Huawei FreeBuds 3i True Wireless Earbuds Review
Huawei’s various corporate and regulatory issues have had a heavy impact on its business, but that hasn’t stopped it from launching new products, particularly in the audio and wearable segments. Like many other brands, Huawei has entered the true wireless audio space in India, launching competitively priced premium products hoping to take on flagship choices from Apple, Samsung and Sony. Among their most recent launches is the product I’m reviewing today, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i True Wireless Earbuds.
Priced at Rs. 9,990, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i seems to be on par with options like the Apple AirPods Pro Y Sony WF-1000XM3, but significantly more affordable. These headphones feature active noise cancellation, app compatibility, and more, but what do they sound like? Find out in this review.
Simple styling, comfortable in-channel fit on Huawei FreeBuds 3i
While we’ve seen adventurous styling and eye-catching designs in true wireless earbuds in this price segment, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is unlike most other options. The headphones are simple in appearance with a glossy plastic finish and are shaped to make them look like headphones. Apple AirPods. There are no logos on the headphones. You get a proper fit in the channel, which ensures effective noise isolation and thus enables active functional noise cancellation.
Available in two color options, black and white, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i headphones each have three microphones that are used for active and ambient noise cancellation, as well as for voice calls. There is no IP rating for dust and water resistance, or even any established form of protection against spills or environmental exposure, so you will have to be careful with water with these headphones. Each earbud weighs 5.5g and I found the fit to be comfortable during long listening sessions.
The headphones have touch sensors on the top; You can control playback, invoke your phone’s voice assistant, and control sound modes through gestures. Controls can be customized using the Life of Huawei AI application (available only on Android). The application also allows you to update the firmware of the Huawei Freebuds 3i, when available, as well as to see the exact battery levels of each earbud and the charging case. It’s a pretty simple app that does its job, which is good.
The charging case is shaped like a pill and has a USB Type-C port
The charging case is neither too big nor too small, and it matches the color and texture of the headphones. There are indicator lights on both the exterior and interior, and a pairing button on the back for when you need to pair the headset with a new device. Charging is done through a USB Type-C port on the back.
What I didn’t like about the charging case is the way the headphones should be placed inside; they fit magnetically but are placed on their side. I was often confused about which headset was going and where, and while it wasn’t very inconvenient, it was definitely not as intuitive as I would have liked.
The Huawei FreeBuds 3i uses 10mm dynamic drivers and has a noise reduction of up to 32 dB. For connectivity, the headphones use Bluetooth 5 with support for SBC and AAC codecs. The declared battery life is 3.5 hours for the headphones and a total of 14.5 hours with the charging case; I managed to get close to these figures in mixed-use testing. This isn’t particularly good compared to other options in this price range, even considering there is active noise cancellation.
Good active noise cancellation on the Huawei FreeBuds 3i
Priced at Rs. 9,990, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is among the most affordable true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation. While this feature is usually pretty basic in terms of quality and flexibility in entry-level headphones compared to premium options, the FreeBuds 3i actually offer very good ANC performance for the price. Its three-microphone system appears to be quite effective and audibly eliminates everyday noise.
I paired an Android smartphone that supports the Bluetooth AAC codec with the FreeBuds 3i, using the headphones for music, videos, and calls. Also, I occasionally used it in conjunction with my MacBook Air. Sound quality, while not as good as some of our top picks in the true budget wireless space, is pleasant enough for regular listening and calls.
Starting off with hi-res music on Tidal, I listened to a master version of Close To You from The Avalanches. The first thing I noticed was some sparkle in the sound, with the Huawei FreeBuds 3i deftly reproducing the highs on this sample-based house track. The lows were refined and calculated, but they didn’t sound as good as in the Lypertek Tevi Y Creative atypical air.
With Treasure by Bruno Mars, I was able to hear the level of detail in the sound, as well as the capabilities of the midrange. Unlike most other true wireless earphones in this price segment, Huawei’s FreeBuds 3i have a somewhat balanced sonic signature; the sound doesn’t sound as natural and straightforward as with the Lypertek Tevi, but it’s definitely less focused on bass and treble than options like the JBL Tune 225TWS. The sound was quite detailed, with a reasonably spacious soundstage as well.
Much of this can be attributed to the quality of the source tracks. Standard Spotify and YouTube Music compressed audio streams sound a bit less detailed and clean. Although the sonic signature was the same, Treasure sounded a bit less refined and a bit lacking in finesse when it came to detail. The sonic signature also seemed to narrow a bit, with the brightness in the highs occasionally reaching unpleasant levels of sharpness. The Huawei FreeBuds 3i needs a good input to produce a good output; standard compressed audio highlights weaknesses in its tuning.
Although the sound quality is far from the best in this segment, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i makes up for it with effective noise cancellation that is largely on par with what you would get with much more expensive options like the Sony WF-SP800N. There was an audible reduction in typical household noise, including hum from ceiling fans and air conditioners. Even outdoors, the 3i FreeBuds managed to make things much quieter.
This helped with regular listening to music and calls, making the overall wearing experience much more enjoyable than with true wireless earbuds that fit the outer ear. Call quality was good in most situations, with active and ambient noise cancellation working well together to ensure good sound on both ends of the call.
While we have reviewed some impressive options in the true wireless market with prices below Rs. 10,000 in recent months, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is the first with active noise cancellation. Although the sound quality and codec compatibility do not match that of the Lypertek Tevi – our stream first option in this price range, it’s still a worthwhile pick if noise cancellation is important to you.
There are a couple of other shortcomings, including battery life and a lack of water resistance, but overall, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is a decent pair of true wireless earbuds that have the correct core functionality. If you are looking for a full experience with a good ANC, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is worth considering. That said, the Oppo Enco W51 It offers active noise cancellation at half the price, and it might also be worth a look.
Price: Rs. 9,990
- Comfortable fit in the channel
- Good app
- Balanced sonic signature
- Very good active noise cancellation for the price.
- Advanced codecs are not supported
- Average battery life
- No water resistance
Ratings (out of 5)
- Design / comfort: 4
- Audio quality: 3.5
- Battery Life: 3
- Value for money: 4
- Overall: 3.5