TaoTronics SoundLiberty 94

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Complete feature set, decent across the board
Pros: - Complete controls
- Case has USB Type-C
- Good comfort and passive isolation
- Large soundstage with punchy bass and decent treble despite warm tuning
Cons: - Uninspired design, cumbersome controls
- Recessed lower mids, mid-bass bleed with ANC off
- ANC is mediocre and has relatively short battery life
- Static hiss on left bud with ambient mode
- Thumping noise when running, touch control configuration is quirky
- Does not power off when case is low in battery
The TaoTronics SoundLiberty 94 is one of several recently released budget true wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling. With a complete feature set, is it a giant-killer ANC true-wireless earbud?

Last updated 12/19/2020

Design - 7/10
The charging case is a little on the large size, but is fairly rounded so that it should still be quite portable.The charging port is USB Type-C and supports a C2C connection, so you can charge this off a PD charger or with your laptop. The only thing missing is Qi Wireless charging, which I consider a "nice to have feature" but not an absolute must. The earbuds themselves have a nice housing that fits ergonomically into my ears. The housing design looks rather uninspired, unlike the SoundLiberty 79, but fortunately the TaoTronics branding doesn't stick out much in person as it does in the promo renders.-

Comfort and fit 8.5/10
These have a nice negative profile flush in my ears. My only gripe is that the eartips are the shallow, large-flange type rather than typical IEM eartips, so it may be harder to find replacement eartips. They don't fall out easily unlike some other TWS I've used.

UPDATE: Galaxy Buds eartips do fit these such that they can still charge in the case. They offer a deeper fit and slightly better midrange clarity. HOWEVER, the deeper fit also leads to odd sealing issues with my ears.

Isolation and ANC - 7.5/10
Passive isolation is fairly good on these due to the flush fit, similar to wired IEMs back in the day. It doesn't block out high frequency that well though, and the noise cancelling doesn't do much about this either. ANC mainly blocks out noise in the mid and lower frequencies. If you are planning to use ANC while running or working out, I don't recommend these because they suffer from "runner's thud", where loud footsteps will cause the ANC hiss to abruptly thump. While commuting, I noticed less rumble except for the deepest frequencies, but high-pitched sounds like the trains screeching actually sounded more jarring. They also hiss with the ANC, but it is not particularly distracting. However, on my first unit I noticed a high pitched hiss or EMI static on the left bud, only when the ANC was turned off or ambient mode was used. Almost sounded like a cricket chirping. TaoTronics was kind enough to send me a replacement quickly - now the hiss is still present but far less apparent when ANC is turned off, but I still hear a fair amount when I turn on ambient sound. It is likely this varies between units which gives me doubts about the QC.

EDIT: I have decided to split up ANC and passive isolation. The combined score is 7.5/10 but the ANC itself is 6/10 on top of 7.5/10 for passive isolation.

Sound Quality - 7.5/10
Whether you have ANC turned on or off, these have a dark/warm tuning. The bass is rather punchy although it mostly emphasized in the midbass.
ANC ON: The sub-bass is rolled off and the midrange is cleaner but somewhat hollow - the midbass is still quite punchy. The lower mids sound recessed when ANC is turned on, causing snare drums to sound thin. Vocals are clear but a tad thin and lacking in richness. There is some emphasis on the treble so detail retrieval is still quite good and they're by no means muddy. Volume is a tad lower and I find myself often listening above 90%.

ANC OFF: The bass sounds deeper and more punchy, with some mid-bass bleed into the lower mids. Snare drums and kicks sound very impactful but vocals take a slight hit.

Using both AAC and SBC, the sound quality is quite similar, with only a slight degradation when using SBC. The highs are a tad more splashy and the bass more boomy.

Connectivity - 7/10
These are listed to have Bluetooth 5.1 but my current devices are only Bluetooth 5.0. From what I can find, BT5.1 mainly only improves power consumption and connectivity. In my experience, connectivity is only average with my Galaxy Note 9 and ASUS Zenbook Pro 15. They seem to suffer a little from a "death grip", as there is a tendency to cut when I put my hand near the device's Bluetooth modem, though not as severe as some other Bluetooth chips. The chipset is said to be Airoha but it is not as solid as the Jabees Firefly Pro when used with my phone. You can use the earbuds individually and the transition is typically quite seamless, but on some occasions switching buds causes the buds to re-connect. Also, in single bud mode, ambient mode is on by default and can't be turned off with the touch controls.

