Huawei FreeBuds Pro review: out of this world performance

Huawei FreeBuds Pro review: out of this world performance

My sense of hearing was teased, first with some playful French tunes. The bass levels are deep, while the cacophony of voices rise within me. I feel a slight degree of discomfort, but it could be due to the way the experience was designed with the form factor of Huawei's latest wireless earbuds. This is because the FreeBuds Pro tend to cause a little bit more of a squeeze in my ear canal than other models. There is a true feeling of musical enjoyment throughout the entire experience. The following song flows evenly, with the feeling of discomfort melting away. From soft sounds to the crystal clear string of a violin crying in the hands of a maestro, the audio range changes dramatically. Through it all, the FreeBuds Pro from Huawei provided me a very balanced and enjoyable listening experience, as though the company had grown up in this department. Read all about it in my review of what I deem to be one of the main competitors to the AirPods Pro that are available on the market at this moment.

Rating

Good

  • Good ANC
  • Fantastic bass performance that is not too heavy
  • Excellent battery life
  • Comfortable design
  • Can be connected to two devices simultaneously

Bad

  • Huawei AI app needs working on
  • No iOS app
  • Poor call quality

Huawei FreeBuds Pro release date and price

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro was released to the market with a recommended retail price (RRP) of £169.99, therefore placing it among the more premium True Wireless Sound (TWS) earbuds. It will arrive in three different color options: black, white, and grey. There are some good deals for this on Amazon as well, and it does seem highly likely that there is a price drop in the pipeline in the near future.

 

What I like about the Huawei FreeBuds Pro...

ANC: please shield me from this world

"Et demain toi et moi serons partis. Demain toi et moi serons partis. Sans nous attendre. Tant de saisons ont passé", And tomorrow you and I will be gone. Tomorrow you and I will be gone. Without waiting for us. So many seasons have passed - the musical tempo of French metal band Alcest couldn't be a more perfect fit for my autumn playlist. This year's autumn, in 2020, is an autumn that is right smack in the middle of a pandemic. Soft sounds and music do their bit to inspire our inner universe, making us feel detached from the surreal, locked down world. The Huawei FreeBuds Pros help shield me from the external world and transport me to a pleasant, solitary experience. Up to 40 db of this noisy world will be kept out from this new pair of square earbuds from Huawei each time I put them on.

Noise cancellation seems to work pretty well in my review. Huawei has dubbed this type of active noise cancellation as "Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation", where it ought to be able to recognise sounds on the outside as well as inside the ear through the clever implementation of microphones that are directed inwards and outwards. The dynamic drivers will then generate precise counter-signals in order to make it really quiet. "Pour les bois obscurs maintenant endormis", because the dark forest is now asleep.

NextPit Huawei Free Buds Pro side
The FreeBuds Pro have buttons to control the music and turn on the Ambience mode. / © NextPit

The active noise reduction offers three modes that cannot be set manually via the earbuds, but they do come into effect dynamically as soon as the ambient noise changes. Ultra, Comfort, and General Modes can detect, for example, keystrokes or very loud sounds such as aircraft noise. In my review, this promise worked generally well and lived up to expectations. While I could still hear announcements in the train and at the station, I didn't notice any of the usual noise that my carriage made during the entire journey. But as I am writing this, my keystrokes can still be heard, cutting through the electric guitar playing that strums a tune of love. Nevertheless, goosebumps still appeared all over my body with this spine-tingling guitar solo despite hearing myself type. To turn off ANC completely, you will have to perform a long press once on the left or right headphone.

Design: sports both corners and edges

In contrast to the AirPods Pro from Apple, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro arrive with rectangular, angled ends. My grey model (Silver Frost) is extremely reflective when placed in my hand. The plastic feels smooth and well constructed, and quickly absorbs the warmth of my palm, which is pleasant when you slip the plugs into your ears a moment later. There are also small silicone attachments that come with each purchase, where several pairs of varying sizes are included in the package, in order to provide good - but not a perfect fit. The headphones have a comfortable fit and seem to only exert pressure in my right ear, where I seem to have a small, endearing anomaly on the upper cartilage, which thankfully seems to be less pronounced in the other ear. The AirPods Pro from Apple continue to reign supreme in this department. They are the only in-ear headphones that I can wear for several hours on end without suffering from any problems. The FreeBuds Pro tend to exert pressure after wearing it for some time - at least for me.

Otherwise, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro are really very comfortable to wear and you would be hard-pressed to notice that they are there (thanks to a weight of just 6.1 grams). And so the old adage rings true: "J'ai oublié l'aisance", I have forgotten the lightness - which Huawei has managed to implement when designing the FreeBuds Pro.

The charging case of the Huawei FreeBuds Pro also comes in a very nicely shaped packaged and fits comfortably in the hand. Nevertheless, it does not feel as though it has a build quality to match that of the AirPods Pro's carrying case. The workmanship is not flawless; the flip lid is slightly off-center, but otherwise, it works extremely well. There is a Huawei logo located on the back, while beneath it lies the technology used for wireless charging. The charging case also heats up easily when I put it on my smart alarm clock when charging. It will continue to remain warm for a while after charging, but thankfully it won't burn you.

