It has now been 2 years since Huawei entered the world of earphones. With its FreeBuds, followed by the FreeBuds 2, the Chinese giant immediately began to get talked about in this particular sector, and with the introduction of the FreeBuds 3 in 2019 it confirmed that it can be one of the main players also in the world of wireless Bluetooth headsets, called TWS in jargon.
But, you know, when you enter a market in which a large company - for years now - has been the host with a product of excellent quality, it is impossible not to arouse in mind a desire for comparison between the different products with what is the industry benchmark. And so, year after year, every time Huawei presented a pair of wireless earphones, people intrigued by the product immediately started wanting to compare the models of the Chinese giant with those made by Apple.
But I have to admit it. I am not one of these people, I have always considered the FreeBuds line and the AirPods line to be very valid alternatives for different types of users, especially because the two models of Bluetooth headsets have always been placed on very different market segments, and have always used proprietary technologies all in all not very similar.
But then one thing happened. Huawei presented the Free Buds Pro, raising the quality bar a lot, and managing to feed the birth of the fateful question in me too: the FreeBuds Pro, can they compete with the AirPods Pro? Before attempting to answer this question, analyzing Huawei's earphones sparingly, one thing must immediately be specified. In reality, there is a very common element between the AirPods and the Free Buds Pro and no, it's not the price (despite being more expensive, Huawei's earphones cost significantly less than Apple's).
To date, both models they are linked to a specific operating system. By now we know, the AirPods Pro can be used with Android but to be able to take advantage of all the features it is mandatory to use them with iOS, and it is the same thing that happens with the Huawei FreeBuds Pro: they go great with an iPhone, but to take advantage of all their features you need to use an app that - to date - it is only available for Android. So, already drawing the first sums: the AirPods Pro are to iOS, like the Free Buds Pro they are to Android. But let's go in order.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro review: the only rivals of the AirPods Pro?
In principle, the packaging of Free Buds Pro it is similar to that of all the other TWS in this market segment. Basically in the box, in addition to the earphones, there is the charging cable (in this case USB-C) and the typically oval-shaped charging case, in which the earphones will be inserted through a magnetic system.
Design and materials
And like the AirPods Pro, the Free Buds Pro they are in-ear, a type of earphone that is then inserted into the pavilion and that uses the rubber pads, which you may like or not like. But like it or not, in-ears are becoming more and more popular not for "copying", but for clear technological needs: for earphones equipped with cancellation or reduction of background noise, it is essential to be able to have a type of insulation. "Physical" from the outside. And let's start saying one thing right away: those of Huawei they are very comfortable, even if they do not have that particular system of the AirPods Pro with which the air pressure in the ear is managed.
The new earphones of the Chinese company then strike for the much smaller size compared to previous models, with shorter temples (measuring only 26 mm) on which a surface has been inserted for musical control and all the advanced functions. The weight is 6.1 grams for each earphone.
Even the case it is very pleasant. The design is minimal, it fits well in your pocket and the plastic with which it is made conveys an incredible feeling of quality: there are two LEDs to check the charging status, on one side there is a button for pairing, but the detail that I liked most is the closing mechanism of the case, always solid and able to return an excellent tactile feedback.
Sound quality and noise reduction - Huawei FreeBuds Pro
Also thanks to 11mm dynamic drivers, for the first time when you wear FreeBuds you can talk about sound quality. As soon as I wore the new Huawei earphones, I experienced exactly the same feeling as the transition from AirPods to AirPods Pro. In short, those with a slightly more trained ear will be able to understand why those from Huawei have called them "Pro": the detail and the dynamic they are great, the sound has that something of "natural" and guarantee an excellent sense of depth. And yes, it might seem like a negative point to some of you, but the fact that with the Free Buds Pro those of Huawei have managed to solve the problem of too deep bass, typical of in-ear, for me it is an added value that should not be underestimated: all frequencies are well balanced and if there were not a very small trend in the medium frequencies, I would be to say that as sound quality we are at the same linear levels of the AirPods Pro. If you are one of those who want to hear the vibrations of the bass up to the brain, just work quickly on the equalizer.
