With the FreeBuds 4i, Huawei introduce a cheaper and technically slimmed-down version of the FreeBuds Pro. The new headphones offer a sleek design, active Noise-Cancelling and long battery life. On the other hand, they do without the dynamic ANC of the FreeBuds Pro. Here we take a look at what the other differences are.
The FreeBuds 4i come neatly packaged in a plain white box. They are available in white, black and red. In addition to the in-ears, the charging case, a USB cable and earpieces in three sizes (S, M and L) are included in the package. When you open the somewhat too-slippery lid of the pleasantly smooth, oval charging case, the earphones immediately start looking for a player – in my case, the Huawei smartphone Mate 40 Pro. In terms of workmanship and appearance, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i are without fault and really make a statement, especially considering the price, which is below the 100 Euro mark.
App Gallery, Play Store or App Store
To get the most out of these in-ears, it is worth installing the free “AI-Life” app, which is only available in the Huawei App Gallery of a current device and is also only able to recognise the FreeBuds 4i in this version and, in contrast to the version from the Google Play Store, to display all functions. The current version from Apple’s App Store also did not recognise the FreeBuds 4i at the time of testing. This was not a disaster, as all functions can be controlled via the FreeBuds 4i. However, no updates can be installed, nor can the pre-set touch functions be changed.
The FreeBuds 4i fit comfortably and unobtrusively in the ear. However, the earpieces do not offer IP certification for protection against water and sweat. Tap gesture control is reliable, though limited. The ANC modes can be switched through with a long tap, play/stop and track jumps forward can be triggered with a single and double-tap, and as mentioned, the actions can also be adjusted in the app. A volume control, on the other hand, is missing. If you take the FreeBuds 4i out of your ear, playback stops and resumes as soon as you put them back in.
The active noise cancellation works quite mildly. For example, I can only hear the neighbour’s lawnmower at a slightly reduced level and in the bass range. The bus in front of the house doesn’t really want to disappear either, nor do the passing cars. Apart from the discreet lowering of the low frequencies, nothing much happens.
Positive aspects are the low noise level and the extremely low interference in the sound image. Everything remains as it should be and the common emphasis on the mids does not occur. If you switch to awareness mode, i.e. add the external microphones, the noise level increases as expected, but you are in better communication with your surroundings. At the same time, these in-ears sound less artificial than some of the competition. In summary, I consider the integrated noise cancelling with awareness mode to be a nice addition, but one should not expect too much from it due to the restrained tuning.
Thanks to the FreeBuds 4i’s noise-cancelling system and the built-in microphones, phone calls are well intelligible, although the electronics intervene heavily when the noise level rises and the voice is audibly distorted, which is not so noticeable in quieter surroundings. In terms of battery life, in continuous operation, the claim is for ten hours but seven hours are closer to reality. In my case, the 4i wanted to go into the case after eight hours of mixed use – sometimes with, sometimes without ANC – and they were fully charged again after about an hour and a half, which the case allows twice before it has to go to the “charging station” itself.
After the right choice of earpieces, the velvety-smooth polished FreeBuds 4i fit comfortably and sufficiently firmly in the ears. Isolation from the outside world was decent, which is a basic requirement for noise cancellation to work well.
The first sound impression, delivered via Bluetooth 5.2 via AAC to the 10 mm dynamic drivers, was promising: “Artifice” by Sohn is powerful and accentuated in airy clarity. The mix, with a lot of electronic gimmicks, is well reproduced with sufficient spatial imaging in depth and width. In the bass range, I might have wished for more pressure, but effervescence and freshness leave a good impression. The shimmering and fluffy sound elements of Schiller are reproduced just as well, although the somewhat too slim bass range is noticeable here as well. It generally sounds spikier and tighter, especially at the upper volume limit, where it becomes rather unpleasant.
Huawei’s app itself does not offer any sound control, but if you use the EQ of the Spotify app, for example, you can quickly and easily adjust the sound to your own needs. The voice on Taylor Swift’s “Willow” now nestles all velvety in my ear, and the bass is also pleasantly warm. The sound is now pleasantly round and dense. “All we got” by Robin Schulz offers a certain punch, even if it is not bone-dry or felt particularly deeply in the pit of the stomach. In dense rock productions, however, the bass content was not enough for me. And in the midrange, the rough character of heavy guitars does not sufficiently come to the fore – it simply lacked “size”.
The Huawei FreeBuds 4i are somewhat restrained in both bass and noise cancelling. However, when you wear these chic in-ears for a longer period of time, you first notice how comfortable and snug they are and how suitable they are for everyday pop music and podcasts. The sound rating varies between satisfactory and good. The fact that the FreeBuds 4i can be used without an app is good news, especially for iPhone users, even if details like a pairing display and more comprehensive status messages are missing. In view of the favourable price, we recommend that you take a closer look.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cableapprox. 5.5 g
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of ear tips in 3 sizes
- USB-C charging cable (USB-A to USB-C)
- Charging case
- available in black, white and red
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC
- BT version: 5.2
- BT profiles: A2DP 1.3/HFP 1.7/AVRCP 1.6, RFCOMM 1.2, SPP 1.2, AVCTP 1.4 and AVDTP 1.3