As a healthy reality check to balance the hype around Apple’s latest generation of AirPods take a listen to recordings of their audio and mic quality against the old fashioned wired Apple EarPods. I reckon the EarPods beat them for mic quality, possibly because of the proximity of the microphone to your mouth and get pretty close to the sound quality but take a listen for yourself and you be the judge.
I bought an item from Amazon but it was uncomfortable to use so I returned it using their Hermes return facility.
Subsequently, despite having already issued the refund, Amazon informed me they had received a different item – an item I’d never heard of.
They ignored my communications telling them I had in fact returned the right item and charged me for the item again.
Let’s get into the full story and how it’s ended.
While I try to research the items I purchase as best I can, often spending hours reading and watching reviews for higher value items, sometimes there is something the reviews or spec sheets have missed – and sometimes it turns out the reviews I based my purchasing decision on are more positive than I think they ought to have been* when I receive the product and have the opportunity to evaluate it for myself.
*Btw check out my other video on which reviewers to trust.
When looking for a mid-priced wireless earphone with good sound quality for sports and outdoor use I ordered the Jabra Elite Active 65t and the Sony WF-XB700 (a discounted ‘Amazon Renewed’ item). Both of these I’ve reviewed on Amazon, which can be found under my profile GI Chow with affiliate links to them here.
I ended up keeping the Sonys and returning the Jabra for the reasons I talk about in these reviews.
Amazon refunded me immediately I returned the Jabras as usual which was great and I thought no more about it until some weeks later when I got this email:
They received a different item? Surely some administrative mistake with parcels having been mixed up I thought.
So I contacted Amazon via email and the online chat facility to let them know that I had already returned the item – and that they had in fact already refunded me after my return.
Some time later I got this response:
So despite my phone call, online chat and email explaining that I had already returned the item they had gone ahead and recharged me for it!
Once again I told them via a phone call with an Amazon call centre real human being (after first conversing with a bot) that I had already returned the item and also emailed a photo of the Hermes receipt that I was handed when I left the return package at the Hermes drop off point in my local Co-op supermarket. Luckily, or so I thought, I had kept the receipt – even though I had to hunt for it at the bottom of my rucksack! Though with the scanning of my returned package and subsequent refund I thought they must already have had evidence of this.
So imagine my disappointment when I received this response:
I returned a ‘white cap’?! The call centre informed me that email was the only way I could communicate with the Amazon department concerned and that I could not speak to anyone there in person. I wrote several further emails to the email address I was asked to use and while I got clarification that by ‘white cap’ was meant a hat, these were met with the same standard response – and eventually no response at all.
At this point I was totting up the time and hassle the return of this relatively inexpensive item had cost me, thinking it was now getting rather silly. But that just spurred me on to put this matter to bed and get some result from all the time I’d spent on the matter.
And frankly how can a business that has taken so much money from me over the years, makes over $800 profit every single second and is renowned for the efficiency of its operation effectively ignore my communications at best or consider them lies at worst without even a human conversation about the matter.
I had paid via credit card and contacted my credit card company via their online chat. After downloading and filling in a physical paper form:
which I had to print out (I had technical issues printing it but that’s another story) and then post via snail mail back to them, I received this phone text message from the credit card company:
So, after a lot of time and hassle, for now all good in the hood – I think. If you scroll through the several pages of Amazon’s Terms and Conditions you’ll find this:
My credit card company subsequently a letter saying confirming they had refunded the charge but would reinstate it if the vendor provided evidence it was a legitimate one.
I’ll add an update if the saga continues though I hope it doesn’t.
Following this experience, despite the several years I’ve been an Amazon customer, I no longer have a warm feeling about Amazon and have come to consider how much I rely on the company and my account, which I also use for all my Alexa devices. What would happen if Amazon decided to revoke my account?
The same thought occurred about Google, which account I use for my phone and recently my Sony TV too, as well as their search, email and cloud services including of course YouTube.
Makes you think about just how much we rely on these giant corporations – and what would happen if their friendly face (Amazon literally has a smile in its logo) turned sour.
