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Can the Huawei FreeBuds Pro impress picky audiophiles?

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Huawei
Out of the box, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro immediately impressed us with what it can do for the price. It offered a more premium design, longer battery life, refined sound profile, and a dramatically improved noise isolation tech coming from our trusty FreeBuds 3.
Can the Huawei FreeBuds Pro impress picky audiophiles?
More than style?

To confirm our FreeBuds Pro initial findings, we sought the audio impressions of Mr. Wo Rosete, a veteran audiophile. If his name sounds familiar, Wo reviewed several audio gears here at GIZGUIDE. His latest work is the Kustoms by Overture HiFi cable review.

Now, let's see if the FreeBuds Pro can impress a veteran audiophile.

Can the audio from the Huawei FreeBuds Pro impress a veteran audiophile?

Good enough audio performance?
Good enough audio performance?

According to Wo, FreeBuds Pro is optimized for voice. It has an adequate and snappy mid-bass and outstanding mids.

Immediately from the first track I streamed, I knew that Huawei's Freebuds Pro is optimized for voice calls. As such, this voice/mid-centric tuning translated into audio that's great for vocals and guitars. 

Depending on your source, the mid-bass is adequate and snappy but the sub-bass, as expected, is recessed. On the opposite end, the highs are present but discreet. It's in the mids where the energy is focused. The mids are outstanding... upfront, clear, precise, well-spaced, and dynamic. I personally like guitars, great vocals, and cymbal crashes, so I'm totally fine with the audio performance. 

To reflect real use conditions, my listening impressions were based mainly on Spotify on high-quality. Streaming mostly garage rock, and a lot of reverb-heavy instrumentals from the likes of the Space Cossacks, and The Volcanos, the FreeBuds gives you an "inside-your-skull" soundstage where there is distinct spacing among the mid-range sounds. 

For its asking price, you're getting a well-built piece of kit that sounds better than the flat and balanced tuning that most manufacturers prefer to do.

Wo gave it a personal rating of "3.5 out of 5!" with an exclamation point. To keep it short, he is totally fine with its audio performance even if it is a wireless device.

The rating of 3.5 out of 5 may not look that impressive on paper, but if it is coming from audiophiles who are super picky with the audio performance of the gears they are using, that's considered as a BIG win for the FreeBuds Pro.

Outstanding mids for wireless earphones!

We also asked Wo about his experience with the AirPods Pro. He noted that he isn't that impressed with that device while noting that Apple should partner with a legit audio company if they really want to be taken seriously.

He also added that he tried the ANC and it is better than the usual industry implementation.

While the audio performance degrades a little when you turn the ANC on, it's acceptable for him because it is injecting a different set of frequencies into the mix. In short, it is normal for headphones with ANC to have a slightly degraded audio performance when the ANC is activated.

Lastly, he liked that it has a quick connection and fast pairing.

Our audio and comfort experience

FreeBuds Pro unboxed
FreeBuds Pro unboxed

Personally, I agree with Wo. Very few TWS buds will sound a "bit" better than the FreeBuds Pro and they are definitely more expensive at over PHP 13K range.

The FreeBuds 3 may have a brighter and more sparkly sound signature along with the wider soundstage due to its open design, the FreeBuds Pro isolates noise better with more refined sound. It has a warmer sound signature, deeper bass response, and more detailed mids.

For me, it is a good all-rounder for any type of music with no noticeable distortion. It is close to being non-fatiguing for long hours of use as well.

Very easy to drive!

We also noticed that it is easier to drive than FreeBuds 3. This means that the FreeBuds Pro only needed around 50 percent to 60 percent loudness on your phone to achieve its best sound quality or its full potential instead of the 60 to 70 percent from FreeBuds 3.
Comfortable tips, shallow insertion
Comfortable tips, shallow insertion

Our comment? Unlike the FreeBuds Studio with L2HC (up to 960 kbps bit rate), FreeBuds Pro only supports the standard SBC (320-345 kbps) and AAC (mostly 256 kbps) audio codecs. For PC use, it is only SBC.

No lossy wireless audio transmission, but the actual output is more than good enough

According to Huawei, L2HC is a Huawei-proprietary HD audio codec format that provides higher bandwidth and adaptive bit rate (320 kbps to 960 kbps). It features a low latency, constant bit rate, strong anti-interference capability, high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and a wide dynamic range, providing users with an optimized music experience.

Since it has a "Pro" monicker, it would be better if Huawei can seed an update to enable L2HC (if possible) on the FreeBuds Pro for its users to experience lossy audio transmission from their Huawei phones.

But from my experience, SBC is good enough for most. Moreover, most people just stream audio nowadays. By default, Spotify only has a 160 kbps bit rate. Spotify Premium at "Very High" quality is just 320 kbps. Apple Music and Google Play Music streams at 256 kbps and 320 kbps, respectively. Tidal is the only streaming app I know that supports lossy bit rates.

