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Wearables

HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2 review: these are the ones you want

By Anton D. Nagy August 1, 2022, 6:50 am
FreeBuds Pro 2 case open Source: Pocketnow

Audio, in addition to imaging, are just two of the categories HUAWEI has been historically excelling at. The FreeBuds line-up has nicely matured over the years, with improvements added to every new version in every product family, but this time around, the FreeBuds Pro 2 bring in a heavy-weight to join the fight in their own corner.

French audio tech savant Devialet has been working with HUAWEI on their Sound, Sound X, and Sound Joy speakers, but with the FreeBuds Pro 2, the companies went all “small size, big sound”.

It baffles me how far the industry has evolved. When you come to think of all the technology crammed into a product that’s barely larger than a thumbnail, you can’t help but think about the old James Bond movies where all of this was science-fiction. But I digress…

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We’ve been using the FreeBuds Pro 2 for over a week now exclusively for all audio needs, and we’re happy to share our impressions with you, in our HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2 review below.

FreeBuds Pro and FreeBuds Pro 2
FreeBuds Pro on left, FreeBuds Pro 2 on right
Source: Pocketnow

Design

The overall design principles haven’t changed from the previous, original FreeBuds Pro, but the company made some very welcome, yet slight but relevant changes to the FreeBuds Pro 2. They reduced the overall weight and size both for the buds and for the charging case.

One bud now weighs about 6 grams, and, after wearing both of them for a couple of minutes, you stop noticing them at all. The stem-to-bud connection has been redrawn as well. Not only is the stem now shorter and thinner, it is a seamlessly integrated part of the bud, for a more industrial design look.

The charging case is 11 percent smaller and weighs about 55 grams. That means it’s more pocketable and conveys much better the feeling of a finely polished pebble in the palm of your hand.

The FreeBuds Pro 2 come in three colors: Silver Blue, Silver Frost, and Ceramic White (which is what we’ve got in for review).

They’re still rather difficult to pull out from the charging case. However, HUAWEI either redesigned the case for better access, or used weaker magnets, because they’re definitely an improvement in this department over the OG version.

FreeBuds Pro 2 charging case Source: Pocketnow

Specs

We’ll start this segment with probably the number one selling point of the FreeBuds Pro 2. These are HUAWEI’s first Dual-Speaker earbuds. That means you’ve got two drivers in each bud: a dynamic driver, and a planar diaphragm, for improved sound, rated at 14 Hz to 48 kHz.

The 11mm dynamic driver contains four magnets for the first time, delivering up to 30 percent more punch, which translates to improved base response. Though rated at 14Hz, the human hearing can only go as low as 20Hz. Something to keep in mind when it comes to the difference between what you can actually hear, and lab test results.

The planar diaphragm also has four magnets, a voice coil, and an independent emission tube. For the non-audiophile among you this means a better treble reproduction, which, paired with the dynamic driver above, offers a rich, full, all around sound (see Experience segment below).

FreeBuds Pro 2 in hand Source: Pocketnow

The other selling point, so much so that the product has been co-branded, is the collaboration with Devialet, a French acoustical engineering company. As mentioned in the intro, this is not the first collaboration between the two brands. Devialet is responsible for the fine-tuning of the FreeBuds Pro 2, so the listening experience is maximized to reflect every aspect and facet of the sound. “Surging bass and crystal sound quality, to reproduce the full emotional appeal of the original recording”, is what the description says on the official website.

Noise reduction capabilities have been improved not only by tweaking the AI element, but by the addition of a third microphone into the mix, to better pick-up all the noises surrounding you. These are not just simple earbuds for audiophile music listening. You can also, as you probably guessed, make or take calls.

In tandem with the three microphones, there’s also a fourth bone conduction microphone, and the HUAWEI-exclusive deep neural network (DNN) noise cancellation algorithm. This is the brains behind all the noise cancelling, and the company claims it “has learned over 100 million voice samples to cancel out all manner of distraction, from noisy subway cars to windy conditions”. We’ll touch on this in our segment below.

When you listen to music with the FreeBuds Pro 2, you’re not alone. They listen to the same music as you do. The Intelligent Triple Adaptive EQ makes sure to tune, in real-time, the audio in order to sound best at the current volume. It takes into consideration your ear canal shape and size, as well as how you wear them. This sometimes results in a different sound when you move them to fix the fit inside your ear, something you might need to get used to.

FreeBuds Pro 2 on laptop Source: Pocketnow

In terms of sound input, the FreeBuds Pro 2 support LDAC High Resolution codec, with up to 990 kbps transmission. This qualifies it as a Hi-Res Audio device that is also HWA compliant, but that is dependent on the device you are using, as well as the format and bitrates of the sound files you are playing back.

New on this model is also the addition of IP54 water resistance rating, which makes the FreeBuds Pro 2 compatible with sports use.

Last, but not least, is the battery life. For music listening, depending on whether ANC is on or off, you can get about 4 and 6 hours respectively. Throw in the charging case and that bumps it up to 18 and 30 hours respectively. For phone calls it’s slightly less. That’s because each bud has a 55mAh battery, and the charging case is rated 580mAh.

