Let me put it simply: I hate being distracted by noise. I’ve had noise cancelling headphones since they were a thing, including some over-ear heavy-duty models, and a couple of in-ear isolation and noise cancelling buds. When Huawei announced the FreeBuds 3 back at IFA in September, I was sceptical. How could open-fit (i.e. non-isolating) earbuds possibly deliver good noise cancellation?
The answer? Very well. Powered by Huawei’s in-house Kirin A1 ultra-mobile processor, FreeBuds 3 deliver excellent active noise cancellation without needing padded on-ear headphones or rubberised in-ear buds. They sit in your ears comfortably, and even a vigorous run won’t easily dislodge them.
For listening to music, podcasts or taking calls, the FreeBuds 3 are perfect; they’re designed to turn down the background hum of your environment, and let you take calls without disruption. The intelligent noise cancelling algorithm makes short work of background noise, whether that’s on a busy train or crowded city street.
Even now, writing this story, I’ve got the volume at 75%. With the noise cancellation turned on, I can’t hear the TV, the birds making a racket, or the hum of the air conditioner. That’s impressive in my book.
With wireless earbuds, Bluetooth interference is also an important consideration – with everything from Wi-Fi to 4G networks having potential to ruin your call. Having a set of earbuds that can intelligently hop between frequencies, such as the Freebuds 3, is a welcome feature. There’s no drop-outs here.
It’s all well and good to have noise cancelling for yourself, but what if you’re calling someone and all they can hear is what’s around you? Well, FreeBuds 3 won’t have that – the built-in bone sensing technology helps detect the vibrations of your voice to further differentiate speech from background noise.
All this is made possible by the digital signal processor (DSP) inside Huawei’s A1 chip. This also makes it possible for FreeBuds 3 to suit the output frequency and intensity of noise cancellation according to the wearer. This means FreeBuds 3 will work to your unique physiology to deliver the optimal noise cancellation.
Another feature, that most earbuds don’t offer, is simultaneous dual-channel Bluetooth connectivity. Usually, with wireless buds, one earbud will connect to your phone, and the other through that first bud. In most cases, you’ll never notice this, but it does lead to a perceptible audio lag. For both ears to hear the same sound, it must be delayed slightly to account for transmission from phone to primary bud, and primary bud to secondary.
Huawei’s FreeBuds 3 offer direct connectivity between each bud and your sound source, meaning there’s virtually real-time audio from your phone to your earbuds. If you’re watching a video or playing games, even a small delay is noticeable. Huawei’s FreeBuds 3 deliver just 190ms of audio delay – something barely perceptible to most listeners.
The design might not be to everyone’s tastes, and I’ll be the first to admit that the ear-bud-with-post design isn’t my first choice — but everything in life is a compromise, and I’m prepared to change my preferences to get good noise cancellation. Fact is, Huawei FreeBuds 3 feel comfortable, they’re very light, and the open-fit design means my ears don’t get sore or feel hot. This is important when you’re in a warm environment or working out.
The other good thing – if you’re a half-deaf old electronic music lover like me – is that the FreeBuds 3 get decently loud. I’d love it if my hearing wasn’t wrecked, but I need to get the volume up a fair way in order to really get the full effect. The 14mm large dynamic driver with bass-tube enhancement does a good job of delivering excellent range across some chunky bass and high trebles, and the mid-range is suitably rich.
FreeBuds 3 deliver great quality audio, they’re super comfortable to wear for extended periods, and they boast impressive battery life. In such a tiny package, you get four hours of music playback, and they can be charged four times with the charging case, giving up to 20 hours in total. while you can plug FreeBuds 3 into USB C for charging, you can also pop them on your wireless charger to top-up without needing a cable at all. That’s true wireless earbuds for you.
Huawei FreeBuds 3 are on sale now for $299 in the lead-up to Christmas from Vodafone, Amazon, Mobileciti, HappyTel and the Huawei Experience Store Chatswood. Buy now and receive a free wireless Huawei charger valued at $99. They’re available in Ceramic White and Carbon Black – my pick is the black, to help you stand-out from the white earbud wearing crowd.