Huawei delivered a fantastic pair of TWS earbuds back in 20202 with the FreeBuds Pro. Now almost two years later, they’re bringing the second generation to Australia, with improved Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), a thinner and lighter design and dual-driver & more microphones on board for improved sound.

Priced at $349, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 comes with a bonus Huawei Sound Joy Portable Bluetooth Speaker valued at $149 normally, for anyone purchasing from Huawei, or Amazon until 24/9, which makes it a decent deal if you’re in the market for one of those as well.

Both the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 earbuds and the Sound Joy speaker are products of a partnership with French acoustical engineering company Devialet, who provide tuning support and know-how for both. This partnership has been in effect for a while and has delivered some fantastic sounding products.

I’ve just come off the Pixel Buds Pro and been using the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 for just over a week now, and here’s how they went.

Hardware and Design

If I had any criticism of the original FreeBuds Pro, it would have been surrounding the design. The original buds were a little difficult to remove from their charge case, as well as the size which was a little bulky.

With the FreeBuds Pro 2, the bud itself has been slimmed down and the stem is also shorter for a more snug and comfortable fit in your ears. The charging case has similarly been slimmed down making it an easier fit in the coin pocket of your jeans or anywhere else.

You still also get multiple sized silicone ear tips to ensure you get a good, snug fit in the ear canal – and the AI Life app can also test this seal to ensure correct fit. The presentation of these ear tips are also well thought out, rather than just dumping them in a bag which is fairly common – it’s a little thing, but I liked it.

The buds are still a little slippery to remove from the case, at least they are with the Silver Blue edition which comes with a very attractive pearlescent finish on the case, but the mirrored chrome-look finish on the bud itself can still be a little slippery to hold and remove from the case.

I’d love to see a matte finish on at least the top part of the externals of the buds in future editions to make this a little easier but I’ve heard the Ceramic White option has a better feel, though the Silver Frost edition has a similar finish to the Blue.

The smaller bud size means the centre of gravity has changed so they sit more comfortably in your ear, and a session at the gym shows you’re in no danger of these flying out of your ears by jerky movements while running or moving.

They’re also IP54 rated so you can work up a sweat at the gym, or listen to your music in the rain without any worries about damaging them.

Touch Controls

The FreeBuds Pro 2 again has touch controls which are intuitive straight out of the box – though once again, the AI Life app allows for customisation of the controls.

The buds have a touch sensitive area towards the base of the stalk which have a slight give when you pinch them. The controls for play/pause music or answering calls is done by a single pinch, while a double pinch will skip ahead or reject a call, or a triple press will skip back in a song or podcast.

Huawei has also tuned the ANC and Transparency modes to a long pinch, which allows you to cycle through the modes easily.

There are of course volume controls which are controlled with a swipe up and down gesture on the front of the stalk.

All of the controls are easy to use, unlike other buds I’ve used with solid touch targets making for a great experience – without you being left swiping or pinching desperately as you try to engage Transparency mode, or to answer a call.

Battery and Charging

The FreeBuds Pro 2 buds come with a charging case, and with two options for use: ANC or ANC off. According to Huawei, with ANC on, you’ll get about 4 hours of use with a further 18 hours of playback with the charging case. With ANC Off you’ll get 6.5 hours of use and a further 30 hours with the Charging case.

My usage supports both these statistics, though using the ANC makes your life a whole lot better – but if you want to go without ANC on and extend your battery life, go for it. There are some addendums to this, with varying levels of ANC available (configured in the AI Life app), which can affect the battery life. I mostly stuck to Ultra which offered the best ANC – and hence the best audio experience.

I did find better battery life on the Pixel Buds Pro, which offers up to 7 hours of use with ANC switched on, so that’s something to consider – though I would rate the ANC slightly better on the FreeBuds Pro 2, so take that into account.

Charging the case is easy, there’s a USB-C port on the bottom which can be connected with the included, though relatively short 25cm long cable in the box – which takes about an hour. For those with a wireless charger you can also charge the case using a Qi certified charger – though only at a very slow 2W which takes a little over 2 hours.

