time, if you like stem-based earbuds, I think the NC represent a very worthy step up from the $80 Soundcore Life P3 — I’ll explain why as we go.
Soundcore Liberty 4 NC: design
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The strides in design I mentioned earlier aren’t limited to the Liberty 4 NC themselves. Anker also has given them a fully recyclable cardboard- and paper-based package. No plastic of any kind. That’s a huge shift for a company that used to use oversized boxes, layers of plastic, embedded magnets, and glossy-coated surfaces, so I’m giving it big props.
The design improvements can also be seen in the Liberty 4 NC’s charging case. It’s not quite as slender as Apple’s AirPods cases, but it’s still reasonably pocketable. It charges wirelessly or via the included USB-C cable. What I like most is that it flips open one-handed with a press of the front button. The Liberty 4 weren’t hard to get to either, but the NC are better. There’s more space between the buds for your fingers, and there’s more of the upper portion of each earbud to grip. Extracting the earbuds is easy, but putting them back is almost easier — just get an earbud in the general vicinity of its charging socket and the magnets do the rest.
That lid-release button does triple duty: it’s also an LED indicator to show the charging status of the case, and if you press it down further, it triggers the earbuds’ Bluetooth pairing mode. If you like color choice, you’ll probably love that the NC come in white, light blue, navy blue (pictured here), pink, and black.
Soundcore Liberty 4 NC: comfort and fit
Soundcore has kept the IPX4 water-resistance rating from its other wireless earbuds, so the same guidance applies here too: Don’t fear getting rain or sweat on them, but keep them from being submerged, and always wipe them clean and dry before putting them away.
If you want to use them for runs or workouts, they should be fine unless you need something super secure. I found them incredibly comfortable, but they did move around a little bit. Consider the Soundcore Space A40 if you need a sportier fit.
Soundcore Liberty 4 NC: controls
Another improvement is the controls. Soundcore moved to a set of stem-based pinch controls for the Liberty 4 — which work very similarly to the controls on the Apple AirPods 3rd Gen/AirPods Pro — but the NC model sticks with touch controls. I still prefer the pinch controls, but the NC’s touch controls are excellent. They’re more responsive and easier to use than the Life P3, and they have a reassuring feedback tone when you tap correctly. As with previous Soundcore models, the app provides an impressive array of customizations, with four gestures per earbud and each can be assigned its own function.
Thanks to the new addition of wear sensors, not only can the Liberty 4 NC auto-pause and resume your tunes when you remove/replace an earbud, but you can also prevent the touch controls from responding when you’re not wearing the earbuds. It’s kind of like when a car prevents you from shifting out of park unless your foot’s on the brake.
Soundcore Liberty 4 NC: noise-canceling and transparency
When Anker announced these earbuds, it made a pretty audacious claim for the active noise cancellation feature: They reduce ambient sound by up to 98.5%. Given that Soundcore’s ANC has always been perfectly fine, but nowhere near as good as the best noise-canceling earbuds like the Apple AirPods Pro 2, I was skeptical. I still doubt that the Liberty 4 NC cancel almost all sounds, but I’ll tell you this: You probably won’t care. They’re that good. In comparing them to the AirPods Pro 2, I found that the Soundcores let in a little more high-frequency sound. But unless you were to do a series of A/B comparisons between the two, I don’t think you’d notice.
Anker throws in a lot of bells and whistles for its ANC mode. You can choose to use adaptive noise canceling — with or without an additional environment detection option — or use one of four transportation modes (planes, trains, buses, and cars), or you can go full manual by adjusting the amount of ANC with a slider. I only spent a bit of time playing with these, but in the end I found I was content to leave adaptive ANC on with environment detection — it seemed to produce the best results.
But here’s a tip — about tips. The free Soundcore companion app (iOS, Android) has an eartip fit test, which is handy for figuring out which of the four included sizes you should use. For me, it rated the default medium tips as an acceptable fit for my ears. However, I didn’t think ANC was especially good, so I went up a size. What a difference! In other words, regardless of what the app says, try all of the eartips until you get the best sound and noise cancellation. If there’s one thing I wish the Liberty 4 NC had, it’s a few more eartip sizes to choose from.
