Wireless earbuds are one of the most dynamic product categories in consumer electronics today. From budget players to luxury brands, everyone is releasing their own slightly different take on the concept, giving buyers a dizzying array of choices.
Also read: The best true wireless earbuds
Following last year’s FreeBuds 3 and their cheaper variant FreeBuds 3i, Huawei is back with the FreeBuds Pro. These true wireless earbuds don’t stand out through huge new features, but they do keep up with the competition. And by “competition,” we mainly mean Apple’s AirPods Pro, which are the obvious source of inspiration for the FreeBuds Pro.
So what are the FreeBuds Pro like? Should you buy them? Find out in Android Authority’s Huawei FreeBuds Pro review.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro at a glance
The new FreeBuds Pro are Huawei’s highest-end and most advanced true wireless earbuds. They’ll be available around Europe starting October 2020. Huawei initially announced the FreeBuds Pro would cost €199. A company representative later told Android Authority the earbuds would actually retail for €179.
The FreeBuds Pro are the successor to the FreeBuds 3. Huawei also recently launched the FreeLace Pro, which are neckband-style wireless earbuds – check them out if you want a more rugged and flexible alternative to true wireless earbuds.
Huawei's most advanced true wireless earbuds yet
The most important upgrade to the FreeBuds Pro is their silicone ear tips that insulate your ear canals from outside noises. This allows the active noise cancelling (ANC) to work much better than on the open-fit FreeBuds 3.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro review: Tech and specs
- Weight: 6.1g (per earbud); 60g (charging case)
- Colors: Ceramic White, Carbon Black, Silver Frost
- Processor: Kirin A1
- ANC: up to 40dB
- Driver: 11mm dynamic
- Bone sensor
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, dual-device connectivity supported
- Antennas: dual
- Battery capacity: 55mAh (per earbud), 580mAh (charging case)
- Battery life (music playback): 7h (ANC off); 4.5h (ANC on). With charging case: 30h (ANC off); 20h (ANC on)
- Charging methods: USB-C, wireless
- Charging time: 40 minutes (earbuds); 1h charging case (wired); 2h (wireless)
What do the FreeBuds Pro sound like?
For the most part, the FreeBuds Pro sound excellent, with no obvious issues that may put the average user off.
Compared to the FreeBuds 3, the new FreeBuds Pro emphasize the lower end a bit more, and seem to downplay vocals. It really depends on your own preferences which sound profile you prefer. Personally I tend to favor the FreeBuds 3, but if you enjoy bass-heavy genres you’ll probably want to opt for the FreeBuds Pro.
The FreeBuds Pro sound excellent
The FreeBuds Pro are miles ahead of the previous generation when it comes to insulation. Using one of the three included pairs of silicone tips, you can shut out a lot of the outside noise, and that’s even before turning on ANC. This mitigates auditory masking, which is the technical term for what happens when you can’t really hear your music because the neighbor upstairs is doing home improvement again.
The earbuds come with “dynamic equalization,” meaning the multiple mics analyze the environment optimize the listening experience for the media being played.
Is the noise cancelling good?
The open-fit FreeBuds 3 technically had ANC, but it was so weak you couldn’t notice it in most cases. That changes with the FreeBuds Pro, which have the advantage of passive insulation thanks to the ear tips.
Huawei claims up to 40dB of noise reduction, though it’s not clear which frequencies are covered by this claim. Walking down a busy street with the FreeBuds Pro, I noticed a real drop in car noise, especially the deeper hums. That’s even without any music playing. Don’t expect any miracles though. Like all ANC headphones, noise cancelling works on monotone, low-frequency sounds, while voices, car horns, or sirens easily go through.
Using Huawei’s AI Life app (available for all Android devices), you can switch between ANC strength levels, going from “Cozy” (for quiet environments) to “Ultra” (ideal for loud situations like the inside of a plane cabin). In Auto mode, the headphones will switch ANC modes on their own.
What is Awareness mode?
Awareness is Huawei’s take on the feature Apple popularized under the “Transparency” name. Basically, in Awareness mode, the earbuds let through certain mid- and high- frequency sounds, allowing you to better hear people talking around you or important announcements while you wait for your plane to board.
