It wasn’t so long ago that Huawei released wireless earbuds, but they seem to have more up their sleeves. The Huawei Freebuds Pro is the latest creation for their truly wireless earbuds line and, as the name suggests, it’s billed as the premium version of their Freebuds series.
While the Huawei Freebuds Pro also features active noise cancellation like its predecessor, multiple improvements come with it to justify its “pro” moniker.
Out of the box comes the ovular charging case for the Freebuds Pro, of which you can find the earbuds within.
Colour-choices include Ceramic White and Carbon Black for the charging case and earbuds, but I highly recommend going for the Silver Frost option, which is the one that we received.
Unlike the white and black variants which have an otherwise ordinary glossy exterior, this one has a matte texture to accompany the grey finish, which makes the device look and feel more like a premium product in that regard.
In terms of size, the charging case feels relatively comfortable in the pocket. It does bulge out on tighter clothes, but it doesn’t feel annoying or hindering when moving about.
While it would be instinctive to try and take out the earbuds by pulling them out from the top, you’d find yourself very frustrated because the magnets in the case make it tough to do so. Instead, Huawei briefed us beforehand on the “proper” way to do so with the system they have implemented. You can remove the earbuds by pushing against the heads and then directing them upwards.
Once you understand its mechanics, it really is effortless to remove; Huawei just needs to educate the public a bit better on this. Overall, the Huawei Freebuds Pro is a convenient device to handle and keep, which is the entire point of wireless earbuds as a product.
The earbuds themselves look to be heavily… “inspired” by the AirPods Pro in the way that they are designed. Unlike the case, the earbuds have a shiny exterior that mimics a chrome-like look to it, especially if you place it under light — I must say, I quite like that visual aspect.
Personally, the ones that came with the earbuds fit me well enough but like with most in-ear earbuds, they also provide various sizes of ear-tips if the default ones do not fit you. There’s fit-calibration within the earbud’s specific app that you can do, or even check if you need to change them to a better-fitting size.
Our experience with the earlier-released Huawei Freebuds 3i’s audio capabilities was overall a positive one, and I’m happy to report that the Freebuds Pro continues that trend.
What you get with the earbuds is clear audio that can get loud as well. Having listened to multiple music genres on it, the earbuds don’t seem to show any bias towards any of them — all of them sound great in terms of audio.
For songs that dole out bass such as the many tunes from Billie Eilish, you can clearly feel the addictive punch that comes every time it drops. Likewise, rock songs with aggressive drum sequences are wonderfully represented in the sound produced, making you want to head-bang along to it.
Vocals also shine on the Huawei Freebuds Pro. Genres like jazz take massive advantage of the clarity from the sound produced, with me being able to enjoy the buttery-smooth delivery from Amy Winestone without her voice being overshadowed by the instruments. This extends to non-music related media like podcasts as well, and I did not run into any problems when listening to them.
Overall, audio performance seems to have improved from its predecessor. It’s not a night and day difference, but it is noticeable, and the Freebuds 3i already was of good quality.
A much more significant improvement can instead be seen for its active noise cancellation capabilities. While the previous Freebuds can be described as baked-on, the Huawei Freebuds Pro rivals other premium wireless earbuds with ANC.
Sound now gets even more isolated, and there are also different modes to increase or decrease the level of noise isolation, with Huawei claiming that up to 40 dB of noise can be cancelled out. “Cosy” lessens the noise cancellation to allow some of it in, while “Ultra” maximises the ANC to cancel out as much environmental noise as possible.
To put the noise cancellation into perspective, I could not hear the background noises generated by commuters or the announcements while I was riding in the MRT — much of it was muffled at best.
Using the modes is more than going to be a situational thing as each mode has its pros and cons. For instance, “Ultra” mode may be uncomfortable for people as using it emits a feeling of pressure being in your ears, akin to when you fly in an airplane. There is an adaptive mode you can trigger if you don’t feel like constantly changing modes every time for different environments.
We’ve also mentioned beforehand that using the ANC actually brought about an issue of the earbuds picking up the sound of wind blowing into the microphones, hindering the listening experience. Unfortunately, the problem is still there for the Huawei Freebuds Pro, but it seems that Huawei has listened to feedback and has dramatically reduced the amount of noise that is picked up. Still, it isn’t the best device to use for windy days, but now there is more reason to use it during other activities, like say running.
