The FreeBuds Pro are the new wireless earphones from Huawei . They come with improved noise canceling, sound and a new design. Are they worth their relatively high price tag?
Huawei FreeBuds Pro
With the FreeBuds Pro (179.99 euros), Huawei has proposed a flagship when it comes to its wireless earphones. The Pro are a more high-end variant of the FreeBuds 3i that we were able to test at Androidworld in June . In addition to the freeBuds pro, the brand also came with the wireless FreeLace Pro (119 euros) and a first headset, the FreeBuds Studio .
The new FreeBuds Pro get a new design and improvements for the sound and the noise-can-canceling of the earbuds. We put it to the test. Here you can read about the strengths and weaknesses of the ears.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro – the pluses
1. Design and wearing comfort of the ears
The new earbuds are available in Carbon Black, Ceramic White and Silver Frost colors, and the earbuds that could be tested were black. The appearance of the new FreeBuds looks a lot more stylish compared to the 3i, and that is due to the sleeker ‘cubic design’. The ears have a shape with angular lines that at the same time contrasts with the round fit of these in-ear ears.
As far as wearing comfort is concerned, these ears also score very well. The FreeBuds Pro supports three places in the ear and with the ears also come three different fits that you can change. Huawei also has a function in its accompanying AI Life app that allows you to test which fit is best for you. Furthermore, I could continue to use the earbuds for a longer period of time without any problems without it becoming uncomfortable, just like with the 3i.
2. Great sound
How good they sound, the FreeBuds Pro. They go really loud with their 11mm drivers and at all volumes the earbuds are in full control. The sound is not only loud and clear, but the result was also very good in all genres that I could test. Whether you go for the electric guitars of Foo Fighters, the mysterious pop songs of Billie Eilish or a piece of classical music, the sound always sounded balanced.
As for the bass sound, I was also very pleasantly surprised. Bas is certainly present, but only in the songs and the moments where that is also the intention. Take Lost Frequencies’ ‘Reality’, for example, which is an example of a song where low tones sound full at times, but where the other tones also get attention through other parts of the song.
3. Improved handling
The FreeBuds Pro replaces the touch control of the 3i with a combination of touch control and a squeeze functionality. The Pro earbuds have a long end and by squeezing it you can play or pause. If you tap several times in succession, you can switch through numbers and by pressing for a long time you activate awareness mode or noise cancellation. The only thing you use the touch controls for is for swipe gestures that increase or decrease the volume by swiping up or down on the earbuds.
I was pleasantly surprised by the new operation. The FreeBuds 3i could sometimes fail to register your touches, but the pinch actions are a lot more accurate. When you squeeze, you hear a click sound every time, as if you were pressing a button. This makes it easier to perform gestures where you tap three times in quick succession, for example. A strong improvement of Huawei that other manufacturers can learn from. There are still many wireless earpieces where touch control feels like hit or miss.
4. Handy app
As befits a pair of wireless earphones, you can also connect this FreeBuds Pro with an accompanying app, in this case AI Life from Huawei. At first there was some confusion, because the Play Store turned out to be an old version of the app that does not work with this FreeBuds Pro. Fortunately, you can find a QR code in the quick start guide that leads you to the latest version. Huawei Netherlands also told our editorial staff that it is not yet known when the version will be updated in the Play Store. Downloading via the QR code worked smoothly, but the question is whether there will also be problems with future updates for AI Life.
Once everything works, Huawei’s app is pleasant to use, and it also offers many functions. For example, you can adjust the controls of the earphones. By default, by pressing and holding one of the earbuds, you can switch between awareness mode, noise canceling on and the option to turn off both modes. I kept that gesture for the left earpiece and for the right earpiece I use that gesture to open the Google Assistant.
In addition, you can also switch the wearing detection on or off in the app, which is the function that pauses media when you remove the earphones from your ears. I also miss the option in this menu to automatically play after automatic pause when you use the earpiece again. In the app you can also check the battery status of the earphones and charging case and you can update the firmware.
5. Good battery life
The FreeBuds Pro, together with their charging case, have a battery life of a total of 30 hours. The ears themselves are good for 7 hours of use. All in all, they perform just above average compared to the competition. For example, the Buds live from Samsung sing it out for 8 hours and with the case a total of 29 hours. The AirPods from Apple last for 4.5 hours in comparison, and with the case a total of 28.5 hours.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro – the negatives
1. Design of the case
I was previously enthusiastic about the new design of the earbuds, but at the same time I was rather disappointed by the look of the case. The box for the Pro earphones has now been given metal accents to emphasize the premium aspect of the earphones. That is certainly a nice move.
Less convenient is that you can no longer put the ears upright with the lid open. That in itself is certainly not a major disadvantage, but much worse is that you put the earbuds with the end down in the earbuds that time. Previously, you had to place the ears sideways in the case, so you could easily take them out again. With the new design, I never manage to remove an earpiece in one go, and it is always a mess where you try to pick out an earpiece with your fingernail. I really have no idea why Huawei didn’t stick with the old design, which worked fine and looked good. In addition, you can clearly see fingerprints and dust on the box through the shiny plastic of the FreeBuds Pro.
2. Noise cancellation, not a big improvement
With the FreeBuds Pro, Huawei comes with both an awareness mode and noise canceling, both of which use the three different microphones to change the experience of background noise. In awareness mode, the intention is that sounds are amplified in your ears, while the noise canceling wants to filter out background noise.
Huawei promises that the Pro earphones can filter out sounds of up to 40 decibels, in contrast to the 32 decibels of the FreeBuds 3i. In addition, the company uses artificial intelligence to adjust the noise canceling to your environment. This way you get a customized experience whether you are in a quiet library or a busy airport. Huawei switches between the modes ‘Cozy’ (light noise canceling) ‘General’ (medium) or ‘Ultra’ (strong).
In practice, I noticed that the performance of the noise canceling is rather unstable. Sometimes someone could talk to me in a busy supermarket without my noticing, but on the other hand some soft sounds can get through. It also does not help to manually switch on ‘Ultra’ in the app by default. Still, noise canceling is an area for improvement with many wireless earphones and I am looking forward to seeing it improve in subsequent models of earphones. By the way, I was very satisfied with the awareness mode.
3. No equalizer
The FreeBuds Pro have a great app, but what is missing is an equalizer. With some manufacturers of wireless earphones you can adjust the tones in detail in the app, and very often there are also presets depending on the music genre. I miss that with the FreeBuds Pro, especially considering the price of these ears.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro – Conclusion
Huawei has really done a complete overhaul of its FreeBuds 3i in order to arrive at the Freebuds Pro. The earphones have a – largely – improved design with smart controls and a stronger battery life. And don’t forget the sound. That is still the most important aspect of wireless earphones. Huawei has really managed to take the sound to the next level with the FreeBuds Pro.
Yet there are still areas for improvement and for that I am the first to look in the direction of the case, but also at the noise canceling. Although they still do not outweigh the advantages of these ears. They are a real pleasure to use and it proves more than ever that Huawei can also play an important role for us outside the smartphone industry when it comes to consumer technology.