Zolo Liberty+ Review: Truly Wireless Earbuds
For the price, the Zolo Liberty+ are decent, but like most pairs of true-wireless earbuds, the sound quality certainly won't knock your socks off. Battery life and comfort are impressive for the price, though.
The idea of having truly wireless earbuds seemed like a dream just a few years ago. While they’re still not common, a few companies do offer earbuds that are entirely without wires.
Today, we’re going to look at the Zolo Liberty+, a pair of reasonably-priced true wireless earbuds with Bluetooth 5.0 and a charging case.
When it comes to other wireless earbuds, the first ones that probably comes to mind are the Apple AirPods, which fall into a similar price range at $160. We reviewed the AirPods and gave them a middling 5/10 citing “passable sound and questionable comfort” as the leading problems.
One other popular wireless earbud out there include the Bose SoundSport Free at $200. Another well-reviewed model is the Jaybird Run, which go for $180. When it comes to more affordable headphones, these are the big competitors to Liberty+ as they sit within $50 and are well-received critically.
There are other pairs of headphones out there that are cheaper, including the Zolo Liberty at $99, but those, and other cheaper models, don’t quite stack up in terms of features offered, critical reception, or sound quality.
Let’s just jump in with a quick and dirty look at the numbers that back up the Zolo Liberty+:
- 2 X 6mm Graphene Dynamic drivers
- 20Hz~20kHz frequency response
- Transparency for letting outside sound in
- Bluetooth 5.0
- MEMS microphone with EC/NR technology
- Up to 3.5 hours of continuous playtime (accurate in our testing)
- Up to 48 hours of additional playtime with charging case
- IPX5 + nano coating sweatproofing
- Support for Siri without taking phone out
- Zolo Life app support
So there’s a quick look at where your $150 is going when you purchase the Liberty+ earbuds. Most of the numbers are pretty par for the course in this price, with the big exception being Bluetooth 5.0. Not a lot of other models out there come with 5.0 and it makes a huge difference both in the reliability of the connection and audio delay. You can actually watch videos without ridiculous latency.
First impressions are strong with the Liberty+ earbuds. When you first pull them out of the box you’re greeted by surprisingly small headphones that look like they’d be quite comfortable (and they are).
You have to be impressed by the number of size adjustments that are included. There are multiple tips that’ll provide a comfortable and tight seal for just about any ear. If you can’t find a combination that fits your ears, you’re unlikely to suit anything other than a custom fit.
The carrying case offers a bit of surprise because of how heavy it is. That 48-hour battery life Zolo is touting comes from the fairly large battery tucked inside this case, so it makes sense that it would have a little more mass. That being said, it’s a nice-looking case that holds the earbuds perfectly, regardless of what size tips you’re using.
Getting the earbuds up and running is incredibly easy. You remove them from the case, find them in your phone’s Bluetooth menu, and connect. Once connected, you can choose to download the app, which gives you some control over the EQ, whether you want to have sound from the outside world enter the earbuds, and so on. It’s not required to use the earbuds, so if you’re worried about having yet another app on your phone, you can safely ignore it.
In the end, the Zolo Liberty+ impress at first glance. Of course, looking nice in a carrying case doesn’t mean much if the headphones don’t feel good while offering stellar sound quality, which is exactly what we’re going to examine right now.
Before I dig into the quality of the comfort, I need to say that I’ve never been a fan of earbuds. Given the choice, I’ll always go for a pair of over-the-ear headphones first. I just don’t like having something in my ears, generally speaking. That being said, I’ve tested and used tons of different pairs of earbuds trying to find a pair that a like, so I have a lot of experience battling with in-ears.
With that out of the way, I have to say these are actually quite comfortable. I tried out every single tip internal hook to see which provided the best feel, and I actually ended up liking the setup that comes on by default the best. Even after wearing the earbuds for a few hours straight (running them through their entire 3+ hour charge), I only experienced very minor discomfort. And the only reason I had any discomfort at all is because I’m not used to having earbuds in. If I used them over a longer time frame, I would most likely get used to them and be able to go three hours without any issues.
