The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro look like Apple AirPods Pro clones. However, they are anything but mere cheap and nasty copycats.
Great sound quality, good comfort and stability, and highly effective active noise cancellation (ANC) make the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro a better buy than the AirPods Pro... well, for some folks.
There are just a few issues to note: the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s battery life is no more than bog-standard, at a little under four hours with ANC switched on, and they suffer from fairly significant wind noise with ANC engaged. Save for that, however, here's why they're surprise delights in the true wireless earbubds category...
Honor Earbuds 3: Price & Availability
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro are available now, priced around £170 in the UK and €180 in Europe. You won't find them in the USA, but in Australia they cost around $AUD285 or thereabouts. Check the shopping widget below for the latest pricing if you're looking for a deal.
Honor Earbuds 3 review: Design & Comfort
Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first. The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro look an awful lot like the AirPods Pro, far too much like them if you ask me. However, if that’s a major problem for you it’s not as if there are not dozens upon dozens of other pairs to pick from.
Despite being derivative, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s design is otherwise a total success. These earphones look smart, feel well-made and are very comfortable to wear.
As long as your ears suit one of the three sizes of bundled tips you should have no problem with them gradually falling out of your ears or causing discomfort after a few hours. I’ve used them for a bunch of hour-long runs, and had no issues with fit, no need to re-seat them every five minutes.
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro are not ideal for more intensive sports, though, because like most earphones with high-end ANC they don’t have stellar water resistance. Honor says they are waterproof for everyday use, meaning they can handle some light sweat and rain, but will not take kindly to being dunked in the sink.
They are rated IP54, roughly matching what you get with the Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Pro. Why no better? Advanced ANC requires a whole bunch of microphones, and each of these needs to have a fairly open route to the outside world to work.
Honor Earbuds 3 review: Features & ANC
The sacrifice pays off because the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s cancellation is great. I used these earphones on multiple flights during testing, and they did an excellent job of taking all the weight out of those jet engines.
It is customisable too. You get set the ANC to a light mode, max out its performance, or use the Auto mode, the last of which tailors cancellation strength to match the outside conditions. I typically use the high or Auto settings, but the lower-power one will prove useful for those who are more sensitive to the slightly unusual feel of cancellation in action.
There is significant wind noise generated when you have ANC switched on, though, which has caused me to turn it off completely when using the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro to listen to music or podcasts while out on a run.
These are reasonably smart earphones, ones that can let you talk to your phone’s assistant, and they can react when you remove an earpiece. They’ll pause your music and disable cancellation, although you can turn off the former if you find it annoying.
When you take out an earpiece and put it back in, you’ll sometimes hear a few strange pops when ANC is switched on. It’s a bit odd, but I assume this is just the earphones re-acclimatising. Fingers crossed this will be wiped out in a software update, but it’s not too off-putting.
As you can probably tell from a glance, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro do not have physical buttons. You control music and ANC using taps, long presses and swipes on each of the stems. These can feel fiddly — not helped by the glossy finish, which is a little high-friction for the up and down swipes used to change volume. However, they largely work just fine.
This pair does not support a wide array of sound codecs either, but these days you don’t need stacks of stuff to deliver good results on both Android and iOS. They’ll use either basic SBC or AAC, the classic iPhone codec, supported by Android too.
It’s no biggie. But for some, battery life may be. I found the Earbuds 3 Pro last around four hours with ANC, about four-and-a-half without. They give you plenty of notice, through sound effect bleats, and charge fast when popped back in the case. But you might find these Honor 'buds a little high maintenance.
Honor Earbuds 3 review: Sound Quality
You quickly start to forget the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro's few little niggles when you hear their sound. These earphones sound great, with crowd-pleasing exuberant sound that makes music sound fun and vibrant. Powerful bass brings the fun without just boosting bass across the entire range and bloating up the sound.
Treble detail is good but Honor manages to avoid an overtly top-heavy sound or any of the fatiguing sibilance you can get with a bright-sounding earphone. The most unusual part here, though, is the mid-range, which has better texture and weight than I’m used to hearing in a totally mainstream pair of true wireless earphones.
The classic approach to tuning earphones to make an impact is to add some extra bass and treble, and let those two ends of the spectrum run the show. However, by doing this vocals end up sounding a bit hollow. I find I end up raising volume with these scooped earphones, which isn’t good for your hearing long-term. That doesn’t happen with the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, because there’s enough substance to the mids to begin with.
Imaging and separation are above average too, particularly for a pair with the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s tonal character. This makes music more involving.
So, what’s that character? A bunch of things I’ve said may make these seem like audiophile-style earphones, but I still think Honor is mostly just out to put a smile on the face of people who buy a pair. The bass is slightly boosted, there’s a familiar thickness in the mid-bass that adds weight to the sound in general.
People like me who spend way too long thinking about how earphones sound may wish they could simmer down the low-end a bit. This helps to open up the sound even further, because the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s party-adjacent bass is a bit of a spotlight hog. I played with this using equalisation (EQ), and think these earphones are noticeably more coherent with a couple of decibels lopped off the low frequencies.
They sound great as-is, but after tweaking with a simple app like Wavelet, they become among the very best true wireless pairs I’ve heard near this price. It’s a shame the Honor app itself doesn’t offer more sound customisation features.
Honor Earbuds 3 review: Verdict
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro are sleek and comfortable true wireless earphones with all the features you need. They have great active noise cancellation with multiple modes, sensors that can tell when the earpieces are removed, and a charging case that supports wireless charging.
They look an awful lot like Apple’s AirPros Pro, but in use have a character all of their own. The sound is excellent, with loads of power matched with unusually good mid-range for more of a high-end character. Earphone snobs may prefer them with their powerful bass tamed a little, but there are ways to do this even if Honor itself doesn’t provide them.
The obvious direct rival to this pair is the Apple AirPods Pro. They have slightly better battery life but the Honor 'buds sound better, particularly if you take the time to tweak the sound a little.
For even better noise cancellation, take a look at the Sony WF-1000XM4. They are a little more expensive, but are among the most highly regarded true wireless earphones released to date.
And if you want much longer battery life you’re better off ditching active noise cancellation altogether and saving cash with a pair like the Lypertek Purely Z3 2.0. They sound great and last up to 10 hours off a charge, and also have IPX7 water resistance — perfect for runners and gym fans.