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Hardware Review

Huawei FreeBuds Pro Review

How do Huawei’s premium wireless earphones stack up?

Ever since Huawei’s first foray into wireless earphones back in 2018, the Chinese electronics company has continued to improve its products year on year. Earlier this year I was thoroughly impressed with the entry-level FreeBuds 4i, and more recently the over-ear FreeBuds Studio, so I was keen to go ears-on with the FreeBuds Pro to hear the differences and see if they are worth the extra coin.

Coming in three flavours (Ceramic White, Carbon Black, and Silver Frost), the FreeBuds Pro is Huawei’s flagship wireless earphones. While both the white and black variants utilise an all-gloss design, Silver Frost has a mixture of matte and gloss, with the case featuring a matte finish and the earbuds a gloss finish. I was lucky enough to receive a pair of the FreeBuds Pros in Silver Frost and from a looks perspective I dig it – the silver is a nice change from the usual black or white, and the rectangular stem of the buds is modelled after a piano key instead of looking like a replacement toothbrush head. The only downside to the gloss finish is that fingerprints are a little more visible, and while that doesn’t bother me given they’re either in my ears or the case (and I’m happy to just wipe them if they look dirty), it will grind some people’s gears.

Pick your flavour

The case has a flat oval design so that it doesn’t roll around when on a flat surface, with a USB-C input for charging (cable included). Initially I had some trouble getting the buds out of the case, but there’s a knack to it that involves pushing the buds away from you and up for an easy release. The buds are also magnetised to the bottom of the case, so they won’t fall out if you’re a little liberal with how little care you take.

If you own a Huawei smartphone, connecting the FreeBuds Pro (or any Huawei audio product for that matter) is as simple as lifting the case lid (turning it on) and holding it close to the phone. For other smartphones and devices (such as computers), you’ll need to pair the FreeBuds Pro via the Bluetooth settings.

The AI Life app is where you can see the battery levels of the earbuds and the case, as well as play around with settings, such as gesture controls, noise cancelling profiles and more. I lamented it in my FreeBuds 4i review and will do so again here, but the lack of any EQ settings is still a disappointment. Owners can also locate lost FreeBuds with the Find My Earphones feature.

The gesture controls (once you get used to them) are super handy and easy to use, meaning you can control the volume level, switch noise cancelling profiles (or turn it off), change songs and play or pause without needing your source device. Smart Detection is also present and will pause audio whenever you remove one or both earbuds.

I rest my case

One of the FreeBuds Pro’s biggest drawcards is the Dynamic Active Noise Cancelling. There are four ANC modes available:  Dynamic (automatically adjusts noise cancelling based on your surroundings), Cozy (for little background noise), General (for noisy places) and Ultra (for lots of background noise).

I tested the ANC modes in several settings and overall I found them to do a great job at mitigating background noise. Dynamic is the most impressive as it will take stock of your surroundings and choose the most suitable setting, doing so without disrupting the audio. Ultra, which offers the best level of cancellation, blocks out a lot of sound and is great for using on public transport, but didn’t fully drown out my coffee machine or other loud appliances (like lawn mowers or drills) at close range.

Another of Huawei’s ANC offerings is Awareness Mode, which somewhat like Dynamic ANC will assess your environment and adjust the audio to ensure that you can still hear what’s going on around you. Voice Mode allows users to be able to hear and talk with others without taking the earbuds out. Annoyingly, Awareness Mode has this low hiss/hum sound whenever it’s activated, and although music semi drowns it out, it was enough for me to avoid using it.

I was constantly impressed by how much bass output there was for such a small form factor

One thing I love about the FreeBuds Pro (and other Huawei FreeBuds products I have reviewed) is the dual Bluetooth connectivity, which allows me to pair and switch between my phone and another device (in this case my desktop computer), meaning I can be sitting at my computer listening to music one minute and walking down the street listening to a podcast the next, without needing to do anything other than turn the earphones on and choosing what to listen to. Another feature of the dual connectivity is that if you’re using the FreeBuds Pro with another device and a call comes in, the earphones will automatically switch to the phone so you can enjoy a chinwag right away.

Much like the FreeBuds 4i, the FreeBuds Pro are super comfortable to wear, whether in short bursts or longer sessions. I will admit I had to fiddle with them every now and again to make them feel snug, but that’s more because of my tiny child ears than a design flaw. In the box are three different sized tips that you can use to find the best fit, and The AI Life also has a fit test feature that will see if your buds are sitting in an optimal position.