Doesn’t bear thinking about – I’m off to YouTube to distract myself.
A video based on this article is now available on my YouTube channel so, if you prefer your content that way, get yourself a cuppa and check it out.
Here are brief sound quality descriptions of the Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro starting with some reviewers I trust the ears of, who typically describe sound as I perceive it, and including some of the most popular YouTube reviewers as well as some other review sources like websites and forums. They include links to their full reviews and sound recordings which I’d encourage you to check out for information about all aspects of the earphones and we conclude with my takeaways about one of the most highly reviewed TWS earphones ever and without getting too meta the nature of truth and how to decide who to believe about one of the most important factors when choosing a wireless earphone – sound quality.
Bart @scarbir.com – “Bass strikes roll-off quickly and can follow each other in truly rapid procession – this is one heavy-hitting, fast-pacing bass. Higher frequencies got proper attention as well. On top of that, the soundstage is lovely wide. Make no mistake, though: the Liberty 3 Pro still has the rather aggressive Soundcore approach to music. That means center mid-tones fall a bit behind in between the outspoken bass and upper-mids. Snare drums and piano play can be a bit recessed, and some male or darker female vocals can lack body in the lows. The biggest problem might be that the treble is a bit hissy, however. Especially in rock songs – whether it’s Rage Against the Machine, Placebo, or plain Coldplay – guitars and higher-pitched vocals sound brighter than usual and somewhat artificial. They don’t sound harsh overall, but higher notes can be a bit overblown in their own songs. This artificialness is never gone, but it can be toned down by the various other sound options from the app.”
CEONTHEMAKING – “plenty of bass that’s punchy and tight. The treble is not too sharp. Whatever type of sound signature you prefer you can tailor these to provide that” 7:19 @
EBPMAN Tech Reviews – “Sound fantastic” 13:10 @
“Audio and call quality test” 0:23 @
DHRME – “The Liberty 3 Pro smoke the Sony WF-1000XM4” 1:58 @
Digital Slang – “These sound fantastic..really impressive for the price” 16:48 @
Brian unboxed – “Prominent deep tight bass. Mids and highs come in clean and clear. Vocals and instruments do stand out. There is good separation with a crisp wide soundstage. It does lean a bit towards a warm sound signature with the bass. I was a big fan of the previous model and this just took the top of the list for me” 6:50 @
New Stuff TV – “I really like the sound quality that I’m getting from these earbuds – it’s just that simple. The bass is strong enough to be boomy when you need it but it doesn’t bleed into your mids and highs” 2:30 @
GearUP with Aaron – “Sound quality is slightly more composed and brighter at the same time. Compared to the 2 Pros it’s lost some of the warmth that I do like. The bass is a little more muffled. You can dial some of the warmth back in with the EQ but its still no match for the Sony WF-1000XM4” 14:20 @
AREGINA Tech Review – “The default setting of Signature is a bit vague. This is a classic V-shaped sound with lower midrange, lower bass and higher treble that suits general users who like stimulating sounds. For those who like a flat sound there is no particularly useful setting among the equalizer presets. It is essential to apply my recommended EQ value (includes sound samples)” 6:52 @
EL JEFE REVIEWS – “Based on my personal HearID experience..the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro is going to be known for that bass response – it is strong and there is deep sub bass extension. The midrange has been improved but required a bit of tweaking to get it to my personal taste..can tend to be inconsistent. Vocal clarity is still very very good and there is good stage and width in the sound. The treble can become too bright or sibilant..it can be dialled back. In first place for sound quality we’ve got the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro, in second place the Sennheiser CX Plus, in third the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, in fourth the Sony WF-1000XM4 and in fifth the Apple AirPods Pro” 13:14 @
