Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Review

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I was a little confused by the recent launch of the Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC. Based on the name and the claims of these being the best noise-cancelling earbuds Soundcore have; you’d think they would launch at a premium price, with the assumption that they are an upgraded version of the Soundcore Liberty 4.

That is not the case. They have been announced at a much lower price point with an RRP of £80 vs £140 of the original Liberty 4. Furthermore, you could knock £25 off if you paid £1 to get the early bird price.

So what gives? Are these better or worse than the older Liberty 4?

Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Review vs Liberty 4 Specification

Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Review comparison to Liberty 4 2
Anker SoundcoreLiberty 4 NCLiberty 4
Sound11mm custom made driverACAA 3.0, dual dynamic drivers
ANCAdapts to ears and environmentAdapts to ears
Hear IDYesYes
Playtime10 hours / 50 Hours9 hours / 28 hours
BluetoothBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.3
LDACYesYes
Fast Charging10 mins = 4 hours15 mins = 3 hours
Wireless ChargingYesYes
Multi-PointYesYes
Wear DetectionYesYes
Calls6 mics and AI algerithm6 mics and AI algerithm
Hear RateNoYes
Dynamic Head TrackingNo?Yes
PriceRRP £79.99RRP £139.99

Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Review vs Liberty 4 Differences

The Soundcore Liberty 4 NC are advertised as the best active noise-cancelling earbuds that Soundcore does. The basis for this claim seems to be that the new Liberty 4 NC will adapt the ANC based on the environmental noises as well as your ears. The Adaptive ANC 2.0 analyses external and internal noises via in-ear and external sound sensors, with an additional 512-order FIR filter to effectively remove unwanted noises in real-time for more precise and instantaneous noise cancelling. Soundcore claims this can reduce noise by up to 98.5%

Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Review comparison to Liberty 4 Eabud design 1

The battery is better too, but I often find that’s the case with affordable earbuds. I think they have had less to drive either with the ANC or with drivers themselves.

The Liberty 4 NC lack the fitness features that the Liberty 4 has. To be frank, you are not missing out on anything here, I like the idea of fitness tracking, but the HR tracking doesn’t integrate with any other apps. There is potential here, and maybe it will improve with future iterations. But, once I had completed my review, I haven’t used the fitness tracking features again.

The main difference that I can tell is the driver design. The Liberty 4 NC have a custom 11mm driver, whereas the Liberty 4 claim to have a premium sound thanks to ACAA 3.0 and a dual dynamic driver design with an additional treble tube that is designed to reach your ears directly. The Liberty 4 can then extend the Hi-Res sound up to 40kHz.

The Liberty 4 also features Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking, which makes you feel like you’re at the centre of the sound, bringing a customised immersive experience.

The Liberty 4 NC features 3D sound, but as far as I can tell, this is not the same as the spatial audio.

Liberty 4 NC Review vs Liberty 4 Design & Fit

Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Review comparison to Liberty 4 Eabud design 3

The overall design of the earbud is very similar to the existing Liberty 4. The main difference seems to be the part of the earbud you mount the silicon tips on. The Liberty 4 NC has a very shallow nubbin, whereas the Liberty 4 extends further out with the treble tube.

My one concern here is that the Liberty 4 NC has such a shallow nubbin that the tip might come off quite easily, and I am unsure if third-party tips would work properly with this. I lost one of the tips on my Liberty 3 Pro, and it was very annoying.

The overall fit and comfort level is about the same, which for me, is excellent. You get three additional pairs of eartips which were the same as the Liberty 4, and due to my big ears, I always have to use the largest tips.

Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Review comparison to Liberty 4 2 1

I have used these for a long run, cardio in the gym and weight lifting sessions, and I have not had any problem with them falling it. For my ears, both the Liberty 4 and Liberty 4 NC are a much better fit than the older Liberty 3 Pro.

The case has been redesigned and now uses a button which opens up the case.

I have no strong feelings towards the design of either case; they both do the job I need. The only occasional issue I have with cases is when the earbuds are difficult to get out or if the earbuds don’t mount in place securely enough and fall out easily or don’t charge properly. 

So far, I have not experienced any issue with the case, I would say the Liberty 4 NC is fractionally better as it feels like you are less likely to open the case by mistake, and the earbuds are a little easier to get out.

App & Settings

Both earbuds use the same Soundcore app, I had to download a beta version, so my experience may be slightly different than the final retail version.

The features and functionality are mostly the same.

They have the same sound effects options, which include the HearID test that can customise the sound based on your specific hearing. Then the same wide range of predefined sound profiles.

