Huawei’s FreeBuds Pro 2 is looking for premium games, and the competition has been officially announced.
With a premium design that looks a bit like a particular pair of Apple earbuds, FreeBuds Pro 2 stands out with its unique driver structure that delivers sound created in collaboration with Devialet. Throw in the machine learning-driven noise reduction, and it’s clear that the company has gone completely out of business.
So the question is obvious: does all this translate into a superb pair of buds? Let’s find out.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 price and availability
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 earbuds will be launched across Europe at € 199 / £ 169 (approximately $ 205), and are available in three versions: silver blue, silver frost and silver white.
No word on a US release (chances are it won’t happen outside of the bizarre Amazon listing), but considering the price in the UK, this is far less than AirPods Pro (£ 249), Master & Dynamic MW08 (£ 279)and Sony WF-1000XM4s (£ 299).
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 design
As I said in first announcement, FreeBuds Pro 2 has a similar design language to AirPods Pro. But look past the typically slim pill-shaped case, and there are some aesthetic differences.
The stems on the knobs are blockers, and show subtle chrome edges that match the shiny metallic hinge that shows the collaboration between Huawei and Devialet. By the way, given the hardware design choices made for Devialet GeminiI’m glad to see the sound of this sound company combined with Huawei’s refined product design.
Instead of the giant Gemini earplugs, the FreeBuds Pro 2 fits snugly in the ear with great comfort when used for a long time, thanks to the FreeBuds dimensions (1.1 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches) and weight (0.2 ounces) . They match AirPods Pro in all dimensions, so this is a familiar fit for anyone who has tried Apple’s premium earbuds. While the Momentum True Wireless 3 is slightly shorter (0.9 inches) and weighs the same, they are slightly larger in the ear with a 1-inch thickness.
As for the case, at 2.7 x 1.8 x 1.0 inches and weighing 1.8 grams, the whole package is a bit bulkier than the AirPods Pro (2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches), but a lot more pocket-friendly than the beautiful beasty container of second-generation Momentums (1.3 x 2.7 x 1.0 inches).
Simply put, if you have become familiar with Apple’s earbuds, these will feel familiar, and that’s not a bad thing. What this means is a pair of lightweight knobs that have an enormous endurance whether you walk or exercise (these have IP54-rated water resistance), while remaining comfortable over long periods.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 controllers and digital assistant
Touch control options are comprehensive and can be customized on FreeBuds Pro 2, with single, double and triple touch functions, along with a push and hold for large levels of interaction and even a swipe to increase / decrease the volume.
Like the AirPods Pro, subtle pressure sounds can be heard to confirm when touches are received, which is a nice addition to hoping your buttons register your commands.
I’m always a fan of buttons, since you can not get accidental touches. But Huawei’s solution reduces the chances of accidental touches, since you have to pinch them to interact.
The smart assistant can be programmed to start with a simple snap and hold, and the microphones do a great job of capturing your requests.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 active noise reduction and ambient listening
FreeBuds Pro 2 excels in active noise reduction (ANC): packs three microphones on each knob and uses the second version of Huawei’s intelligent dynamic ANC algorithm to deliver up to 47dB of cancellation power.
The microphones do a fantastic job of neutralizing the background noise and isolating your listening experience. Combined with the snug fit, these can withstand even the highest scenarios such as rush hour traffic with extremely minimal hissing.
Switch to transparency mode and the microphones do just as well with your surroundings, highlighting conversation over all kinds of background drones. I could hear low-level chatter from my partner up to about 20 feet away.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 sound quality
FreeBuds Pro 2 has a unique setup with two speakers, which has an 11-millimeter quad-magnet dynamic driver and a UHF planar membrane driver. You will not find technology like this in earplugs at a lower price. To translate the guff, this helps with better sound separation: the large magnetically driven driver that handles the low and the smaller outlets of the plane that shoot the height into your ears.
This results in a frequency response range of 14 Hz to 48 kHz (the lower end goes much deeper than the AirPods Pro and even the Sony WF-1000xM4), which is paired with LDAC codec support for up to 990 kbps audio, and an updated digital crossover processor for better technical separation of highs and lows, to deliver a strong platform for strong sound quality.
