As with other new products, Huawei is building on what it’s done with past FreeBuds models to offer something with a better experience. That’s the promise with the FreeBuds 4, which we’re going to examine if it lives up to what it says it offers.
The Huawei FreeBuds 4 are open-fit earbuds that come armed with 14.3mm dynamic drivers, Liquid Crystal Polymer composite diaphragm, three microphones for picking up voice and other external noise, and a bass enhancing power engine. These buds are designed to provide a comfortable fit, active noise reduction, high-resolution sound quality, and intelligent audio connectivity. How do they deliver on these fronts?
Lightweight, open-fit design
The Huawei FreeBuds 4’s design doesn’t stray far from the FreeBuds 3’s look. It’s an open-fit design that sits in your ear instead of being plugged into your ear canal. These make it more comfortable to wear, especially since Huawei trimmed down their weight to 4.1g per earbud.
This design doesn’t do quite well with insulating outside noise, even if it comes equipped with Active Noise Cancelation (ANC). Huawei addresses this issue with Adaptive Ear Matching (AEM) noise cancelation technology, which it claims is a first for open-fit buds. This tech works to improve noise cancelation across different wearing scenarios. When ANC is activated, the earbuds will detect your ear shape and determine the optimum noise cancelation for you. We’ll talk more about the FreeBuds 4’s ANC later.
These buds have an IPX4 rating for water and splash resistance. While you can technically use this for some workouts, I find the open-fit design to be a bit inconvenient when I move around a lot. It’s not the best pair to do yoga with; sometimes, I end up accidentally swatting them out of my ear. But this design might work better for walks or a jog or workouts that won’t require you to move your head around a lot. Since its design allows for some outdoor noise to come in, you can hear a bit of what’s happening around you.
I felt a bit of ear strain after using it for over three hours (which you probably shouldn’t be doing anyway). I think that could be because of the shape of my ears. But that’s also one of the downsides of an open-fit design. You can’t use different ear tips to get a better seal or fit. But if these do fit you well, prepare for long, comfortable listening sessions.
The charging case comes in this round, dental floss-like shape, which can easily slip into small pouches or pockets. It has a sturdy, premium feel to it, with the opening mechanism satisfyingly snapping shut when I’m done using it. The top lid can even support the weight of the case when it’s open, proving that the build is even better this time around.
The charging case has benefited from a sturdier build this time around compared to the FreeBuds 3 and feels more premium. The opening mechanism is rock solid and brings a satisfying snap when closing. The top lid can now support the weight of the entire case without shutting close, which is a clear sign of the improved build.
The FreeBuds 4 come in this sleek Silver Frost or clean Ceramic White.
Pleasurable listening experience
Active noise reduction might be a better term to describe what the FreeBuds 4 offer. With AEM and 25dB ANC, these earbuds work to give consistent sound quality, no matter what situation you find yourself in. The design makes it nearly impossible to block out all external noise, but it can approximate how much noise it keeps out with the help of software and the extra mics.
You will still hear the fan blowing or heavy rain falling on your window. But these buds can at least reduce the noise that can easily drown out what you’re listening to. Stuff pointed out that another effect of the onboard ANC is that it somehow balances out the sound, allowing these buds to cope better in noisy environments.
The mids don’t sound as harsh, especially since bumping up the volume on these doesn’t deliver as good an audio experience as it would around lower volume settings. You get better sound separation with a richer, detailed treble. The bass somehow matches outside noise level, so these buds offer a bit more thump to them without being overbearing.
While reviewing these buds, Huawei rolled out an update through the Huawei AI Life app, bringing two noise-canceling modes and EQ effects. The former lets you choose between General and Cozy modes, while the latter offers Bass Boost, Treble Boost, or Default.
Cozy is meant for less noisy rooms, while General is for noisy environments. I stuck to General mostly because I could hardly tell the difference between them. Plus, I wanted to get as much noise reduction as possible out of these buds.
Bass Boost and Treble Boost are self-explanatory, but it’s nice that Huawei offers the option to enable these features, especially if you’re more particular about your listening experience. I wished Huawei included a customizable equalizer in its app.
Generally, I’ve enjoyed my listening experience on the FreeBuds 4. It didn’t matter whether I was listening to music while I worked, tuned into podcasts while I did chores, or watched or played games. The sound was typically clear and crisp. I don’t recommend maxing out the volume, but when you keep it at reasonable volume levels (around 60%), you get a good experience.
I’ve mentioned this in my first impressions, but I don’t have a Huawei device to test the FreeBuds 4 with. Using it on non-Huawei devices won’t impact your day-to-day use. You’ll get most features, but, of course, Huawei devices have a leg up over other devices.
READ ALSO: 24 hours with the Huawei FreeBuds 4
There’s pop-up pairing, where you need to open the case to connect it to a nearby Huawei device. There’s also dual-mode 48kHz HD recording, allowing you to record vlogs with high-quality audio. Huawei offers Surroundings mode, which captures the environment you’re in, and Voices Mode, which uses voice frequency recognition technology to focus on specific frequencies of your voice and block out background noises.
There’s a low-latency mode for gamers with a 90ms delay on HarmonyOS 2 devices and a 150ms delay on support EMUI devices. On the Android devices I’ve used (a OnePlus 9, Xiaomi Redmi Note 10S, and a Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro), I didn’t notice any latency issues, whether I was playing copious amounts of Cooking Battle or when I watch videos. So, you’re not going to be shortchanged in that department, either. Of course, it would be great to have them.
