At a launch event in Berlin earlier this week I was somewhat taken aback after trying AirPods Pro-rivalling earbuds and pondering to myself: "are these actually better?".
Don't get me wrong, Apple's AirPods Pro have carved out an allegiance of followers and for good reason: the quality is decent and the ecosystem with the mass of iPhone and Mac users just makes good sense for super-simple connectivity reasons.
But I don't use an iPhone most of the time, I jostle between Mac and Windows for my job too, so the ecosystem stuff wasn't at the forefront of my mind. And when I slotted Huawei's FreeBuds Pro 2 into my ears – which had been shipped to me ahead of the event – assuming I'd shrug them off as yet-another-pair-of-TWS-buds, I was beyond pleasantly surprised.
Didn't expect that, did you? Neither did I, in truth. But as we've seen from some other competitors over recent years and months – our colleagues at TechRadar have raved about the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, as one example – there are brands making serious inroads when it comes to audio technologies and prowess.
Are the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 any good?
The story behind the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 is interesting too. The brand has been working with Devialet for a number of years, since 2019, in co-engineering some of its audio products. I know that name might be meaningless to some, but when I reviewed the Devialet Phantom some years ago it genuinely blew my mind. Huawei and Devialet collaborations haven't been quite so brain-exploding in my view, but the FreeBuds Pro 2 do a grand job.
That's down to a number of factors: Huawei claims these are the first earbuds with a dual driver, i.e. one to handle bass (a dynamic driver, no less), the other to tackle treble (here a planar diaphragm – also the first time such a type has appeared in true wireless earbuds). What that means is a wide frequency range is feasible, from a super-low 14Hz through to a massive 48kHz. That's much higher and wider than most consumer earbuds can muster.
There's also Sony's LDAC transmission on board, meaning high-resolution files can be handled at proper quality, presumably because Qualcomm isn't permitted to deliver its products in Huawei kit (hence no aptX Adaptive here).
What I can promise, however, is all that translates into truly superb audio quality. The active noise-cancelling (ANC) is also strong in delivery, hence the AirPods comparison.
But there's one thing I'm not so taken by: the FreeBuds 2 Pro's colours and finishes. The Silver Blue finish, as pictured here, I find just a bit too, well, bling. That's the one thing that'd make me reach for the AirPods instead, really. That and the limited battery life, which at four hours per charge with ANC active, isn't exactly class-leading stuff.
Still, based on the sheer audio quality impressiveness, if you shut your eyes anyway, I think the Huawei FreeBuds 2 Pro offer a great AirPods Pro alternative that could appeal to Android users who aren't locked into Apple's ecosystem. Not bad for their £169.99 asking price.