There’s more than just the fact they’re black that I like about the Huawei FreeBuds Pro, but their colour has a lot to do with it. I wish there was something so much more magical about them that all other comparable earbuds in the market don’t have. Currently, though, the reality is that everyone is kicking butt in the earbuds space, so success has to be measured on everything.
Huawei is known for making pretty decent smartphones with good cameras and clocking fast speeds in the 5G space. It’s also known for having its kit banned from literally every country – and that is hard to shake, particularly for consumers in Australia.
The company is also trying to make a name for itself in the headphone space – something it’s been doing for around four years. Already in the market, Huawei has earbuds, over-ear headphones, in-ear headphones and glasses that have a speaker.
In a strange move, the company also has a set of earbuds that come in a case that looks kinda like lipstick. They’re red as well – again, to mimic lipstick.
Anyway, I thought I’d give the latest true wireless earbuds, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro, a try to see if the dynamic active noise cancelling and awareness features really deliver what they say they do (and to see if it is enough to convince consumers to trust Huawei again).
Huawei FreeBuds Pro
WHAT IS IT?
Huawei's latest noise cancelling earbuds
$299 for Carbon Black and Silver Frost, $229 for Ceramic White
Battery life, dynamic noise cancellation, colour choices
The sound could be better
Huawei FreeBuds Pro Features
Huawei is marketing these as boasting the world’s first intelligent dynamic active noise cancellation – noise cancellation where it automatically adjusts to the outside sound environment.
And adjust they sure do.
If you’re somewhere quiet, like an office, the FreeBuds will automatically shift into ‘cozy’ mode, cancelling out sounds such as typing. In a more crowded area, like a street cafe, the buds will switch into ‘general’ mode. The third mode is ‘ultra’, blocking out sounds you’d hear in noisy areas such as on a train. (This is all automatic, but you can manually force the modes through the Huawei AI Life app.)
I tried this accidentally while getting in my car.
When the automatic adjustment kicked in for the first time, it was quite surprising – I heard the ignition for maybe a second, then it was gone once the earbuds registered the sound.
The noise cancelling is really good.
Voice Mode/Awareness Mode allows you to hear (or not hear) what is going on around you – this allows you to have conversations with people without taking out the buds.
Awareness mode is activated by a long press to the stem of the earbud.
When someone is talking to you, it uses the mic on the stem to feed that sound into your ears. This is so weird – the person talking to you is in front of you yet it seems like you’re on a phone call with them.
The earbuds are also pretty good at blocking out the wind – even when on the phone with the windows open driving down the motorway. (The two microphones on the top and bottom end of the earbud stems are equipped with an anti-wind noise-cancellation tube to eliminate wind noise).
Listening to music
Sound quality isn’t 10/10. It’s more a 7.5. As someone whose every day headphones are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II (yep, over ear), music coming out of the FreeBuds Pro is not as good, obviously. But the problem is music quality is of the highest importance to me.
I’m lucky if I turn a TV on twice a week, but music is on 24/7 in my apartment, car or through headphones. And I am so very obsessed with music that has heavy instruments and vocals. And music that is played loud.
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro are not for someone who considers themselves a music connoisseur (read: genre gatekeeper).
Guitars dropped far lower than they really should sound almost pixelated. But, a pop song sounds fine. (Fine as in quality, definitely not as in fine as a concept.) Everyday users will probably have zero complaints.
Phone call with noise cancelling just sounds awkward. Took me wayyy too long to adjust. But phone calls are great – I can hear the other person fine, there’s stuff all latency and, on the other end, my subjects said they could hear me clearly. As I said above, these earbuds are pretty good at blocking out wind while talking with the windows open driving down the motorway.
There are three microphones in total on the buds, which definitely help here.
With noise cancellation turned off, a single charge brings up to 8 hours of listening for a total of 36 hours when coupled with the charging case.
With noise cancellation turned on, a single charge will get you up to 3.5 hours of calling and up to 16 hours when coupled with the charging case – or 5 hours of listening and up to 22 hours when coupled with the charging case. I managed to stretch this a little further, so they’re being conservative with their claims.
You can have two devices connected to the Huawei FreeBuds Pro – I had my MacBook and phone connected, watching a stream from the laptop that was then overtaken by a phone call. Pretty good.
The app also does a ton of good things, such as a ‘find my’ feature, and connecting the earbuds to devices is pretty self-explanatory and completely stress-free.
Look and Feel
Colours and casings
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro come in Ceramic White, Silver Frost and Carbon Black. I have (obviously) been reviewing the black set and realllly like the look of them (because black is just my vibe).
The case is small enough to fit in my hand easily, but not small enough to get lost in a bag. It’s a bit larger than the cases of its competitors, but it only weighs 60 grams. The case opening and closing is sturdy and feels premium. The earbuds ‘snap’ in and out of the case easily as well – pushing it backwards allows it to pop out (super useful with fake nails).
The light inside the case lets you know the battery status. The USB-C charging slot on the bottom of the case is also in a convenient spot.
Btw, the earbuds are meant to look like black piano keys.
Inside your ear
I have small ears and my tragus piercing also limits inner ear real estate for ear buds. This doesn’t impact the Huawei FreeBuds Pro. If they’re too small for your ears, however, the buds come with three sizes of tips.
The short stem also doesn’t get in the way of masks/sunnies/glasses. Running, they also stay in. However, after about five minutes of running, my hair starts to get real loose and, as it falls out of a bun, wraps around the piano key-like bud and it’s all over. (This is why I’ve got accustomed to over ear headphones for exercise.)
Comfort-wise, I wore these for about three hours straight and my ears were just starting to get sore.
You can control the buds through the app and even change the controls on the actual buds (change from the preset actions, that is).
Long press turns on/off awareness mode, swipe up to turn the volume up and swipe down to turn it down, pinch once to pause music, pinch twice to skip song and pinch three times to go back a song – I’m not sure what else I would want to do.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro, the Verdict
It’s a saturated market.
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro have a lot of competition, so they need to do something amazing to win everyone over.
They do a lot of great stuff, as you can see from this review, but music quality loses me. I’m not asking for earbuds and headphones to be tested on deathcore music, but like, it would be nice to get sound loud without distortion.
For $299, and bearing the name Huawei, these needed to be a little bit better for me to be able to convince you that you need these above all others in the market.
They still get an 8/10 from me and if you’re genuinely worried about using a gadget made by Huawei, I assume that means you don’t have Facebook or Instagram, or use an assistant such as Google or Siri, and that you pay using cash everywhere you go? Didn’t think so. Get the Huawei FreeBuds Pro if you’re looking for premium earbuds with super good noise cancellation.