Huawei’s FreeBuds Pro proved to be one of the year’s biggest surprises, and the Chinese company is back with the Huawei Freebuds 4i, a new pair of adaptive noise earbuds.
The FreeBuds 4i, such as the FreeBuds 3i before it, is designed to compete with the vast array of truly wireless earbuds offered for under £100.
They’re well-positioned to do so, with ANC & awareness modes, in-ear power life to match just much all of its competitors, and decent sound quality. However, given their low price, they can’t compete with the best ANC true wireless earbuds just on market.
What exactly do you get for your money?
The Huawei FreeBuds 4i is the cheapest active noise-canceling earphones I’ve tried. They’ll cost you back £80 and come in three colorways: Ceramic White, Carbon Black, and Honey Red. That’s £10 less than their predecessors, the FreeBuds 3i, costing at launch, and less than half the FreeBuds Pro’s RRP. The FreeBuds 4i, like the FreeBuds Pro, works wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.2 & supports the AAC & SBC Bluetooth codecs. They also come with the same extras: a USB-C cable for charging the case & three sets of ear tips in various sizes to ensure a snug and stable fit.
The FreeBuds 4i, on the other hand, resembles the 3i more than the Pro in terms of design. Their branches are elongated having rounded edges, as opposed to the Pro’s short, stubby rectangular stems. They aren’t, however, exact replicas of the 3i. The stems have been flattened out and are no longer cylindrical, resulting in a more streamlined design. The major components of the buds were also modified to better match what shape of your ears, and I can’t say enough good things about the FreeBuds 4i in terms of fit and comfort. I was able to get a good fit with the largest of three sets of silicone tips, and they didn’t put too much pressure on the ear canals, which is ideal for long listening sessions.
What do you think of them?
The FreeBuds 4i was specifically tuned to pop music, as Huawei states in their marketing materials, and this is instantly apparent once you put them in your ears.
The audio mix puts the focus on the vocals, which are conveyed crisply and without distortion even at high volumes. Pianos, electric guitars, and percussion instruments are all well-represented, and despite the prominence of mid-range and high frequencies, the FreeBuds 4i doesn’t sound tinny or exhausting to listen to.
The FreeBuds 4i supplied enough audio information enough make out the numerous voices constituting the backup choir in Madonna’s 1989 number one “Like a Prayer,” despite not being the most detailed earbuds available. Madge’s voice, on the other hand, is the headliner of the show, and the 4i did an excellent job of recreating it.
What is the quality of the noise cancellation?
Given how successfully the FreeBuds Pro handled ANC, I had high expectations for the FreeBuds 4i’s noise-cancellation capabilities. The Pro includes three modes: Cosy, General, and Ultra, the latter of which offers some of the best noise-cancellation I’ve seen in truly wireless earbuds.
Although the Freebuds 4i only has one ANC setting, the optimist in me hoped Huawei might equal the Pro’s Ultra option. Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be the case.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The FreeBuds 4i are reasonably successful at dampening low-end frequencies, and their ANC efficacy is comparable to that of two more expensive competitors I’ve tasted in the last year: the JLab Epic Air and the Urbanista London.
The Panasonic RZ-S500W, which originally retailed for £170 but is now available for just £100, is the only comparable priced earbuds I’ve tried that beat them in the ANC category. So they outperform in that regard, and you won’t be disappointed if you’re not expecting class-leading noise canceling.