After headphones, Huawei launched its first active noise canceling Bluetooth headset, the Huawei FreeBuds Studio. The stated objective is clear: to offer the best noise cancellation on the market. So, kept promise? This is what we will see in this full test.
Huawei has been offering wireless headphones for several years now, then true wireless. However, the Chinese manufacturer had not yet taken headphones to the next level. This is now the case with its very first model, the Huawei FreeBuds Studio, an active noise canceling Bluetooth headset. What to convince against the leaders of the sector that are the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose Headphones 700? This is what we will see in this full test.
Huawei FreeBuds Studio Data Sheet :
|Model||Huawei Freebuds Studio|
|Active noise reduction||Yes|
|Autonomy announced||24 hours|
A Comfortable Helmet With Careful Finishes :
When it comes to headphones, it’s difficult to reinvent the wheel, especially in terms of design. For its very first model, Huawei is therefore no miracle and offers a design quite close to the leaders of the genre, whether they are models from Sony or Bose. We will therefore find a circum-aural format, the pads of which encompass the ear. The main advantage of this type of format comes from its passive isolation, a fortiori for headphones with active noise reduction, since the sounds are already filtered before electronic cancellation.
On the headband side, Huawei offers a rather comfortable and well-padded headset that can be used rather comfortably for a full day despite weighing 260 grams. It must be said that the helmet is relatively tight at the level of the ears, which allows the pressure to be evenly distributed between the top of the head and the sides.
The headband is also adjustable in height to suit your head size, and the ear cups can be rotated approximately 270 degrees. Enough to allow a good adaptation to your morphology. Too bad, however, that the headphones cannot be folded up for storage as is the case with the Bose Quiet-comfort 35 II. For storage, you’ll have to be content with the hard case offered by Huawei, which is rather bulky.
Regarding the different controls, Huawei has taken the gamble of offering a mix between touch interactions and physical buttons. We will thus take advantage of a button to adjust noise reduction on the left earphone and buttons to turn on the headphones or start pairing on the right earphone. The USB-C socket used for charging is also located on the right earpiece. Unfortunately, Huawei has not integrated a 3.5mm jack plug into its headset. The Huawei FreeBuds Studio is not at all designed to be used in wired mode, even when you run out of battery. Too bad, however, this function is very useful for troubleshooting if you forgot to charge the headset for several days in a row.
In terms of finishes, I was able to test the gold model of the Huawei FreeBuds Studio – which also exists in black – and, overall, we can say that the headset is rather neat with its metal-effect plastic shells and ear pads. leather look. As is often the case, however, the circum-aural format is particularly suitable when the weather is cool, but may be more uncomfortable in hot weather, especially if you are subject to heavy sweating.
Practical Multi-point Bluetooth :
To pair the Huawei FreeBuds Studio with your smartphone, two solutions are available to you. If you have a Huawei or Honor smartphone equipped with at least version 10.1 of EMUI, the headset will appear directly on your smartphone screen when you turn it on for the first time. For other Android smartphones, just press the Bluetooth pairing button just above for a few seconds, then search for the headset in your smartphone’s Bluetooth settings. Note that no NFC chip is integrated for easy pairing.
Regarding the controls, as we saw earlier, it is the right ear that will serve as the tactile interface. And for once, the controls are quite complete. Thus, a double press will pause or restart the music, a sliding forward will go to the next track, a sliding backward will allow you to return to the previous track and sliding up or down. low will change the sound volume. Finally, a long press on the earpiece will automatically launch your voice assistant.
In other words, we have very complete controls here. The only small complaint one could make is that they are limited to the right earbud, and not available on the right earbud, but so is the Sony WH-1000XM4 after all. Regarding the buttons on the headset, they are rather easy to access and, even if the standby and pairing keys are stuck together, they are still rather easy to recognize by touch.
As we have seen, the Huawei FreeBuds Studio cannot be wired. This is a headset exclusively designed for use with Bluetooth. Unfortunately, it also cannot be used while charging, since the headset automatically goes to sleep in this type of situation. On the other hand, we can not say that the Bluetooth connection is sloppy so far.
Huawei has indeed integrated a Bluetooth 5.2 chip into its wireless headset, in order to ensure a good connection. In fact, even while walking with my smartphone in my pocket, I hardly had a loss of connection. The only jolts I experienced were due to my hand which came to cover my smartphone in the pocket.
Still concerning Bluetooth connectivity, Huawei has made its FreeBuds Studio compatible with multipoint Bluetooth. Concretely, this means that the headset can be simultaneously connected to two devices, for example a smartphone and a computer. Convenient to be able to both listen to music on your computer or follow live conferences on YouTube and answer a phone call without having to remove the headset.
However, unlike many headphones using the same system, the most recent audio source will not automatically take precedence. If you play music on your computer, you will need to pause it before playing another song on your smartphone. Without it, the music of the smartphone will be played on the speakers. Too bad, this type of operation adds a step, even if some will prefer it since they can more easily keep control.
Regarding audio latency, the FreeBuds Studio is no exception to this problem, which is inherent in Bluetooth headsets and headphones. In both PC and smartphone video games, you’ll see your opponents before you hear them, and that’s all the more reason to regret the lack of a wired connection. However, video apps like YouTube, Twitch, or Netflix, just like their web versions, usually take this lag into account to properly sync the video track. In addition, Huawei ensures that the FreeBuds Studio offers reduced latency for Huawei smartphones under EMUI 10.1. However, even with a Huawei P30, I didn’t feel a fundamental difference in terms of latency.