There is a completely different side to this: tuning. Huawei has received some help thanks to the company’s partnership with Devialet, which went through a thorough series of machine- and human-based tests to tune these earplugs.
I could go on and on about the technical side and go into the details of the built-in sensors that measure the size of your ear canal and adjust the EQ to optimize sound delivery, but let’s just move on.
The end result is a sound quality that challenges earplugs at twice the price of FreeBuds Pro 2. For simpler songs with more compressed compositions, such as Beartooth’s troubled breakdown in “Devastation”, FreeBuds provides warmth to the throbbing lower notes and plenty of life in the midtones, while they really make the heights shine.
This continues into tracks with a higher number of intricate details like “2009” by Mac Miller: one of the best songs to really get the most out of this signature sound (and a lovely tune too). The reverberation from the piano and the small pauses in Mac’s voice are highlighted and given plenty of life, but the sharp spikes of the 808 bass are felt without affecting any of the other levels.
Even down to spoken words, such as listening to “Not Another D&D Podcast” (my favorite of many Dungeons & Dragons podcasts), these stand out by bringing personality to each statement from each presenter, without bothering a single bit with anyone prolonged “s” sounds or punchy “p” pronunciations.
All in all, you will find that Huawei has excelled in sound quality. The fact that these relatively beat out the AirPods Pro, gives a cleaner, warmer composition than the MW08s and approaches to match the WF-1000xM4s shows just how much of a marvel these are.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 apps
It’s a story about two halves for FreeBuds Pro 2 on the app front.
For iOS, the AI Life app, which is free to download, offers a comprehensive suite of options for fine-tuning sound (including a customizable EQ) and easy access to change your motion controls, take an ear-fitting test, and find your earphones by playing a sound.
For Android users (and more specifically all Huawei users out there), you’ll get a far more seamless experience thanks to fast pairing and the AI Life app. Think about how easy it is to flip AirPods between your iPhone, iPad and MacBook. Huawei has managed to do the same thing across its phones and laptops as MateBook D 16.
It’s an impressive feat that you rarely find in any earplugs outside of the Apple ecosystem.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 battery life
Huawei promises up to four hours of listening time with the ANC on, extended to 18 with the charging cover, and this largely agrees with the reality of my time using these.
Turn off the ANC and you can extend FreeBuds Pro 2’s battery life to 6.5, but you will have this essential feature enabled most of the time. In addition, taking calls while listening has reduced my time using these to three hours on a single charge, with 60% volume with ANC turned on.
Simply put, this is not ideal. You can hope for a little more fuel in the tank, but the wireless charging on the cover and the high speed of pushing the knobs back to full in the cover dampens the impact a bit.
Huawei FreeBuds 2 call quality and connectivity
Connectivity is handled with Bluetooth 5.2 with multipoint, which helped me form a secure connection over two of either iPhone 13 Pro, OnePlus 10 ProHuawei MateBook D 16 og M1 MacBook Pro.
Your voice is clear indoors and outdoors, and the built-in microphones do a good job of isolating the background noise around you during even my more intense tests such as walking along rush hour traffic.
Misunderstand me right, under intense stress like the wind power that is sometimes felt when you walk by the river, you sound like you are under water. But words are understood, and thanks to the ANC, you can easily hear the person speaking to you.
This is all thanks to Huawei’s own noise reduction algorithm for deep neural networks, which has learned from 100 million voice samples to automatically adjust ANC levels in the background and highlight your voice.
The bottom line
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 rewrites the rulebook of what you can expect from earphones at this price – competes with far more expensive options and leaves some of them in the dust.
While the battery life is a bit overwhelming on the buds themselves, they sound fantastic, pack a powerful ANC, welcome calls, offer impressive responsive controls and cram it all into an elegant design.
In addition, the comprehensive app and software (including the Apple-competing seamless integration across Android / Huawei devices) make these some of best wireless earbuds you can buy right now.