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Huawei FreeBuds 4 Review - The (open) TWS earbuds with ANC to GET?

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After using Huawei's FreeBuds 4 for more than a month, here's our full review.
FreeBuds 4

To refresh our minds, the FreeBuds 4 is the tech giant's newest TWS open earbuds. It is the follow-up to the impressive FreeBuds 3 highlighting upgrades in design, comfort, sound, connectivity, and noise cancellation.


Comfort/Isolation

Small body with good comfort
Small body with good comfort

As mentioned, the FreeBuds 4 arrived in a slightly smaller and lighter body coming from the FreeBuds 3. It also has an improved mold to match or fit most human ears comfortably.

Huawei is correct as the device is one of the most comfortable earbuds we have ever tested yet, regardless of price.

This helps in making its users more immersed while listening as it will almost make you forget you are wearing earbuds. There are no sharp edges and it has better curves sitting softly and comfortably in the ears.

For isolation without ANC, don't expect too much. It has an open design, so isolation is almost non-existent. It could be good if you want to be aware of your surroundings though.

Superb comfort, effective enough ANC!

But, unlike most open earbuds. It has ANC or active noise cancellation.

Huawei is calling this the Noise Cancellation 2.0 technology that uses adaptive ear-matching technology that detects your unique in-ear shape and how your wear the earbuds. 

According to the tech giant, it intelligently selects a variety of noise cancellation modes to achieve optimal low-frequency sound reduction.

Unlike the FreeBuds 3, you won't have the circular dial via AI Life app (available on Android, iOS, and HarmonyOS) to select the best ANC setting for your ear. It only has two ANC modes Cozy (Ideal for places with a little noise) and General (Ideal for noisy places).

Fortunately, we think that its Noise Cancellation 2.0 technology (up to 25 dB noise reduction) is effective as it blocks noise pretty well. AND, for us, it is slightly better than the ANC of FreeBuds 3.

By default, TWS buds with the in-ear design even without ANC like the FreeBuds Pro will still block noise better, but for open-ear buds, the FreeBuds 4 did a fine job.

It is enough to help you focus on whatever you are listening to without making you totally unaware of your surroundings.

Battery

Nothing much changed coming from the FreeBuds 3. While we know that it is hard to put a bigger cell on a smaller body, we would have still liked it better if it has a better battery performance.

In particular, the buds still packs a 30mAh per earpiece with an extra 410mAh on the charging case.

Huawei claims that each bud can still last for up to 4 hours on a single charge.

In our experience without ANC, the FreeBuds 3 is good enough for around 2x 2-hour workouts per day,  3 to 4 episodes of K-dramas, and a little over 4 hours of music playback at around 50 to 60 percent loudness.

With ANC, it is under 3 hours or around 2.5 hours to be exact. The FreeBuds has a slightly longer 3 hours battery life with ANC turned on.

With the help of the case, it has a total of up to 22 hours battery. This is up by 2 hours from the 20 hours of the FreeBuds 3. With ANC on, it has around 14 hours of total battery life.

This battery life is decent, but we would be lying if we say that we don't miss the at least 2x better battery performance of the FreeBuds 4i or the FreeBuds Pro.

For charging, the company added a new 15-minute fast charging option that provides up to 2.5 hours of playback time.

From 0 to 100 percent, Huawei list it at 1 hour for both the buds and the case. In our experience, it fills the earbuds in under an hour and the case in around an hour using a USB-C cable plugged in the USB-A port of our PC or a proprietary low-powered or adaptive charging-ready power brick. This is slightly better than the charging performance of the FreeBuds 3.

However, I'm personally missing the Qi wireless charging function of the FreeBuds 3 and FreeBuds Pro on this device. It is weird that Huawei failed to include that very common function on this device.

Features

Interface of the AI Life app 1
Interface of the AI Life app 1
Interface of the AI Life app 2
Interface of the AI Life app 2

Like all Huawei TWS wearable audio devices, the FreeBuds 4 is extremely easy to use. It works for PC, smartphones (Android, iOS, HarmonyOS), tablets, TVs, and other devices with Bluetooth connectivity and music playback.

For Huawei smartphones and tablets, it comes with pop-up and pair functions. This is possible because of its Kirin A1 chip/Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity.

Personally, I connected it to our Huawei Vision S Smart TV, Huawei MateBook D 15 laptop, Huawei Mate 40 Pro, Huawei MatePad Pro 12.6, and Huawei nova 8.

The nova 8 and Vision S Smart TV are both running with HarmonyOS. If you are connected to a HarmonyOS device, Huawei promised that the user will enjoy a low latency of 90ms which could be great to prevent audio lag especially when playing games. If you are running on an EMUI device, it has an audio latency of 150ms.

In our experience, it has excellent connectivity across all of our devices. It can even connect to two devices at the same time

Moreover, even if you are not using a Huawei device, connectivity is stable most of the time.

Easy controls!

For controls, the FreeBuds 4 has an upgraded experience coming from the FreeBuds 3, FreeBuds Pro, and a lot of other TWS buds from different brands.

