I’m used to ANC earbuds costing quite a bit, so I was pretty shocked when I heard the price of the new Huawei FreeBuds Pro. Not because they’re too expensive, but rather, because they didn’t seem expensive enough.
At just S$238, these earbuds provide an excellent experience and plenty of features, including of course, pretty powerful ANC.
Let’s talk about the design first. These take quite a bit of inspiration from Apple’s AirPods Pro. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re the AirPod Pro for Android phones. The earbuds and case come in three colours, the standard glossy Carbon Black and Ceramic White, as well as a new metallic Silver Frost colour that’s matte and absolutely gorgeous.
The case itself is incredibly portable, small and lightweight enough to slip in the smallest pocket in a pair of jeans. The earbuds are glossy silver, as opposed to the matte silver of the case, and have some resemblance to the AirPods Pro, but Huawei has swapped out the round stem for a cuboid shape which I actually prefer more, and I’ll explain why.
First off, there’s more surface area to swipe and squeeze for gestures. The FreeBuds Pro also come with volume control which requires the user to swipe up and down on one side of the stem. As opposed to what you might expect, it’s actually not the side that’s facing outwards.
This gets explained to users in the Shortcuts tab when setting up the earbuds in the Huawei AI Life app, but it’s definitely an interesting design choice. It’s the same side that you have to squeeze to play/pause, skip tracks, toggle ANC and more though, so there’s at least a bit of continuity in the design language.
The earbuds themselves use oval-shaped gel tips which might not fit nicely into everybody’s ears. I typically am fine with a medium, but I had to size up to the large tips to get a more secure and comfortable fit. The tips and earbuds themselves are pretty comfortable though, with no pain even after wearing them for a long while.
The sound quality is pretty great too. You get a well-balanced, energetic sound with powerful bass. It’s definitely tuned for the general public, and it works well with most mainstream genres.
That being said, it doesn’t quite match up to more expensive true wireless earbuds with ANC like the Sony WF-1000XM3 or the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 when you compare sound quality. The reality is that those are almost twice as expensive as the FreeBuds Pro, and expectations do have to be adjusted based on the price of the earbuds.
The bass does get slightly affected when turning ANC on, but that’s not something that’s unique to the FreeBuds Pro. You do lose a bit of clarity and detail, but I can confidently say that the ANC makes up for it.
There are three levels, Cozy, General and Ultra. Cozy is designed for quieter environments like a cafe perhaps, while General is just as the name describes. Ultra is meant for noisier environments like in a plane or train. There’s also a Dynamic mode, which automatically toggles between the levels based on environmental noise. I typically don’t use these type of auto-mode switching features because they never really perform as I would like them to.
The one that Huawei has implemented, though, works excellently. Moving from my apartment down to the pick-up area at my lobby and finally into a taxi resulted in corresponding shifts in the levels.
Even in cars or trains, the ANC worked very effectively to block out low rumbling noises. I did notice the occasional music poking through, or the train announcer when announcements were made, but all of the rumblings were cancelled out. This would be a great pair of ANC earbuds to bring on flights when travel resumes.
There’s an Awareness mode, which works pretty well, and there’s a toggle to Enhance Voices, making the microphones more attuned to picking up voices. I found this worked not just with human voices, but even birds chirping sounded louder.
There are three microphones on each earbud, with two outward-facing mics on the stem and one inward-facing mic inside to pick up any noise that might have leaked in. This not only helps with the ANC but also results in very clear calls. Even with a fan blowing at my head, my colleagues couldn’t hear wind noise and they felt that my voice was clear.
Battery life is decent, with an estimated 4.5h of music playback with ANC enabled and 7h with ANC turned off. Of course, this depends on how loud you have your music playing, and I managed to eke out another 10 minutes on top of the estimated time by having my music playing at just 40% thanks to how effective the ANC was.
With the case, the FreeBuds Pro can last up to 20h with ANC on and 30h with ANC off. It’s not the best, but it’s definitely not the worst. The case charges via USB-C and also supports wireless charging, so if you’re using a Huawei phone like me, you can reverse wireless charge these, which is nice and convenient.
The earbuds run on Huawei’s Kirin A1 chip with Bluetooth 5.2, which means excellent connection, and I didn’t notice any dropouts while testing them. There’s also IPX4 water resistance on these, so no worries about sweat if you’re going to exercise with them.
Pairing the earbuds with Android phones is incredibly easy too, and if you’re using a Huawei phone, simply opening the case next to the phone will result in a pop-up that asks if you’d like to pair the two.
The one major downside I can see with the FreeBuds Pro is that since the Huawei AI Life app isn’t available on iPhones, I can’t recommend them for iPhone users. For people who are already entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem, the AirPods Pro will still be the best choice.
But for Android phone users, and especially Huawei phone users, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro is an absolute gem that shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking for earbuds in this price range.
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro (S$238) are available for preorder in Singapore from 1-10 November 2020, and there is a preorder discount of S$10 as well as freebies (wireless charger and silicone casing) worth up to S$96. Preorders are available in all Huawei Concept stores, selected consumer electronic stores including Best Denki, Challenger, Courts, Harvey Norman and official online stores with Lazada and Shopee.