The wireless headphones revolution is well and truly underway. And while everyone seems to wax lyrical about AirPods, other makers are delivering far more in terms of sound quality and features. The Libratone Track Air+ is one such fine example: a true wireless in-ear set of headphones that come with active noise-cancellation (ANC) - and one of first to market to deliver such technology (the Sony WF-1000XM3 won't be far behind, updating the WF-1000X original) - for a very fair price indeed.
We were at the European launch event in Berlin where we got to try the Track Air+ for around an hour. Not only is the ANC smart and highly effective, the sound quality from these little buds is exceptional. Here's why, irrelevant whether or not you know the Libratone brand, these wireless in-ears could be the ultimate choice - whether you're looking for a pair to wear when being active or just a casual pair for commuting.
Design & Features
- Weight: 5.6g per earbud
- Available in black or white
- 6 hour battery life per charge
- IPX4 sweat- and splash-resistance
- Smart Wear detection, auto pause/play
- Customisable left/right double tap controls
- Charging case holds 3x charges (24hrs total)
The Track Air+ come in a little case, which each earbud clips into magnetically (and with ease, unlike some competitors) where they can recharge when not in use. The case is said to deliver three full charges on top of the up-to-six-hours of use from the buds themselves. It's not a super fancy case, but the magnets hold the buds firm and the small scale is very practical.
The buds will need to be in the case to pair through the Libratone app. We did so using an Android phone with relative ease via Bluetooth - just ensure you give the left permission to talk to the right, via the little confirmation tick box, which we failed to do first time - and that then creates a solid connection over Bluetooth (here in its 5.0 iteration).
The signal is really strong. We've walked around 20 metres away from the phone source and it's had no impact, with no drop-outs, while walking around with phone in pocket has remained just as airtight when it comes to signal quality. Good job.
The 'Track' name isn't without purpose either: the Air+ offer IPX4 protection, which gives sweat- and splash-resistance, making these wireless in-ears ideal for, you guessed it, running on the track. Or, you know, around the park, down the road, or whatever other sweat-inducing activity you wish to perform. That's something very few other wireless in-ears offer - the Sony WF-1000XM3 lacks it, for example, yet still cost almost 40 per cent more.
Having worn the Track Air+ for a fairly considerable period of time, however, we don't think these in-ears are only for exercise sessions. Given each bud weighs just 5.6g and feels lightweight to fit, yet reassuringly snug, it's exactly what many people will be looking for when, say, commuting.
In the box an additional three pairs of tips come included, in order to fit different ear types more accurately and deliver the best sound possible. The Libratone app will, in the future, also have a system which allows for the signal to give feedback to deduce whether you have the correct tips fitted - and then advise if it thinks a smaller set would make better sense. This isn't up and running just yet, but it's a great idea.
As it happens, the largest tips were the ideal solution for our ears, making a decent seal to isolate external noise, without being uncomfortable or feeling like they'll fall out whatsoever. We've shaken our head just to be sure and are confident these in-ears are going nowhere.
While the Libratone app or associated source - be that Google Play Music, Spotify, Tidal, or so on, everything syncs with ease - offers on-device controls, the Air+ earbuds also include customisable double-tap controls. It's possible to pause/play, skip track, adjust ANC mode, or launch a voice assistant (Google Assistant and Alexa came up on our prompt on Android; Siri is also available for iPhone users). Better still, it's possible to assign different functions to left and right, which is really handy.
As we've said of some other earbuds, pressing a touch-control button and feeling the buds press into your ears isn't necessarily the most comfortable, but as the double-tap mechanism is activated fairly gently it's not uncomfortable, bar a little bassy resonance that you'll get from such contact. We've been using the touch controls all the time, though, so think this solution is as elegant as can be here.
Sound Quality & ANC
- Smart active noise-cancelling (ANC): Manual, Automatic, Ambient
- Fast charging: 5/7.5/40W recharge
- Qualcomm QCC5121 chipset
- Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity
- aptX high quality audio
Of course the main reason to buy any in-ear product is for the overall sound quality. While some of Libratone's lower-price headphones don't quite cut the mustard in this regard, the Track Air+ genuinely sound phenomenal. With the tight fit the isolation is strong, the bass kicks harder than we've been getting from recent over-ears cans - which is hard to get right for in-ears, especially during movement - without the mids or highs getting lost.
There are even sound profiles available in the app, should you wish to move out of neutral to either bass or treble enhancement. That's a great touch, although some more customisable equalisation could be useful. But in the sense of keeping things simple, it's easy to select between these three profiles without getting lost down a rabbit hole of overcomplexity.
The other area where the Air+ deliver in droves is with the active noise-cancelling technology. This is a rare feature on wireless in-ears, so it's not only a surprise to see it available on a pair at this price point, it's even more surprising just how able this technology performs.
ANC functions by using microphones to counter surrounding noise, which helps disguise surrounding and bothersome sounds. It's especially good for reducing hiss and hum - the kind of annoying sounds you'll hear on planes, trains and such like. Couple that with the well isolated fit, however, and the Air+ block out the majority of surrounding sounds, such as colleagues' conversations. It makes for a great way to get your focus on, unfussed by those around you.
Here the ANC comes in three modes: Manual, where you can set how strong the cancellation is (from 0 to 30); Smart, where the system sets the cancellation in real-time based on your active surroundings; and Ambient, which acts as a pass-through to hear a lot of what's around you - likely to be handy when out on an activity and ensuring you can hear enough.
Why would you want a noise-cancelling system to set its own level? Well, if ANC is engaged to its maximum setting it can feel like sitting in a vacuum. That can be amazing when desired, such as on a plane, but sometimes it can feel like too much. The smart system adapts really well, without interruption, and as there are nuanced levels you won't notice any "jumps" from one degree to another as it adjusts (we've been watching with interest in the app as the dial automatically turns from 12 through to 16, for example, it's rather clever - although a lot of the time it says "1" when this isn't accurate, presumably a small bug in the app).
The Libratone Track Air+ wireless in-ears aren't just the first to market to deliver true wireless with ANC for the sake of saying so. As in-ear headphones go, this product sounds truly exceptional, is comfortable to wear, offers sweat-proof build for those active sessions, and a noise-cancellation system that's genuinely smart.
In a world where so-so AirPods seem to get all the attention, or far pricier Sony and Sennheiser products receive some of the loudest shout-outs, Libratone has done its utmost to stand out from the crowd. The price alone will be a massive lure. But that's not the sole reason to buy the Air+ - no, you'll want to don these in your ears because everything on offer, from sound to comfort to capability, is delivered at the highest level.
The Libratone Track Air+ will go on sale from 15 July 2019, priced £179/€199. The standard Track Air, which do not feature ANC, will also be available, priced £139/€159.