Zolo by Anker provides an amazing pair of Truly Wireless, easy to sync, excellent sounding earphones.
When it comes to our media, we get to choose how we enjoy it. Whether you choose in-ear options, over-ear options, around-ear options, Bluetooth speakers or the native speakers of the Apple or Android device, we can watch movies, listen to music, enjoy gaming, etc. Additionally, using a variety of apps, we can adjust playback settings or find better quality recordings. Anker has been a brand that I have followed for a long time and one that has a very prominent name recognition in my life. I was excited to see Zolo by Anker and knew that the name would not be associated with a mediocre product.
The Liberty+ Total-Wireless Earphones arrived in an attractive 4 3/4 inches wide by 6 13/16 inches tall by 2 1/2 inches thick retail package. Similar to the creative color scheme of other products from Zolo by Anker, the Liberty+ benefited from the Zolo theme. The cover provided realistic images of the wireless earphones/case on a clean white background. Between the image of the earphones and the earphone case, Zolo added a silver shimmering, oscillation pattern. This provided a lifelike ebb/flow to the image and drew my attention directly to the product. Along the bottom of the cover, you will find five icons representing the Bluetooth Total Wireless status, 48-hour battery life, smart assistant, IPX5 rating and sound isolation. I was very pleased with the cover, the yellow Zolo” by Anker logo along the top left and the artistic feel. The top and bottom yellow accent provided an exciting visual contrast to the clean white cover/sides.
The reverse panel detailed similar icons to those on the cover and provided additional multi-lingual details: Push and go effortless setup, 3.5-hour playback with each charge, 48 hours charge from the case, Zolo Life App for Android and IOS, Zolo Immersive Sound with Graphene Technology, GripFit secure and comfortable. Beneath the icons, Zolo provided a list of the package contents, the wireless earphones, charging case, three sets of ear tips, four sets of GripFit jackets, a micro-USB cable, and instruction manuals. The left side of the packaging provided a beautiful representation of the Push and Go, easy-setup feature. To accomplish this, Zolo used a lifelike image of a hand actively removing the earphone from the case. Utilizing fancy inlaid silver script, the right side of the box showcased the ability to access the smart assistant by double tapping either one of the earphones.
The product was easily accessible by lifting the magnetic flap along the right. The Liberty+ device was stylistically displayed on a black foam backing, behind a clear plastic window. Along the top, you will find the wireless earphones, and along the bottom, you will find the black/silver earphone case. The inner panels demonstrated a very masculine, physically fit boxer mid left-handed jab. Similar to the use of the red dress in Schindler’s list, the red boxer’s wraps served to focus your attention on that which was important. The thin clear plastic was difficult to lift off without any tab to grip. Eventually, I was able to lift upward on the upper right corner and remove the earphones and case from the foam backing. Once you remove the case, you will see a multi-lingual instruction to fully charge the earphones and the case. After you lift the yellow cardboard box out of the main case, you will see the accessory ear tips and jackets. Directly above this, you will find the owners manual, safety manual, comment card and 36 inches long braided yellow cable with cable management strap. The braided cable was an unexpected gem.
I added the earphones into the case and then plugged the four-ounce combo into a USB wall adaptor. Along the front of the case, Zolo added a bank of LED lights to detail charging status. If all three of the LED illuminate, you know that the case is fully charged. If two of the LED are full and one LED flashes, the case is at >70% charge and if only one is full and the second is flashing the case is 30-70% charged and then if a single LED flashes the case is <30% charged. I was pleased to find that the case fully charged within two hours, out of the box. Luckily, installation proved to be as easy as the packaging promised. To activate the earphones, simply remove the right device, then the left device, navigate to settings on your phone, select Bluetooth and then Zolo Liberty+. Interestingly, you will notice Z-up in the list, as well. Do not try to connect to this as you will not be able to connect for now. Once you download the Zolo Life App, the App will link to the Z-UP connection.