We’ve seen Awareness mode on the FreeBuds 3i before, but Huawei has added a Voices mode that does what the name says. I was kind of skeptical initially, but it really does work. The effect is almost eerie, amplifying voices almost like a hearing aid.
How do you control the FreeBuds Pro?
For the first time on Huawei true wireless earbuds, you can control volume through touch gestures. Simply slide your finger up or down over the front-facing side of the earbud’s stem. This changes the volume in 10% increments; it’s a bit annoying that you may need to repeat the gesture several times, but it’s still a great option to have.
Playlist navigation is controlled through pinch gestures. Pinch the earbud stem once to pause/resume, twice to skip to the next song, or three times to jump to the previous song. It’s pretty intuitive once you get the hang of it.
I prefer this new (again, Apple-inspired) control system over other earbuds’ taps-based controls. Tapping on an in-ear bud is not exactly pleasant.
Do the FreeBuds Pro have good battery life?
Huawei rates the FreeBuds Pro at 7h of battery life (music playback) with ANC turned off, and 4.5h with ANC on. That’s a big jump from las year, when you could expect around 4-4.5h with ANC off. It’s clear Huawei managed to stuff more battery in the two earbuds, which are noticeably heavier than on the FreeBuds 3.
7h of continuous playback on one charge is a big jump from last year
If you take the charging case (also heavier than last year) into account, total battery life can reach 30h of music playback with ANC off, and 20h with ANC on.
If you only use your earphones for calls, you should expect shorter battery life: up to 18h with the charging case included and ANC off.
In my experience, you can definitely get close to the rated battery life, especially if you don’t listen at a high volume. At their rated battery life, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro rank in the upper section of SoundGuys’ ranking of true wireless earbuds.
What I like about the FreeBuds Pro
- Great battery life: Seven hours of battery life and charging in 40 minutes are more than enough for most users.
- The controls: Once you get the hang of it, the touch controls become second nature.
- The insulation: ANC and silicone ear tips insulate you from the world.
- Dual device support: You can connect the FreeBuds Pro to your phone and your PC (or other devices) at the same time. While you can’t play media at the same time, you can listen to music on Spotify and take calls from your phone. Furthermore, the FreeBuds Pro will automatically connect to your last two used devices when you take them out of the case.
What I don’t like about the FreeBuds Pro
- The charging case is cramped: The design of the charging case makes it difficult to remove the earbuds from it. It can be a nuisance on the move or when your hands are wet. There’s a trick that makes it easier, but it’s not obvious – pushing the buds with the tip of your thumb makes them pop out slightly from the case.
- Less comfortable: Compared to the open-fit FreeBuds 3, the FreeBuds Pro are a little less comfortable to wear for hours and hours at an end.
- Some features are exclusive to Huawei: This is becoming an issue with more and more manufacturers – you’ll only get to enjoy Auto-Pairing and Ultra-low Latency connection with a recent Huawei device. Furthermore, the AI Life app, which lets you tweak the ANC and customize gestures, is not available on iOS devices.
Should you buy the FreeBuds Pro?
As mentioned in the intro of this Huawei FreeBuds Pro review, the market is flooded with true wireless earbuds, and many of them are quite good.
Huawei obviously followed Apple’s lead here. From the shape of the buds, to the feature set, the software integration, and even the name, the FreeBuds Pro aim to be Huawei’s AirPods Pro. If you care about originality, there are more unique designs out there, like the Galaxy Buds Live or the Google Pixel Buds. That’s personally not a huge deal for me – product quality comes first, and the FreeBuds Pro deliver that.
The FreeBuds Pro are an easy recommendation for Huawei phone users primarily, but not just for them. You should give the FreeBuds Pro a shot if you’re after good sound quality, effective ANC, great battery life, and dual device connectivity.
Besides the AirPods Pro (the default choice for Apple users), our current recommendation for the best noise-cancelling earbuds are the Sony WF-1000XM3, which retail for around $230. We also really liked the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus, which feature very accurate sound, but have a showy design and a high price tag of $300. The Galaxy Buds Plus are probably the best option for Samsung phone users. For something cheaper, look into the Mobvoi TicPods Free, which go as low as $80.
That wraps up our Huawei FreeBuds Pro review. Any questions about this product? Let us know in the comments.