I mostly charged my case when I was using the buds or at night, when they weren’t in use so the charging times didn’t particularly bother me – but may be something you want to consider.

AI Life software

While you can pair the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 buds as just a pair of earbuds to any PC, tablet or Android/iOS iPhone, you’ll get the most out of the buds with the AI Life app.

Of course you can pair the FreeBuds Pro 2 to a PC or tablet and enjoy the multi-device connectivity – it’s fun to watch something on your PC and have the buds switch to your phone when it rings – but to configure the touch controls, ANC, Transparency mode and more you will of course need the AI Life app.

You can download the app from the Apple app store, or Google Play – but the Google Play version is out of date and you’ll be directed to the Huawei App Gallery for the latest version if you scan the QR code on the back of the box.

The app is fairly straight forward, offering a good selection of tools to setup and configure the buds – as well as a battery info widget and Audio Connection Centre which lets you know which devices you’re paired to.

The app includes configuration and controls for ANC and Awareness, letting you choose which version of ANC you want from the four available. There’s also an Equaliser with four sound profiles tuned by Devialet – or you can delve into the 10-band EQ and tune your own sound profile.

The app also has gesture control configuration to let you change from the default – but as above I found the standard config out of the box to be very intuitive.

There’s also a Tip fit test to ensure you have the best sized silicone tips for your ears, which informed me that my left ear wasn’t quite fitting on the medium tips, but with a smaller tip fitted I passed the test easily which did improve the overall quality.

Huawei does include a ‘Find Earphones’ option which makes the buds beep and it works surprisingly well if you’re in the room with them. If you aren’t and you lose one of your buds, Huawei are doing a decent option for those who buy them before the 24th of September and offering a single replacement at 50% off the normal price at just $64.50 – a lot cheaper than buying a whole new set of earbuds.

Sound

Even with a smaller bud, Huawei has included an 11mm quad-magnet driver on the FreeBuds Pro 2, as well as including a planar unit to boost the sound even more.

The buds offer a fairly wide range of sound ranging from 50 Hz–3,000 Hz which means you get quite an impressive range of sounds across the lows, right up to the high end. All up, the sound quality was fantastic when listening to a range of music, as well as to podcasts and audiobooks.

The buds also adjust automatically when you ramp up the volume so you don’t get any pesky reverb which is present in some buds.

The buds do support Hi-Res audio as well as Hi-Res Wireless Audio certification which means you get the best quality sound all the way up to 96KHz, and supports LDAC for low-latency – all of which means you can listen to lossless audio services like Tidal or your own library and get very good quality sound.

ANC

Huawei includes three microphones on the buds for ANC – and talking on the buds – with two facing outwards and a single one facing inwards to cancel any residual sound in your ear for an excellent noise cancellation effect.

Huawei has increased the range of sound for cancellation over the original up to 47dB and it’s very good. As I said previously, I mostly stuck with the Ultra mode and while you can hear some noise around you, overall, it works extremely well.

Essentially without going up to over-ear cans, you’ll find this ANC one of the best you can get on TWS buds.

Awareness Mode

For anyone who’s used TWS buds, it’s easy to lose or drop them when you take one out when you need to speak with someone, but the included Awareness mode negates this, letting you engage the on-board mics to pipe the sound into your ears without having to remove the buds.

The touch controls let you quickly activate Awareness mode, and then re-engage your ANC just as easily.

The Awareness mode is excellent, offering a consistent experience when you engage it without overwhelming you with ambient sounds like cash registers, people typing or road noise.

Should you buy them?

I’m super impressed with the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2, with the improved ANC and excellent Awareness mode complementing the great audio experience. There’s been some improvements over the original FreeBuds Pro, including the smaller form-factor, improved audio and ANC.

There is still room for improvement though. I would like to see some sort of improvement in getting the buds out of the case, and perhaps better battery life – but overall, this is an excellent package and offers some worthy improvements over the originals and really does justify that premium $349 price tag.

You can find the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 on-sale on the Huawei website or through their experience stores in Sydney and Melbourne or buy online through Amazon.