Once connected, I excitedly wanted to get testing. Just above the ear tip, Zolo etched an L and R into the silicone jacket. Place the tip into your ear with the bulk of the headphone directed at a ninety-degree angle to your ear. Next, rotate the earphone until it is vertical and the wing on the jacket fits between the Helicis Crus and the Inferior Crus, within the Concha Cymba. Essentially, rest the wing in the crack in the layers of your earlobe. The included jacket was too small and the tip proved to fit just fine. I tried the small, medium and large tips as well as the non-wing, small-wing, medium-wing, large-wing jackets. I was very pleased that Zolo included the accessory kit, as I was able to find a Goldilocks fit. Unfortunately, since there was no easy way to pull the accessory tray out of the packaging, I had to hold the kit upside down and shake it out. Personally, it also would have benefited from a pull tab.
I was initially happy with the round tips until I compared them to the oval tips of the Jabra Elite 25e Earphones. The oval-shaped ear tips were markedly more comfortable, formed a better seal with my ear canals and were less likely to cause ear canal fatigue. Do not misunderstand my statement, I was not dissatisfied with the round tips, the oval tips were simply a better fit for my ear canal. Once the device was securely within the ear, I was able to test the sound. I did not have any issues with the earphones falling out of my ears. No matter if I was sitting, walking, running, jumping, or shaking my head, I was able to enjoy a secure fit with my ear canal. Pleasantly surprised, I started with my usual tests on audiocheck.net and evaluated the low and high-frequency tests, the Left/Right/Central channels and the binaural testing. With a good seal within the ear canal I was able to hear 20Hz at the lower end and up to 15kHz at the upper end. The sound was full and enjoyable, but audiophiles may not love this pair of earphones when compared to some of the upper echelon options. Truthfully, Zolo provided a solid offering in the wireless earphone market.
I read multiple reviews of the Liberty device and found that there was some concern regarding latency. I was initially worried that I would not like this pair of earphones, as movies are incredibly important to me. When there is a latency issue, video and sound can be disjointed. To test this feature, I navigated to Movies Anywhere, Youtube, and Amazon Prime Video to watch a variety of videos. Excitedly, I was able to enjoy a perfectly synced video/sound experience. I then moved into my usual test tracks “Why So Serious” Joker Theme from Dark Knight Rises, Gladiator Soundtrack and more recently Rosanna,” by Toto, and “Train Song” by Holly Cole. Rosanna is a great quick test for your headphones, demonstrating good bass, guitar licks, and vocals. Train song has a fantastic bass line in the beginning. After these tests, I listened to my usual Far and Away Soundtrack, Braveheart Soundtrack, Queen test tracks, “Hotel California” by the Eagles, Billy Joel and then turned to comfort music such as CCR, Alabama and to change it up Gaither Vocal Band and Anthem Lights. The sound was a 4.5/5, above average, better than some but not as good as others.
I downloaded the Zolo Life App and evaluated the various EQ settings for Pop, Jazz, EDM, Classical and Balanced. The pop and balanced were the most useful in my opinion, with the balanced EQ winning out most of the time. I liked the extra bass over the baseline programming and found it enhanced the above tests. The bass was better than I had expected and I was pleased to hear that it did not sound muddy. From the app, you can activate the transparency mode or you can hold either of the earbuds for 3 seconds. This activates a microphone that picks up ambient noises. This was a neat feature that allowed me to hear surrounding noises. I could have a conversation with someone without removing the earphones but the technology seems somewhat limited in scope. It sounded like ocean waves crashing on the beach and everything was enhanced. Typing on the keyboard caused numerous clicks, the sound of my dog’s claws on my hardwood floor, a snapping sound, breathing, etc., was picked up regardless of importance and direction. If you close your eyes, you will lose the direction of the sound, and it was an experience that was difficult to describe. I did like that I could have a conversation without removing the earphones, and I felt that was a really neat feature. I would caution using this while riding bikes or outdoors as you lose some of the direction of the sound.