The seal created by the earbuds is quite solid, and it’s quite difficult to hear anything outside (which is a good thing). You’re definitely going to want to take some time to experiment with the fit, because not having that tight seal will definitely impact your experience.
Another key thing when it comes to earbuds is how well they stay in your ear while moving. Assuming you’ve taken the time to fit them right, these things might as well be locked in your ears. I could head-bang as hard as I wanted and they refused to budge. If you plan on using these for any sort of intense physical activity, then this will be a huge feature for you. But even if you just want to use them while hanging out and working, knowing that they won’t fall out is always a good thing!
While cheap compared to other truly wireless earbuds, $150 is still a pretty penny to pay for headphones, so you should definitely expect comfort. And thankfully, the Liberty+ deliver. They’re obviously not going to be as comfortable as a pair of custom-fitted earbuds that cost over $1000, but for where they sit on the spectrum, they go above and beyond with fit and making them work for each individuals ears.
The sound quality of the Liberty+ would best be described as okay. Nothing about it is particularly offensive, but nothing about it stands out. With the volume cranked to the maximum, the sound never distorted, even while listening to some pretty intense metal, which is one of the few standout parts of the audio experience.
The biggest issues with the sound fall on the high and low end of the spectrum. All the mids are there, and there are some highs, but the bass is sorely lacking. Depending on the genre you’re listening to, this might be acceptable, but if you’re listening anything that requires some thump, you might wish you had a different pair of headphones.
One thing that sound absolutely horrible on the Liberty+ is the transparency feature. This uses the microphone to push duplicate sounds from the outside: the opposite of noise cancellation, really. Unfortunately it sounds like trash and is quite unusable. Everything just sounds odd when filtered through the earbuds. If it’s a matter of life and death, then it’s a cool feature to have, but I’d prefer to just turn the volume down or take one earbud out.
Other Things To Consider
A rather unfortunate problem with the Zolo Liberty+ is that the buttons on the headset feel very mushy. It seems like this might actually be a defect with the particular pair I received, as the left earbud offers a bit more click than the right. However, upon checking reviews from other sites, it seems I’m not the only one having the issue. It’s not a deal-breaker, as the buttons always functioned as they’re supposed to, it’s still nice to get that tactile feedback when you’re pressing a button you can’t see.
Another slight problem with these headphones is the microphone — it’s just not great. Everyone I spoke to said they could hear and understand me without a problem, but that I sounded much better through my iPhone’s microphone. I was told it’s slightly better than my car’s built-in Bluetooth, but not my much. If you plan on making and receiving calls all day as you listen to music, this could be a big problem for you, but if you’re buying them with the main purpose of listening to music, a mediocre microphone shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
I know I’ve mentioned it at other points in the review, but Bluetooth 5 is awesome. Actually being able to watch a YouTube video on wireless headphones without a huge delay is fantastic. There’s still a minuscule amount of latency, but it’s hardly noticeable and not too much different than watching content on a pair of wired headphones. The added range and more reliable connectivity through obstructions like a bag or a pocket is great. Bluetooth 5.0 definitely pushes the price of these headphones up a notch (as mentioned, the $99 Liberty earbuds don’t have 5.0), and it’s worth it.
If you think you’ll often need to use only one earbud at a time, it’s worth noting that only the right one will work on its own. If you only take the left one out of the charging case, you won’t be able to make calls or listen to music. This isn’t really a negative or a positive, but it is something to keep in mind if, say, you hear better in your left ear than your right.
Should You Buy The Zolo Liberty+ Bluetooth Earbuds?
The Liberty+ put down a solid foundation that could be iterated on to create a fantastic pair of true wireless earbuds, but as they stand right now, the sound quality leaves a little too much to be desired. However, if you’re not too concerned about your headphones sounding amazing and you just want good comfort and convenience of true wireless, these are definitely worth getting, as they’re one of the more reasonably-priced pairs on the market.
Could they be better? Most certainly, but they could also be much, much worse. As they stand, the best word I can use to describe the quality of the Zolo Liberty+ is decent.