Zolo is a new name we have not yet spoken about until now. It is a line of products under the Anker Innovations umbrella, specializing in audio–both speakers and wireless in-ear solutions. Currently with 4 products on the market (two speakers and two earbud models), and a 5th product (a larger portable home speaker) on the way, they seem to be growing quickly while striving for a unique design with functions that demand a little added attention.
We have been testing their new Liberty+ “Total Wireless Earphones” that just launched, which is the second generation of their original model (simply called “Liberty”). It has allowed us to get a peak at Zolo’s target range when it comes to performance, and to get an idea of what to expect from them in the future as they grow, and now we are ready to share what we have found.
The Liberty+ earphones are considered “Total Wireless” because they have zero wires. A new trend that has been recently trickling into the headphone market. They consist of two seperate buds and a charging case to store them in while keeping them juiced up throughout the day.
They feature a plastic design to the buds with a number of hooks and tips to choose from to get the right fit with, and each bud features a button on its face. Not much heavier than an average pair of buds, they seem to fit nicely without causing too much discomfort in the long-run.
Using LDS (a wireless technology used in satellites and drones) to communicate to each other, the buds remain connected without dropouts, unlike a lot of the models on the market that have experienced connectivity issues in the last few years. To make things better, these earphones support the latest Bluetooth 5.0, which leads to a stable connection to your device, as well as better data throughput, allowing for better sound.
Battery life of the buds themselves falls around 3.5 hours on a single charge. At first this doesn’t seem like much, but taking into consideration that you most likely won’t be listening for 3.5 hours none stop (in “most” situations), this isn’t too bad since during the times you put them down, they will be charging back up for the next run.
When you aren’t using them, placing them in the case will allow them to gain multiple charges through their usage before the case itself runs out of juice. Their original Liberty model ran around 24 hours total, but these new Liberty+ earbuds can deliver up to 48 hours of use thanks to the new case, giving you more than enough play time before you have to throw that case back on a cable to charge. This makes for a great experience.
The box doesn’t come with a wall adapter, but does provide a nice USB cable for charging the case with.
The case itself features a nice aluminum body that not only provides durable protection for the earphones when not in use, but also looks and feels great. The right side of the case features the USB port for charging it with, and the front contains 3 LEDs that show the current charge. As mentioned, it is the only part that requires a wired connection at any point, going between the case and a power source (ie, wall adapter or USB connection on a PC). We are surprised they aren’t using USB 3.1 Type-C for charging, as it would provide a much quicker recharge experience for when the case does have to be re-juiced. However, the charging speed of the headphones themselves in the case as you travel is pretty good and helps to balance things a little.
Setting them up!
This part is real simple. Once you have charged the case for the first time (you always want to charge your electronics before their first use), with the buds inside, you simply have to pop the buds out. When you do, they will power on automatically. Since they won’t be paired to anything on their first use, they will go into pairing mode where you can find them on your device’s Bluetooth settings screen. That’s it. They will automatically connect and disconnect (and power on/off) from your device when you place them into their case or take them back out.
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If you need to ever pair them to another device, you have to hold both buttons down (each bud) simultaneously for a few seconds to trigger their pairing mode.
This is our favorite part of any story, and I am sure it is yours all the same. How do they perform? In short, quite well actually. However you need more to go off of than that, so let’s dive a little shall we?
These earbuds feature 6mm graphene drivers inside, tuned to give a level of clarity that we didn’t see coming. They provide a rich range of high frequencies, leading to crisp vocals and instruments that fall into the same range. Their mids are also pretty impressive, which really give body to what you are listening to. The lows aren’t as perfect, but they are there and deliver enough bass to balance things out with. I could only imagine what multiple drivers would sound like if they ventured into that direction.
They work great for both music and movie listening, allowing for a universal purpose while you are traveling and in need of a wireless solution.
You do have to play with the buds a little in your ear to get the best range with. We found it best to get the tips are large as possible without causing any discomfort, so that you can get the most out of your lower frequencies (this is normal). Although we didn’t always find the perfect size of ring/sleeve that goes under the tip (depending on who was listening to them). A few of us who listened were able to plop them in and walk away, however some of us had to constantly re-adjust as they wanted to slide out here and there just a little.
They feature a MEMS microphone with EC/NR technology, which leads to decent communications over the phone as well as around you. When taking phone calls with these, both sides can hear each other clearly despite the microphone being at your ear. This provides clear communication with your voice assistant (ie, Google Assistant or Siri), which can be triggered by double tapping one of the buds (button on face). Also, the microphone is used to the sound isolation mode which lowers what you are listening to and pipes in the sound around you so that you can hold a conversation without taking them out of your ears.
The sound isolation feature is interesting and we are starting to see that in more products recently. Although, we do find it rude to talk to someone with headphones in our ears (psychologically it doesn’t come across as respectful), it does function quite well. In fact, it almost sounds exactly as it wound if you took them out of your ears.
Both buttons on the buds fill in for the normal 3-5 button configurations you find on headphones. You can touch one of the buttons to play/pause a track or to accept or disconnect a call. You can also hold it down for a second to turn an incoming call down. Holding one of the buttons down for a second can also skip to the next track or go back to the previous track depending on which bud you click on (right bud brings you forward while the left bud takes you back). As mentioned, double clicking one of the buttons will trigger your voice assistant. The only thing really missing is the ability to control volume, which you have to do by using your voice assistant or manually on your source device. We did find the buttons to be a little distracting beyond the play/pause with a tap, due to you are pressing the bud into your ear to click those buttons, and they can be noisy at times due to the pressure being applied. It would be better if they were touch sensitive instead of a pressable button to avoid the added noise with.
They are also sweat proof (IPX5 rated), which means you can take them to the gym with you or on a nice run. They should provide enough protection for most situations that don’t require them to become submerged or heavily splashed on.
Wireless performance is also great as it’s never been easier to share what you are listening to with a friend. Due to their ability to stay linked without dropout as well as they have proven to, you can take one out and pass it to someone else and you can both listen in without a wire running between you. They can then pass it on to the next person on their other side and yet the buds are still connected to each other just fine.
Inside the box
They come with various printed material to walk you through using the earphones as well as sharing your opinions with Zolo. You of course get the earbuds, the charging/storage case as well as the mentioned USB cable.
There are four pairs of the ring/sleeves that go behind the tips, and there are five pairs of tips. This gives you plenty of tips to test out to see what works best with you, and a decent chance on the ring/sleeves.
The Liberty+ is a great pair of (total) wireless earbuds. They sound terrific and feature a lot of flexibility for fit. The charging case looks and feels great and provides a great deal of battery life for the buds. Essentially, they could last you an entire vacation without ever having to be charged until you get back (depending on how you spend your vacation at least). Their frequency range as well as battery life are what really sell them. So does their ability to stay connected to each other. We did find some issues with them not fitting perfectly (staying snug) in some ears, while they fit great in others. Although they aren’t perfect, they have proven to be one of the best totally wireless buds we have tested out thus far.
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
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