Besides, it has a 356MHz Kirin A1 audio processor and the latest Bluetooth 5.2 tech which helped in providing an optimized audio experience.

For calls and audio recordings, it is impressive for wireless earphones. This has one of the best microphones in its class.
The case with the tips
The case with the tips

Speaking of comfort, it has 3 pairs of custom tips with mesh-like filters to prevent earwax from getting inside your ear. Like what we mentioned in our video impressions, we assumed that it is medical grade as it sits comfortably well in our ears. It has a shallow insertion which should provide proper comfort for those who are used to wearing non-in-ear earphones (earbuds).

Other conveniences by the FreeBuds Pro

The FreeBuds Pro is "First-Ever" Dual Antenna TWS Earbuds. Paired with Bluetooth 5.2 and Kirin A1 chip, it provides super-stable connectivity. Even if the phone is in our pocket and we move to a nearby room about 17 steps away, the connection is stable and consistent.

Even while playing games, the audio delay is non-existent. Thanks to its Low Latency connection for a better gaming audio experience.

Superb connectivity!

It also connects to two devices at the same time. For example, it simultaneously connects to the MateBook 14 laptop and Mate 40 Pro 5G smartphone. It automatically switches the playback from the PC to the smartphone or going back to the PC seamlessly. There's no need to reconnect to each device all the time.
Pairing button
Pairing button

AND, as mentioned earlier, it has a pop-up and pair function and super-fast reconnection speed.

Class-leading ANC!

For us, the Intelligent Dynamic ANC of FreeBuds Pro is very impressive.

It has 3 levels of noise-cancellation. First is the Ultra Mode with up to 40db noise-canceling to greatly immerse yourself in music and stay away from disturbance. This is strong enough to block even loud voices and cranked-up speakers near you.

Second is the Cozy Mode which casually reduces noises from paper flipping, typing, occasional conversations, and more. Last is the General Mode ideal for noisy conditions.

By default, the Dynamic Mode which automatically chooses Cozy, General, and Ultra is good enough for us.

The awareness mode also provides ANC, but a bit weaker to let its users be slightly aware of its surroundings. If you are in a quiet room, its in-ear design isolates noise decently as well.

It also has the most impressive wind noise blocking capability from all the TWS earphones we tested.

This is due to its Fusion Call Noise Reduction with Triple Mic and Bone Sensor as well as the Dual Anti-Wind Noise Structure technology.

For battery, what they noted on paper is legit. At about 50 percent loudness, if you are using a Huawei EMUI 11 device, it lasts for around 8 hours without ANC. With ANC, it has up around 5 hours of playback time. Even if you don't own a Huawei device, playback can last up to 7 hours without ANC and up to 4 hours with ANC.

That's impressive as most TWS earphones only have about 5 hours of battery life without ANC. With ANC on, the buds will let you stay focused on whatever you are doing for up to 5 hours.
Easy controls
Easy controls

To recap, this device also has easy-to-use smart controls. All you need to do is Press (once/twice/three times/long press) and Swipe (up/down) on the stem of the buds to enable ANC and Awareness mode, control volume, play or pause music, answer or end calls, and access the next track or previous song.

Activating the ANC is very easy. All you need to do is long-press the stem. Controlling the volume is a bit tricky at first. My suggestion is to light swipe up or down the stem to adjust the volume properly and do not treat the buds like it has physical buttons to prevent it from falling from your ears.
USB-C charging
USB-C charging

For charging, the earbuds in the case charge in about 40 minutes from 0 to 100 percent. For the charging case, you'll need an hour to fill it using a USB-C port. Wirelessly, it charges in 2 hours.

Yes, since it has wireless charging support, the case of this device can be charged at the back of your premium Huawei mobile devices like the MatePad Pro, Mate 20 Pro and above, P30 Pro and above, or any other smartphones with Huawei-like reverse wireless charging solution.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro Specs

CPU: 356MHz Kirin A1 audio processor
Driver: 11mm dynamic driver
Microphone: 3-mic system
Battery: 55mAh (per earbud), 580mAh (charging case) w/ wireless charging
Sensors: Proximity, bone, IR
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Others: ANC, touch control, pop-up and pair, dual-antenna, USB-C, Colors: Silver Frost, Carbon Black, Ceramic White
Dimensions: 29.6 x 26 x 21.7 mm (per earbud), 70 x 51.3 x 24.6 mm (charging case)
Weight: 6.1 g (per earbud), 60 g (charging case)
Price: PHP 7,999

Our thoughts

Unlike other ANC TWS earphones which provide convenience over sound quality most of the time, the FreeBuds Pro gives a balanced overall experience.

Aside from its stylish looks, good comfort, impressive ANC, stellar connectivity, and long battery life. Plus, despite the lack of lossy wireless audio transmission tech, it has more than good enough real-life audio quality that could satisfy even some picky listeners.

AND at PHP 7,999, it provided a lot of upgrades while more affordable than the PHP 8,990 original price tag of the FreeBuds 3 last year.

What do you guys think?
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