Gamesky – “These are bold, boomy, bright – that’s how I want them set up. The ability to change these to make them sound however you want is really crazy” 8:58 @
ShortCircuit – “Without LDAC, a little hollow sounding, not super rich. Find the highs almost too crisp out of the box but you can turn them down” 7:15 @
Sean Talks Tech – “The sound signature of the Soundcore and the Sony are pretty close and I would rate the Soundcore to have a bit stronger bass and also better clarity” 6:20 @
Flossy Carter – “Last year when I did the Liberty 2 Pro I had the same reaction. These sound incredible. The highs, the mids crystal clear, that bass was thumping just now and I could probably get more bass from the EQ settings on the app. The sound quality is major. You’re buying these for the sound quality you’re not going to be disappointed” 13:25 @
Brannon No d – “The sound is phenomenal without it (LDAC). I can’t imagine this being any better than what I just listened to” 24:53 @
TechOdyssey – “The sound is pristine. This is probably the best bass I’ve ever heard in a set of earbuds. You can hear the individual tones. Mids are good, vocals are good, the highs are very good as well” 16:35 @
MTG Productions – “I’m no audiophile but these perform really well in day to day use” 13:48 @
Jonathan Morrison – “They sound phenomenal on their own but just in case you want to tweak that you have endless control. Out of the box the stock profile is really aggressive with the low end – I personally really enjoy that” 8:40 @
Underground Tech – “Sound quality is an improvement. It sounds like the bass is a little more balanced with the mids and highs. These are a little more clear over the Liberty 2 Pros. It feels like the bass can overshadow at certain points but that’s when I had it on full volume. I think the sound is solid for the price” 5:37 @
Rich Music Tech Reviews – “Out of the box these were decent sounding but not the best. You can fix that quite easily. The sound quality is a step up on the Liberty 2 Pro. The bass is even deeper, the high even more crisp and the soundstage is even wider. Everything has been given that 10-15% improvement.” 8:42 @
English Dan Reviews – “The bass is really smooth bass. Imagine the Liberty 2 Pro bass but enhanced, clearer. The mids come through nice and strong. The lows don’t spill into the mids and your highs come through perfectly well detailed. It can be a little bit too high for me. You can control that with the app” 12:20 @
Geeky Stuff – “A nice amount of bass, crystal highs and fantastic mids. The quality is amazing. It sounded big” 14:48 @
ShoAndTech – “They took all the things we loved from the 2 Pros and threw them into the 3. The bass is still there, the quality is still crystal” 7:08 @
TK Bay – “A very good balanced experience. Bass heavy but does not damage mids and highs” 12:00 @
TechGuy SmartBuy – “Can be customised to a sound you prefer” 2:10 @
The D Show – “I don’t notice a huge difference compared to previous versions” 6:14 @
OSReviews – “They offer by far more detail than regular AirPods can deliver. All frequencies shine with plenty of details and textures of instruments and vocals can be picked up. With the HearID custom mode activated they felt even better, just added a touch more detail and dynamic punch to the sound. It’s very good in terms of no distortion or static in the background” 7:04 @
DVZN Media – “The sound was that little bit of bass that they put into these without making it sound trash. These do really well with tuning. Overall you just have a great pair of headphones” 2:53 @
Ken Yanow – “It’s full, rich, the bass pops and you’ve got a tremendous amount of control over the sound you hear. It’s just not quite as clean as the Bose (QC). If you’re really just into music that is more classical in nature and maybe more acoustic sounding the Bose is probably a really good choice for you, it’s just the Liberty 3 Pros give you a richer sound with a deeper bass.” 6:50 @
Videos continue to be produced and there are placeholders below with N/A (not available) against those YouTube reviewers who have not produced a video at the time of writing but whose opinions I tend to value.
