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Huawei FreeBuds Studio Review - High-Res for a small circle

Promising. The Huawei FreeBuds Studio are the first over-ear headphones from the Chinese company. They offer premium sound with High-Res Audio, excellent noise cancellation, and state-of-the-art communication technology. However, some promises cannot always be kept in the test.
Update: Info on iOS/iPadOS added.
Daniel Schmidt, 👁 Daniel Schmidt, Brian Burriston (translated by DeepL / Ninh Duy), 🇩🇪 🇮🇹 ...
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Specifications

Wearing style Over-ear
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2
Speakers 40 mm polymer diaphragm, dynamic
Audio codecs SBC, L2HC
Noise cancellation dynamic ANC
Battery power (earphones) 410 mAh
Charging port USB-C
Weight 260 g
Microphones 4 microphones on each side
Package contents Headphones, carrying case, USB cable (Type-A to Type-C), jack cable, documentation
Price (RRP) 299,- EUR

Workmanship and ergonomics - FreeBuds Studio are weak in some areas when it comes to the choice of materials

The Huawei FreeBuds Studio headphones have a simple design and are available in Graphite Black and Blush Gold. It is made of a mix of aluminum, plastic, and artificial leather, is lightweight, and convinces with a gentle but certain contact pressure. Only the synthetic leather covering on the outer headband does not fit in well, both visually and haptically, and appears lower quality. The same applies to the headphone's plastic ear cups, which are cleanly manufactured, but do not convey a first-class material impression.

A plastic case with a surface structure that imitates the look of leather is included. It is covered with a soft fabric on the inside and there is a magnetically closed compartment where the charging cable can be stored.

Features and operation - headphones with good gesture control

The Huawei FreeBuds Studio are advertised with High-Resolution Audio. The Bluetooth headphones actually support L2HC (up to 960 kBit/s), which is an audio codec that makes this possible. However, at the time of the test, there was only one player that supported this and could provide the FreeBuds Studio with the corresponding material: the Mate 40 Pro. All others have to fall back on the basic SBC encoding.

The headphones do not have a jack and the USB-C port is only used for charging. That is a pity, because if the battery is empty, the FreeBuds can only be connected to a power supply.

The controls are partly controlled via the physical buttons on the ear cups. Besides a power button, there is one for Bluetooth and one for controlling the ANC. Gestures on the right ear cup can be used to answer, reject or end calls as well as control music playback and volume. In addition to pausing and playing, tracks can be skipped forward and back. The gesture control is well balanced and works very reliably.

Those who own a Huawei smartphone with EMUI 10.1 or newer do not have to bother much about pairing because the FreeBuds Studio are automatically recognized during first use. All settings can be made directly in the Bluetooth settings and even firmware updates can be installed. Owners of other Android or Apple smartphones have to perform a classic pairing process and should install the AI Life app (only Android ) to have access to all functions.

The wear detection also only works with Huawei phones. However, even if it has been disabled, a loud detection melody is played every time the phone is put on, which can be annoying at times. On the other hand, it is convenient that two devices can be connected to the FreeBuds Studio at the same time.

Huawei states battery runtimes of up to 20 hours with activated ANC without specifying this more precisely. In our test with adjusted volume (65 dB(A)), the FreeBuds Studio had to be plugged in again after 17 hours and 50 minutes without activated ANC, and about five hours earlier with ANC.

Addendum iOS/iPadOS: The AI Life app is also available for the mobile Apple operating systems and thus provides the full range of functions available under Android, including wearer recognition. However, pairing is a bit tricky because the headphones have to be connected twice when the app is used, once within the app and once in the system's Bluetooth settings, which is why they appear twice in the device list.

Bluetooth settings
Bluetooth settings
Bluetooth settings
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AI Life
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AI Life - iOS
AI Life - iOS
iOS - Bluetooth Device Manager
iOS - Bluetooth Device Manager
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Voice quality - Strong ANC and high range

We really like the voice quality of the Huawei FreeBuds Studio in quiet environments as it records its wearer very clearly and naturally. However, ambient noise is also picked up, and the noise suppression of the microphones is only rudimentary. Loud noise is muffled, but this is also at the expense of the wearer's voice.

We like the shielding from the outside world much better. The dynamic active noise cancellation (ANC) adapts well to the circumstances, so that hardly any inherent noise is audible in quiet environments. The passive shielding already audibly swallows noise, but with activated ANC, background noise like the construction site on the street, traffic noise or the hum of a refrigerator disappear. The performance offered here is certainly not top class, but very good in any case and is also great for blocking out annoying noise in the office or home office.

The attention function uses the external microphones to communicate with the outside world without having to take off the headphones. This also works, but feels quite unnatural and is accompanied by some background noise.

The high Bluetooth range is impressive. We could not determine any connection impairments even over two floors.

Sound - Good, but without the necessary precision for High-Res

The two dynamic 40 mm drivers of the Huawei FreeBuds Studio can reproduce a frequency range between 4 and 48,000 Hz and thus promise a very wide sound stage as well as more precision in the audible range. However, in view of the offered specifications, we would have expected a higher width in the representation, more depth, and better precision in the reproduction of the sound. The sound of the FreeBuds Studio is certainly good, but it unfortunately does not sound and feel like High-Res, even though our player supports the required L2HC codec. The bass as well as the low ranges are not defined enough and the trebles lack complete clarity. Audiophile users will not be happy here.

Conclusion - Good over-ears from Huawei

On test: Huawei FreeBuds Studio. Test device provided by Huawei Germany.
On test: Huawei FreeBuds Studio. Test device provided by Huawei Germany.

Huawei's FreeBuds Studio can convince with a very high wearing comfort and adaptive, active noise cancelling in the test. The latter suppresses noise very reliably, and the headphones' low background noise makes them suitable for blocking out noise without necessarily playing media.

The sound of the FreeBuds is also quite pleasing, but even when the High-Res codec is usable, we feel that the sound stage is too cramped and the headphones cannot live up to their High-Res audio promise. Therefore, it is a pity that most players can only use SBC, but the audible difference is very small with the FreeBuds Studio.

The Huawei FreeBuds Studio offer a good overall package without any outstanding aspects.

The Huawei headphones do not belong to the top group in the areas of ANC and sound, but they offer a really good overall package that can convince both on trips and at home in the home office. Especially since the FreeBuds stand out positively from the competition in terms of telephony features, they are particularly recommendable in this area.

Price and availability

The Huawei FreeBuds Studio are available in the company's online store, where they are reduced from time to time or offered as a free addition to other products. Alternatively, they are also available on Amazon.

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Daniel Schmidt
Editor of the original article: Daniel Schmidt - Managing Editor Mobile - 360 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2013
As a child I was fascinated by my Commodore 16, and this sparked my enthusiasm for computers. Using my first modem, I surfed the BTX videotext system and later the World Wide Web. I have always been captivated by the latest technologies, and this is especially true for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. I’ve been part of the Notebookcheck team since 2013 and have also on occasion written for Notebookinfo.de, and I’m looking forward to testing new innovations for our readers. I like to spend my spare time indulging in photography and barbecues and being with my family.
Ninh Duy
Translator: Ninh Duy - Editorial Assistant - 177439 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2017
My main responsibility as an editorial assistant is maintaining the Library section, which aggregates reviews from other publications and channels. In addition, my daily breakfast is Notebookcheck's long list of new content, which I comb through to select the most interesting topics for translation from English to French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch."
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Huawei FreeBuds Studio Review - High-Res for a small circle
Daniel Schmidt, 2021-02-20 (Update: 2021-02-20)