The controls:

Tap twice: Answer/End call, Play/Pause music, Previous/Next song, Enable voice assistant
Swipe up/down: Increase/Decrease volume
Long press: Enable/Disable noise cancellation, Reject call

We find the swipe up and down on the stem to adjust the volume to very responsive. It does not ocassionally fall off my ear while doing this gesture anymore unlike the FreeBuds Pro.

The FreeBuds 4 is also equipped with wear detection sensor that automatically pauses the music when you take them out of your ears and resumes playback when you put them back.


Moving to the mic, the FreeBuds 4 uses a three-microphone fusion for call noise reduction, clearer calls, and improved audio recording.

When it comes to making calls, the FreeBuds 4 did a fine job in general. It is clear enough even on rooms with a bit of noise. Even windy outdoor use, the mic is decent. This is due to its "wind-proof" design.

Huawei is also claiming that it has dual-mode 48 kHz HD sound recording that should be great even for mobile vlogging. It also has an option where it will prioritize recording your surroundings or voice.

In our experience, the Voice Mode is somehow clear for a wireless TWS buds.

While its mic is better than several TWS buds, the mic on the Mate 40 Pro that I am using is still better, clearer, and fuller for vlogging.

This could only be helpful if you are a bit away from your smartphone while recording.

Audio

Pretty good 2sound despite the tiny size?

Coming from the impressive FreeBuds 3, Huawei made the FreeBuds 4 is even better.

How? It is packed with a slightly larger 14.3 mm LCP dynamic driver promising a frequency range of up to 40 kHz.

Personally, I prefer the more balanced and brighter signature of the FreeBuds 3. But, we can't ignore the fact that the FreeBuds 4 sounds fuller and more matured.

Warmer fuller sound than FreeBuds 3

It has a warmer sound signature with emphasis on the lows. Bass response is even a bit tight with decent speed and noticable sub-bass even if the decay is minimal. It is also a bit more controlled for me. This is not the strong point of this audio device, but this level of bass is rare for wireless buds with open design. AND, the good thing, it is still not overpowering.

Vocals and mids are the highlight of this device. It is clear, crisp, and forward. The separation from the vocals and instruments are hearable. Congestion (overlapping of the sound) is rare. Highs are alright, but the sparkle is not that extended. It also lacks sharpness which tends to be a bit fatiguing in some tracks.

Obviously, it has a wider 3D-ish soundstage compared to other buds with in-ear design. It isn't headphone-like big and wide, but this is respectable for its diminutive size.

Surprisingly, the sound is decent overall despite its limited codec options. It only supports SBC (up to 320 kbps) and AAC (up to 264 kbps).

Imagine if it has support for higher codecs like aptX HD, LDAC, LHDC, or L2HC? The sound might have been even better.

Also, even if you turn on the ANC function, the difference in sound quality is hardly noticable (Just a tiny dip in overall qualoty). But, it could even make you more immersed with what you are listening with if you are in a slightly noisy environment.

In general, we find this buds a good workout, K-drama, movie, and soundtrip buddy at home or on-the-go.

Pros - Smaller and more comfortable/lighter build, improved and fuller sound quality, shallow in-ear-like ANC, great overall value for money
Cons - No wireless charging, slightly lower battery life when ANC is on, limited codec options

Huawei FreeBuds 4 Specs

CPU: 356MHz Kirin A1 audio processor
Driver: 14.3 mm LCP dynamic driver
Microphone: Dual-mode 48 kHz HD sound recording, call noise cancellation
Battery: 30mAh (per earbud), 410mAh (charging case)
Sensors: Wear detection sensor
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Others: ANC, tap/swipe control, pop-up and pair, IPX4 water splash resistance, USB-C, Colors: Ceramic White, Silver Frost
Dimensions: 41.4 x 18.5 x 16.8 mm (per earbud), 58 x 21 mm (charging case)
Weight: 4.1 g (per earbud), 38 g (charging case)
Price: PHP 7,999

Verdict

If you are looking for a TWS buds with open-design, super comfortable fit, pretty good sound quality, and decent ANC, you are in for a treat with the PHP 7,999 FreeBuds 4.

It is also very easy to use and it is compatible with a most of my Bluetooth-enabled devices, even non-Huawei devices.

Just note that we would have liked it better if Huawei retained its wireless charging or if they improved its battery life with ANC turned on. The codec options are also a bit limited and there are many competiting models that are sometimes more affordable offering high-resolution codecs. But, most of them are in-ear earphones.

We have to remember that many are not into in-ear earphones and they find open-ear earbuds to be more comfortable. In that aspect, the FreeBuds 4 is one of the best regardless of price. It is probably the open TWS buds to get.

Moreover, this device is currently listed at just PHP 4,599 online at Shopee, Lazada, Huawei Store.

Build/Design - 4.5
Comfort/Isolation - 4.65
Battery Life - 4.25
Features - 4.5
Sound - 4.5
Average - 4.48/5
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