ADVERTISEMENT

Huawei FreeBuds 6i

True Wireless in-ears with ANC and hi-res audio for under 100 euros

In a nutshell

Even in their 6th generation, the Huawei FreeBuds 6i look elegant and function as sophisticated in-ears at an affordable price. In terms of sound, they are right in the middle of the solid mid-range and do not demonstrate any excessive agility in the treble and bass- particularly if you leave them in the factory settings. However, if you seek the help of the equaliser in the AI Live app, then these headphones are able to reach their potential. You have to be aware that Huawei is subject to a US embargo and has been banned from the Google Play Store. So, you will have to take a diversion via the Huawei homepage to download the associated AI Life app. If you are prepared to go down this route, you will have control over almost all the functions of these in-ears.

Pros:
  • Long battery life
  • Light in weight
  • Comfortable fit
  • Good voice quality during calls
Cons:
  • Somewhat midrange-heavy sound
  • ANC and awareness mode with varying background noise
  • Somewhat cumbersome installation of the app
  • Twisted positioning of the earpiece in the case
ADVERTISEMENT

Almost exactly a year ago, the Huawei FreeBuds 5i were introduced to our editorial team and we gave them a score of a very respectable four stars. Now, the 6i are set to take over from their predecessors. Let us see and hear whether they succeed.

Differences between the Huawei FreeBuds 6i and the FreeBuds 5i

In terms of the shape of the charging cradle and the earbuds, looks-wise, nothing has changed. The somewhat inelegant positioning of these in-ears has also been retained; they sit in the charging cradle with the ear moulds facing outwards, and therefore, you still need to rotate them 180 degrees to remove them from the case. However, the inner workings have been completely overhauled, with the old 10mm drivers being replaced by dynamic quad magnet drivers that had a diaphragm diameter of 11mm. This increases the still extremely light weight by half a gram to 5.4 grams per earpiece. The charging case’s previous, slightly marbled colouring has been dispensed with in favour of a consistent colour scheme, meaning that the FreeBuds 6i are now available in three colour variants: white, purple and black.

Technology of the Huawei FreeBuds 6i

In terms of technical specifications, the FreeBuds 6i are at the cutting edge: They promise to deliver a frequency response of 14 Hz to 40 kHz, transmit via Bluetooth 5.3 and have Bluetooth codecs SBC, AAC, LDAC and L2HC 2.0. This means they are also able to play high-res audio. The FreeBuds 6i have a “noise filtering chamber” – a type of Helmholtz resonator that is particularly effective in the range between 1 kHz and 3 kHz – this prevents external noise from interfering with your enjoyment of the music.

Handling / App

When travelling, the FreeBuds 6i are protected by an oval charging case with a flush closure that seals with a loud “click”. At 510 mAh, the case holds enough battery capacity for four full charges of the in-ears, which gives you a playing time of up to eight hours (without ANC) and five hours (with ANC).

ADVERTISEMENT

Elementary operations such as adjusting the volume (swipe up/down), changing ANC modes (press and hold) or starting/pausing playback (double tap) can be carried out without having to consult the manual. However, further actions such as setting the ANC algorithm, using the equaliser or updating the firmware require the installation of the associated AI Live app.

After the US government categorised Huawei’s products as no longer trustworthy, the US company Google has also banned the Chinese manufacturer from both services and apps. Huawei apps can no longer be found in Google’s Play Store. Instead, you must first install Huawei’s Play Store alternative AppGallery directly from the Huawei website and from there, you can access the AI Live app. However, when we tested this on our Android mobile phone (Samsung) it turned out to be quite tricky to install the two apps, as the Android system warned us against the installation several times.

ADVERTISEMENT

Once you have overcome this hurdle, the app offers a variety of settings to customise the FreeBuds 6i to suit your personal preferences – including the option to redefine all touch gestures.

Noise cancelling and transparency mode of the Huawei FreeBuds 6i

The app gives you access to the four noise-cancelling algorithms. “Dynamic” and “Ultra” have a slight background noise, with “Dynamic” selecting the appropriate setting from 34 noise scenarios within 2.6 microseconds, according to the manufacturer. However, this was accompanied by a distinctly audible frequency change in the background noise, which was somewhat annoying. “Balanced” and “Low”, on the other hand, were much quieter – although the noise cancellation here was correspondingly gentler to the outside world. But as the saying goes: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Of course, the ANC can also be completely deactivated so that these in-ears only provide passive attenuation.

There is also a transparency mode (“Awareness Mode”) where the three integrated microphones amplify external sound. This function also worked well – however, a slight background noise was also perceptible, and this sometimes inexplicably switched off, only to become audible again shortly after.

How do the Huawei FreeBuds 6i sound?

The manufacturer claims a frequency response of 14 Hz to 40 kHz for the FreeBuds 6i. In practice, this had no audible effect on the perceptible sound spectrum because it lies outside the range of human hearing. However, the FreeBuds 6i’s factory settings demonstrated a slight emphasis in the mid-range, which on the one hand, naturally ensured good speech intelligibility for podcasts and phone calls, but on the other, made dance and hip-hop productions seem a little less fun to listen to. This was mainly due to the pre-set equaliser mode “Hi-Fi Live”. If you use the app to switch to “Standard”, “Symphony” or – even better – create your own equaliser signature, the FreeBuds 6i presents a whole lot more bass boost and treble sparkle.

Phone calls were also a pleasure to make, as the voice quality was really good thanks to a 3-microphone system at both ends of the line.

Conclusion

After the US embargo, it is not necessarily easy for Huawei products to continue to play a leading role in the European market – especially as they have previously relied on services from American companies (in this case “Google”). It is, therefore, all the more astonishing to see that in a very short space of time, Huawei has managed to programme a platform (AppGallery) that is largely on a par with the Google Play Store. If you get involved and use the FreeBuds 6i in conjunction with the AI Live app to control and personalise these in-ears, you will get a pair of pretty stylish earphones for less than a hundred euros, which – if you adjust the sound in the software equaliser – deliver a whole lot of listening pleasure. The touch controls on these in-ears worked quickly and reliably, and with an IP54 protection rating (resistant to splashes of water and dust), nothing stands in the way of them being used for sport.

2 weeks ago by Numinos
  • Rating: 3.75
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingIn-ear
  • Typeclosed
  • Transducer principledynamic
  • Frequency response (headphones)14 - 40.000 Hz
  • Weight without cable5.4g each, case 34 g
  • Cable length25 cm

What's in the box

  • 3 pairs of ear tips (S, M, L)
  • USB-C charging cable
  • Charging case

Special features

  • Available in black, white and purple
  • BT version: 5.3
  • BT codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC, L2HC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ADVERTISEMENT