Andy’s Tech Tone – N/A
mrkwd – tech guy – N/A
Aaron is Loud and Wireless – N/A
Ricky RDT – N/A
zpolt – N/A
Kenneth Tanaka – N/A
SoZen Gadgets – N/A
GYMCADDY – N/A
Picky Audio – N/A
My takeaway from the reviews above is that this is a TWS that can, after changing EQ settings, sound good if not the best, especially to those who prefer a V-shaped sound signature and has several features that would not normally be found at the price including reasonably effective ANC (for earphones), transparency mode, configurable frequency equalisation, multipoint connection allowing 2 devices to be connected at the same time, single bud ‘mono mode’ use either side, configurable touch controls with all tap and hold options as well as support for the high res LDAC codec (the value of which is debatable since tuning has a much more significant effect on what one hears). Ultimately, unless you need all the features then equivalent or better sound quality, especially for those who prefer a natural sound, can be had for less money. And if you can wait the Liberty 3 Pro will likely be discounted when no longer flavour of the month.
The driver construction is the same as the previous Liberty 2 Pro which for me lacked speed of transient response resulting in a slower woolier bass response and overall less realistic sound. Amplification is responsible for how quickly drivers are pushed and pulled and that takes current and battery in a mobile device. Hence there will be a tradeoff between audio reproduction realism and battery life. The Liberty 3 Pro has a long battery life of 6-8 hours so draw your own conclusions.
I have videos on
1) how effective earphone ANC is
2) free equalisers and techniques to change sound signature
3) sound recordings of the previous Liberty 2 Pro (that has the same driver configuration) against competitors.
I personally found the Liberty 2 Pro slug style a less comfortable, practical and stable form factor for my ears.
Other reviews identifying potential cons to consider including mic quality, responsiveness of controls and ANC quality:
“So, you won’t be disappointed by the sound quality on offer, but you can get sound that’s just as good for a lower price from its competitors.”
So can one believe the current hype around the Liberty 3 Pro? This is part of a bigger question of who does one trust and how does one know who to trust? Here are a few things I look for:
A history of opinions I agree with
Quality of analysis and language
Internal consistency, maintaining the same relative rankings over time where products are unchanged
Clarity of motivation*
A sense of fairness, presenting cons as well as pros
A respectful approach to others’ opinions
Number and quality of followers, views and comments (all can be faked)
A trustworthy demeanour and genuine interest in their subject and audience
Similar musical tastes – genres make different demands of technical performance like bass, instrument separation, vocals and soundstage
A source of wealth independent from particular manufacturers
Consensus from your trusted sources
* Reviews and videos take a lot of time to produce and of course can cost money if you’re not provided the product for free so you’ve got to wonder what the motivation of a reviewer is – are they
mini specialised shopping channels
seeking recognition, celebrity and perhaps another career
creatives, wanting to publish and perhaps monetise their output
looking to develop their communication skills or experiences
wanting to share their knowledge to help others or develop esteem
wanting to connect with like-minded people.
That’s something you’re going to have to decide for yourself but keep in mind with everything you see and hear – and this applies to everything in life – what is the motivation behind the message I’m receiving? whether that’s from a person, a company or even a government.
Having said all this, even assuming no bias or outright lies, we all perceive things differently and there may be no single absolute truth. In the world of audio especially, sound signature tastes differ. Cultural differences have been suggested and even within an individual tastes can change over time. At the end of the day, unless you’re a sound engineer, arguablywhat matters most is the emotional impact of music and happily that is something available nowadays on any budget.
Feel free to drop a question/comment against my videos and if you got value then liking videos and subscribing to the channel helps bring the information to a wider audience and supports monetisation and production of new content – thanks for your support!
If you want a taste of the sound quality of the Liberty 3 Pro at well under half the price and don’t need ANC check out the Liberty 2 Pro.
So finally, my focus is always on sound quality, which is why I try to provide sound samples though of course other aspects of TWS earphones are important like control scheme and sensitivity, comfort and security of fit, waterproof ratings, battery life, connection reliability, mic quality, ANC quality, latency, wireless charging and so on – some of these you can find out from the specs but I’d recommend reading or watching reviews in full to get a feel for these aspects too since sound quality becomes academic if you never use the earbuds.
When I’m quiet on YouTube check out my blog posts, Amazon reviews (I’m a top 3k reviewer) or even my playlist of tracks that move me. I get money (typically under $10 per month) from all my Amazon affiliate links, irrespective of manufacturer – using them costs you no more money but helps me devote more time to producing impartial content.