One difference is that the Liberty 4 NC has a 3D sound option rather than spatial sound.

Under the settings, you can enable LDAC via the Sound Mode.

Active Noise Cancelling Differences

For ANC, you have the same main three options with NC, normal and transparency, then the toggle for wind noise reduction.

The main difference with the Liberty 4 NC is that when you go into the noise cancellation settings, there are more options.

For the Liberty 4, you have the option for HearID ANC, which requires a hearing canal test. With this enabled, it should then adapt the ANC to the environment.

For the Liberty 4 NC, they don’t have that  HearID function. Instead, you can just enable adaptive ANC, and then there is an additional toggle for environment detection.

You can then also use the manual mode, just like the Liberty 4, or you can use one of the new transport options.

Liberty 4 NC Review vs Liberty 4 Sound Quality

I have been using the Soundcore Liberty 4 regularly since I reviewed them in February, I think I use them more than any other earbuds I currently have. I am no audiophile, but I enjoy the sound, and just as importantly, I like the way they fit.

In an attempt to try and compare them as well as possible, I paired the Liberty 4 with my Honor Magic5 Pro and the Liberty 4 NC with my Pixel 6, which allowed me to swap them around as quickly as possible.

For most of my testing, I kept them in the Soundcore signature profile, and both earbuds used LDAC.

I personally think both earbuds sound excellent, and they both have the familiar sound profile you get with Soundcore products with enhanced base that appeals to most people but may not appeal to audiophiles and their preference for a neutral sound.

Interestingly, I have seen the Soundcore Liberty 4 criticised for the very bright sound profile, which can be a bit piercing and painful. I tend to be very sensitive to highs and find that it can sometimes cause trigger tinnitus, and therefore I often don’t like bright earbuds.

I never really noticed the increased highs that much. I have been using them daily since February, which I wouldn’t normally do if the earbuds are excessively bright.

Switching between the Liberty 4 and the Liberty 4 NC, I can tell that the Liberty 4 has that extra brightness. Perhaps they are harsher than I thought originally, but I wouldn’t say excessively so. I’d say the brighter sound allows the Liberty 4 to have a bit more detail.

For the Liberty 4 NC, I think you can tell that it is a single driver. Switching between the two really highlights the increased highs of the Liberty 4. These don’t seem to have quite the same range or detail, but I do like the sound, it’s a bit smoother and warmer. The more I swap between the two, the more I noticed the brightness of the original Liberty 4, and I am starting to wonder if I prefer the sound of the Liberty 4 NC.

With both earbuds, you have extensive EQ options, so it is easy enough to tweak the sound quality to your own preference.

My opinion is that they both sound great. I think the Liberty 4 NC may have more mass appeal thanks to the smoother sound, and they are also much better value for money.

As far as the 3D sound goes, I am not keen. I am not that fond of spatial sound in the first place, but I can see the appeal. With the 3D sound of these, the bass becomes recessed, and you get that echoey effect. It sounds OK, but it just doesn’t sound as good as the standard sound.  

Liberty 4 NC Review vs Liberty 4 Active Noise Cancelling

The main difference with the Liberty 4 NC, is the new environment detection mode. With this enabled, the audio will mute for 2 seconds for the earbuds to detect and adjust to your external environment, and it will use both external and in-ear sounds in real-time to adjust the noise reduction.

It can be mildly annoying at times because when they detect a significant change in sound, your audio will pause, and you will get that beeping sound as it readjusts. It doesn’t happen too often, so it is not too bad. When I went for a walk, it happened once in about an hour, I am not too sure why it triggered as it didn’t seem like there was a significant difference in sound.

When doing my synthetic tests, it triggered again as I dialled up the volume on my Edifier speakers.

The adaptive ANC with environment detection does make some difference. Switching it between manual at the max setting to adaptive, there is a brief change in the ANC performance. The adaptive ANC starts off less aggressive and then dials it up to reduce the airplane cabin noise.

Subjectively, there does not appear to be much/any difference between the manual mode at the maximum level and the adaptive ANC with environmental detection. Presumably, the main benefit will be an increase in battery life with the ANC dialling down when not needed.

In terms of the ANC performance, I can only comment subjectively. There will no doubt be minor differences with fit and other variables that alter performance.

For my test, I dialled up my Edifier S3000 Pro speakers up to 80 and played an airplane cabin white noise track. At this volume, it is annoyingly loud and can be heard throughout my house.

Both earbuds perform well, but I personally feel like the original Liberty 4 performs better at blocking out loud the cabin noise.  