NextPit Huawei Free Buds Pro case close up
The charging case of the FreeBuds Pro offers 580 mAh of reserves to recharge the earbuds. / © NextPit

Connectivity: a smooth operator

Once again, I would like to draw a comparison to the obvious model from Cupertino. The Huawei FreeBuds Pro are commendable as they deliver a similarly quick connecting process. However, there is one major difference between this and the AirPods Pro: the charging case of the earbuds comes with a button that ensures the earbuds are in pairing mode. A LED will light up white after applying a long press, and the earbuds will be seen on your device in the Bluetooth device list. Once the FreeBuds Pro are paired, they will connect automatically whenever you open the case - or at least, attempt to. Wearer recognition also works well. As soon as I take one of the earbuds out of my ear, musical playback will be paused - only to resume when I have both of them in my ear. Do take note that there is no playback feature on the earbuds.

Battery life: fairly impressive

With a playback time of about eight hours, the FreeBuds Pro are an absolute highlight when it comes to the True Wireless Sound earbuds market. My AirPods Pros last around five hours on a single charge, and it has been outgunned by the Freebuds Pro. Especially when playing with my Among Us crew, I have to place the AirPods Pro on the charger after a few hours. The Huawei FreeBuds Pro have lasted longer in this instance by putting it through practical, everyday usage patterns.

Sound quality: life-like as though I was present

My personal benchmark for the audio quality of headphones would be whether I get goosebumps or not when I listen to some of my favourite, inspiring tunes. It sounds strange and is definitely not an industry benchmark where one is able to refer to, but it works in my case. The biggest cause for me to get goosebumps would be the music itself. But have you ever had goosebumps when listening to a song on your smartphone speaker? Probably not. And some headphones ruin your musical enjoyment with poor quality audio. Not so with the Huawei FreeBuds Pro. The symbiosis of good, imperceptible fit and low-distortion, balanced sound sends shivers down my spine whenever I embark on a journey to musical nirvana - Les Voyages de l'Âme.

NextPit Huawei Free Buds Pro huawei
At the side you can see the area which enables music control. / © NextPit

As the seven-minute track continues, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro will transport me into another world that is very different from what I know as our reality. I also recognise the great talents of flesh and blood behind every single instrument. From minute 03:50 onwards, my heart was thumping faster than usual, as though it was going to burst. But the hectic beats of the bass drum do not overwhelm me in a flood of noise. Rather, it tickles me in an almost tender manner, while being able to recognise the care and amount of work the artist put in. All in all, guitars and vocals rise in harmony, while my head is tilted slightly as I revel in aural ecstasy. The musical journey the continues in a surreal manner, where the physical and the spiritual meet in the middle. I did recognise quite early on, a drop of quality for high frequency tunes on the Huawei FreeBuds Pro, but turning on ANC also influences the sound quality, as with most other headphones.

This hard-hitting Alcest track is nevertheless a great pleasure to listen to on the Huawei FreeBuds Pro. The drivers transport the soul of the song, injecting the essence directly into the marrow. "Sentira le besoin de fuir sa prison de chair" and I too feel the need to escape from my prison of flesh.

What I don't like about the Huawei FreeBuds Pro...

The app

My dear colleague Antoine is not a fan of accompanying apps that come with headphones/earbuds. I beg to differ. Neither my AirPods Pro nor the Huawei FreeBuds Pro offers such an app though. I have always like to personalize my sound via software, especially when it comes to Sony headphones. However, it is available for all to see here as to which company Huawei has oriented itself with when designing the FreeBuds Pro. According to colleagues from Connect, the Huawei AI Life-App should also support the FreeBuds Pro, which then opens up the door for a degree of personalization. In my review, the earbuds could not be connected to the app and were not shown in the product catalog for manual connection. For iOS, the Huawei AI Life app does not exist at all. Which is a pity.

NextPit Huawei Free Buds Pro logo
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro not only look good, they sound fantastic. / © NextPit

The call quality

Unfortunately, the person you are talking to on the phone is perceived as rather quiet, whereas I had no problems whatsoever in understanding my counterpart well. The voice is as present in my head as my own. What proved to perform poorly would be the noise suppression technology when carrying out a conversation on the smartphone in noisy surroundings. Since the FreeBuds Pro offers a rather soft in-ear design, they already do not provide an obvious audio shield right from the get-go. The software does not do much more to filter out external noise. This is also a pity, and will discourage those who spend plenty of time talking on their handsets from picking one up.

Final verdict

Merci, Huawei. This AirPods Pro clone can actually compete with its Apple counterpart. The sound results in goosebumps, in a positive manner. I find the price point to be appropriate for high-end earbuds in the True Wireless Sound market. The battery life is fantastic and connectivity is fast and smooth. There are no real downsides to this pair of earbuds, apart from having to compromise on phone call quality. People who make a lot of calls should pick another model. For example, the Galaxy Buds+ might be a better candidate for frequent chatters. Those who love personalized sound should also choose other headphones. Here we recommend the Sony WF-1000XM3. Otherwise, I have nothing but a glowing recommendation of the Huawei Freebuds Pro.

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