They are clearly better in terms of sound – but reveal weaknesses in important areas. Our test. / Huawei Freebuds Pro 2 vs. Apple AirPods Pro
“True Wireless Headphones” (TWK) is a monstrous word that describes one of the currently most popular types of headphones: headphones that really, really have no cable anymore. In concrete terms, this means that the two earpieces are no longer connected to each other, but individually maintain the wireless connection to the smartphone, tablet or computer.
This is technically more demanding than headphones that are more or less wired, but makes this type of headphone extremely practical and convenient. Huawei wants to offer exactly that: headphones that you can not only have with you at all times, but that also offer good sound in every situation. When listening to music, watching series or making a phone call – it doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting in your home office or on the subway, whether you’re walking down a noisy street or even traveling by train or plane on vacation.
With the new Freebuds Pro 2 (199 euros) – the latest and most technically advanced true wireless headphones that the company currently offers – it has come very close to this goal, as our test shows. But a few annoying weaknesses spoil the impression.
Lots of technology for little noise
As the name suggests, the Freebuds Pro 2 are Huawei’s second version of TWK with noise cancellation. Compared to the predecessor, Huawei has also upgraded the hardware. Here are the details for sound fans: An additional planar driver is intended to ensure particularly accurate and dynamic playback in the high-frequency range.
According to Huawei, the newly designed dynamic 11mm driver should be able to reproduce basses up to 14 Hz and trebles up to 40,000 Hz. Overall, it offers 30 percent more power with the same operating current.
All of these are primarily marketing promises. But in this case, Huawei actually lives up to it: In its standard setting (Huawei got help from the high-end sound experts from Devialet here), the headphones offer a powerful, powerful bass, warm, restrained mids and pleasantly tidy highs.
Three more sound profiles can be activated via the Huawei AI Life app (more bass, focus on voices or treble boost). You can also set up an individual sound profile using an equalizer with ten frequency bands. The standard tuning should be the best option for the vast majority of users. Overall, the Freebuds Pro 2 offer an excellent, pleasant sound for their price range.
Very good in sound and in silence / Huawei Freebuds Pro 2 vs. Apple AirPods Pro
The noise cancellation is also very good. With three microphones per earpiece, the headphones analyze the ambient noise and try to cancel it out as best as possible. It works surprisingly well in everyday life. In the app, the user can choose the intensity of the noise suppression: “Comfortable” only lowers the level slightly, “Balanced” ensures significantly more silence without triggering the unpleasant suction sensation in the ear.
“Ultra” is probably more useful for the aircraft, in normal surroundings it is rather uncomfortable and adds an audible high-frequency noise to the audio signal. You can also set “Dynamic” – here the headphones select the appropriate mode depending on the environment. Over-ear headphones are still slightly better at noise cancellation. However, the results of the Freebuds Pro 2 are convincing.
Of course, there is also a transparency mode that directs ambient noise into the wearer’s ear. This works well, external noises are easy to locate, but everything could be a bit louder.
During phone calls, speech intelligibility is good – but not exceptional. In addition, there were isolated synchronization problems between the right and left handset in the test, which sometimes led to a strange echo effect. However, during our test, Huawei released several firmware updates that may have fixed the issues. At the end of the test, they no longer appeared.
The battery life is okay, but not great: 4 hours with activated noise suppression, in the charging case there is another 14 hours of runtime. In view of the great audio performance, that’s tolerable.
Good suitability for everyday use with small weaknesses
With TWK, the app and usability are much more important than with other headphones: they are made for everyday use. While Huawei delivers really impressive results in terms of sound and noise cancellation, there are still weaknesses here.
It starts with the sometimes misleading translation of the functions in the app. The fact that the lowest “noise protection” setting is “cozy” is strange, but still bearable. The fact that the equalizer settings are located behind “Sound Effects” is less obvious.
During the presentation, Huawei repeatedly used Apple and its AirPods Pro for comparison – in terms of ease of use, Apple is far from at its level, such mistakes are embarrassing for a global company like Huawei.
Apple’s AirPods Pro was also used as an inspiration when operating the handset: As with the model, a short press on the handle starts and stops playback or accepts calls, a longer press switches between noise suppression, transparency mode and noise suppression switched off.
What works intuitively and foolproof on Apple’s listeners is rather erratic on Huawei. Due to the shape of the handles – unlike Apple – it is not quite clear where exactly the fingers have to be when pressing. In addition, the acoustic feedback is too quiet, so you’re not sure if you really pressed or not.
A swipe gesture across the front of the stems can also regulate the volume. This also only works in everyday life with a little practice and doesn’t really look well thought out.
Conclusion: Great sound, but weaknesses in everyday use
From an acoustic point of view, Huawei has made a big splash with the Freebuds Pro 2. Great, rich sound and excellent noise suppression make the headphones a real price tip. In terms of sound, the Freebuds Pro 2 audibly surpass the big model AirPods Pro, making Huawei’s handsets interesting for Apple users as well.
In terms of usability, however, Apple’s role model is still clearly ahead of Huawei – the sloppily translated app and the half-heartedly copied operating concept of the handset are not a disaster, but they do not match the excellent audio performance.
Huawei’s Freebuds Pro 2 are still an absolute recommendation for Android users. For just under 200 euros you get a really good overall package. It’s a bit more complicated for Apple users: If sound and noise cancellation are clearly in the foreground, then Apple’s AirPods Pro can’t keep up. The perfect usability in everyday life, the effortless connection to Apple devices and the 3D audio function, which dynamically adapts to head movements, should ultimately make the AirPods Pro a better overall package for many iPhone users.