After nearly 3 hours the earphones stopped working without any chime or vocal cue. They started to cut out and then they were dead by 3.5 hours (as advertised). I replaced the earphones into the case, which had a very strong magnetic earbud attachment. You cannot mess this up as there is only a single direction to place the buds into the case. When you close the lid, the LED will illuminate. The lid has a magnetic closure and will close with a satisfactory “click.” viOnce the device is fully charged the lights will turn off again. A quick search of the website found that for every 15 minutes of charge you got 1 hour of battery life. Truly, the device was completely charged and ready to go within an hour. The device connected via Bluetooth 5.0 and had a great range, more than what I have experienced with my other earphones. I did find an issue with interconnectivity between the two earphones though. If I cupped my hand over my left ear, sound would continue to play from both of the earphones. If I cupped my hand over my right ear also, the left earphone would lose connection and would become silent. I could alternate hands and the sounds in the left ear would pulse.
I tested the phone call option and this was simply okay. You can answer a call and hang up a call simply by pressing one of the ear buttons. Similar to other earphones, the phone call microphone picked up ambient noises. My wife noted that I sounded as if I was talking in a tunnel. She sounded great, like always. However, I was really disappointed to find that the phone call deactivated the left earphone and only utilized the right earphone. This is not an industry-wide finding as a quick search will find that there are earphones that utilize both ears for phone calls. I cannot attest to the Apple AirPods but these are listed as a pair of earphones that work with both ears for phone calls. To activate the voice assistant, double press either one of the ears. Once you call for the assistant, there is an abnormally long waiting period before the assistant beeps. This feature proved to be a prominent let-down.
I have tested a few other versions of wireless headphones but most of my tests are in-ear wired or around-ear style earphones. I was not disappointed in the sound, the bass, the ability to watch movies, nor with the EQ settings. In fact, I found the contrary to be true. I did find that the free app was mostly useless, the voice assistant feature was glitchy and needed an urgent firmware update. The phone call feature needs to accommodate both ears, as well. The sound was pleasing, full and reviewing the earphones was a pleasure. The 3 3/8 by 1 7/8 inches carry/charging case was a beautiful addition to the overall kit, as was the included tip accessory pack. The Bluetooth syncing was truly easy and dummy-proof. The single press play/pause/answer call/hang up call worked well, wheras the double press voice assistant did not. The transparency setting was neat but I question the real-world utility beyond having a quick conversation. I am not so lazy that I would not pause my music and take the ear-buds out of my ears, so this feature may not be that useful in the long run. The braided cable with included cable management strap was fantastic, but there was no way to carry it with the charging case.
I am pleased to note that I used the device daily over the past week without recharging the case. I charged the earphones 7 times without noticing any changes other than the LED along the front. Personally, I do not want dead earphones so I charged them after a few days. I wish that the case could be charged with wireless charging, or at least with the newer USB-C technology. Micro-USB seems so retro now that everything is pushing into the USB-C world. Headphones must essentially pass two tests, sound and comfort. The accessory pack allowed for the comfort to be more tailored, but may not fit everyone. The sound was above average and better than I expected out of the small wireless earphones. The bass was pleasing and full, the uppers were not tinny and harsh and the balance was quite smooth. I never listen to really high volumes but I found 50% on the Liberty+ to be reasonable. As noted above the EQ settings were questionable and I settled on the balance setting.
I was able to run, to jump, to turn my head side to side, to do push-ups and multiple other activities without the earphones falling out of my ears. For such small devices, I was truly amazed at how much testing I could complete with a single charge. The case promised 48 hours of life with 3.5 hours per charge. I happily recharged my devices 7 times on a single charge and probably could have gotten close to 11 based on the science. Again, I do not want dead earphones, so I never let this test go that long before recharging. Perhaps one of the most overlooked features was the easy pairing. What else could you ask from a company except for them to turn on and start pairing?
The app needs work, the assistant access needs work, and the call features need work. The z-up feature was odd and I did not know why the kit needed an extra Bluetooth connection. I was pleased with the testing, the sound and I would recommend these earphones for their comfort, their sticky in-ear feel and for the battery life. I did read some reviews online that warned about not losing an earphone, an ear tip or the charger, as you will be forced to pay for a full device again. I do not know if this will change with time. Apple lets you buy another pod and charging kit for a fee; other companies will allow you to purchase extras/replacements without shelling out the full retail price again. To compete, Zolo will likely follow suit. I would rate the overall experience with these earphones at 4/5 stars.
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