The headphone market has always been extremely competitive, but for some time now all brands have been trying to get a foothold in the different price ranges now that mobiles are sold without headphones.
Despite the fact that it is the category of wireless headphones that is in vogue, stylish headphones are still in demand and Huawei has an interesting proposition in the form of the FreeBuds Studio.
Huawei opted for the name FreeBuds Studio, a name with which it was rumored that Apple might call the new headset it ultimately dubbed as AirPods Max, presented at the end of the year at a price of 629 $.
Their price is much higher, so they don’t play in the same league. However, the Huawei FreeBuds Studio are in the same price category as the Sony, Bose or Jabra. Can Huawei compete with these true sound legends?
Design and qualities
So far, Huawei has made headphones called in the ear or button, but Studios are traditional in-ear headphones. Their design is quite classic and they are more compact than many of their rivals, especially in size.
It also means they’re nice to the touch and light, at just 260 grams. We found them to be very comfortable to handle for hours. The headband and helmets have soft pads, although the helmets cannot be removed with magnets like some of its rivals.
They have three buttons, for power, Bluetooth and ANC, and the right ear cup has a large touch sensitive area. You can use it to touch and drag with your finger to control playback and adjust volume.
In general, this works well, but keep in mind that if, for example, you are listening to Spotify in a desktop browser, the playback controls will not work; you should always use the dedicated app for devices.
Overall they’re good, but the build quality and overall feel isn’t as high-end as what you might find from brands like Sony and Bose. Things like plastic earbuds mean they don’t have the luxurious feel you see in photos.
Take into account another aspect of the design, which is that it cannot be folded for easy transport. Of course, you can rotate them up to 90 degrees and Huawei offers you a semi-rigid shell for easy transport.
You can buy them with black finishes, like the ones analyzed here, or in pale gold. This is the only difference between the two.
As is often the case with over-ear headphones, FreeBuds Studios have fairly large 40mm drivers. Huawei cites an impressive frequency range of 4 Hz to 48 kHz, much wider than the typical range of human perception.
You’ll need a Huawei phone with EMUI 11 or later to get the most out of it, as is the case with the Mate 40 Pro. You’ll also need EMUI 10.1 or more to enjoy the pop-up experience, similar to what AirPods offer with iPhones.
However, if your mobile has Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, pairing will be easy. Another feature you will need from EMUI 10.1 or higher is Low Latency Gaming Mode.
Once connected and synced, FreeBuds Studios deliver excellent sound quality with a rich and balanced profile. They adapt to a wide variety of genres, while still being able to listen to podcasts and the like with great fidelity.
At high volume levels, distortions are barely noticeable, making these headphones tough enough for general use. Active ANC noise cancellation also promises a lot with Intelligent Dynamic ANC.
Using the dedicated ANC button located on the left ear cup, it’s possible to quickly switch between On, Aware Mode (where you’ll hear what’s going on around you) and Total Off.
The main mode has several sub-modes that you can access automatically or you can choose them manually in the app. These are things like “comfortable” for low noise situations and “ultra” when you need it at full throttle.
For me the differences are subtle and the conscious mode is a bit of a stretch. It would be better to customize these modes with a slider. If you don’t connect to an Android device with the app, you will only be able to navigate the three main modes with the physical button.
A bigger problem was even accessing the dedicated headset app. Download Huawei’s AI Life app from the Play Store on a Pixel 4a 5G and FreeBuds Studio was not in the audio product list.
I had to scan the QR code in the documentation provided by Huawei to manually download and install the correct version. There is no app for iOS, so you can only pair them through iPhone settings.
Something that does not work well in my experience is the wear detection. Like many headphones, FreeBuds Studio knows if you’re using them or not, or if you’re supposed to, but countless times when I took them off, the music kept playing.
You can turn this off in the headset app for Android devices if it also doesn’t work the way you want it to.
Let’s go back on a positive note and that is that the battery life here is solid. Huawei says FreeBuds Studio can last 24 hours with ANC turned off. They can also offer eight hours of playtime on a 10-minute charge via USB-C.
Rivals like the Sony WH-1000XM4 may last longer (up to 30 hours), but that’s enough longevity that, unless you’re doing a few consecutive long-haul flights, you don’t have to. bill them frequently.
We’ve been using them for an hour or two a day for almost two weeks, mostly with ANC turned on, and they have 30% battery left, so the user experience is downright great.
The capacity of its battery is 410 mAh and the total charge time of it amounts to a little over an hour to have the level at one hundred percent of its capacity.
Price and availability
The Huawei FreeBuds Studio They have a suggested retail price of $ 249, and this is the model with black finishes, like the one in gold. Both include your battery charging cable and a semi-hard case for easy portability.
The usual branded price is $ 299, but at the time of posting this review the product has been reduced by $ 50. It’s a fairly competitive price when you consider its main competitors.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 Also analyzed this month, they have a purchase price of over $ 380, and while they do introduce some cool AI features for everyday driving, both share the ANC active noise cancellation features.
Price is not everything, we invite you to consult our special of best headphones of the year where you will find the ten best models of the big brands.
There are a lot of things we love about the Huawei FreeBuds Studio. For starters, they’re cheaper than some of their main rivals and they sound downright good. They also offer great battery life for use for weeks.
The design is light and comfortable, and the integrated controls, both button and touch, are easy to use. While ANC is good enough, it’s a bit behind what we’ve seen in models like the Bose, Sony, or Jabra.
My main problem here is on the side of the Software, with the AI Life app available on the Play Store which is currently not supported by FreeBuds Studio. Getting the voucher from a QR code doesn’t seem like the ideal way.
There are also several functions which are limited to use with Huawei phones or tablets with the appropriate operating system, at a time when it is very difficult to recommend the purchase of such devices.
In this way, they are a good choice for all users of Android devices, even more so for those who already have an ecosystem of Huawei products and base their operation on versions of the EMUI 11 operating system.