Active Noise Canceling TWS Semi-Open Earbuds: Huawei Freebuds 4 Review

By: Nickolay Polovinkin | 16.07.2021, 15:56
Active Noise Canceling TWS Semi-Open Earbuds: Huawei Freebuds 4 Review

Why? Freebuds 4 are available for a long time, aren't they? Take a closer look at the name. There are indeed earbuds on sale with a similar name, but they are called Freebuds 4i, and today we are getting acquainted with a new product without letter "i", which is simply called Huawei Freebuds 4. According to the status, and, accordingly, the price, it should be more advanced, and in theory, offer to us high-quality sound and something else interesting. Let's clarify right away: these are in-ear headphones, they do not have in-the-ear silicone inserts and do not create a vacuum effect. And also - they are equipped with an active noise cancellation system and volume control, they sound good and look interesting. But they are not very different from the previous model.

Huawei Freebuds 4 Huawei Freebuds 4
The flagship TWS active noise cancelling earphones
Striking silver semi-open TWS earphones with active noise cancelling. They sound good, thanks to 14.3mm drivers and intelligent sound enhancement technology. Mid-range active noise cancelling (compared to in-ear headphones), without transparency mode. Operated thanks to their touch surface, which supports, among other things, swipe to adjust volume. Configurable via Huawei AI Life proprietary application. Highly recommended!
Read Verified Customer Reviews

Pros:

  • Comfortable for the ear semi-open earbuds design
  • Active noise cancellation
  • Nice ouch controls, including volume control

Cons:

  • Battery life could be better
  • No maximum noise reduction
  • Little difference from the previous version

What's in the box?

The package is traditional: earbuds in a charging box, a USB-C cable, paper instructions, a safety booklet and a warranty card. In this form, the headphones will be delivered to customers. I also came across a pre-sale sample in a white box without identification marks and instructions.

Active Noise Canceling TWS Semi-Open Earbuds: Huawei Freebuds 4 Review-2
Huawei Freebuds 4 Headphone Specifications
Type TWS, half open earbuds
Radius of action Up to 10 meters 
Dust and water resistant IPX4
Active noise cancellation yes
Driver diameter 14.3 mm
Bluetooth 5.2
Play time 2.5-4 hours (14-22 hours including recharging), with and without ANC, respectively
Battery capacity 30 mAh in each earbud + 410 mAh in the case
Fast charging up to 3 hours of use after 10 minutes of charging 
Weight of one earphone / box 4.2g / 38g

Design

The model is available in two colors: Silver Frost and Ceramic White. The Silver Frost version came to us for the review, and it is very cool. Thanks to a well-known company, most manufacturers have taken root in the fashion for totally white headphones, so any color, except white, now looks extraordinary, even black. Well, the silver metallic - even more so! 

Active Noise Canceling TWS Semi-Open Earbuds: Huawei Freebuds 4 Review-3

Despite the similarity of the name with Freebuds 4i, the appearance of the earphones is completely different, these models cannot be confused. The charging box has the appearance of a round shaped box, and its symmetrical shape delights the perfectionist's eye. On the front side of the box there is a status LED, on the right side there is a barely visible connection button and on the bottom end there is a USB-C port for charging. Turning the box over, you can see the hinge and the Huawei logo. The circles and service inscriptions, which can be seen in the photo, are the signs of the pre-sale sample, the usual commercial copies will not have them.

The cover of the box is spring-loaded; in the closed state it is fixed with a magnet. When slammed, a resounding click of plastic on plastic is heard, this sound could be more noble.

The headphones themselves are structurally similar to the Apple Earpods, and they also use a semi-open design. They are not yet vacuum earplugs (unlike the Freebuds 4i), but they are not just in-ear headphones either. The metallized finish looks very cool (but of course it's plastic). The holes of the speakers and microphones are covered by black meshes. The headphones are equipped with in-ear presence sensors. The control touchpad occupies the outer side of the long "wand" of each earphone, but it is not visually marked in any way.

Connection and Configuration

The easiest way to connect Huawei Freebuds 4 to a smartphone of the same manufacturer running EMUI 10 or higher. It's enough to open the charging box next to the smartphone, and information about the detected device will appear on the screen.

In all other cases, we use the universal method of connection. Press and hold the button on the charging box for two seconds, then find the headphones in the list of available devices on the smartphone, tablet or computer to which you want to connect them.

To get the best experience when using these headphones, we can use the Huawei AI Life app. In it we can see the charge status of each of the headphones and the charging box, enable or disable ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) and select its mode of operation, adjust the sound optimization, equalizer effects, and update the firmware. Some gestures are also adjustable. To be more precise, only one: double tap. It is possible to reassign different actions for each of the headphones separately, or to turn off this gesture altogether.

There is a headphone search function; in this mode, a loud beep is sent to the selected earphone. Keep in mind that you won't be able to find earphones resting in the box in this way, but that's a pity. The AI Life app can also do a test of your hearing, create an appropriate optimization profile and use it to improve your sound. To be honest, I did not hear a noticeable difference between optimized and non-optimized sound, but this feature is purely algorithmic, which means that it may well be improved in future firmware.

