I came into this review with high expectations since I just finished reviewing the excellent Huawei FreeBuds Pro earbuds and was very impressed with them. Unfortunately, Huawei’s first ANC over-ear headphones, the Huawei FreeBuds Studio, didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting in some areas.
Let’s start off with how the headphones look. These actually look great. I got some compliments wearing these out, and for the most part, both the shape of the saffiano leather-esque carrying case and the way the headphones sit in the case are quite similar to how the (much more expensive) Bowers & Wilkins PX7 look.
I don’t like how bulky the case is, but I can’t deny the saffiano leather texture makes it look and feel really premium. Thumbs up to Huawei here.
On to the headphones. I find the headband a bit thin, and as a result, the headband has to sit slightly further forward on my head than other headphones to feel secure. It’s not a big deal, but I also did notice some pinching at the start before the headband became more comfortable.
With regards to the earcup cushions, I honestly think Huawei could have gone with plusher earcups. As it is, the cushions are quite shallow and people with bigger ears will find their ears rubbing against the layer of foam inside because the drivers seem to be angled.
Here’s a photo comparing the FreeBuds Studio to the Sony WF-1000XM4, which I love for their comfort. While the cushioning looks plusher than the WF-1000XM4, the space inside the earcups is a bit less shallow. That’s not to say that the FreeBuds Studio isn’t comfortable. They are, but I think Huawei could have just put a bit more cushioning in and it would be pretty darn close to perfect.
But more than comfort, sound quality and ANC are the most important factors. And I can confidently say that the sound quality on the headphones is great. With an emphasis on bass, the general listener will definitely have a great time with these.
Mids and highs are very well balanced as well, but if you listen to mainstream pop, rock, or genres that have heavy basslines, you’ll enjoy these headphones. There’s a fun, warm musicality to these headphones that’s very similar to the WF-1000XM4.
Unfortunately, ANC is hit and miss. It does reduce low rumbling noises effectively, but I found that it works well only when you get a good fit with the headphones. If you open your mouth for whatever reason, you end up with space between the earcups and your face, and then noise leaks in.
Granted, this could be an issue because I wear spectacles and I’m never going to get as good a fit since the arms of my spectacles will always be there. But this problem doesn’t show itself all that much with other headphones I’ve tried, so I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s in part because the earcup cushions aren’t as plush.
That being said though, the ANC does work, and I found the Ultra setting to be quite good. I do think that the ANC on the FreeBuds Pro is better though, simply because I get a better seal with the earbuds.
There’s also touch controls on the earcups, and they’re intuitive. Up and down for volume, left and right for track skipping, double tap for call answering/rejection as well as play/pause.
Battery life is pretty good, although not the best. You get around 20 hours on a full charge with ANC turned on, which is enough for most people, honestly.
The headphones also run on Bluetooth 5.2, which is good for connection stability. They also support multipoint connection, so if you want to use these with two different devices, you can. Unfortunately, there’s no aptX support here since the FreeBuds Studio are using Huawei’s Kirin A1 chip.
There is, however, Huawei’s own L2HC high-res audio codec. The downside? It’s only available on devices running EMUI 11. Right now, EMUI 11 is still in beta, although Huawei is expected to release the stable version starting from December 2020.
Despite all that though, I think it’s a pretty strong showing from Huawei for their first over-ear headphone. At S$398, it’s cheaper than most other ANC headphones and the sound quality is really good. Hopefully, Huawei is able to improve the ANC through future firmware updates, but even if they don’t, I’m looking forward to seeing the next generation of this product.
More information about the Huawei FreeBuds Studio (S$398) and purchase options can be found on Huawei’s website.
Written by Cheryl Tan