Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 review: The combo breaker

Huawei nails the premium earbuds formula at a lower cost than its competition

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 review: The combo breaker
Editor's Choice
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Laptop Mag Verdict

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 pack crisp, expressive sound and immense noise cancellation into a sleek design.

Pros

  • +

    Fantastic signature sound

  • +

    Sleek and stylish design

  • +

    Powerful noise cancellation

  • +

    Strong battery life

  • +

    Seriously competitive price

Cons

  • -

    Battery life could be better

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Huawei’s FreeBuds Pro 2 are hunting for premium game and the competition has officially been put on notice.

With a premium design that does look slightly like a certain pair of Apple earbuds, the FreeBuds Pro 2 stand out with its unique driver structure that delivers sound crafted in partnership with Devialet. Throw in the machine learning-driven noise cancellation, and it’s clear the company has gone all out.

So, the question is obvious: does all of this translate into a supreme pair of buds? Let’s find out.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 price and availability

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 earbuds are set to launch across Europe at €199/£169 (roughly $205), and are available in three finishes: silver blue, silver frost and silver white.

No word on a U.S. release (chances are it won’t happen outside of the odd Amazon listing), but taking its U.K. price into account, this is far less than the AirPods Pro (£249), Master & Dynamic MW08 (£279), and the Sony WF-1000XM4s (£299). 

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 design

As I said in the initial announcement, the FreeBuds Pro 2 have a similar design language to the AirPods Pro. But look beyond the typically sleek pill-shaped case and there are some aesthetic differences. 

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The stems of the buds are blockier, showing off subtle chrome edging that matches its shiny metallic hinge that displays the partnership between Huawei and Devialet. By the way, given the hardware design choices made for the Devialet Gemini, I’m glad to see the sound smarts of this audio company combined with the refined product design of Huawei.

Rather than the gigantic Gemini earbuds, the FreeBuds Pro 2 fit snug in the ear with a great long-use comfort, thanks to the FreeBuds dimensions (1.1 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches) and weight (0.2 ounces). They match the AirPods Pro in all dimensions, so this is a familiar fit for anyone who’s tried Apple’s top-tier earbuds. While the Momentum True Wireless 3 are slightly shorter (0.9 inches) and weigh the same, they are a little bulkier in the ear with a 1-inch thickness.

Left: Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2, right: Apple Airpods Pro (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

As for the case, at 2.7 x 1.8 x 1.0 inches and weighing 1.8 ounces, the whole package is slightly bulkier than the AirPods Pro (2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches), but a lot more pocket-friendly than the pretty beasty container of the second-generation Momentums (1.3 x 2.7 x 1.0 inches).

Put simply, if you’ve become acquainted with Apple’s earbuds, these will feel familiar and that’s no bad thing. What that means is a lightweight pair of buds that have tremendous staying power whether you’re walking or exercising (these have IP54-rated water resistance), while continuing to be comfortable over long periods of time.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 controls and digital assistant

Touch control options are expansive and customizable on the FreeBuds Pro 2, with single, double, and triple tap functions, along with a press and hold for vast levels of interaction and even a swipe to increase/reduce the volume. 

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Similar to the AirPods Pro, subtle tap sounds can be heard to confirm when touches are received, which is a nice addition over hoping your buds register your commands.

I’m always a fan of buttons, as you can’t get unintended touches. But Huawei’s workaround reduces the chances of accidental touches, as you need to pinch them to interact.

The smart assistant can be programmed to launch with an easy pinch and hold, and the microphones do a good job of picking up your requests.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 active noise cancellation and ambient listening

The FreeBuds Pro 2 excel when it comes to active noise cancellation (ANC): packing three mics on each bud and utilizing the second version of Huawei’s intelligent dynamic ANC algorithm to deliver up to 47dB of cancellation strength.

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The mics do an awesome job of neutralizing the background noise and isolating your listening experience. Combined with the snug fit, these can handle their own against even the loudest of scenarios like rush hour traffic with extremely minimal hiss.

Flip over to transparency mode and the mics make equally good work of your surroundings, highlighting conversation over any kind of background drones. I could hear low-level chatter from my partner at up to roughly 20 feet away. 

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 audio quality

The FreeBuds Pro 2 pack a unique dual-speaker setup, which features an 11-millimeter quad magnet dynamic driver and a UHF planar diaphragm driver. You don’t find tech like this in earbuds at a lower price. To translate the guff, this aids in better separation of sound: the big magnetic-driven driver handling the lows and the smaller outlet of the planar shooting the highs into your ears.

