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Honor Magic Earbuds Review: TWS earbuds with ANC and good sound quality

Magical silence. The Magic Earbuds are true wireless earbuds (TWS) that cost less than €100 (~$113; £100). The earbuds surprised us with their good sound reproduction and their active noise cancellation (ANC). Both properties are usually reserved for more expensive earbuds, so Honor has done well in that regard. The Honor Magic Earbuds are not without criticisms, though.
Daniel Schmidt, 👁 Daniel Schmidt (translated by Alex Alderson),

The Magic Earbuds are the Honor variant of the Huawei FreeBuds 3i. The two models are visually identical save for different company logos. Nothing separates them internally, either. The Magic Earbuds are 0.1 g lighter than the FreeBuds 3i though and are also around €20 (~$23) or £39.99 cheaper than the FreeBuds 3i.

The Magic Earbuds distinguish themselves from their peers with their ANC capabilities. Read on to find out how well this ANC works as promised.

Specifications

Headphone type In-Ear
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Battery capacity (Earbuds - total) 37 mAh
Battery capacity (Charging case) 410 mAh
Charging connection USB Type-C
Wireless charging Not supported
Weight (per earbud) 5.4 g
Weight (charging case) 51 g
Sensors Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Hall sensor
Microphone 2 x 3
In the box Earbuds, charging case, silicone ear tips (XS, S, M, L), documentation
Price (MSRP) £89.99 / €99.99

Case & Ergonomics - A high-quality case with strong magnets

The glossy plastic housing of the Honor Magic earbuds is available in white and turquoise, which Honor calls Pearl White and Robin Egg Blue, respectively. The earbuds have a reliable locking mechanism, which is characterised above all by very strong magnets. In our experience, these keep the earbuds firmly in place even when the charging case is shaken around.

The Magic Earbuds are well-built. Only the transitions between the individual plastic components can be felt. However, the silver-coloured microphone surround looks cheap. There is no IP certification, either.

Honor includes four sizes of ear tips in the box, so the Magic Earbuds should fit comfortably and securely in your ear canal, regardless of the size of your ears. However, if you do a lot of sport, then you should be careful with making violent head movements, as doing so can cause the earbuds to fall out.

Features and Operation - Magic Earbuds with Apple features

Setting up the Honor Magic Earbuds is simple, with Honor having based the setup process on Apple's AirPods. All you have to do is open the charging case and your smartphone should recognise the TWS earbuds instantly. However, this only works well with Honor (Magic UI 3.0 and upwards) or Huawei (EMUI 10 and upwards) smartphones. If you have an Honor or Huawei smartphone running older software or own an Android device made by another OEM, then you will need to first install the Huawei AI Life app to pair the Magic Earbuds. Conventional pairing via the Bluetooth menu is also possible at any time. Pairing can be initiated using the button on the back of the charging case. This is also mandatory when using an iPhone, because Huawei or Honor have yet to release an app for iOS.

The Android app is clearly laid out and provides information on the battery level of the case and the individual earbuds. In addition, the AI Life app allows you to install firmware upgrades and configure the earbuds' touch-sensitive gestures. The latter reacted reliably during our tests. The Magic Earbuds can also detect when you put them in or remove them from your ears. This worked well during our tests, too.

Call Quality & Noise Cancelling - Good ANC, but call quality could be better

Honor promises that the Magic Earbuds can reduce background noise by up to 32 dB with ANC activated. The ANC proved effective in everyday life, in our experience.

The earbuds deliver good call quality in quiet environments, too. The microphones reproduce our voice clearly and intelligibly, albeit that clarity is occasionally accompanied by some echoing. Additionally, the microphones tend to pick up nearby voices. These can be made out just as clearly as our voice, which is not ideal. The earbuds occasionally sound distorted in these conditions too, which coincide with interruptions. The earbuds cannot suppress ambient noise when this happens, either.

Sound Quality - The Magic Earbuds offer balanced sound

The Magic Earbuds convinced us with their audio reproduction. Not only do they deliver a balanced sound signature, but they also reproduce comparatively strong depths without overemphasising high frequencies. With that said, the earbuds do not offer any special equalisers or any options for adjusting the sound. Deactivating the ANC results in audio sounding duller too, but this is only noticeable when making a direct comparison to audio quality with ANC enabled.

Our tests underline our subjective impression. The Magic Earbuds reach 89.4 dB, which is quite loud, and they achieve a relatively good signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 56.93 dBFS.

We did not notice any latency problems when playing movies or games, either.

Pink noise measurement
Pink noise measurement
Harmonic distortions and noise
Harmonic distortions and noise
Left and right channel levels
Left and right channel levels

Battery Life - The Achilles' heel

Honor has been rather generous with its battery life estimates of the Magic Earbuds, despite only claiming that they offer up to 3 hours of music playback with ANC on. In our tests, the Magic Earbuds needed recharging after 2:45 hours when set to 65 dB. In other words, the Magic Earbuds last slightly less than Honor's claims. The Magic Earbuds will only last around 2 hours of talk time with ANC on before they will need recharging, too. You should expect lower runtimes if you like to listen to music or videos at beyond 65 dB.

The charging case, on the other hand, is quite generously dimensioned with its 410 mAh battery. You should get up to five charges of the earbuds before you will need to recharge the charging case. 

Battery life at 65 dB 2:45 hours

Verdict - The Honor Magic Earbuds deliver a lot for not much money

Honor Magic Earbuds review. Test device courtesy of Honor.
Honor Magic Earbuds review. Test device courtesy of Honor.

The Honor Magic Earbuds show that you do not need to spend hundreds to get good TWS earbuds. Above all, the earbuds offer good sound quality and are comfortable to wear. The earbuds' ANC also works well at cutting out background noise.

For around €100 (~$113; £100), the Honor Magic Earbuds offer a well-rounded package, especially with ANC.

The earbuds offer good audio quality too. However, they cannot filter ambient noise, which makes telephony practically impossible in noisy environments. Another shortcoming is their rather short battery life. The Magic Earbuds lack the required stamina for a medium-haul flight or a series marathon and will need recharging every few hours.

Nevertheless, Honor has delivered a great overall package with these TWS earbuds. Overall, they are quite suitable when working from home or when commuting.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Honor Magic Earbuds Review: TWS earbuds with ANC and good sound quality
Daniel Schmidt, 2020-06- 6 (Update: 2020-06- 9)
Daniel Schmidt
Editor of the original article: Daniel Schmidt - Managing Editor Mobile - @Tellheim
Already as a little dwarf I was fascinated by my Commodore 16 and ignited my enthusiasm for computers. With my first modem I surfed the Btx and later also the World Wide Web. The latest technology trends have always fascinated me and this is especially true for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. For Notebookcheck, I have been on the ball since 2013 and I am looking forward to the innovations that are still to come and that we will put to the acid test for you.
Alex Alderson
Translator: Alex Alderson - News Editor - @aldersonaj
Prior to writing and translating for Notebookcheck, I worked for various companies including Apple and Neowin. I have a BA in International History and Politics from the University of Leeds, which I have since converted to a Law Degree. Happy to chat on Twitter or Notebookchat.