Huawei has always excelled at battery optimisation, with the case giving you get a total of 30 hours of battery life. When it comes to music playback, the FreeBuds Pro claims seven hours of usage with ANC disabled and four hours with it enabled, while for voice calls you’ll get three hours with ANC disabled and 2.5 hours with ANC enabled. Owners of Huawei phones with EMUI 11 will see a slight increase in battery life. When it comes to charging, the FreeBuds Pro earbuds will take around 40 minutes to charge in the case, while the case will take roughly an hour to charge without the earbuds. Wireless charging is also supported, with the case taking about two hours to charge.

Having used these frequently over the past month and a bit, I’ve survived on one charge a week for four out of five weeks, and even once or twice the case wasn’t fully flat. So unless you’re using them for more than five hours every day, you’ll likely get close to a week on one charge.

How they think it looks

How it really looks

Audio quality is another area that Huawei does well in and with 11 mm dynamic drivers, the FreeBuds Pro are no exception. I was constantly impressed by how much bass output there was for such a small form factor. I listened to a wide gamut of tunes when putting them through their paces, and my favoured sounds of nu-metal/alternative rock and synth rock/pop all sounded tight. Rich Ward’s tasty guitar tone came through nice and crunchy, while the brass section of Dave Matthews band and jazz classics of Duke Ellington all had good presence and warmth. I will admit that the best results came from listening with an EQ on, but even without one the quality is still very good. When enabling one of the noise cancelling profiles (more on that later), music received a bit of a bass boost by default, giving it more of a kick, which begs the question, why no EQ settings?

I usually find that using earphones for phone or online calls lacks quality, but when used for calls, the FreeBuds Pro delivered crystal clear sound, thanks to the three-mic system. The microphones also support high-quality recordings at 20kHz, which makes a great substitute if you don’t have a proper mic on hand.

Priced at an RRP of $329, the FreeBuds Pro are a little pricey, however you’ll rarely pay that price, with most online stores selling them for around the $289 mark, which is still expensive, but the value is there if you’re looking for a premium pair of wireless earphones with all the bells and whistles.

However, one of the most frustrating aspects of Huawei products is just how limited they are when it comes to traditional retail. Of course, you can find them online quite easily, with Amazon selling them, but unless you’re in Chatswood, NSW, finding them in a retail store is impossible, which means that most people will overlook them for something else.

huawei-freebuds-pro-review-AI

The AI Life app

Control your gestures

How do they fit?

Final Thoughts

Having previously been sceptical of wireless earbuds, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i made me a believer. Despite some minor knocks, the FreeBuds Pros are a cut above, packed full of quality of life features and delivering excellent audio quality, comfort, battery life and noise cancelling, making them well worth the extra coin.

Review unit supplied by the manufacturer 

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Huawei FreeBuds Pro Review
Flying The Flagship
Outstanding audio quality, noise cancelling, comfort and battery life makes the Huawei FreeBuds Pro an excellent choice for anyone looking for premium wireless earphones.
The Good
Audio quality whether music or voice calls is top notch
Excellent noise cancelling
Super comfortable to wear for short or long sessions
Tasty battery life
Dual connectivity and gesture controls are great features
Sexy design
The Bad
Lack of brick-and-mortal retail availability is frustrating
Awareness Mode has a background hiss
No EQ settings in AI Life app

Huawei FreeBuds Pro Review
Flying The Flagship
Outstanding audio quality, noise cancelling, comfort and battery life makes the Huawei FreeBuds Pro an excellent choice for anyone looking for premium wireless earphones.
The Good
Audio quality whether music or voice calls is top notch
Excellent noise cancelling
Super comfortable to wear for short or long sessions
Tasty battery life
Dual connectivity and gesture controls are great features
Sexy design
The Bad
Lack of brick-and-mortal retail availability is frustrating
Awareness Mode has a background hiss
No EQ settings in AI Life app
Written By

Despite a childhood playing survival horrors, point and clicks and beat ’em ups, these days Zach tries to convince people that Homefront: The Revolution is a good game while pining for a sequel to The Order: 1886 and a live-action Treasure Planet film. Carlton, Burnley FC & SJ Sharks fan. Get around him on Twitter @tightinthejorts

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