Huawei’s been making some excellent audio products in recent years, and its newest flagship earbuds, the FreeBuds Pro 3, are yet another top-notch product that performs as well, if not better, than most of the competition. However, the improvements over the existing FreeBuds Pro 2 are small, so much so that I don’t think owners of those older Huawei buds need to upgrade. But if you’re on the market for your first pair of premium earbuds, or you’re jumping from an older/lower tiered product, these are as good as any.
The FreeBuds Pro 3 are wireless earbuds similar to the Apple AirPods mold: there’s a case with a lid that opens at the top revealing the earbuds sitting upright. The earbuds have elongated stems that protrude out of the wearer’s ears. The stems are blockier than most other earbuds, a design element I initially disliked, but has grown to appreciate. The blocker stems give the earbuds something to hold onto, and a wider area for touch controls.
Speaking of touch controls, the original FreeBuds Pro from three years ago were one of the first wireless earbuds to support sliding gestures on the touch panels to control volume—a feature that has since been adopted by the AirPods Pro series. That gesture is still here, and works well. I just thought I’d mention it to give Huawei props for innovating on the control front.
The silicon eartips come in four sizes, so they should fit most ear canals. I have quite sensitive ears, but I still could wear these for long periods of time without issues. I can’t say this for all earbuds, as Sony’s harder than usual foam tips really bothered my ear canals after prolonged use.
So, what’s new? The case is a bit smaller, with a redesigned hinge that “gets out of the way more” for easier access to the earbuds. The hinge also does not cut into the Huawei logo on the side like previous generations.
The earbuds have IP54 protection against water and dust, and they’re lightweight at just 5.8g, this is a decrease from previous generations. So overall, the FreeBuds Pro 3 are smaller and lighter in size compared to the last generation model.
The 11mm dynamic driver is the same as before, but Huawei has redesigned the diaphragm for more precision frequencies. I am no audiophile, but I do test a lot of wireless earbuds including all the best ones from major players. Whether it’s the AirPods Pro 2, Bose QC Earbuds Ultra, or Sony XM5, I have tested them. Huawei’s audio quality matches all of those, with a wide frequency range that pump out deep bass (if you like) and clear highs.
The active noise cancelation are also very good, but a step behind Bose and Apple. In a crowded coffee shop, I can still hear chatter around me with ANC on wearing the Huawei buds, while the Bose or AirPods give me more silence.
New this year is an automatic dynamic ANC mode that will adjust noise cancelation level depending on my surroundings. I also found this working well, but a step behind Apple’s crazy good dynamic ANC.
Battery life stays about the same as before, giving me about four hours of excellent audio with ANC on on a single charge. The case supports wired and wireless charging, too.
You can use the earbuds as a standalone product. Pairing is easy and works with any modern device. But if you want to play with audio EQ and customize the touch controls, you will need to download the Huawei AI Life app, which unfortunately is more complicated than usual to install due to Huawei apps no longer being available on the Google Play Store. Essentially, you have t0 sideload the app, which isn’t a big deal for a tech savvy person like me, but for an average consumer, it could be complicated. But, this is a factor beyond Huawei’s control.
Overall, the FreeBuds Pro 3 are excellent premium wireless buds. Are they better than the AirPods Pro 2 or the latest Bose and Sony buds? I’d say the FreeBuds Pro 3 keeps up with the Sony’s, but is a slight step behind Bose and Apple’s. However, the FreeBuds Pro 3 are priced lower, at 199 euros in Europe and a little over HK$1,480 in Hong Kong. Considering the price difference, the Huawei buds have major appeal.