The adaptive mode on the Liberty 4 is slower to respond, but it seems to do a better job at removing the low-end rumble, it then leaves a lot of the high-end.

I’d say that the Liberty 4 NC adapts faster, and they seem to remove quite a bit more of the high-end, but there is some very low-end rumble I can still hear.

Overall, I’d say they are both close in performance; it is just that the Liberty 4 NC are a bit better at removing the high-end, while the Liberty 4 remove more low-end. I suspect that the Liberty 4 NC are better for general day-to-day use where they are adapting to the natural ambient environment rather than the more extreme test I did.

Either way, the Liberty 4 NC deserve a lot of praise for its performance at this price point. I can’t think of any other earbuds that are available for £80 or below that match this level of performance.

Microphone

I don’t use the microphone on earbuds much, so my testing has been a bit limited and synthetic.

Using the previous airplane cabin noise, I tested how the microphone worked with loud background noise, setting my speakers to 25, 50 and 80%.

With this test, I used the earbuds on the Pixel 6 and the built-in recorder app.

With the test at all three noise levels, the earbuds removed almost all the noise. The only difference I noticed was that at 80% the Liberty 4 NC had a small amount of background crackling, almost as if there was a bit of interference.

The weather has been unusually good recently, so I haven’t had the opportunity to test these in windy conditions, which would likely be more challenging.

Liberty 4 NC Review vs Liberty 4 Battery Life

I am a bit compulsive about putting things on charge, so I haven’t done any accurate testing for the battery life.

These are rated significantly better than the Liberty 4 with:

  • Liberty 4 NC: 10 hours / 50 Hours
  • Liberty 4: 9 hours / 28 hours

ANC and LDAC will reduce the above numbers, and spatial audio greatly impacts the battery on the Liberty 4.

The longest I will typically wear an earbud is 4 to 5 hours, and so far, I have had no issues with the battery on these. They are much better than many competing options, such as the Huawei Freebuds Pro 2.

Price and Alternative Options

The Soundcore Liberty 4 NC have an RRP of £79.99

For other Soundcore options, you have:

  • Soundcore Space A40: £89.99
  • Soundcore Liberty 4: £139.99
  • Liberty 3 Pro: £109.99
  • Life P3: £69.99

The above prices are before any on-page discounts that are available.

The Edifier Neobuds Pro are a popular recommendation over the Soundcore Liberty 4. These are only £100 and have been as low as £80.

The 1More Evo are also superb, and at the time of writing, they are at the lowest price point ever, £89.99.

I also loved the Sony LinkBuds S, the RRP is a bit high, but they have been as low as £115.

Overall

The Soundcore Liberty 4 NC name is somewhat confusing, implying that these are superior to the Soundcore Liberty 4 with the addition of superior ANC, yet launching at a much lower RRP.

I think the Soundcore Liberty 4 are technically a superior earbud. They have more features such as fitness tracking and dynamic head tracking spatial audio. And, on paper, they should sound better with a more advanced driver design, whereas the Liberty 4 NC should have superior ANC.

My experience isn’t quite as clear-cut as that. I have grown to appreciate the sound of the Liberty 4 NC more than the Liberty 4, as the sound is a bit smoother and warmer. The Liberty 4 are brighter with more detail. Both earbuds can fine-tune the sound via the extensive EQ features.

The ANC performance is difficult to form a definitive opinion on. I wouldn’t say the Liberty 4 NC are a massive upgrade over the Liberty 4, they seem to perform better for higher frequencies, and I think the adaptive ANC should work a bit better when you are moving around and experiencing different environmental sounds. But I think the Liberty 4 performs better with low-end ANC and did a good job for loud airplane cabin noises.

All of that ignores the price, and comparing the two is moot because the Liberty 4 NC launched at £80 vs £140, that’s 42% lower than the original Liberty 4.

The Soundcore Liberty 4 NC are clearly better value for money, and if you look at the wider market, I think you will struggle to find anything significantly better than these.

Overall, these are superb earbuds, and they get an easy recommendation from me.

Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Review Rating

Summary

These earbuds will inevitably be compared to the Liberty 4, and that’s what I have done in this review. However, they are 42% cheaper, which is a completely different price point.

They hold up well against the Liberty 4, and many people may even prefer the overall sound.

Considering the price, these are outstanding earbuds.

Overall
95%
95%
  • Overall - 95%
    95%

Pros

  • Outstanding ANC for earbuds at this price
  • Overall performance is compatible with the Liberty 4, which costs a lot more.

Cons

  • Not keen on the 3D sound

Last update on 2024-06-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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