Somehow apple managed to do it again. They have put themselves right at the forefront of the portable music world with the Airpods but are they the only option on the market? We think we might have just found a solid alternative to Airpods in the Huawei Freebuds Pro 2.
Surprise Huawei is at it again!
Huawei have been busy in recent years viciously attacking all of apples core hardware interests. The strange thing is, in my opinion, their products (from a hardware perspective) are better. The Macbook Pro looks positively terrible value in comparison to a Huawei Matebook X Pro. The new Huawei P30 is widley considered to be the best phone on the market right now. Software and product support seem to be the last remaining upsides to staying withing the Apple ecosystem.
This article is a review of the Huawei Freebuds 2 Pro and it is going to be a positive one. However, before I get jumped on as an Apple hater I think I should clear up that I am writing this on a Macbook Air which brought me back to apple after 2 hellish years with windows. I like Apple but with every passing week they just seem to be hell bent on price gouging their users, giving under-specced products and charging double the price of the competition.
People are sick of it and to be honest I am too, a few years ago i would carry an ipod, iphone, Macbook at all times but that now its an AK70ii DAP, Pixel 3 phone and Macbook Air. I only grudgingly went back to a Mac laptop after I had 3 windows computers fail on me in 3 years (XPS15 (9550), HP Spectre X360 and Microsoft Surfacbook 2) and I only did so after apple magically found an extra 100 nits of brightness in the airs screen via software update (Tip: Nits is a hardware limited figure for screen brightness but it seems Apple gimped the laptop out the box to stop it competing with the Pro 13 for sales). To sum up no I’m not entirety happy with apple but I also am not opposed to using them when I think they are better than the competition. That said lets get on with the Damn earphone review.
What are the Huawei Freebuds 2 Pro
The Freebuds 2 Pro are Huawei’s answer to the massively popular Apple Airpods. Many companies have tried to produce something similar but in my testing the have all turned out so spectacularly bad that I refused to push on with a full review.
Huawei has a very good reputation for making excellent hardware so this one caught my eye and honestly, over the past few weeks, I fell in love with them. They are a set of truly wireless earphones with no cables in the traditional earbud style. There are no cables holding them together, the future is now.
If this is your first time here at Audiophile On, you should know that a some of the earphones we review here can get upwards of the $2000 mark. We are used to some really incredible sounding products and the Freebuds aren’t one of them. They sound good for a set of earbuds but they simply cannot compete with the highly priced multiple driver specialist earphones we are used to dealing with. So this review will be less about the sonic capabilities and more on the package as a whole.
Where to Buy?
As of right now we aren’t seeing the Freebuds 2 Pro version for sale on Amazon but they are available through Bangood.com (Link to show Bangood Pricing). Be careful when ordering from other sites as we have there are a few different versions of the Freebud earphones
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging included on the Freebuds is all fairly simple . Typical of what you would see on most large consumer brand electronics products. Its a sleeve box with images of the earphones on the outside and lots of information about the way they are intended to perform.
Slide the box open and you are greeted with a very simplistic layout. It has the earphones on top set in individual foam cutouts and underneath you will find all the accessories and manuals.
Accessories wise you will only find the carry/charging case (which we will talk about in more depth below) and a USB-C charging cable used to attach to the case to charge the Freebuds. (You cannot charge or pair these earphones without the case so don’t lose it)
It seems kind of odd writing this section with so little in it but that is simply due to the fact that these earbuds sit in the outer ear so there are no eartips to discuss and obviously being truly wireless we don’t need to discuss the cable.
The Charging/ Carry case
The charging and carrying case are an integral part of this earphone system. It has a number of functions that really enhances the user experience and I am mightily impressed by the construction, size and styling.
The build is excellent. It is constructed from plastic (my set was gloss white but they are also available in black with matching case.) and it’s very high quality. It feels durable and hard wearing and doesn’t show scratches or fingerprints easily.
The top hinges off to reveal the earphone storage / charging ports and it is on a very nice smooth and sturdy mechanism. No wiggle room and a solid click when closed over.
The styling is super simple and clean. All white with no logos which is something I really like, just the company name in for (Huawei used to put its lotus symbol on all devices but are moving to text branding which is much cleaner).
It’s also super small and I never felt bothered by having it in my pocket even though its width does leave a small bulge. It’s a good case and certainly on a par with the one included on the apple Airpods.
