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(Pocket-lint) - Huawei has impressed in the headphones category in recent years, producing a series of options with advanced features and reasonable price tags.

Building on that platform, the company is upping the ante with the Freebuds Pro 2. With its latest flagship earbuds, there's support for LDAC Hi-Res audio, the promise of improved ANC and the inclusion of a very unique dual-driver system to help boost sound performance. These buds have also been co-engineered with Devialet, the French audio experts.

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While it's a promising upgrade at first glance, though, this is an extremely competitive market. With so many options out there for those with Android and Huawei phones to consider, should the Freebuds Pro 2 be among them?

We've been testing in order to find out.

Our quick take

The combination of handy features, excellent sound quality and solid noise-cancelling mean that the Freebuds Pro 2 should be an appealing option for most consumers looking for a solid pair of TWS earbuds.

To go along with this, Huawei's latest buds are convenient and easy to wear, and even offer support for Hi-Res LDAC and HWA files for those who have devices and audio files that can advantage. 

Our only real complaint here is battery life. At just four hours with ANC enabled - and even less if you pair that with Hi-Res - it's not exactly market-leading.

If you're happy to plug them in to charge more often, though, you could do a lot worse than the Huawei Freebuds Pro 2. 

Huawei Freebuds Pro 2 review: Buff up

Huawei Freebuds Pro 2

4.0 stars
For
  • Superb sound quality
  • Impressive low bass performance
  • ANC is effective
  • In-ear detection works well
Against
  • Battery life could be better
  • Bluetooth range is poor
  • Sibilance can creep in

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Design 

  • Silver Blue, Silver Frost and Ceramic White colours
  • 5.9g (per earbud)
  • S/M/L silicone tips included

With the first-gen Huawei Freebuds Pro, the manufacturer took a familiar TWS bud shape and put its own spin on things by giving the stem a 'cubic' form.

Part of this idea, no doubt, was to create a shape that was different from the round-stemmed Apple AirPods and its many clones. So, it's no surprise that we see a slightly refined version of that squared-off shape in the second generation, too. 

Pocket-lintHuawei Freebuds Pro 2 photo 7

There is a bit of a difference, though: these new buds are slightly smaller and lighter, as is the pill-shaped carrying case. That makes them that little bit more portable and easy to wear. 

And, in our testing, we found them to be well designed in terms of fit and security, as well. Everyone's ears are different, of course, but, with the combination of the rounded earbud casing and the soft silicone tip, we found it sat nicely in the ear without feeling pressured - and we didn't need to press it in invasively in order to create a good seal. 

For those who are unsure if they have a good fit, there's a handy ear fit test that you can take which plays music and then uses the microphone array on the buds to detect any excessive noise leaking. 

Pocket-lintHuawei AI Life app photo 2

As a bonus, they didn't seem to wiggle about or work their way loose, as some silicon-tipped buds have done in our testing. Both buds seemed to hold well, and very rarely needed readjusting. They're well balanced in that way. 

Our only complaint with the silicone tips is that they're far too easy to detach from the earphones. If you see yourself changing them a lot, that's maybe not an issue, but we'd often find that when we went to clean them after a listen, they'd easily come away from earbuds. Or, if we accidentally knocked the tips against anything at all, or they brushed against our fingers or hands when holding them, the tips would just fall off. 

Pocket-lintHuawei Freebuds Pro 2 photo 8

They come in a white finish - of course - as well as a 'Silver Frost', but our unit is the new colour for 2022, 'Silver Blue'. It's an apt description for the light blue, iridescent earbuds, with the carrying case matching with a soft blue sheen.

We like the design of the case, too. The extreme rounding and small size make it very pleasant to hold, and its compact form means it'll go into any pocket without a struggle. 

What's more, the buds fit logically within the cradles, with the right bud on the right, the left on the left and both facing inward. There's no need to rotate or fiddle with their orientation before placing them in your ears or removing them to stow away. There's also a satisfying snap when the magnets take hold and pull them into position for charging. 

Features and performance

  • Auto ear-detection
  • Gesture control
  • 4 hours of playback (with ANC on)

As is typical for Huawei, these buds are packed with a lot of smart features, essentially being designed to make you do as little as possible.


 
Part of that process is enabling the feature that auto-pauses music as soon as you take an earbud from your ear. It works with either bud, too, and then automatically resumes the music when you place them back in again. 

Pocket-lintHuawei Freebuds Pro 2 photo 12


 
Part of that process is enabling the feature that auto-pauses music as soon as you take an earbud from your ear. It works with either bud, too, and then automatically resumes the music when you place them back in again. 

In testing, it's worked reliably and hasn't failed once, and - just as impressive - hasn't triggered accidentally. It's now a fairly common feature in headphones, of course, but this sort of reliability ensures the experience of using the buds is a solid one. 

