According to their advertising, Huawei Free Buds Pro want to redefine active noise cancellation. They are packed full of the latest technology and try to set themselves apart from the competition with their own distinctive style, despite all the similarity in terms of design. But to take advantage of all the advantages and features offered by the FreeBuds Pro, you must already have a current Huawei smartphone.
What’s in the box?
FreeBuds Pro, available in black, white or silver, are delivered in a box together with their charging case, three earpieces (S, M, L), a USB-C to USB-A cable and a quick start guide. The charging case can be charged either by cable or wirelessly according to the Qi standard. The in-ears are a little reluctant to be removed from their charging wells and it’s a bit fiddly because your fingers can get caught on the lid of the case, and the rounded backs of the FreeBuds are difficult to grip. As soon as you get them out, the initial pairing is completed automatically. You can press an almost invisible button on the side of the case later to make a new pairing.
Inside the FreeBuds Pro, the in-house Kirin A1 chip operates with Bluetooth 5.2, which theoretically provides LE Audio and the LC3 codec, which in the future will provide better sound at lower data rates and many other improvements. However, the FreeBuds Pro do not support this new, better codec, but are content with SBC and AAC. The 11-millimetre dynamic drivers transmit in a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20.000 Hz. Furthermore, Multi-Connect is available, i.e. you can connect two devices at the same time. The headphones then decide which they remain actively connected to according to signal strength. If you stop the music on the first Smartphone and start it on the other, the change of player works seamlessly. And if a call comes in on the first device, the system automatically switches to it – which is very practical.
The design of the FreeBuds Pro is reminiscent of that of the competition but offers a welcome change due to the striking angular bars, which are very easy to grip. However, an IPX class is not specified. To achieve good to very good active noise suppression, we found that silicone attachments on the in-ears were a good first step – if one of the three sizes supplied fits and seals the ear canal well without creating a bridge for impact sound, then they are relatively effective in mechanically excluding the outside world.
It’s also beneficial to install the AI-Life app on a current Huawei Smartphone, but you can only load it from the Huawei App-Gallery, because the latest version is only available there (up to the time of this test); this also recognises the in-ears. The AI-Life-Version from the Google Playstore does not (yet) recognise the FreeBuds Pro. In the app, you can do a fit test, in which a piece of music is played while the software checks if the ear canal is optimally filled.
However, there are more features in the app: The charge status of each in-ear and the charging case is displayed, the ANC or awareness mode can be activated, some of the remote gestures can be adjusted, the device search and wear detection can be set and updates can be made. All that’s missing is an equalizer so you can adjust your sound.
However, you can get over the missing equalizer, because the sound of the FreeBuds Pro is quite authentic – if you switch on the ANC. Rich and balanced with good representation of frequencies from the low bass to the airy trebles, the FreeBuds Pro delivers an open and warm, well-penetrating and spacious picture that doesn’t drop out or become unpleasantly prominent. Crisp and round with enough pressure and clarity – I liked that very much and there was nothing to prevent fatigue-free listening. With the ANC switched off, they need an equalizer that makes the basses fuller and the mids a bit more dense.
Hybrid Noise Cancelling is supplied with outward and inward microphones and the cancellation results are satisfactory. A noisy construction site where a stone cutter was being used was robbed of its booming deep bass and only the high whirring of the rotating disc reached my ears, it was still loud button longer as loud. In the app, you can set different modes for this, from “Ultra” to “Standard” to “Low”, which produces a different degree of reduction to the low and middle frequencies.
The “Dynamic” setting leaves it up to the local noise to determine the degree of reduction which Huawei then markets as “intelligent dynamic active noise cancelling”. This works well, but the best isolation is simply “Ultra”. But since this mode also drains the battery the fastest, the dynamic adjustment is the ideal setting for the ANC, and this is also not as susceptible to wind noise as some of its competitors.
Awareness Mode allows you to let the outside world in through the microphones, and also gives a little background noise. With the option “emphasise voices” this noise is slightly reduced and bass transmission is increased, which sounds more natural. You can switch off both ANC and Awareness completely, which is pretty good.
The FreeBuds Pro’s microphones have a good, pleasantly full sound but the constantly active noise reduction is clearly audible, making the voice at the other end of a call a little “wobbly”.
There are two narrow slits on the angular bars of these in-ears and a tiny switch is embedded in between. If you stroke over the slits from top to bottom, the volume gets quieter, likewise, stroke from bottom to top and it gets louder. If you tap on the button nothing happens at first. Contrary to the manufacturer’s description, you don’t tap the button, you have to take the bar in your fingers and then press it. A gentle click of the microswitch confirms that the system is ready to be controlled and you can then adjust playback, calls, ANC, awareness and voice assistants accordingly. All this always worked very well and reliably.
These in-ears should run for four hours with and seven hours without ANC. Thanks to the dynamic noise suppression they could even slightly exceed four hours. This is not an unusually high runtime but with the charging case a maximum runtime of 30 hours net is possible in all.
You get a great combination with the FreeBuds Pro, especially with a current Huawei Smartphone and the matching AI-Life-App, which combines modern features like Multipoint, a solid, dynamic ANC and excellent sound to make a well-rounded package; it actually only needs an equalizer to be perfect. For older Android devices and iOS users, the lack of an app means that the FreeBuds Pro’s default settings are a little less powerful, but ANC, Awareness and all remote functions can still be switched on at the ear.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Weight without cableeach approx. 6,1 g, case net: approx. 60 g
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of ear tips (S, M, L)
- USB-C charging cable
- Charging case
- available in black, white and silver
- BT codecs: aptX, AAC, SBC
- BT version: 5.2
- BT profiles A2DP 1.3, HFP 1.7, AVRCP 1.6