Earbuds Management

The Freebuds 4 uses a long touch surface on the outside of each earbud. This peculiar touchpad supports three types of actions: double tap, long tap, and swipe. A single tap is not used, which is a good thing because it would greatly increase the risk of accidental triggering. The swipe is also an interesting feature, this gesture is rarely found in similar devices by itself, and here it is also responsible for the volume control! Yes, yes, while Apple believes that the volume control in headphones is unnecessary, and dozens of manufacturers copy this opinion, the guys from Huawei take and make TWS-headphones, on which you can make the sound louder or softer. Respect.

Back to the controls. A double tap is responsible for receiving and ending a call, as well as play and pause when listening to music. With a long press you can turn on and off the active noise cancelling, the same gesture is used to reject an incoming call. As I said before, the dual-touch functions can be redefined in the Huawei AI Life app. When pulling one of the headphones out of the ear, the playback is automatically paused, this function can be disabled if you want.

Active Noise Canceling TWS Semi-Open Earbuds: Huawei Freebuds 4 Review-46

Functionality

Active noise cancellation is no longer the privilege of expensive super-advanced headphones, confidently settled in the middle price range and is storming the budget ones. But there are no miracles: the implementation of this technology in different devices differs significantly. Huawei Freebuds 4 cannot be called a budget product, and noise cancellation (with the loud name Open-fit ANC 2.0) works well here. But if you compare it with more advanced competitors, some lack of damped decibels affect it. Add here the non-vacuum design and we get quite soft effect of noise cancellation. It really dampens the surrounding cacophony, but does not cut it off at all. The case when you don't really regret the lack of transparency mode. By the way, in the settings of Huawei AI Life application it is possible to choose one of two modes of ACS operation: stronger and weaker. Freebuds 4 compensates up to 25 dB of noise against 15 dB in the third version, so we can consider the effectiveness of noise reduction increased. But it is still far from the Pro version.

An important feature is the ability to connect to two devices simultaneously. For example, when connected to two smartphones you can receive calls coming to any of them without removing the headphones or switching anything. For some reason, this feature is relatively rare in modern headphones, so it's great to have it here. But if it bothers you for some reason, you can turn it off in the settings of the AI Life app.

The headphones are IPX4-certified waterproof. This is enough not to be afraid of splashing and sweat, but of course you can't swim in them.

Active Noise Canceling TWS Semi-Open Earbuds: Huawei Freebuds 4 Review-47

Battery Life

The charging box is equipped with a 410 mAh battery, plus each earbud has its own 30 mAh battery. Far from record figures. According to the manufacturer's calculations, this should be enough for 2.5-4 hours of music playback from a full charge of the headphones and from 14 to 22 hours from a full charge of the box. The spread in values ​​is caused by the use of ANC: with it, the headphones consume the charge faster. They charge, however, also quite quickly: 15 minutes is enough to then listen to music for more than two hours.

Wireless charging should be mentioned separately. Freebuds 4 can be equipped with two different versions of charging boxes: with and without wireless charging support. 

Sound

One of the important technical differences between Freebuds 4 and Freebuds 4i is the 14.3mm dynamic driver. The developers aimed at improving sound detail and cheerfully report "150%" boosted bass and high-frequency range up to 40 kHz (which the average person cannot hear in principle). All together it is called High resolution Sound. In practice, the headphones demonstrate a fairly balanced sound without an obvious emphasis on any frequency component. If desired, in the Huawei AI Life application, you can activate the enhancement of low or high frequencies, but there is no urgent need for this. Bass sounds different from vacuum headphones, and the semi-open design makes for a softer sound. The  Freebuds 4 will hardly surprise audiophiles, but they are very good as versatile everyday headphones.

The developers mention adaptive “ear-matching” technology, which adjusts and optimizes the sound based on how you wear the headphones. In theory, there are both software algorithms and hardware for this (headphone position sensor in the ear and microphone). So AI lovers can enjoy not only good sound, but also the understanding that it has been carefully personalized. And gamers should be pleased with the reduced audio latency: up to 150 or even 90 ms, but only on smartphones running EMUI and Harmony OS 2, respectively.

Active Noise Canceling TWS Semi-Open Earbuds: Huawei Freebuds 4 Review-48

How Comfortable are the Earbuds?

Huawei Freebuds 4 fit well in the ears, do not tend to fall out. Thanks to their semi-open design, they are less ear fatiguing than earplugs. However, this is a subjective opinion, everyone's ears are different. Each earphone weighs 4.2 grams (which is not much), while the mass is distributed over the body with a long stem, due to which the earbuds feel almost weightless. The case when it's easy to forget that you are wearing headphones.

Price and Competitors

Huawei Freebuds 4 are already on sale and cost even less than the previous model Freebuds 3. So the choice in favor of the novelty is obvious, if you do not have the third version. And if you do, the improved ANC and improved sound, of course, play in favor of Freebuds 4, but not so radically to upgrade.

3 things to know about Huawei Freebuds 4:

  • TWS earphones with semi-open design (in-ear) and good sound
  • Equipped with a medium efficiency active noise cancellation system
  • Support fast and wireless charging

Huawei Freebuds 4 Huawei Freebuds 4
The flagship TWS active noise cancelling earphones
Striking silver semi-open TWS earphones with active noise cancelling. They sound good, thanks to 14.3mm drivers and intelligent sound enhancement technology. Mid-range active noise cancelling (compared to in-ear headphones), without transparency mode. Operated thanks to their touch surface, which supports, among other things, swipe to adjust volume. Configurable via Huawei AI Life proprietary application. Highly recommended!
Read Verified Customer Reviews

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