The buds also feature a touch-sensitive area on either side, so you can 'squeeze' the stems to control things like playing and pausing music or skipping tracks. You can squeeze and hold to cycle through the noise-cancelling/ambient modes, and then swipe up and down to adjust the volume, too. And, if you really want, you can even go into the app and change what these presses and squeezes do.

Pocket-lintHuawei Freebuds Pro 2 photo 4

This part of the experience could definitely do with some improvements, because the stems are quite short and thin, making the margin for error quite fine. It can be fiddly to get the right spot when pressing or swiping. And, what's more, the buds are so light that any touch is enough to change the fit in the ear, ensuring you have to adjust it again after activating whichever feature you're trying to use. 

Similarly, it would be great to see some improvement in the performance of the Bluetooth connectivity. We found the range wasn't especially long, often cutting out once we got over 10m away from the source with walls in the way. 

Then there's the battery life. Even on paper, the Freebuds Pro 2 battery life of 4 hours with ANC switched on didn't exactly fill us with confidence. In everyday usage, with the ANC switched to 'General' mode, we got through about 2.5 hours of listening before the earbuds gave us their 10 per cent warning.

We should also note that this was with the SmartHD feature enabled, which upscales your content using a Hi-Res codec. In this mode, of course, battery drain is higher than normal. 

Pocket-lintHuawei AI Life app photo 1

Performance was much more acceptable with SmartHD disabled. And we'd highly recommend doing this if you want to get through a week of commutes to and from your workplace.

Without it switched on, the battery life was much closer to what is promised. In fact, 4 hours should be perfectly achievable. This puts it relatively on par with AirPods Pro, for example, but the Freebuds Pro 2 still lags quite far behind a pair of buds like the Sony WF-100XM4, which are able to achieve around 6-7 hours with ANC (and other features) enabled. 

Sound and noise cancelling

  • LDAC and HWA Hi-Res audio support
  • Dual driver system - 11mm dynamic + planar 
  • Four-microphone noise cancelling (each bud)
  • Default EQ tuned by Devialet

Sound quality is one area we have very few complaints about. Huawei's intriguing combination of a large, powerful 11mm dynamic driver and the planar membrane means the frequency response range is wide. In fact, it can deliver bass as low as 14Hz, which is considerably lower than the human ear can typically hear. 

Combined with the super-responsive planar membrane, it means you get quality, powerful and low bass notes, but there's still a lot of crispness and detail in the higher frequencies. It generally works to great effect. 

Pocket-lintHuawei Freebuds Pro 2 photo 6

Listening to Shivers by Ed Sheeran, which has surprisingly expansive and layered instrumentation, you're able to hear the deep and impactful bass without it degrading. Then, as it builds into the chorus, you start to hear hand-clapping, subtle acoustic strumming, swelling brass notes and synth with expert clarity.

The Freebuds Pro 2 picks out all of these elements and elevates them. Strings and high notes are crisp, and bass is pounding and loud without blowing out. 

The sound is versatile, as well. Take something like A Night on the Bare Mountain by Stravinsky, for example. The Freebuds Pro 2 almost lets you feel the timpani rumble more than hear it, like a deep, low thunder. Similarly, low cello and bass strings are clear and present. The qualities of the buds add a feeling and a presence you'd maybe struggle to get with a lot of other similarly-priced buds. It's pretty amazing, really. 

Pocket-lintHuawei Freebuds Pro 2 photo 11

Our only complaint is that sometimes that clarity and detail in the high-frequency elements can leave the sound sometimes pushing towards sibilance. When some singers hit the letter 'S' or 'T', it can sometimes break a little and lose its timbre, and it kind of sounds like someone is whistling between their teeth. It's not with every song, so it didn't ruin the experience, but sometimes this is the price you pay for elevated treble and clarity. 

Elsewhere, if you have a source device with support for Hi-Res audio (either HWA or LDAC codecs), you can have music up to 24-bit, 96kHz and 990kb/s. So, if you have compatible Hi-Res music and a device that can play LDAC, you can access that feature. Sadly, for Android users, there's no Qualcomm-powered aptX of any description. 

Pocket-lintHuawei AI Life app photo 3

Noise cancelling is quite effective, too, doing a good job of cutting out a lot of the external noise around us during testing. Amplified single voices and high-impact, high-frequency noises like children shouting will still cut through, but, for the most part, the buds effectively reduce ambient noise.

The neat touch here is that you can change the noise-cancelling level. Or, better yet, choose the 'Dynamic' option within the app and let it adjust the level of cancelling based on the level of noise around you in real-time. It uses a combination of four different mics on each earbud to measure, and can then adjust as appropriate without you having to do anything. 

For those times you want to hear what's happening around you, there is also an ambient mode. However, we never found this clear enough that you could actually hold a conversation with music playing. It was much better to remove a bud, let the auto-pause feature work and then put it back in when done.

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To recap

The combination of features, sound quality and noise-cancelling make the Freebuds Pro 2 an appealing option for those in need of TWS buds. There's a lot of versatility here, and great sound performance. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Editing by Conor Allison.