The Freebuds 3 is not the first headphones from Huawei, a fact that you can probably guess by their name. They are even the third generation of the company’s real wireless earbuds and are the world’s first open-fit versions with active noise reduction.
FREEBUDS 3: PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
You can buy the Freebuds 3 at Huawei and Carphone Warehouse, where they cost £169.99. In any case, that means they undercut the AirPods 2, which cost £199 from Apple with the wireless charging case.
Of course, they have a few advantages over the AirPods, including that active noise reduction. They are also available in white or black versions.
FUNCTIONS AND DESIGN
The fact that Huawei has been inspired by the AirPods in the field of design does not change anything. The case, although round, has a flip-top and a small LED to indicate the charging status.
Opening the lid also causes the Freebuds to turn on and connect to any device with which they are connected.
Designed to work with Huawei phones, especially those with Android 10, the pairing process works exactly like AirPods on an iPhone. Move the case near your phone and a window will appear asking if you want to pair them, a process that takes a second or two.
On other phones, you can pair them in the traditional way by going to Bluetooth settings. However, it is important to note that to adjust active noise cancellation, the Huawei AI Life app is required, which can be accessed by scanning the QR code on the box: it is not in the Google Play Store and is not available for iPhone users.
In the app, you will find a rotary knob that you can turn to adjust the noise reduction effect. Huawei says the effect varies for each person, so you have to turn the knob to the position that works best for you.
You can also change what happens when you double-tap each button, but by default, the left is set to enable or disable active noise cancellation, and the right to play media or go to the next song. It is also the only way to check the battery level of each button and the case.
The design of the buttons is very similar to the AirPods and they fit universally, so unless you have huge or small ears, you should notice that they are comfortable in your ears.
At the bottom of each microphone is a microphone, which is used for phone calls and to talk to your phone’s assistant. During the call, the receiver benefits from Bone Sensor Enhancement, which means that your voice does not only come from the microphones. It also uses bone conduction so that the vibrations that are made in your ear when you speak are transmitted to the person calling you and this results in a much clearer sound with less background noise. And it works too.
Aerodynamic microphone tubes try to protect the microphones against wind noise and Huawei says that you can cycle at 20 km / h and have a silent telephone conversation.
Just like the AirPods, Huawei has designed a chip, especially for the Freebuds. This is called the Kirin A1 and integrates Bluetooth 5.1 and BLE 5.1 with a signal processor, sensors and energy management hub.
What is particularly smart is that the system only sends the left channel to the left button and the right channel to the right button instead of sending stereo sound to one earphone and then sending one channel to the other button as many real wireless earbuds do. That is better for latency (it is 30% lower) and power consumption (50% lower). Also note that the transfer rate of 2.3 Mb / s is high enough to support hi-res audio, while some rivals cannot even offer half that speed.
If noise reduction is on, the Freebuds 3 lasts four hours. That may be too restrictive for some people, but if you take the battery into the case, you can play a total of 20 hours before you have to charge the case.
This can be done wirelessly (even from your P30 Pro or Mate 20 Pro using Reverse Wireless Charging) or via a USB-C cable. If you do use a wire, the cover charges twice as fast as the cover of the AirPods and wireless charging is 50% faster.
Because they fit open, the Freebuds 3 could never hope to offer the audio quality of a closed design. Yet they offer great quality with great bass levels, especially if you turn on Dolby Atmos on a Huawei phone. Voice is clear and clear, but the sound stage is not as wide or instruments as well defined as with the Sony WF-1000XM3.
We tested with a P30 Pro with Android 9 (EMUI 9.1) but with the new Android 10 just coming out now for the P30 series you will get low latency when watching videos.
Note that you only benefit from the ultra-low latency if you link the Freebuds 3 to a Huawei phone with EMUI 10.
As mentioned, the conversation quality is very good, both in terms of the clarity of the person speaking to you and your voice. We tested this in noisy environments and the receiver could still hear us clearly.
What about noise reduction? Well, it’s not perfect. In an office environment, it does its best to remove air conditioning and the general background noise but has not noticeably reduced the volume of talking or typing. It is also good for public transportation, except in the ridiculously noisy London underground.
Where and where there is a lot of background noise, such as walking through a street in the city, the system is less effective. A bigger problem, however, is the wind noise that seems to be picked up by the microphones. This is easily noticeable, even if you walk at a fast pace indoors, not just when there is a strong breeze outside.
Sometimes this can be reduced by adjusting the dial in the AI Life app, but that is tricky and should not be necessary.
If you don’t like noise isolating earplugs and want to hear your surroundings, the Freebuds 3 is a good choice. Huawei does not hide the fact that they are designed to work best with its own smartphones, which is fair enough considering the situation with AirPods.
HUAWEI FREEBUDS 3: SPECS
- Dimensions: 41.5 x 20.4 x 17.8 mm (per earbud) ,? 60.9 x 21.8 mm (charging pouch)
- Battery life: 4 hours. play on 1 charge, 20 hours. play with a charging case
- Weight: around 4.5 g (per earplugs), around 48 g (charging case)
The Huawei Freebuds are so nice to wear in your ears that somethings I forget I’m wearing them.