Huawei brings its HD voice for calls to all devices connected to the FreeBuds 4, which is quite helpful. When I turned off a fan near me while on a call, I was surprised at how clearly I could hear the other person on the line. When I tried making a call with the fan on, the person on the other end reported that he could hear some of the wind, but he could still hear me quite well, too.
I wish I could say the same for recording with the earbuds on. Unfortunately, those recordings came out more muffled than I’d like. Huawei device owners have an advantage in this regard.
There was also an Easter egg of sorts with these buds. I found that if I wore them for a few hours straight and pause whatever audio is playing, there will be a voice that reminds me to take off the buds and rest my ears. As someone who does constantly wear earbuds or headphones, the reminder is welcome.
LiTT Tip # 1: Want less noise cancelation? The two new modes are accessible through the Huawei AI Life. Scroll down to the Sound section, enable Noise canceling, then head into Mode. You can choose between Cozy and General there.
LiTT Tip # 2: If you want to activate Bass boost or Treble boost, head to the Sound quality section in the Huawei AI Life app. Then head to EQ effects to choose the option you want.
Simple dual-device connection
As with other TWS buds, connecting the Huawei FreeBuds 4 to your mobile device is a simple affair. If you own a supported Huawei device, it’s as simple as popping open the lid to get that gadget to recognize your earbuds are near them.
These buds support Bluetooth 5.2 with a dual-device connection, meaning you can stay connected to two gadgets simultaneously. Huawei improves on this further with an Audio Connection Center within the Huawei AI Life app. This feature allows you to switch between 10 frequently-used devices easily.
Multi-pairing is always a plus in my book, so kudos to Huawei for making that even more straightforward. And you aren’t even limited to Huawei devices. It can seamlessly switch from one device to another, depending on where the audio is coming from. If you’re watching or listening to something on one device and the other one rings, these buds are smart enough to pause what you’re doing and switch to the gadget that needs your attention.
The Bluetooth connection is pretty stable. The only time it dropped was when I moved from one room to another with a thick concrete wall between my phone and the buds.
READ ALSO: How to set up your Huawei FreeBuds 4 on an Android phone
Responsive buds matter to you
After testing several wireless buds this year, the FreeBuds 4 is one of the more responsive TWS buds I’ve used. I don’t typically find myself having to repeat taps or swipes on the earbuds to get the desired effect. I love that these buds also offer volume control, lessening the number of times I need to pick up my phone to increase or decrease the volume.
With gesture control, you can customize the double-tap gesture to play or pause music, change to the next or previous track, or wake your voice assistant. You can also disable it if you’d prefer that. Unfortunately, you can’t customize the press and hold gesture as well as the swipe action.
Huawei also offers wear detection on these buds, which you may or may not find helpful. If you like having that feature, I’m happy to report that it reacts almost instantaneously. Take either earbud out, and it’ll pause what you’re listening to on supported apps. I’ve gotten it to work on apps like Spotify, built-in music players, Netflix, and YouTube. I can’t get it to work on Viu, though.
If you’re prone to losing earbuds, Huawei also has a Find My Earbuds feature in the AI Life app, which will “ring” the missing bud.
LiTT Tip #3: If you don’t want the smart wear detection enabled, open the Huawei AI Life app. Scroll down to Settings, then toggle the Smart wear detection option off.
Decent battery life
According to Huawei, the FreeBuds 4 is designed to last 2.5 hours with ANC enabled or up to four hours with it turned off. The charging case extends that time to 14 or 22 hours, respectively. I’ve typically gotten more than that number, at around 3.5 to 5 hours per charge, with volume at approximately 60% to 80%. It might not be the longest-lasting battery life for wireless buds, but I was plenty satisfied with its mileage.
It’s possible to get four charges out of the included case, plus sometimes a little extra after that. And it takes around 30 minutes to charge the buds in the case and under an hour to charge the case with the drained earbuds in it.
What’s lit and what’s not?
What’s lit about it:
- Lightweight buds
- ANC helps balance out the sound quality
- Addition of EQ effects
- HD voice and recording (the latter is limited to Huawei devices, though)
- Low latency mode (again limited to Huawei devices)
- Decent to impressive call quality
- An alert that reminds me to rest my ears now and then
- Easy and seamless dual device connection
- Great touch control response
- Volume control on the buds
- Find My Earbuds option in the app
- Battery life gets you through a day or two
- Fast-charging case
What needs the extra spark:
- Open-fit design doesn’t allow for different ear tip sizes or complete noise cancelation
- Sounds a bit too harsh when the volume is maxed out
- No customizable equalizer
- Voice recording sound muffled
- Lacking additional customization for gestures
- Didn’t have the model that supports wireless charging
Personally, I do prefer in-ears over this open-fit design if we’re talking about ANC. The Huawei FreeBuds 4 try hard in this regard, but it’s just not as good as what in-ears can offer. Nevertheless, the FreeBuds 4 still tick many boxes I need for wireless buds.
There’s seamless multi-pairing, a generally comfortable fit, good audio quality, and a long-lasting battery. They work great for listening to music and podcasts, taking calls, playing games, and watching shows and movies. So, if you’re looking for a premium pair of open-fit earbuds and consider those features necessary, it’s worth considering getting a pair of the FreeBuds 4.
The Huawei FreeBuds 4 are priced at PHP 7,999 or €150.
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