To further control the headset, Huawei offers its AI Life app. Be careful though, as with the FreeBuds Pro, you will need to install the manufacturer’s AppGallery, the version of AI Life on the Play Store not supporting the manufacturer’s headset. Once the application is installed, it will allow you to manage several options such as the automatic pause of the headset when you take it off, software update, noise reduction or transparency level or shortcuts.
However, the touch controls cannot be changed except for one: the prolonged hold of the finger. In addition to the voice assistant – configured by default – you can use this interaction to add a song to your favorites on the Huawei Music app.
Very Average Active Noise Reduction :
The Huawei FreeBuds Studio is not only the manufacturer’s first Bluetooth headset, but also the first noise-canceling headset. Huawei has already offered us noise canceling headphones, such as the FreeBuds 3, FreeBuds 3i or the FreeBuds Pro, in the past, but never a true headband headset. To do this, the Chinese manufacturer has integrated eight microphones, in order to analyze the different sounds around you as precisely as possible.
There are two ways to manage noise reduction on FreeBuds Studio: from the headset or within the AI Life app. On the headset, as we have seen, it is the button on the left ear that will allow you to choose the activated mode. Three modes are available: noise reduction, none or perception. Enough to help you easily switch from one mode to another without having to take out your smartphone.
These three modes can also be found within the application, but with more precision. Passive mode remains the same, but Perception mode – which uses microphones to transcribe noise around you and reduce passive isolation – offers a “voice enhancement” option. This rather practical function will focus only on transcribing the voices around you. Useful, for example, if you want to converse with someone without being bothered by traffic noise, or to hear voice announcements in a train station.
A Balanced Sound, But Lacks Of Details :
Within the headset, these are 40 mm transducers that have been integrated by Huawei into each earpiece. According to the manufacturer, the FreeBuds Studio is thus capable of emitting frequencies between 4 and 48,000 Hz.
For Bluetooth codecs – since it should be remembered, the FreeBuds Studio cannot be used with a cable – Huawei has integrated two classic codecs, the AAC and the SBC. The aptX, aptX HD or LDAC are therefore missing. However, the Chinese firm has also made its headphones compatible with the L2HC codec. This is a codec that allows on paper to go up to a bitrate of 960 kbps, but is however rare to find on smartphones. You will therefore have to use a Huawei smartphone under EMUI 11, such as the Huawei Mate 40 Pro or the Huawei P40, to take advantage of it.
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In my case, I tested the sound quality of the Huawei FreeBuds Studio with an Oppo Find X2 Pro, using songs on Spotify, in “very high quality” equivalent to 320 kbps.
The main thing to remember about the FreeBuds Studio is its balance. We have here a headphone that manages to highlight the highs as well as the mids and lows, without any type of frequency really disturbing the others. This is particularly the case in pop, electro or hip-hop tracks. On Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, the headphones do very well with good bass presence without overdoing it, and without covering up the voice which stays well ahead. The same goes for Eminem’s Berzerk or Justice’s Phantom Pt. II.
However, while the helmet is fairly balanced, it is far from flawless. We will first notice the treble which has a strong tendency to sibilance with “s” sounds which seem to prolong. This is particularly noticeable in Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me. On this track, this is another concern that FreeBuds Studio encounters: a voice that saturates very quickly, even at 75% of the volume.
On Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the headphones offer a fairly average dynamic range and a definition that lacks sharpness to perceive the instruments. On the other hand, if there is one thing that FreeBuds Studio does handily, it’s the width of the sound-stage. The headphones offer excellent specialization, sometimes even giving the impression that sounds are coming from above or below, especially on David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
Note that if the sound signature of FreeBuds Studio, rather neutral, does not suit your tastes, well too bad. The AI Life app does not offer a built-in equalizer. You will therefore have to turn to that of your smartphone or your music application, if it is equipped.
For voice calls, the FreeBuds Studio offers effective noise reduction for your caller. Your voice will be particularly well reproduced and clearly audible. Ambient sounds will remain present most of the time, but largely in the background to your voice. Also, if you are not speaking, the headset will automatically block the microphones so as not to disturb the person on the other end of the line. It must be said that these are six microphones that are used by the headphones to better capture your voice.
Excellent Autonomy :
On the battery side, Huawei has integrated a 410 mAh accumulator in its FreeBuds Studio. Enough to keep it going for 24 hours according to the manufacturer, and for 20 hours with active noise reduction.
In fact, it’s much more that the Huawei FreeBuds Studio offers. By launching it with a volume at 75% and the noise reduction activated with the “ultra” setting, it took 46 hours for the Huawei headphones to run out of battery. The headphones spent almost two full days playing music without running out of steam. After 24 hours, it still had 55% battery power. This is excellent battery life, probably among the very best on the market for a noise canceling Bluetooth headset.
For charging, the FreeBuds Studio is only compatible with charging via USB-C plug. If a USB-C to USB-A cable is provided, however, it will need to be connected to a computer or a power supply unit, as no adapter is integrated. And here too, Huawei is playing the modest. According to the manufacturer, the FreeBuds Studio goes from 0 to 100% battery in 70 minutes. In my case, with a 22.5W charger, it only took me 52 minutes to fully charge. The headset also went from 0 to 81% battery in just 30 minutes.