Huawei FreeBuds Studio REVIEW
Huawei enters the ear gear space with a 10/10 headphone that sports a battery to go the distance, writes PAT PILCHER.
NZ’s ear gear market is an ultra-competitive place. There’s an ever-growing number of players all launching their own earbuds and/or headphones. Huawei joined the fray some time ago, and now they’re back with new cans including their over-ear headphones, the FreeBuds Studio.
Huawei’s marketing bumpf says that ‘the FreeBuds Studio cans will deliver “great-sounding music with rich detail”. Marketing hyperbole aside, it turns out that Huawei was on the money.
This is thanks to an impressive frequency response that runs from a near infra-sonic 4Hz all the way up to the hearing range of bats and whales at 48kHz. Most headphones typically have a dynamic range of 20Hz to 20kHz.
This is (at least in theory) about the same as the hearing range of most humans. There is an exception: my wife, who can hear a beer bottle opening from the other end of the house. But I digress.
Bundled away inside the FreeBuds Studio cans are two 40mm polymer drivers. Huawei reckons these allow for wider frequency response, and that their super-light design boosts their efficiency and sensitivity.
In addition to SBC and AAC codec compatibility, FreeBuds Studio ‘phones also support Huawei’s proprietary L2HC wireless codec. This can deliver up to 960kbps of bandwidth, which should provide plenty of headroom for wringing sonic detail out of hi-res audio files.
There’s one small gotcha though: you’ll need either the Huawei Mate 40 (which was not launched in New Zealand) or a Huawei P40 Series running EMUI 11 to use the L2HC codec.
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In practice, the FreeBuds Studio cans impressed with their audio. Low-frequency sounds were felt as well as heard, and bass felt precise yet controlled. Highs were also crisp, adding a pleasing and detailed texture to the soundscape. It felt expansive, nuanced and rich without battering my eardrums into submission.
Huawei has also gone to considerable lengths to deliver beefy active noise cancellation capabilities. This translates into a “double-layer sound insulation structure” for physical noise isolation as well as active noise cancellation to electronically block out environmental sound.
ANC comes with three modes that’ll adapt to your surroundings to deliver a sonic environment that is as close to silent as possible. Included is an Awareness mode, which uses the built-in mics to give you an ears-up awareness of your surroundings, or even to have a chat without removing your cans.
With ANC enabled, I encased myself in a cone of blissful silence at home. Even better, I was also able to tone down the raucous din on a bus filled with school kids. Covid-19 restrictions, unfortunately, meant I was unable to take the FreeBuds Studio cans on a plane-ride. Still, based on their performance so far, I suspect they’ll do a fine job once our borders re-open.
As with all wireless ear gear, I took the FreeBuds Studio for a stroll around Wellington’s CBD, a busy and crowded RF environment that provides a tough wireless test ground. I experienced only one momentary connection hiccup instead of the usual 2-3 Bluetooth dropouts.
This is probably due to the use of a dual antenna system. In areas where there is RF congestion, the headphones will switch to the antenna with the strongest signal. Connection stability aside, I also liked the fact that I was able to pair the headphones with two devices at once. This handily meant I could use them with my phone, and once home, with my PC. No farting about with pairing was needed.
Last (but by no means least) is battery life. Noise-cancelling cans are often used with air-travel. Living in New Zealand means that beyond Australia and the Islands, 8 to 24 hours stuck in a plane is the norm, so battery life is definitely a consideration.
Thankfully, the FreeBuds Studio cans will deliver. They ran for just shy of 20 hours with ANC on, and should in theory run longer with it switched off. Fast charging is baked in too. A hurried 10-minute charge at the airport will deliver five hours of use with ANC activated, and eight hours with it turned off.
About the only real catch with the Freebuds Studio is their $599 sticker price. While the price is on the steep side, the FreeBuds Studio are a unique set of ‘phones. Not only do they offer gorgeous high-resolution audio playback, but they also dish out industrial-strength noise cancelling.
Better still, their battery lasts for an eternity. If you are looking for a pair of high-end wireless cans, Huawei’s FreeBuds Studio is the sonic tonic your ears will thank you for. This is why they score a perfect 10/10.