(Pocket-lint) - Huawei might not be a brand you immediately think of when looking for a pair of convenient earphones, but the company has been clear over the past year or so that it wants to deliver an entire ecosystem of products that speak to each other and work seamlessly together.
That strategy has seen it launch its own smartwatch platform, laptops, tablets and - of course - earbuds. The latest pair, the Freebuds Pro, seek to offer convenience and high-end performance in a compact product.
Familiar, but still unique
- 6.1 gram earbuds
- Ceramic White, Carbon Black, Silver Frost colours
- Touch-sensitive areas for volume/music controls
While the basic look is similar to other true wireless earbuds, Huawei has changed things up a bit and come up with a really interesting looking cubic design. The main shaft that protrudes downwards is a perfect cuboid, with the earbud featuring that recognisable rounded, ergonomic casing and a soft silicone tip at the end.
Huawei calls its cuboid look 'iconic', and in a way, it is. It's a shape we haven't seen on the market so far, and so it does have the potential to become a recognisable silhouette. Despite the broad brushstrokes being a little AirPods-like, it's unlikely you'd ever confuse the two pairs if they were sat next to each other.
On the outside of the rectangular shaft, you'll find a gesture/touch control area. Pressing it, or swiping it produces subtle click feedback but also controls the music on your phone. You can play or pause music, launch your phone's assistant and control the noise-cancelling or ambient noise features.
Look inside the rounded portion of the earbuds and you'll notice a small grille area. This is where Huawei has incorporated sensors for detecting when they're in your ears, as well as an internal microphone for aiding noise cancelling. The other two mics are placed in the cubic shafts, and if you look closely you'll see two slim slits on the casing.
The earbuds ship with the usual type of plastic carry case with a built-in battery. Black Freedbuds come with a black case, white with a white case, and the design of the cavities where you slot the earbuds is shaped exactly to fit the cubic shaft, with a curved recess for the earbud, meaning you can't fit the left earbud in the right slot, or the other way around. That essentially means you can't get it wrong.
We did find removing the earbuds a little tricky to begin with, but once you get the technique right, it's just as convenient and easy as any out there.
The case itself is portable and small enough that it's easy to carry around in a pocket. It's broadly pill-shaped but finished with a glossy plastic which - even after a couple of days use - is smeared with all manner of fingerprint smudges. We don't anticipate it'll hold up well against car keys in a pocket/handbag either.
Noise-cancelling and features
- Active noise cancelling
- Up to 40dB cancellation
- Kirin A1 processor inside
- Awareness mode for hearing external sounds
- 3-mic system for voice call noise cancelling
As we've said, you can activate noise cancelling by pinching and holding the stem of either earbud by default. Doing so kicks in the noise-cancelling filter and - if you're not listening to music - you'll hear that hiss coming through as it immediately lowers the background noise.
We need to do more testing - as with everything in these earbuds - but our first experience walking down a road, it was immediately noticeable when ANC was off versus when it was on. We tested it a few hundred yards from a busy dual carriageway, and it did a great job killing off that relatively low volume, but constant traffic drone. You can still hear cars driving right near the pavement, it doesn't completely kill all noise, but it's an effective barrier against the worst of it.
A lot of this noise cancelling power is achieved through using the Kirin A1 processor, which is Huawei's wearable brain. We haven't tested the awareness modes yet but we will update to a full review once we've tried the different settings which allow you to hear what's happening around you.
There's noise-cancelling enabled during voice calls too, with dedicated mics designed to pick-up and then cancel out the noise from around you, including the ability to kill wind noise as it blows through the channels.
If you have a Huawei phone and download the AI Life app from the App Gallery, you get tight integration between the earbuds and the phone. Similar to what we've seen from the likes of the OnePlus Buds with the OnePlus Android software. Tapping and holding the Bluetooth menu button takes you to your usual screen, while tapping the settings cog near the earphones name takes you to their settings. Here you can see battery levels, adjust settings, rename the buds (and so on).
- 11mm drivers
- Dynamic damper stabilises sound vibrations
As we've already said, we've only really used the new Freebuds for a few hours, which means we're not quite ready to deliver a full verdict on the sound.
Huawei was keen to point out how its newly designed diaphragms and drivers are all held together using a form of noise stabilisation. In essence, this system stops any unwanted vibrations from adding to the sound and potentially adding distortion.
Adding to that, the 11mm drivers are pretty large for in-ear buds, and that helps them deliver deep bass, but they can also deliver crisp, detail highs. Or at least, that's the claim.
In our own first impressions, they do seem a bit bassy. Some might find the Freebuds Pro a bit too bass-heavy, but they don't seem to be struggling with detail or mid-levels. They sound solid enough, and we haven't heard anything yet that would dissuade us from using them daily.
As a pair of everyday earbuds for casual music listening and taking phone calls, the Freebuds Pro has all the tools required to make a good job of it. It's likely the closes pair on the market that deliver that AirPods Pro experience for Huawei users by offering high-end noise-cancelling during music and during phone calls.
They're lightweight and comfortable to wear, while that silver frost colourway just looks so cool. It's a far cry from the plain white plastic we've seen too much of already.
Once we've tested them a little further this review will be updated to reflect more in-depth reflections, but we're seeing no issues with this pair so far. If you're an Android user, you might just want to give these a look.