We tested out HUAWEI’s claims, and got more or less the same results, the only caveat being that we didn’t deplete everything in one sitting, and neither will you, probably.

Experience

Fit

There are three silicone tip sizes you can choose from, as usual with these types of products. Small, medium, and large, but rest assured you will find one that properly seals your ear canal.

The fit is snug, and, these also being passive noise canceling earbuds on top of the active component (meaning they seal the ear canal from the outside world), even a tight and proper fit will cut out a lot of outside noise.

Being light weight, you sometimes forget you are wearing them. They are comfortable and even after long periods of time you won’t feel any discomfort or ear fatigue.

FreeBuds Pro 2 tip Source: HUAWEI

Pairing

The FreeBuds Pro 2 feature dual-device connection. Whether that’s a phone and a PC, a tablet and a smartwatch, or any other dual combination, you can pair them, and seamlessly switch between devices with ease.

Pairing is as simple as opening up the case, and if you own a HUAWEI product, they will pop up instantly. Furthermore, they can be added to a Super Device. You can read more on what that is and how it works in our feature here.

For non-HUAWEI devices, including Apple, you might have to go through the manual Bluetooth pairing route to get them connected.

Features

The AI Life app is where you manage all the settings for the source device, ANC, EQ, notifications, firmware update, etc., and we’re glad to report that it’s now available for the iPhone as well. There’s even an tip fit test which tells you whether you got a proper seal from the silicone tips you chose to install on the buds.

The FreeBuds Pro 2 feature gestures, so you don’t need to touch your source device. Pressing and holding on the stem cycles through the ANC modes. Swiping up and down turns the volume higher or lower. Last, but not least, pinching the stem once will trigger a play/pause action, or an answer/end call command.

Audio

We spent a lot of time listening to music on the FreeBuds Pro 2, both from our own library, and other sources. While it’s a matter of personal preference, we left the EQ off so that the sound is as close as possible to the one the artist intended to produce. If you’re more heavy on the base, or prefer to hear a more mild, vocal oriented reproduction, you can play around with the presets, or generate your own.

In general, the FreeBuds Pro 2 live up to the claim of being audiophile-grade. Sound is very rich across all frequencies, from lows to highs through mids. There’s no exaggeration in any frequency range, like with some base-oriented models. You clearly hear a distinction between the punch of the deep base, the orchestra, vocals, or instruments in the mid-range, and the highs of the percussion that trigger the tweeter.

If I had to nitpick, there’s only one thing that I personally can critique. To my taste, I wish there was just one tick for the volume to go just one level higher. Even with ANC on, when I listen to one of my favorite songs, I wish it was just a wee bit louder.

FreeBuds Pro 2 on phone Source: Pocketnow

Phone and other calls

I used the FreeBuds Pro 2 for phone calls, WhatsApp calls, and even our in-house meetings on Google. I can report that the sound was loud and clear (depending of course on the limitations of the service you use), with voices being crystal clear on HD-voice enabled services.

Those on the other end of the line reported the same, and were surprised to find out I was walking down a busy boulevard. With noise canceling blocking out traffic and your usual urban jungle sounds, they reported hearing me like I was in a library.

FreeBuds Pro 2 noise canceling Source: Pocketnow

Active noise canceling

Which brings us to ANC. Of all the wireless earbuds I’ve used, the FreeBuds Pro 2 is right there at the top with the best of them. Regular sounds like a fan or an air conditioner disappear instantly and completely.

Traffic sounds on a busy street are about 90 percent cut off, which is in and of itself already too dangerous, and I would not recommend if you’re a pedestrian. Other usage scenarios include cutting off the humm of an airplane engine (no, we didn’t fly for this one) but we took an Uber downtown and it felt like I was sitting in the armchair of my quiet living room.

Conclusion

The original FreeBuds Pro was, for a long time, my favorite pair of wireless earbuds. For wired audio I use something more sophisticated, but nothing beats the convenience of being wireless.

I said it was, for a long time, and I meant exactly until I started using the FreeBuds Pro 2. To be honest, I didn’t think, at the time, HUAWEI can do a lot, if at all, to improve the original model, and I’m happy to report I was wrong.

HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2 Source: HUAWEI

Smaller, lighter, better ANC, better audio, longer battery life (depending on how you use them), extra drivers, extra microphones, what else can you ask for?

Depending on your region, and where available, they will cost you €199/£170/$200, which isn’t cheap, but on one hand, you get an excellent, audiophile-grade pair of ANC earbuds, and on the other hand, they’re still a tad cheaper than the competing Apple AirPods Pro or Bose QC.

I’m going to say the exact same thing I said about the predecessor, and I hope HUAWEI will prove me wrong once again: while not perfect, it will be difficult for the company to do one better with the third generation, but HUAWEI has definitely proven me wrong before.

If you’re looking for a pair of excellent wireless ANC earbuds that work with both Android and iOS, Windows and Mac, priced decently under the competing flagship alternatives, with great sound and features, we definitely recommend you take a serious look at the HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2.

HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2

HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2

Smaller, lighter, better ANC, better audio, longer battery life (depending on how you use them), extra drivers, extra microphones, what else can you ask for?

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