The control set is quite complete compared to similarly-designed TWS but misses out in execution. To play and pause, you have to double-tap the left earbud. A double tap on the right earbud activates ambient sound, while a hold turns off ANC. Volume control is a single tap left or right, while skipping tracks is a triple tap. Note that activating ambient mode will cause the music to pause, and activating ANC will cause the music to play. You have to be careful of how fast you tap or you might just change the volume instead of pausing the track, not too slow or fast (tap....tap)

As these share some of the same components with the 20Decebel, as of this writing it is compatible with the 20Decebel app. You can use it to turn on and off ANC without pausing the music. The EQ function of this app is not recommended as it dips the volume significantly and doesn't sound very good.

Ambient sound is decent - it is prone to hissing (cricket-chirping) on the left earbud but otherwise the audio feed is quite good and remains at a constant level. It does, however, temporarily shut down when exposed to a loud sound, such as a finger snap or clapping your hands.

Latency is quite good, even for some casual/basic gaming on the PC. Call quality is also pretty decent. Voices sound clear and not muffled. In busy areas, background noise can still be heard but on the plus side these don't apply aggressive noise reduction.

Overall, the connectivity and controls, while complete and decent, leave something to be desired for.

Battery Life - 5/10
*Update - after some more testing, unfortunately the replacement unit has the same if not only slightly better battery life on the case. Within a two days and less than 10 hours of total usage of the earbuds themselves, the charging case becomes depleted. I understand I could probably get another 4 hours in this situation, but the fact that the earbuds cannot power themselves off means they will continue to drain in the case until I charge it. In my opinion, 360 mAh is way too small for an ANC earbud.
With ANC turned on these are rated at 5 hours of battery life and 20 hours with the case, but this only seems to hold up with lower volumes. With my laptop they are only getting about 4.5 hours at about 90% volume. However, I found the case to be very inefficient. Within the first day, I've had the case become depleted after using the earbuds for less than 5 hours. It seems the case starts out strong but ends up dropping rapidly when the LED indicator only shows 2/4. From the percentages in the 20Decebel app, it seems like the battery charges quite fast after only a few minutes, hence the drain.

One annoyance is that these do not power off once the case is depleted, forcing you to have to manually disconnect from your phone otherwise they will constantly drain battery. You won't have any way to power them on again until you get your case charged. On the first unit, the battery started to drain rapidly after the first few charges. On the replacement, the battery seems improved but still rapidly drops when reaching below 2/4. By the time it gets to last LED indicator which blinks rapidly, the earbuds no longer charge or power off.

Overall - 7/10
At this point with few budget ANC true wireless earbuds, the TaoTronics 94 feels like it is trying to be the jack of all trades. As my first foray into ANC true wireless, these are respectable/decent across the board but suffer from battery life and potential quality control issues. Unfortunately, I have to take off points for battery life and the fact that the earbuds don't power off when the case is low on battery. While this is not an uncommon quirk among true wireless earbuds, I believe the 360 mAh case is way too small for ANC earbuds and is not giving me any more than an additional charge of usage.

vs Samsung Galaxy Buds+
The TaoTronics are more comfortable and offer better passive isolation with ANC on top of that. They also do much better on Windows 10 because the bitrate is at its default value. In terms of tuning the two are polar opposites, the lean and bright Galaxy Buds wins out in clarity but is missing the bass.

vs Sabbat E12 Ultra
The Sabbat is a step ahead sub-bass extension, while maintaining midrange clarity. Taotronics can achieve a similarly punchy bass with ANC turned off, but also has some midrange bleed. The Sabbat doesn't seem to resolve details as much but doesn't sound as "splashy". In terms of fit and isolation, the Sabbat E12 Ultra are obviously inferior and I sometime struggle to keep them in my ears.
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Great review, thanks!
As today, 09/18/202 are they in the same situation regarding battery life?
Unfortunately it's still the same, I can't get more than 10 hours out of the case and have to charge halfway through the second day.


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