This results in a frequency response range of 14 Hz to 48 kHz (the lower end of which goes far deeper than the AirPods Pro and even the Sony WF-1000xM4), which pairs with LDAC codec support for up to 990 kbps audio, and an updated digital crossover processor for better technical separation of the highs and lows, to deliver a strong platform for strong sound quality.

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There’s a whole other side to this: the tuning. Huawei has got some help thanks to the company’s partnership with Devialet, who went through a scrutinous range of machine and human-based testing to tune these earbuds. 

I could ramble on about the technical side and go into the details of the on-board sensors that measure the size of your ear canal and adjusts the EQ to optimize sound delivery, but let’s just cut to the chase.

The end result is a sound quality that challenges earbuds at double the price of the FreeBuds Pro 2. For simpler songs with more compressed compositions, like the Beartooth’s riotous romp of breakdowns in “Devastation,” the FreeBuds provide warmth to the thudding lower tones and plenty of life in the mids, while letting the highs truly shine.

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This continues into tracks with a higher number of intricate details like “2009” by Mac Miller: one of the best songs to really make the most of this signature sound (and a gorgeous tune, too). The reverb of the piano and the small breaks in Mac’s voice are emphasized and given plenty of life, but the sharp stings of 808 bass are felt without impacting on any of the other levels. 

Even down to spoken word, like listening to “Not Another D&D Podcast” (my favorite of many Dungeons & Dragons podcasts), these excel in bringing personality to each utterance from every presenter, without struggling a single bit on any elongated “s” sounds or punchy “p” pronunciations. 

All in all, you’ll find that Huawei has excelled in sound quality. The fact that these comparatively beat out the AirPods Pro, provide a cleaner, warmer composition than the MW08s and come close to matching the WF-1000xM4s just shows how much of a marvel these are.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 app

It’s a tale of two halves for the FreeBuds Pro 2 on the app front. 

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For iOS, the free-to-download AI Life app offers you a comprehensive suite of options to tweak the audio (including a customizable EQ) and easy access to changing your gesture controls, taking an ear tip fit test and finding your earphones by playing a sound.

As for Android users (and more specifically, any Huawei device users out there), you’re going to get a far more seamless experience thanks to fast pair and the AI Life app. Think about how easy it is to flip your AirPods between your iPhone, iPad and MacBook. Huawei has managed to do the same across its phones and the laptops like the MateBook D 16.

It’s an impressive feat that you rarely find in any earbuds outside of the Apple ecosystem.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 battery life

Huawei is promising up to four hours of listening time with ANC on, extended to 18 with the charging case, and this largely matches up to the reality of my time using these.

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Turn ANC off and you can extend the FreeBuds Pro 2’s battery life to 6.5, but you’ll have this essential feature activated most of the time. Plus, taking calls while listening has reduced my time using these to three hours on one charge, at 60% volume with ANC turned on.

Simply put, this is not ideal. You’d hope for a little more fuel in the tank, but the wireless charging on the case and the sheer speed of juicing the buds back up to full within the case does soften the blow a little.

Huawei FreeBuds 2 call quality and connectivity

Connectivity is handled with Bluetooth 5.2 with multipoint, which helped me form a secure connection across two of either the iPhone 13 Pro, OnePlus 10 Pro, Huawei MateBook D 16 and M1 MacBook Pro.

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Your voice is clear indoors and outdoors, and the on-board mics do a good job of isolating the background noise around you during even my more intense tests such as walking alongside rush hour traffic.

Don’t get me wrong, under intense stress like the gail force winds sometimes felt when walking by the river, you do sound like you’re underwater. But words are understood and thanks to ANC, you can hear the person talking to you with ease.

That is all thanks to Huawei’s own deep neural network noise-cancelling algorithm, which has learned from 100 million voice samples to auto-adjust ANC levels on the background and highlight your voice.

Bottom line

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 rewrite the rulebook on what you should expect from earbuds at this price — competing with far more expensive options and leaving some of them in the dust.

While the battery life is slightly underwhelming on the buds themselves, they sound amazing, pack powerful ANC, take calls well, offer impressively responsive controls and cram it all into a sleek design.

What’s more, the comprehensive app and software (including the Apple-rivaling seamless integration across Android/Huawei devices) makes these some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy right now.

Jason England
Staff Writer

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.