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Huawei FreeLace Pro review: Function over style
Huawei FreeBuds Pro
What we like
What we don't like
Huawei is back with another pair of solid headphones. This time we’re looking at the Huawei FreeLace Pro, the company’s sporty neckband-style wireless earbuds.
Following their launch in September, the Huawei FreeLace Pro are now available in Europe, where they sell for €119.
After spending a few weeks with the product, the FreeLace Pro look like great value for money. Here’s what you need to know about them in Android Authority’s Huawei FreeLace Pro review.
Huawei FreeLace Pro specs and tech
- Total length: 862.4mm
- Weight: 34 grams
- Colors: Obsidian Black, Spruce Green, Dawn White
- Speaker: 14.2mm moving coil
- Battery: 150mAh
- Battery life: up to 24 hours
- Charging time: about 60 minutes
- Water and dust resistance: IP55
- ANC: dual ANC, three microphones for call noise reduction
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C
- Controls: touch (left earbud only), physical keys
What’s it like to use the FreeLace Pro?
The FreeLace Pro features a “neckband” design — with a flexible neckband that just hangs like a necklace when you’re not listening to the earbuds. My initial FreeLace Pro impression was that the cables were a bit too long, but I quickly got used to it. The length is, in fact, necessary to be able to comfortably sport the neckband even when wearing jackets or other bulkier clothing. At 34 grams, the FreeLace Pro is light enough for extended use.
The earbuds’ backs are magnetic, so they stick together when you connect them, which prevents excessive dangling and automatically disconnects the earbuds from your phone or PC. I used the Spruce Green model for this review, which looks great, but you can select from black and cream-white models too. The neckband is made of a rubbery material, with two metal sections housing the controls and batteries.
Unless you have small ears, the non-detachable wingtips will probably be too small to serve their purpose. I didn’t find this to be a major issue though, as the FreeLace Pro fit my ears quite well.
Also read: Best headphones under $100 of 2020
Overall, the FreeLace Pro look quite similar to last year’s FreeLace, the biggest difference being the added wingtips. This is a good, sturdy design that stands out against the multitude of true wireless earbuds out there. While the FreeLace Pro headset is less seamless than a completely wire-free solution, it could be the better choice for active users.
Huawei FreeLace Pro controls
The FreeBuds Pro include touch controls in the left earbud only — a tap-and-hold gesture cycles through the three ANC modes: on, Awareness, and off. In Awareness mode, certain frequencies from the ambient noise are amplified and passed through, to ensure you hear them. This is handy if you want to talk to the store cashier without removing the earbuds.
Besides the touch controls, I liked the inclusion of physical controls on the right-hand section. Here’s a diagram that shows exactly what you can do with these controls.
Do the FreeLace Pro earbuds feature noise cancellation?
Yes! The main feature upgrade compared to the 2019 FreeLace is the addition of active noise-cancelling (ANC). “Active” means that the earbuds generate noises that overlap with and cancel out certain sounds coming from the outside. The effect is most noticeable with low-frequency, constant noises like the humming of a vacuum cleaner or a car engine.
The FreeLace Pro buds have in-ear designs that completely seal to the ear canal, which ensures excellent isolation. Passive isolation is key to optimal active noise cancellation, so you can enjoy your music even in noisy environments.
The ANC worked very well on my Huawei FreeLace Pro review unit. To get an idea of their effectiveness, I was able to listen to my bossa nova playlist on Spotify at a medium level, while my wife was using our noisy vacuum cleaner just feet away.
While the FreeLace Pro ANC is no slouch, the noise-cancelling is even better on the FreeBuds Pro, Huawei’s true wireless earbuds. However, those are much more expensive at €179/£179.
What’s the sound quality like on the FreeLace Pro?
Considering the price, I was expecting the FreeLace Pro to sound mediocre. I was pleasantly surprised that they actually offer great sound, that’s further enhanced by the noise-cancelling.
The FreeLace Pro are definitely bass-heavy compared to the older FreeBuds 3. They are more similar in this regard to the FreeBuds 3i that I recently reviewed. The passive isolation, which doesn’t let sound leak out, may have something to do with this. Despite this, I didn’t find the FreeLace Pro’s bass response overbearing. Sound in the low end of the spectrum never masked vocals, like it happened occasionally on the FreeBuds 3i.
I am not super picky about my earphones, and consider myself more of a general consumer. Casual listeners will probably be as pleased with the Huawei FreeLace Pro’s sound signature as I was.
After using both the FreeLace Pro and the FreeBuds Pro for a while, they both sound pretty great, despite the €60 difference.
How about battery life?
On paper, the FreeLace Pro earbuds are a great performer — Huawei claims the batteries can power the buds for up to 24 hours on a single charge. This performance edges out the FreeBuds 3, which are rated for 20 hours with the charging case.
The best part about the FreeLace Pro is you don’t need to carry a case around. When the battery dies out, you can easily charge the earbuds with the built-in USB-C connector, from any USB-C charger, PC, or even phone supporting USB-C OTG. If you travel or commute a lot, that means you have a little more flexibility.
In real life, the FreeLace Pro definitely came close to its rated battery spec. Your specific style of use — volume, ANC use — will impact your mileage, but you’re probably going to be satisfied. Do note that ANC is a power hungry feature, sapping up to a third of battery life according to Huawei’s figures. If you’re going to mostly use the FreeLace Pro in quiet environments, disable noise-cancelling.
What I like about the FreeLace Pro
- Sturdy, practical design: The FreeLace Pro is not minimalistic, and it doesn’t look particularly futuristic. Even still, this headset gets the job done. As someone coming from true wireless earbuds, these neckbuds are refreshingly fuss-free.
- Good sound quality and ANC: The passive isolation and the ANC help drown out the outside world, allowing the speakers to drive a pleasing bass-heavy sound.
- Quick connection: The earbuds connected to my PC or phone in the couple of seconds it took me to pry the magnetic earbuds apart and stick them in my ears. That made it easy and fun to switch between headphones and device speakers.
What I don’t like about the FreeLace Pro
- The touch controls: To cycle through the ANC modes (on, transparency, and off), you need to long-tap the left earbud. This gesture was a bit hard to get right from the first try.
- No wear detection: If you take the earbuds off and don’t stick them together, playback continues. I would have preferred automatic wear detection.
Huawei FreeLace Pro review: Should you buy it?
The Huawei FreeLace Pro are a great choice for those who want the comfort and ease of use of wireless earbuds, but also want more battery life, portability, and ruggedness compared to what typical true wireless earphones afford.
This headset is ideal for outdoorsy folk and athletes, given its IP55 rating and up to 24 hours of battery life. I have no problem recommending the FreeLace Pro for regular users who want great ANC and sound quality in an affordable package.
Alternatives to the FreeLace Pro include the Plantronics BackBeat Go 410, the RHA T20 Wireless, and the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2. For a more in-depth look at options in this category, check out the roundup put together by our sister site SoundGuys.
At €119, the FreeLace Pro delivers plenty of value. It may not be as advanced and stylish as the FreeBuds Pro, but if you’re waffling between the two, give the FreeLace Pro serious consideration. The €60 you can save is nothing to scoff at, and the feature sets are comparable.
That wraps up our Huawei FreeLace Pro review. Do you like this product? Tell us in the comments.