Huawei’s Freebuds Studio
Huawei’s first headphones with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). The headphones are very comfortable to wear, they don’t squeeze even after long periods of wear and it is difficult to decide whether the Huawei headphones, Sony’s WH-1000XM4 or Bose’s Noise Canceling Headphones 700 fit better.
However, it took us some time before we could even carry the Freebuds Studio: After opening the packaging, the Huawei headphones smelled so strong that we couldn’t stand the stench around our heads. Both Sony and Bose have no problem with annoying smells after unpacking. After we had aired the Huawei headphones for almost a week, we could finally put them on. Not exactly a highlight for the Freebuds Studio.
The supplied transport bag also smelled unpleasantly and we will probably have to air it out longer so that the headphones do not take on the smell again when we store them in them. The Huawei headphones cannot be folded up, but in the included transport bag they are just as compact as the foldable WH-1000XM4 from Sony. The Huawei case has a compartment that holds a USB-C charging cable.
Freebuds Studio is similar to the competition in terms of operation
Huawei takes over a lot of controls from Sony and Bose. The Freebuds Studio have three buttons on the headphones and are otherwise operated via a sensor field on the right earpiece. There’s an on-off switch, a Bluetooth button for pairing, and an ANC button to toggle between ANC on and off and transparency mode. The headphones remember the last setting when switched off and reactivate it when switched on.
When switching modes, there are announcements, but only in English – the language cannot be changed either. The voice announcements cannot be switched off – that can be a nuisance during phone calls. It is not possible to change the ANC intensity on the headphones, this is only possible via a Huawei app, which is only offered for one platform.
The bracket on the Freebuds Studio earpiece interferes with the control
Music and calls are controlled from the outside on the right earpiece. It is impractical that the bracket sits on the outside of the earpiece and can only be felt with difficulty. It can easily lead to us inadvertently tapping this area to execute commands, but then nothing happens.
Apart from that, the sensor control works like the two main competitors: With a double tap, music is paused or continued. In this way, an incoming call is accepted; to reject it, the sensor surface is touched longer. If we swipe over the sensor surface from above or below, we change the volume and a sideways swipe performs a title jump. If we tap the sensor area for about two seconds, the respective digital assistant on the smartphone is activated. The sensor commands cannot be modified.
At Freebuds Studio, Huawei uses four microphones on each earpiece to measure the ambient noise and, based on this, to generate a corresponding counter-sound. Due to the nature of the system, ANC systems work particularly well at low frequencies, for example when an airplane is buzzing. It was there that this technology was first used.
Driving noises in trains, cars or buses as well as traffic noise can be reduced as well as construction site noise. This also applies to a certain extent to typical office noises such as telephone rings, printer noises, conversations and keystrokes. We did not listen to any music to test the ANC performance to determine the maximum possible silence of the headphones. The tests were carried out with firmware 126.96.36.199 from Freebuds Studio. Firmware 2.0.6 was used for the Sony headphones and the Bose headphones ran with firmware 1.3.1.