Following on from my previous post about how I discover the truth about cheap high sound quality earphones without actually having to buy all of them this is a work in progress ranked list of TWS (true wireless stereo – AirPods style Bluetooth) earphone information sources – mainly YouTube channels – I rely on. It’s based on how closely the reviewer’s sound descriptions match my own and the quality of the conversations I’ve had or seen with them.
Bart @scarbir.com – I tend to concur with his very precise sound descriptions though he rates a few items, e.g. 1MORE ComfoBuds Pro, more highly than I would and only considers earphones below $100 – which I admire since one shouldn’t need to exceed that for great sounding TWS. If I haven’t heard a TWS I tend to refer to him first.
Andy’s Tech Tone – thorough reviews, responds fairly to questions and uses language precisely though his sound descriptions can be different to mine.
CEONTHEMAKING – I tend to concur with his sound descriptions and he responds to questions fairly.
EBPMAN Tech Reviews – I tend to concur with his sound descriptions though these are not the most detailed. Recordings are of variable quality but can give an indication of comparative sound signatures and microphone samples are good e.g. https://youtu.be/jP-9pm_-2gc
mrkwd – tech guy – impartial and honest, focusing on practicality tests but still providing a fair impression of sound quality.
Aaron is Loud and Wireless – thorough reviews, responds fairly to questions and uses language precisely though his sound descriptions can be a little different to mine.
DHRME – provides sound samples so someone who cares about objectivism and talks about more wide ranging subjects. Recordings are of variable quality but can give an indication of comparative sound signatures.
Digital Slang – impartial and honest though uses less precise sound description language.
GearUP with Aaron – impartial and honest, focusing on practicality tests but still providing a fair impression of sound quality.
Brian unboxed – provides sound samples so someone who cares about objectivism. Recordings are of variable quality but can give an indication of comparative sound signatures. His sound descriptions can be different to mine e.g. describing bass as tight and punchy when I did not experience that and rating some products more highly than I would.
Ricky RDT – reviews few Bluetooth devices but I tend to concur with his sound descriptions and though his use of audiophile language is less sophisticated than some I get a good idea of how an earphone / headphone sounds through his comparisons.
zpolt – Derrick Mapagu focuses on IEMs but provides sound samples that usually give one a good impression of how earphones compare against eachother and clear sound descriptions using recognised audiophile terms.
New Stuff TV – genuine guy with a good ear though can over hype.
Kenneth Tanaka – genuine guy with a good ear though can over hype.
EL JEFE REVIEWS – genuine guy rating some products more highly than I would who has provided some answers that I disagree with e.g. around LDAC significance. I admire his creation of a ‘crowd-sourced’ tier list though disagree with some classifications: https://youtu.be/KIq3mfWQbA4
Gamesky – has rated some products more highly than I would.
Flossy Carter – entertaining with less precise audio descriptions than some others. Hypes several products, some more than I think they merit.
Others I watch include SoZen Gadgets, GYMCADDY, Super*Review, totallydubbedHD, InsideTech, Picky Audio, Sean Talks Tech (for a list of all my subscriptions see my YouTube channel)
I wondered what advantages the latest Sony high end FALD (full array local dimming) LED TV brought over the previous model, which is much cheaper, and found this free online tool from RTINGS very helpful.
Just with your web browser, you can use it to compare side by side 2 or more of the several hundred TVs that rtings.com has tested over the years across all their important characteristics including contrast, motion handling, upscaling and user interface so a very valuable tool to know about.
If you found this helpful please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel, one of my reviews from which is on soundbars.
Reading the viewer comments against their videos can also be informative.
This reviewer puts the Sony X95J picture overall above its obvious LED competitors, the Samsung QN90A neo QLED (mini LED) and LG QNED 90 (mini LED) TV and succinctly describes why one would choose LED over OLED (skip to 10:42 – 11:41):
And for free information about the insulin response and how I used this basic biochemistry to lose 4 stone in weight healthily check out http://www.gichow.com