Other than ANC, there is also an awareness mode that you can toggle that brings in environmental sound so that you know what is happening. It works well, particularly for situations where I need to hear something like when paying at the cashier. The sound is clear enough to understand — it’s certainly less tedious than taking out the earbuds.
The Huawei Freebuds Pro is equipped with even more control capabilities than before.
It makes use of a “pinch” system to control what they do. The pinch works on the stem of the device and includes five different controls — pinch, double pinch, triple pinch, long pinch and swipe.
The first three pinch controls mainly handle your media; playing and pausing it, switching to the next track, and going back to the previous track. Long pinches toggle the ANC or awareness modes for the earbuds while the swipe gestures increase or decrease volume.
In terms of control systems, it is quite a substantial one to have compared to other earbuds on the market. On using them, they do work as intended; for the most part, only the swipe gestures proved finicky. With no physical buttons, the earbuds instead use a subtle “thud” to indicate your input, but it feels rather lukewarm and wholly unsatisfying as a feedback response.
Another feature the Huawei Freebuds Pro has is a dual device connection, which allows the earbuds to be connected to two devices simultaneously. This feature does work but with a caveat. On my testing, I found that I needed to pause whatever media was playing on one device first before the earbuds could play audio from the other device.
The process of the audio switching over is fast enough, but you have to tend to the extra steps just to get the other device to play, which can get annoying.
As mentioned before, the Freebuds Pro comes with a specific app in the form of A.I Life. Within the app, you can see the device’s overall battery status, toggle the degree of ANC and awareness mode (which has a voice specific mode) of the earbuds, and do a fit test for your ears. Additionally, you can also change the long pinch’s command, to either change the earbud mode or activate the voice assistant. However, that is the extent of what you can change.
There are no equaliser settings within the app as well, so you’re limited to whatever settings your music player presents to you. Overall, the app isn’t as substantial as other earbud apps from other manufacturers, giving only the bare necessities.
Apple continues to be shunned by Huawei for the app, but it isn’t a huge loss as users will only really miss out on changing the ANC and awareness mode levels. While this is available on Android phones, I ran into a perplexing problem when getting it from Google Play. For whatever reason, the app cannot recognise the earbuds and cannot access the app’s features for the Freebuds Pro.
Using the app on Huawei devices elicited no such issue. It seems the version of the app downloaded on Huawei is a newer version, even though the A.I Life app from the Google Play Store is also a fresh install. I’ve tested this against multiple devices which downloaded the app on the Google Play Store, and all had the same problem.
It is evident that the issue lies in the Google Play Store not having the latest version of the app. I’ve reached out to Huawei regarding this problem, and there is unfortunately, no fix to this problem yet as of writing. The only workaround for this is to get AppGallery on your phone via its web portal version and then use that to install the A.I Life app.
It is an annoying solution to something that really shouldn’t be a problem. Thankfully, the earbuds still can work without the app so you can avoid this entirely if this is too tedious, but of course, you’ll join the Apple users in missing out the bells and whistles.
What is more alarming is perhaps the lack of support even with such a glaring problem. A large period of time has already passed since its launch and Huawei has yet to address the issue. Should another problem arise, there is a possibility that the company might rather twiddle their fingers than fix it.
To sum it up, the battery life of the Huawei Freebuds Pro is great.
Using the ANC on the earbuds didn’t quite garner the advertised five hours as Huawei stated, but it still got me a respectable four and a half hours or so when listening to tunes. Without ANC, that increased further to almost seven hours; that’s really solid for wireless earbuds.
The charging case can add another 30 hours if you leave the ANC off. Getting them back fully charged is also a swift process that takes less than an hour so that it is ready for you in (almost) a moment’s notice. There’s also wireless charging support for that extra bit of convenience.
Huawei’s newest wireless earbuds are a significant improvement on all fronts. Design, sound, features and battery life — they have elevated the device to be a premium product.
The app software installation issue is an otherwise big misstep for an excellent product, especially since it has already launched; plaguing the overall experience. At the very least, there is a workaround, even if it may be troublesome.
The third time’s the charm. If you are searching for an alternative to the AirPods Pro, or just looking for a good ANC wireless earbud, the Huawei Freebuds Pro is a very solid choice. Though, you may want to consider waiting for a proper fix before getting it if you aren’t in a hurry.
Photos by Brandon Neo of the DANAMIC team.