Huawei FreeBuds 4 Review: Basically, AirPods with noise cancellation

Huawei has been making some serious inroads into the true wireless in-ear headphones market with several superb models such as the flagship FreeBuds Pro and the entry-level FreeBuds 4i. Now, Huawei has a mid-range model in FreeBuds 4. Its highlight feature is the adaptive ear matching technology for noise cancellation.

PRICE: $198, available in Lazada and Shopee
DRIVRES: 14.3mm
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 5.2
WEIGHT: 4.1g (each earbud); 38g (charging case)

If I am to sum up FreeBuds 4 in one sentence, it is basically AirPods with active noise cancellation under Huawei branding.

The sleek silver FreeBuds 4. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

At first glance, the FreeBuds 4 looks like a carbon copy of Apple AirPods. Especially if you are getting the white version. Luckily, we reviewed the silver version, which looks really cool and sleek.

But put the AirPods and the silver FreeBuds 4 side by side, you might think Apple just released a silver AirPods.

Seeing double? The silver FreeBuds 4 (L) with the AirPods. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Like the AirPods, the FreeBuds 4 features an open-fit design. In other words, it does not have those silicone ear tips that help secure the earbuds into your ears. This is where it differs from FreeBuds 4i and FreeBuds Pro.

+ Open-fit design offers better comfort
+ Pretty affordable
+ Great audio quality
+ Adaptive Ear Matching (AEM) noise cancellation

– Slippery exterior
– Battery life can be better
– Noise cancelling performance impeded by open-fit design

Some might find those in-ear headphones to be discomforting in their ear canals. An open-fit design leaves the ear canals semi open, thus less intruding and more comfortable.

In addition, the FreeBuds 4 is super lightweight (each earbud weighs just 4.1g) and super comfortable to wear.

The FreeBuds 4’s colour-matching charging case has a round design with a USB-C port at its bottom for charging. but it does not support wireless charging.

However, both the earbuds’ and case’s glossy surface makes them slippery. The case has slipped through my grasp a few times during this review. And it is also a tad hard to pry the earbuds out of the case due to the slippery surface.

Not to mention, both are smudge and fingerprint magnets. Guess this is the price of beauty.

With Huawei talking about harmony among its devices and eco-system, the most seamless pairing for the FreeBuds 4 is expectedly with a Huawei smartphone.

This is especially so using Huawei’s AI Life app on a smartphone running Huawei’s latest EMUI 11 mobile operating system.

Just open the lid of the charging case with the earbuds inside near a Huawei smartphone, a window will pop up on the smartphone. Just tap to connect.

If you are going to use the FreeBuds 4 with other Android smartphones or iPhone, you have to do the pairing via the Bluetooth menu.

By default, press and holding on either earbud will turn ANC on or off. Swiping up and down the stem of the earbuds will increase and lower the volume respectively.

Double tapping either earbud will play or pause music. However, you can customise the controls such that one earbud plays the next song and the other plays the previous song.

I like that the earbuds automatically stop the music when I take one out of my ear and resume playback when I put it back on.

For the FreeBuds 4, the AI Life app has an equaliser setting, which is lacking in FreeBuds 4i. But the EQ settings only offer three options – Default, Bass boost and Treble boost. It still does not let you manually customise the EQ settings to your liking.

You can choose the EQ settings with FreeBuds 4. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Personally, I prefer the Default settings as it offers a very balanced soundscape with clear mids and sharp highs. The bass is also punchy enough.

The Bass boost only marginally improves the bass output and will not satisfy those who likes super powerful bass. The Treble boost does offer higher detailed treble.

The FreeBuds 4 is very comfortable to wear with its open-fit design. (Photo: Huawei)

On the other hand, its ANC performance does not compare to that of its cousins due to its open-fit design. It does not really cut out as much as ambient noise compared to the likes of FreeBuds Pro or even 4i. You definitely can hear the knocking and drilling of your neighbours wearing this while you work at home.

The FreeBuds 4 is rated to last 4 hours with ANC disabled. But it is can only last 2.5 hours with ANC enabled.

During the review, I found that the earbuds have around 50 per cent battery life left when I listen to music for around 1.5 hours with ANC enabled.

Considering that most earbuds in the market usually last around 3 to 4 hours, the battery life of Freebuds 4 is pretty average. My recommendation is to turn off the ANC and enjoy the longer battery life.

With its open-fit design, Huawei FreeBuds 4 provides better wearing comfort at the expense of noise cancelling performance. But it still features great audio quality at an affordable price.

FEATURES: 8.5/10
DESIGN: 8/10

Trevor Tan

Started out with dreams to become a street photographer, Trevor Tan somehow became a tech journalist with over 16 years of consumer tech experience. Maybe he plays too much video games and buys too many new gadgets.
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