Functionality wise there is a 4 bar LED system on it that shows the current charge level when you plug it in or open the lid to use the earphones. I found this to be handy but I still prefer apples method of an information popup on your phone which is a lot more precise.
When you insert the earphones you will see a light on top of the case illuminate in differing colors dependent on the charging state of the earphones.
On the back of the case, below the hinge, you can find a small button that sits flush with the case. This is used to pair the earphones to your devices and this should be done with the earphones inside. I have paired the earphones once with this method and so far, over the past few weeks, I have not had to perform the action again.
Now onto the Freepods
So the Freepods 2 Pro at first glance look a lot like the Apple Airpods but when I got them in hand I actually prefer them by some margin. The flatter and wider shaft I think looks better and also gives a better grip when putting them in and out of the ears. I also like how the all white aesthetic is tastefully broken up by a metallic red ring. It’s just an aesthetic thing but I think it helps differentiate themselves looks wise from the Airpods.
Build quality is very good for an all plastic construction. I don’t forsee any problems with durability as long as you take care of them and store them in the case when not in use. Of course a metal body earphone would be more durable than the Freepods but that would add to the weight and likely interfere with Bluetooth reception.
Fit and isolation
The fit on the Huawei Freebuds 2 Pro was extremely comfortable for me and the small size, smooth housing and low weight all make these simply disappear into your ear. I know the expression “forget you are wearing them” gets banded about in the headphone world but that is really the case here. They are super unobtrusive and can be worn for hours on end without discomfort.
Of course part of the reason the Freebuds are so comfortable is because they are not earphones. These do not get inserted into the ear canal and rather just sit lightly in the outer ear supported by the tragus and and anti-tragus. This is a plus for comfort but means that they do not perform well in isolation tests.
Due to their design the Freebuds allow a virtually zero reduction in noise ingress. Because there is nothing to seal off your ear canals that means that the vast majority of external sounds can also be heard when wearing the earphones. Some get on just fine with this, I actually found myself surprised by how little i noticed from my environment when music was playing but it is true that in noisy environments it could get annoying.
So the Freebuds have a lot of built in functionality that enhanced the user experience for me when carrying out this review. For example, if you take an earbud out whilst playing audio it will automatically pause the playback. i found that very handy when someone spoke to me and when announcements were made on flights or at the airport. The other way to play and pause music was to double tap the right earbuds and once i got used to tapping in the correct spot this also worked flawlessly.
Tapping the left earphone allows you to answer and hang up calls when needed and when not in the process of a call it can be used to activate google voice assistant.
I was surprised at just how useful this all was but it is frustrating that there is no ability to customize these controls by mapping them to your own functions like you can do with the Airpods.
Still a very good implementation and a joy to use.
I wont go into great depth with regards to sound quality because the standard of earphones I usually review is so high. I can recommend many earphones at less than $30 that will sound better than these but they would all be wired and lack all the benefits you get from the Freepods.
The sound is surprisingly good and marginally better than Apple’s offering due to a better low ind and more natural sounding midrange. Its amazing the advancements that earbuds have made in sound over the past few years. Earbuds traditionally had a very thin and bass light sound to them but the Freebuds have good clarity, smooth slightly warm mids and a solid amount of bass.
Coming from in ear headphones it will take you a few hours to get used to the sound of these but when you do it can be quite enjoyable. The treble is smooth and rolled off so there is very little chance of encountering uncomfortable sibilance. Vocals sound open and free although they lack the gravity that you can expect from an in ear. The soundstage and presentation is very light and air as you would expect from what is essentially and open back design.
As I mentioned before there is some decent bass presence here. It doesn’t have the impact and rumble of a sealed format earphone of course because the air the driver moves is not forced by pressure. Its good though and for an earbud it is light years ahead of what was available just a decade ago.
If I am comparing the Huawei Freepods 2 Pro vs Apples Airpods then I would choose the Freepods every time but it both are good options if you are wanting to go cable free.
The Freepods 2 Pro are without a doubt the best Airpod alternative I have tested to date. In fact I would go as far as to say they are every bit their equal if not marginally better (Sound and Design). The Airpods have their advantages in some areas and then the Freebuds show their strength in others.
No doubt Apple had pioneered this design but I think that Huawei has shown that they can keep up. Either one of these earphones is a great buy and its becoming ever more clear that this style of earphone is going to be the future we are heading to. If you can get them for a good price then they are well worth buying. Recommended.