1. hallux's Avatar
    I admit - I'm a Bluetooth "junkie" recently, so when these popped on my radar during the Kickstarter campaign I felt I had to jump on them. I was backer 9726 and received the "Backer's edition" which was the champagne gold colored lettering and trim. Other Bluetooth audio devices that I own - Anker SoundCore, two pair of Bluedio T2S Turbine headphones, Motorola S11 Flex HD, Plantronics Voyager Legend and LSTN Satellite portable speaker.

    Overview -
    This is a totally wireless earbud system, put out to Kickstarter but Zolo is ultimately a subsidiary of Anker. These buds use Graphene-enhanced drivers and are advertised as having an IPx5 rating for waterproofing. There is an advertised 3.5 hour battery life from just the batteries in the buds, with enough charges in the case for 48 hours of listening. The Liberty+ have a 6mm driver and support Bluetooth 5.0. I am using them with a Nexus 6p, which supports Bluetooth 4. As for the battery life - I've been listening to them while writing this up and my phone is reporting them to be at 60%.

    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-screenshot_20171221-103951.jpg

    Packaging -
    I received a retail-ready package but marked as a "limited edition" to indicate they were the Backer version from Kickstarter. The device was nicely packaged inside. The top layer contained the buds and charging case, the lower layer contained additional tips and "action jackets" to adjust the fit as well as the manual and the USB charging cable (Micro-USB BTW).

    Based on the experience of other backers that had received their devices prior to me, I put the buds in the case and plugged it in for a full charge. The buds have LEDs on them to indicate they are charging and the case has a set of 3 LEDs on the front to indicate it is charging. Those that did not wait, or did not have the buds properly inserted in the case experienced drop-outs of the left bud, this is actually covered in the manual.

    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-img_20171209_184619.jpg
    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-img_20171209_184846.jpg
    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-img_20171209_185045.jpg

    Charging case -
    The case seems to be made of metal, with shaped pockets for the buds. Some backers reported issues with charging connectivity to the buds when the largest "action jacket" and ear tips were installed, I have not seen this personally. The lid snaps shut as though it has a magnetic closure and seems to be spring loaded to keep it open. I have placed the charging case on my Magic Trackpad for size reference.

    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-img_20171209_185144.jpg
    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-img_20171209_185203.jpg
    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-img_20171221_140523.jpg
    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-img_20171221_140640.jpg
    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-img_20171221_140614.jpg

    Setup -
    SUPER easy, just have Bluetooth turned on and tap on the device to connect to it. Once connected, the buds turn on when you remove them from the case and connect automatically. I have not yet tried connecting the buds to a second device to see if that works. Once connected, the Zolo app finds them automatically when you open it.

    Fit -
    These came with 4 sets of "jackets" and tips. The mid size is pre-installed, I played with things a bit and found the largest fit me best with minimal "creeping" of the buds. When fit well, they actually block a considerable amount of outside noise but these have a feature to account for that (more on this later).

    Audio -
    I'm no audiophile but these sound pretty good. I think they would benefit from more than 5 EQ presets in the app, for the moment I've been using the Pop setting. If I'm walking I get a little bit of "feedback" as I step (booms as the buds jostle but I've had that with others). Mine are running early releases of the app and firmware, the latter of which SHOULD update through the app as updates are released.

    Range -
    This is a little more tricky and odd. My apartment is approx. 24x30, with a laundry area and garage under it. I can have my phone stationary near the mid-point of the long side and along one long wall and the headset stays connected to my phone within the apartment, even down in the laundry area. However - I went for a walk with them and found that I had connection interruptions sometimes if I turned my head enough. At work, I can pretty much roam our office (a little bigger than my apartment) without dropping audio while leaving my phone on my desk, but if I go to the restroom (2 cinderblock walls away from my desk) I lose connectivity. Overall, this matches up with my experience with other Bluetooth headsets.

    Buttons -
    Each bud has a button. Each bud can play/pause the current track, hold the left bud for one second and you skip back a track (or to the beginning of the current track), hold the right bud for 1 second and you skip forward a track. If you're getting a call, you tap one of the buds to answer (calls are mono in the right bud, BTW). There's one more function from the buttons, read the extra features section below for more. There are no volume controls on the buds, the volume is strictly managed by the device they are connected to.

    Extra features -
    Transparency. This is a feature introduced by Zolo for the Liberty+. This was added due to the isolation introduced when the buds are properly fitted in your ears. When enabled, the microphones on the outside of the buds receive outside audio and pass it through along with the audio playing. I played with this and found it to be implemented well. While I was out for a walk earlier two jets flew over at 1,000-3,000 feet. For the first one I left transparency off and didn't hear a thing but with the second one I enabled transparency and could hear the plane fly over, even with a fleece hat covering my ears and the buds. When walking on the sidewalk though, I could hear the car sounds 15 feet away, even without transparency, but they were very muffled. To enable this feature, hold the button on either bud for 3 seconds, holding for 3 seconds again turns it off. Transparency resets when the buds are placed in the charging case. I'm writing this listening to music from my phone AND listening to TV. Transparency can also be toggled in the companion app. The passed-through audio isn't super high quality but it serves the purpose of being able to talk to someone without taking the buds out. Think of it as a reverse noise-canceling feature.

    Voice assistants -
    If you double-tap the left bud it activates the voice assistant on your device (Siri on iPhone or Google Assistant on Android). There was originally a plan to launch with Alexa as well but the team ran into challenges with that implementation and it is planned for later release.

    App -
    There isn't much to the app yet. As noted, you can adjust the EQ but there are only 5 presets and no manual adjustment. You can change the transparency setting from in the app also but this also resets when you put the buds in the charging case. I have attached some screenshots of the app.

    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-screenshot_20171221-140810.jpg
    Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds-screenshot_20171221-140725.jpg

    Overall -
    I'm pleased with these buds. I can't wait for an opportunity to use them on a flight to see how well the isolation works in that environment. Sadly, I received these the day I returned from a trip for work and I usually don't travel often.

    Related products -
    Zolo Liberty. This is a lower-cost version that was not run through the Kickstarter campaign. The buds have the same battery life as the Liberty+ but run a smaller driver (5.5mm vs. the 6mm on the Liberty+) , the charger case also has a smaller battery. The buds also don't support Bluetooth 5.0, only 4.2 and are not supported by the app. Zolo has also released a home speaker named Mojo.

    The Liberty+ should be available on Amazon eventually, they are fulfilling Kickstarter orders before making them publicly available. I know there is at least one high-profile AC contributor that also backed these (heard it on a Podcast or read it in an article before the units shipped).

    12-21-2017 03:43 PM

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