silky smooth looks and sound

by Joseph K. Clark

HUAWEI managed to put itself in a perfect position. As a company, it has an audio product for everyone. Prefer over-the-ear headphones? Check out the FreeBuds Studio. Want a comfortable pair of ANC buds? Check out the FreeBuds 3 (the successor we’re looking at today, the FreeBuds 4). Want both passive and active noise cancelation? Look no further: FreeBuds Pro.

Of course, we only mentioned the flagship products in our enumeration above. Still, you’ll be happy to find out there are plenty of other products in their portfolio, like the FreeBuds 4i and the freelance Pro, to name a few, so they have something for every taste, need, and wallet.

The FreeBuds 4 build on the success of the FreeBuds 3, with the company retaining the design principles and overall looks of the earbuds but making slight changes and tweaks to improve upon the predecessor. We’ll be looking at those and the resulting product in our HUAWEI FreeBuds 4 review below.

HUAWEI FreeBuds 4 specs

Compared to the FreeBuds 3, the FreeBuds 4 is slightly smaller, reaching both the buds themselves and the charging case.

One earbud weighs a mere 4.1 grams and measures 41.4 mm in height, 16,8 mm in width, and 18,5 mm in depth. The charging case weighs 38 grams (with the buds removed) and, since it’s pebble-shaped, has a diameter of 58 mm and a height of 21.2 mm.

silky smooth looks

Inside, you’ll find a slightly larger 14.3 mm driver and the same Kirin A1 chip that powers the company’s GT2-series of smartwatches, earbuds, and even the FreeBuds Studio. Bluetooth connectivity has been upgraded to Bluetooth 5.2, and the earbuds have earned their IPX4 rating against splashes from all directions this year. Battery capacity didn’t suffer from a slight size reduction, with units rated 30mAh per earbud and 410mAh for the charging case.

Wireless charging has been dropped, with no clear plans to offer a version that supports it in the future, and so was the bone sensor that was a feature on the predecessor.

Design, build and fit.

The design, per se, is beautiful, much in line with what we’re used to getting from HUAWEI on its premium products. The finish is also top-notch, with nothing further to report.

HUAWEI went with the open-fit design, similar to the FreeBuds 3, which excites me about the FreeBuds Pro’s successor this year. An open-fit design has its pros and cons. We’ll talk about them, but you should look at them if you don’t like in-ear canal earbuds (like the FreeBuds Pro and, more recently, the FreeBuds 4i).

Fit-wise, because of the open-fit design, HUAWEI had more wiggle room to optimize the size and shape of the FreeBuds 4 to fit most ears comfortably. They’re comfortable, and due to their lightweight, you quickly get accommodated to wearing them. After a couple of minutes, you forget you’re wearing them.

We will address the cons in the segment below about audio quality and ANC. Those are two of the significant pros of an open-fit design. However, we’d like to preface this because they’re only cons if you come from an in-ear canal design. You should dismiss these cons if open-fit is your bread and butter.

Audio quality, ANC, and Experience

Audio quality

We must approach the audio quality and ANC conversation from the open-fit design standpoint. The in-ear canal earbuds will offer the best audio quality and ANC thanks to their passive noise cancelation and sound isolation inside the ear canal. Of course, an over-the-ear design will sound better because of the more significant drivers while offering better noise isolation.

The 14.3 mm drivers inside the FreeBuds 4 offer a delightful sound. They lack a bit on the low end of the spectrum, where the bass and lower mids reside, but that’s just a consequence of the open-fit design. Consequently, if your taste in music involves heavy bass and punchy lows, the FreeBuds 4 might not be the earbuds for you. However, they are silky on the mids and highs, emphasizing vocals and instruments.

There aren’t many settings to play with inside the AI Life app regarding audio quality. You can even get away with using them without the app, which, aside from customizing controls and updating firmware, does little to nothing to improve the audio experience.

Active noise cancelation

HUAWEI claims ANC has improved over its predecessor. We’re not saying they haven’t; we’re saying we didn’t see a significant improvement. ANC is there, and it works.

Does it block out as much noise as the FreeBuds Pro or FreeBuds 4i? Of course not, as those have the advantage of extra passive noise cancelation thanks to the in-ear canal design.

With the FreeBuds 4, noise cancelation will almost entirely block out an air conditioner or a fan, but anything beyond that will bleed through due to the open-fit design.

Considering that having ANC on almost halves the battery life (from 4 hours to 2.5 hours), we’ll advise you to keep it off unless you specifically need to turn it on. And, when you do, expect, depending on the environment, for some noise to be blocked out, with most of it seeping through in a muffled, muted, or otherwise unadulterated manner.

Experience

We’ve been using the FreeBuds 4 for phone calls, VoIP calls (Signal, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet), and listening to music. All of the above was delivered in line with the expectations. We covered the audio quality in the segment above, and voice calls sounded good. People said they could hear us clearly on the other end of the line, irrespective of the call quality (lesser phone calls, upper VoIP calls).

Dual-device connectivity (the ability to be connected to two devices simultaneously) will be useful to bridge the gap between work and play. I do most of my work on my computer while listening to most of my music on my phone.

You don’t have to fumble for the pause button when you quickly want to stop your music with wear detection. Just take them out of your ears, and multimedia playback will immediately cease.

Battery life is close to the one advertised. 4 hours without ANC, 2.5 hours with ANC, 22 more hours with the charging case, and no ANC. While this is similar to the numbers of the FreeBuds 3 and manageable, other HUAWEI and competitor models, offer more. It’s just fair to mention that!

Charging will take about an hour for the earbuds and the charging case. Currently, only wired charging is available, so don’t expect to use reverse wireless charging on your phone to keep them going while you’re out.

The stem of the buds is touch-sensitive, and while you can configure the actions inside the AI Life app, the defaults are double-tapping for play/pause, long-tapping for toggling ANC on/off, swiping up and down to increase/decrease the volume. Thanks to this feature, you can get away with using the FreeBuds 4 without AI Life on another Android, iPhone, or Mac.

When using the AI Life app, you can update the firmware (we got one update during our review period), configure the gestures above, and try to locate the earbuds should you have misplaced them.

Lastly, HUAWEI seems to have made it a mission for users to struggle to remove the earbuds from the charging case. It’s a combination of the magnets and the shiny surface and finishes that denies the proper grip for easy removal. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to work with every model from the company, and the FreeBuds 4 are not at all easier to remove.

Conclusion

The FreeBuds 4 are a perfect pair of smart earbuds if you’re new to Wireless, ANC-enabled models. We don’t consider them a significant step up from the FreeBuds 3 to advise an upgrade.

Adding the IPX4 rating means you can wear them in the rain and even at the gym, as water splashes won’t damage the earbuds. That is a great selling point, besides the silky smooth sound (lacking a bit on the low end) and its relatively small footprint.

They currently go for £129.99 in the UK, and you get a HUAWEI Band 4 Pro (valued at £49.99) as a gift. You can now buy them in the EU for €119.00, where they’re currently off (at the time of this review) from €149, but the discounts vary from region to region, so consult your local HUAWEI store for the latest prices.

Pros and Cons

Pros

+ lightweight and comfortable;
+ touch gestures;
+ silky smooth sound;
+ dual-device connectivity.

Cons

– weak ANC;
– poor battery life with ANC;
– audio lacking on the low end;
– no wireless charging.

Anton D. Nagy

Anton is the Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow. As publication leader, he aims to bring Pocketnow closer to you. His vision is mainly focused on and oriented toward the audience. Anton’s ambition, adopted by the entire team, is to transform Pocketnow into a reference media outlet.

Related Posts