After already cementing their position as a brand to look out for when it comes to smartphones, with products such as the Huawei P40 Pro+ and Huawei Mate 40 Pro, Huawei is making its first step into over-ear headphones with the Huawei FreeBuds Studio active noise-cancelling headphones.
First things first, despite having the term ‘FreeBuds’ in its name, the product is definitely not a pair of earbuds. It seems Huawei is looking to group its various wearable audio tech under the ‘FreeBuds’ umbrella and while its an interesting naming choice for a pair of headphones, we imagine it’ll be something fans of the brand will quickly get used to.
At a glance, the Huawei FreeBuds Studio comes in a nice matte metallic finish, with cylindrical adjustable arms by the side that lends a somewhat industrial look to the headphones. The ear cups are fitted with protein leather, a nod to Huawei’s sustainability efforts, and sits comfortably over the ears when wearing. The headphones are also padded at the top to provide extra comfort when wearing. That, coupled with how lightweight the headphones are at 260g, makes it often easy to forget that you are wearing a pair of headphones with how comfortable the Freebuds Studio is. Though the headphones do come with slightly shallow ear cups, and some that we’ve let try the headphones have noted that there is direct skin contact between the ear cups and the ears that can get uncomfortable after prolonged hours of wearing.
Despite it being their first time at the rodeo, Huawei has come prepared and made sure to pack to impress. It has fitted the FreeBuds with 40mm drivers that do a good job of delivering a clean and balanced sound experience to users. With a frequency range of 4Hz to 48,000Hz, the FreeBuds Studio is capable of delivering deep smooth-sounding bass that melts right into you, whilst also making sure that the mids and trebles aren’t overshadowed by the bass. It was a blast listening to Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive on the headphones, with every instrument, as well as the vocals in the song, being clearly audible, and no overly aggressive bass overpowering the song.
Aside from its sound quality, another key feature of the Huawei FreeBuds Studio will have to be its active noise cancellation. Huawei has brought the ‘Intelligent Dynamic Active Noise Cancelling’ technology from the FreeBuds Pro over to the headphones, which allows it to automatically adapt the strength of its ANC based on the user’s environment. The FreeBuds Studio uses four high sensitivity microphones on both sides of the headphones to better detect ambient noise and adapt the ANC to suit. There are a total of three modes the headphone can go into: Ultra Mode (for noisy train rides and when you are on the plane), General Mode (For when you are chilling in a cafe or walking down a bustling street), and Cosy Mode (For more quiet places like libraries or workspaces, to help cancel out the noise of the air conditioning and computers).
When testing out the FreeBuds Studio, we nearly always kept the ANC on and were very impressed with how solidly it was able to cancel out our ambient sounds, be it when on the bus or in a supermarket. It allowed us to focus solely on the music that is playing through the headphones.
What we weren’t as impressed by was the FreeBud Studio’s Awareness Mode, whose purpose was to make use of the microphones on the headphones to perceive the surrounding sounds and let ambient noise in. This way you’ll be more aware of what is going on around you even with your music playing. However, the sounds that came through were way noticeable deeper than in real life, and slightly jarring. Wind is also turned into slightly ugly sounding static at the back of the headphones which can be a little annoying to listen to after a while. But perhaps Awareness Mode just isn’t for us, as we typically use the headphones for the ANC mode and see no real need to turn the Awareness Mode on.
Another impressive feature of the Huawei FreeBuds Studio is its long-lasting battery life, as we had no need to charge the headphones even after five days of taking it out to test. Granted we only used it for a few hours at a time, but that is still pretty stunning considering its price of S$398. Huawei touts a battery life of 20 hours on the headphones and after not needing to charge it for so long, even after taking it straight out of the box, we can safely say that this is true. The headphones also come in a sturdy yet classy looking carry case that fits easily into most bags.
The FreeBuds Studio does offer users the ability to determine the strength of its ANC. However, this feature is currently only available for Android users as the Huawei AI Life app is only available on the Google Play Store and not on the Apple Store. Which is a downright pity for Apple users.
While there is definitely no shortage of great wireless ANC headphones available now, such as Sony’s WH-1000XM3 Noise-Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones, Huawei’s first entry into the market looks more than capable of holding its own and making its presence known. It comes with impressive noise-cancelling and can last for a long time after a full charge. With some minor adjustments and iterations, it’ll surely become an ANC headphone other brands need to look out for.
Geek Review Score
With solid active noise cancelling and great audio quality, Huawei’s first foray into the headphones market is looking to be a strong one.
Aesthetics - 7/10
Build Quality - 8/10
Performance - 7.5/10
Value - 8/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10