Anyway, in my test I heard about 3 hours of high resolution tunes from Tidal, and regardless of the music genre Free Buds Pro they have always returned excellent sonic detail. Then it is clear, the audio quality is a very subjective value but, personally, I was very satisfied with Huawei's earphones.
Also good quality noise reduction, which is possible thanks to three microphones, two of which are internal and one external, with which the ANC will compensate for external noises with an anti-noise able to manage up to 40 dB. Let's be clear, as well as in the AirPods Pro also with the Free Buds Pro it is a function of excellent quality, but that is not surprising: the ANC manages to compensate well, but the results obtained with over-ear headphones (of course also thanks to the design that wraps the ears, are far apart.
All in all, however, the audio quality is not affected by activating noise reduction or the Aware mode (what Apple calls Transparency): the ANC levels are four, initially the Dynamic one will be used (able to evaluate the external noise and set the reduction level based on the environmental noise), but you can also activate the " Ultra ”, theoretically more powerful but which - in my opinion - gives nothing more than the dynamic mode.
The audio on call is excellent, and both interlocutors can hear each other without any problem even in noisy environments: the noise cancellation in call does an excellent job, eliminating most of the disturbing sound elements.
Functions and application
Le Free Buds Pro are managed by the application AI Life which, as I told you, is currently available only for android. It goes without saying, therefore, that to make the most and customize the advanced features of Huawei's earphones, an iPhone cannot be used. In any case, in addition to the management of noise cancellation, through the application it is possible to modify the possible interactions through the temples, or set starting the voice assistant via long press: Google Assistant or Alexa are available, and the response is practically immediate.
On the left arm instead you can activate the noise reduction, or enter the Aware mode, in order to be able to hear external noises. And this is where I found a big difference with the AirPods Pro: if in Apple's earphones, the external sound is captured and reproduced with an almost "natural" quality, with the Free Buds Pro you continue to hear some kind of artificial sound.
Anyway, the application designed by Huawei is well done, all the features are in place and the customization of the earphones, as well as a possible update, is very simple to use.
Then there is the Bluetooth 5.2 which represents a huge plus for the FreeBuds Pro, and which allows the earphones to connect to two devices at the same time: as soon as they are turned on they will connect, for example, to the smartphone and to the computer and in order to use them you will not therefore need to enter the Bluetooth settings, but only choose the desired audio output. Very comfortable.
Nothing to say about the battery life. In my tests I got better results than the AirPods Pro, coming in almost 5 hours of continuous playback with ANC active despite the model that Huawei provided us is a full-fledged pre-production. Furthermore, with charging via the case, the 20 hours of battery life: the case is at 6W and, theoretically, it should allow wireless charging at 2W, which I personally have not been able to do at all. The reason? I think it is clearly due to the fact that the sample that was provided to us is a pre-production.
Price and conclusions - Huawei FreeBuds Pro
Le Huawei FreeBuds Pro are priced at 179 €, and are available in three colors. Furthermore, until 2 October, anyone who purchases the earphones will receive the Huawei Band 4 Pro, a Bluetooth speaker and access to Huawei Music as a gift. And it is a very interesting promotion, also because we have to admit it: it is difficult to find tangible defects on these earphones and perhaps the only drawback I found is related to the absence of any air pressure management system in the ear, but they have a good audio quality, very spatial, they allow volume management with gestures and they are also very comfortable to use.
In short, the Free Buds Pro not only are they the best earphones ever produced by the company, but among the best true wireless earbuds currently on saleto. And the point is this: for now I would recommend the purchase only to those who have a smartphone with the Google operating system. Because, in addition to sharing excellent audio quality and good ANC with the AirPods Pro, they also share the dependence on the operating system in order to make the most of functionality and customization.
When (and if) Huawei should decide to release AI Life also for iPhone, things could change radically: in this case we could really find ourselves in the presence of the first valid (and cheaper) alternative to the AirPods Pro.