Transparency mode is arguably harder to do well than ANC. Getting things to sound like you aren’t actually wearing earbuds is something that only Apple has been able to achieve with consistently great results. Still, the Liberty 4 NC’s transparency is perfectly serviceable and lets in plenty of sounds so you can be aware of your surroundings, even if your own voice may not sound completely natural.
Switching between these modes is easy — a long press on the left earbud — but for some reason this control doesn’t work while on a call. If you want to do that, you need to use the app’s mode switch toggle, or end your call and start again in your preferred mode.
Soundcore Liberty 4 NC: call quality
Speaking of calls, the Liberty 4 NC are very good for call quality. If loud sounds happen nearby, your voice will get heavily compressed. But that’s about the only indication that your callers will have. I had a garbage truck roll slowly past me while I was doing my test recording and there was no audible trace of it at all. Indoors, you’ll sound almost as good on these earbuds as you would on your phone’s built-in mic. You definitely don’t need to upgrade to the Liberty 4 — they perform identically.
Soundcore Liberty 4 NC: sound quality
The Liberty 4 NC might be the formal successor to the Life P3, but their sound quality is actually much closer to the Liberty 4. Overall, I was really impressed.
They deliver a more robust and better-balanced sound signature, especially in the midbass and bass that the Life P3 lacked. From an EQ perspective, the Liberty 4 NC and Liberty 4 are nearly identical. Both offer excellent bass response and very clear and articulate mids and highs.
The Liberty 4 NC are mostly free of distortion at volume levels that can be enjoyed safely and pain-free. But those who are sensitive to sibilance may want to consider the similarly-priced Jabra Elite 4, or the step-up Liberty 4.
Specific tuning preferences can be achieved within the Soundcore app — it has tons of EQ options. There’s a huge range of presets, a manual eight-band equalizer for custom settings, a fun 3D surround sound mode that presents a wider soundstage, plus the HearID Sound system which attempts to develop a personalized EQ for you based on your ability to perceive various frequencies. If you don’t mind spending some time in there, you can significantly alter the way the Liberty 4 NC sound.
On a set of earbuds like the Liberty 4 NC, the use of a hi-res Bluetooth codec like LDAC probably is overkill. I was hard-pressed to notice a big difference when swapping between an iPhone (AAC-only) and a Pixel 7 Pro (LDAC). On the other hand, because you can’t have Bluetooth Multipoint and LDAC enabled simultaneously, it wasn’t exactly easy to hear these two modes in quick succession. My advice is to pick Bluetooth Multipoint over LDAC — the convenience of having two connected devices far outweighs any benefits the higher-quality codec can offer on a day-to-day basis.
Soundcore Liberty 4 NC: battery life
Battery life on the Liberty 4 NC is yet another area where Soundcore seems to keep finding ways to make small but meaningful improvements, especially in total playtime. The company claims you’ll get eight hours of playtime per charge with ANC turned on, with a total of 40 hours when you include the charging case. That’s considerably better than the AirPods Pro (5.5/24 hours), and even slightly better than the Soundcore Liberty 4 (7/24).
Want even longer life? Disabling ANC ups these numbers to 10/50, which is a huge amount of time before needing to find a cable. Even the quick-charge time is notable: 10 minutes in the case will extend the earbuds’ non-ANC time by four hours.
Keep in mind that these numbers are all based on listening at 50% volume. Louder levels will diminish battery life as will the use of LDAC. When both LDAC and ANC are enabled, Anker says you can expect 5/25 hours of use, which is almost exactly what I got when I was testing them.
With the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC, Anker has once again pushed our expectations for wireless earbuds that cost $100. With great battery life, noise cancellation that is way better than anything else at this price — and arguably better than what you get at double the price — plus tons of convenience features like wireless charging, Bluetooth Multipoint, wear sensors, and plenty of EQ options. I didn’t even touch on other extras like the earbuds locator, safe volume control, or gaming mode.
You may not notice much of a difference, but if you like knowing you’re getting the very best sound possible (and you’re an Android user), the addition of LDAC support is a nice touch. With their comfortable fit, accurate touch controls, and strong call quality, the Liberty 4 NC are one of the easiest wireless earbuds recommendations I can make.