The Huawei Freebuds Pro are available in black, white and silver
The first thing to talk about is the case.
It’s oblong in shape, with very curved edges and a flip open top that reveals the buds.
But a big difficulty is that because of the way they sit in it, it can be very difficult to grab the buds and pull them clear of the strong magnets that hold them in the case.
This was a source of significant frustration, as I repeatedly tried and failed multiple times to get them out each time I used them, before finally achieving my aim.
The issue is that there is nothing to get a purchase on when you are pulling the buds, leading to your fingers slipping off.
Once out though the buds have a reasonably unusual but attractive design.
A rectangular stalk attaches on to the round shaped earpiece, which in turn has a rubber ear cup attached to it (three different sizes come in the box).
In a way they sort of look like Air Pods Pro, but with more angular features.
The blocky stalk though makes it easy to place the buds in your ear, where they feel snug and secure, even when exercising.
They come in three colours – black, white and silver.
Sound from the Freebuds Pro is in general very good.
They are driven by 11mm dynamic drivers, which pump out really decent quality audio.
They feature hybrid active noise cancellation (ANCS) technology, which uses inward and outward facing microphones to detect residual noise.
The drivers then generate anti-noise cancellation signals which counteract the sound in the immediate environment.
Noise cancellation on buds is never going to be as effective as it is on over ear headphones.
But the Freebuds Pro make a decent fist of it.
They can also adapt to the ambient noise, switching the noise cancellation mode automatically as appropriate if Dynamic mode is turned on.
There are three of these modes – general, cozy and ultra – the latter most suitable for travelling, the middle for workplace type environments and the former for street type environments.
But these modes can also be selected manually in the Huawei AI Life app if you can get it (see below).
There is an Awareness mode too which lets you hear surroundings and voices without having to take out the devices – a useful feature.
Battery life is pretty strong on the Freebuds Pro.
Officially Huawei says with the noise cancellation off, you’ll get 7 hours of listening on a single bud charge, and 30 if you repeatedly recharge them from a full case.
If the noise cancellation is turned on you’ll get 4.5 hours of listening and 20 hours when using the case to recharge.
In reality, those claims are reasonably accurate at first anyway – time however, like with all electronics, particularly small ones, will take its toll on the battery.
The case does support wireless charging. It will take one hour for a wired charge without the earbuds in it, but two hours wirelessly.
The buds take around 40 minutest to charge in the case.
One useful feature is you can use a smartphone or tablet to reverse charge the case while you are out and about.
The buds are controlled using touch and innovative pinch gestures.
These are carried out via the rectangular stalk sticking out of the bud head.
A long press or pinch of the stalk moves between noise cancellation and awareness mode.
Swiping up and down controls the volume.
A single short sharp pinch will start audio playing or pause, or if you have a call coming it will answer and end it.
A double pinch will skip to the next track, while three pinches will move it back a song.
They take a little getting used to, but once you figure it out, they work pretty well.
It isn’t possible to move between the ANC modes however using these gestures.
This has to be done via the smartphone AI Life app. That’s fine if you have a Huawei or Android phone.
But if you are an iOS user, you will be in trouble, as there is no app available, which is really disappointing and pretty inexplicable.
Connectivity is pretty intuitive and straightforward.
A small (and quite hard to spot) button on the side of the charging case triggers the Bluetooth pairing mode when the lid is open.
Once paired for the first time, the buds should connect automatically when you open the lid and take them out.
The buds have dual antenna design meaning they provide a pretty stable connection with a decent range, even if your phone isn’t all that close.
Call quality is very good, thanks to a decent triple microphone system and an anti-wind noise structure.
A bone sensor also uses bone vibration during calls to identify and strengthen voice signals.
One negative thing to note though is that the buds don’t have an official IP dust or water resistance rating. But Huawei claims they are water resistant.
Noise cancelling earbuds don’t generally have a great reputation, particularly among those who like high quality sound.
In this regard, the Freebuds Pro perform surprisingly well and also boast respectable overall sound quality.
They also have other endearing qualities, like decent battery life, good controls, a high build quality and they are comfortable to wear.
But there are a few serious drawbacks, like the fiddliness in taking them from the case, the absence of an iOS version of the AI Life app and the water resistance question.
At around €180 they are cheaper than both Apple’s AirPods Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live.
In price and functionality, there isn’t a huge amount between all three.