Positives

IPX5 water-resistance
Magnetic housings for auto play/pause
Plug-and-pair for compatible Huawei phones
Integrated USB-C charging
Charges from a smartphone
Quick charging

Negatives

Battery life falls short of listed 18 hours
Poor fit
AAC and SBC only; no aptX
No multipoint connectivity

Bottom Line

The neckband design is sleek and comfortable and sound quality is surprisingly clear despite favoring bass frequencies. Fit proves to be an issue due to the ear tip material and battery life falls short of the ambitious 18 hours claimed by Huawei. However, if you were disappointed by the FreeBuds from last year, the Huawei FreeLace offer a bit more promise.

7.9
7.9
FreeLace
by Huawei

The neckband design is sleek and comfortable and sound quality is surprisingly clear despite favoring bass frequencies. Fit proves to be an issue due to the ear tip material and battery life falls short of the ambitious 18 hours claimed by Huawei. However, if you were disappointed by the FreeBuds from last year, the Huawei FreeLace offer a bit more promise.

In a market oversaturated with run-of-the-mill wireless earbuds, the Huawei FreeLace stand out from the crowd with an integrated USB-C plug. This allows you to charge the neckband earbuds from anywhere, so long as your phone has a USB-C input. Make sure to check out the full review at our sister site SoundGuys. If you just want the essentials, keep reading.

Editor’s note: this review was updated on April 25, 2o19, to account for AAC compatibility. 

What’s it like to use the Huawei FreeLace?

Huawei Freelace: Right earbud detached from the neckband which is plugged into a Huawei P20 smartphone via the USB-C plug.

The Huawei FreeLace earbuds work best with Huawei phones running EMUI 9.1 or later.

Similar to how the new AirPods are optimized for iPhone users, the Huawei FreeLace earbuds work best with Huawei phones. In order to use HiPair — which automatically pairs the FreeLace to your phone upon USB-C connection — you need a Huawei phone, specifically one running EMUI 9.1 or later.

While it may seem a bummer that HiPair only works with proprietary devices, its functionality isn’t much more efficient than NFC pairing. The real gem is charging the earbuds anytime, anywhere. Battery life clocks in at 12.25 hours of consecutive playback when subjected to a constant 75dB output. Although this is more than enough for general use, it falls short of the posited 18-hour playback time. That said, if the battery does deplete unexpectedly, five minutes of charging affords four hours of playback. This came in handy when I visited the gym only to realize the earbuds’ 120mAh battery was drained.

Charging the FreeLace from anywhere is an invaluable feature that more neckband earbuds should implement.

If you’ve used or seen the BeatsX, then you’ll feel at home with these neckband earbuds. The flexible, rubberized neckband is comfortable and the metal end caps feel more premium than Beats’ plastic components. Unfortunately, though, the earbuds are difficult to securely fit inside the ear. No matter which ear tip size I used, the angled nozzles managed to fall from my ears. This seems to be a consequence of the slick silicone material used for the ear tips. In any case, if you’re determined to get the FreeLace, make the worthwhile investment in a pair of third-party ear tips.

Is the Huawei FreeLace good for phone calls?

Huawei Freelace: close-up image of the three-button mic and remote module.

The evenly weighted neckband is comfortable, while the on-board controls are easy to identify and operate.

Yes, so long as you’re fairly still. Huawei opted for microphone noise-cancelling technology to mitigate background noise. This facilitates clear voice transmission even while combating low winds. Unfortunately, the effectiveness is rendered almost null by the mic placement, which forces it to rub against clothing. That said, if you’re sitting still and keep head rotation to a minimum, things sound great.

How do I connect the Huawei FreeLace to my phone?

Huawei Freelace: A close-up of the USB-C module built into the neckband. The pieces are held in a hand to show the male and female ends.

As long as your phone has a USB-C port, you can charge the Huawei FreeLace.

If you don’t own a compatible Huawei phone that can connect to the earbuds via HiPair, then you’ll have to go through the traditional Bluetooth pairing hoops. While it’s not quite as futuristic, it works. The Huawei FreeLace uses Bluetooth 5 and maintains a reliable connection. However, it doesn’t support any high-quality Bluetooth codecs, nor does it allow you to simultaneously connect multiple devices. The earbuds support both the AAC and SBC high-quality codecs. When streaming from a Galaxy S10e, our pre-production unit automatically reverted back to SBC even after forcing the AAC codec.

Do they sound good?

Huawei Freelace: close-up of earbuds magnetized together atop Huawei P20 smartphone.

The magnetized earbuds keep the Huawei FreeLace tidy when not in use and automatically play and pause music.

Editor's Pick

Despite the lack of high-quality streaming options, the 9.2mm dynamic drivers perform well by reproducing clear sound with slight bass emphasis. The low-end exaggeration is something many consumers are familiar with in all-purpose headphones, and it’s necessary seeing as the FreeLace earbuds don’t isolate very well. Since a solid seal isn’t formed with the earbuds, external noise is able to permeate and mask audio, which can degrade overall sound quality.

In all fairness, the earbuds do an excellent job at recreating complex musical numbers and keep instruments distinguishable from one another. Those hungry for concrete examples of this with frequency and isolation charts may like the full review.

Should you buy them?

Huawei Freelace: Full shot of the neckband earbuds on a wooden surface.

The metal neckband end caps are a nice touch to accent the rubberized, flexible collar.

If you own a Huawei smartphone, then yes, the Huawei FreeLace is a solid buy at the ~$110 price point. However, if you’re an iPhone or Android user, the FreeLace may be less appealing than the BeatsX or Plantronics BackBeat Go 410 neckband earbuds. The BeatsX couples nicely with Apple devices, which may be accredited to the W1 chip, while the BackBeat Go 410 boasts great noise cancelling and optional wired listening.


A note from the editor

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