Test: Huawei Freebuds 4 – True wireless with lousy noise reduction

Tested product: Freebuds 4
Award: From SEK 1,443 on PriceSpy

Huawei is increasingly investing in audio products, not least headphones. This spring, we tested the price-pressing Freebuds 4i and before that Freebuds Pro, the manufacturer’s stylish top model that convinced on most points.

Rating 2 out of 5

Opinion

Freebuds 4 are a pair of feather-light true wireless headphones that offer superb comfort and perform well in terms of sound. The so-called active noise reduction, on the other hand, is a real hit in the piano, so it’s a sleeping travel companion you are looking for – look no further!

Positively

  • Absolutely ok sound
  • Flexible format, good fit
  • IPX4 rated
  • Good conversational sound in both directions

Negative

  • The noise reduction is under all criticism
  • Hypersensitive touch controls
  • Limited with functions via the headphones

Now it’s time for another new model – Freebuds 4, which can be seen as an updated version of Freebuds 3, which saw the light of day in 2019.

Huawei Freebuds 4

Freebuds 4 has a so-called open design, ie they lack insulating silicone plugs that are pressed into the ear canal, with characteristic touch-sensitive downward-pointing shafts to control the play and call functions. The headphones also offer active noise reduction, a function that we do not usually find in models with just an open design. In terms of form alone, Freebuds 4 is thus quite obviously “inspired” by Apple’s Airpods.

Comfortable to wear, even for a longer period

The main advantage of an open construction is that they are usually more comfortable to wear than models with sealing silicone plugs, which can sometimes create an uncomfortable pressure inside the ear canal, especially after a long period of use. So we avoid that here. The disadvantage is that sound from outside leaks in to a greater extent and the less tight fit usually has a negative effect on the bass reproduction.

In terms of comfort, there is thus nothing to complain about. The snails’ match weight is a pitiful 4.1 grams each and once in place, we barely notice them – in a positive way. The associated charging box is also light, flexible in size and slides easily into the pocket.

Limited functionality

Functions are controlled via the headphones’ touch-sensitive shaft. Press and hold the finger to reject an incoming call and to activate / deactivate the active noise reduction and swipe up or down along the stem to adjust the volume.

Huawei Freebuds 4

With a quick double tap, you also answer and end a call. During playback, the same double tap can be adjusted in the app to either play / pause, next song, previous song or activate the phone’s voice assistant. Slightly limited, so if you want to be able to quickly change tracks both forwards and backwards with the help of the headphone controls, you can thus pause or resume playback via the mobile phone. Why has Huawei not added features for one and three presses, respectively? Incomprehensible!

Quick and easy installation

The installation is both fast and smooth. The associated Huawei AI Life app is both user-friendly and easy to understand, even if the content itself is lean. Any updates of the software to the headphones are served here and you can choose between two modes for the active noise reduction. This is also where you adjust which function is to be activated when you double-tap the headphones.

Huawei Freebuds 4

Otherwise, there is not much to write home about; battery status, a simpler “Find My Headphones” function (a sound is played from either headphone) and a limited equalizer (standard, bass boost, treble boost) are pretty much what is on offer.

Poor noise reduction

Freebuds 4 performs relatively well in terms of sound. Well balanced and with plenty of air in the upper frequency range. The basic reproduction, which for headphones with open design is the biggest challenge, is a positive surprise. Compared to a pair of well-insulated and good in-ear headphones, Freebuds 4 stands out smoothly, but as I said – in terms of conditions, it clearly sounds acceptable.

Something that is less good is the active noise reduction. The technology in Freebuds 4 is called “Open-fit Active Noise Cancellation 2.0” and which, with the help of a dual microphone hybrid system, will automatically adjust the noise reduction based on your surroundings.

But honestly, it works really lousy. In fact, the technology rather adds noise or amplifies the sound from outside. We experience it purely as quieter with the noise reduction turned off, which of course is up the walls bad and hardly something you want to pay for. Whether this can or will be remedied with any possible update of the software in the future, we leave unsaid, but at present the function is not worth the name.

Specifications

Product: Freebuds 4
Tested: August 2021
Manufacturer: Huawei
Frequency range: 20–20 000 Hz
IP certification: IPX4 (not the charging case)
Battery life (with ANC): Up to 4 hours + up to 16 hours with the charging box.
Connection: Bluetooth 5.2
Hands-free function: Yes
Associated app: Yes
Weight (two headphones): 8.2 grams
Weight charging box: 38 grams
Award: From SEK 1,443 on PriceSpy