Huawei FreeBuds 3i True Wireless Earphones Review

Huawei’s various corporate and regulatory issues have put a heavy strain on the business, but that hasn’t stopped it from launching new products, especially in the audio and wearables sectors. Like many other brands, Huawei has entered the true wireless audio market in India with the launch of premium, competitively priced products that seek to take over the flagship options from Apple, Samsung and Sony. Recent product launches include the product I am reviewing today, the true Huawei FreeBuds 3i wireless earbuds.

Price at Rs. 9,990The Huawei FreeBuds 3i seems to be on par with options like the Apple AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3, but is significantly cheaper. These headphones offer active noise cancellation, app support, and more. But how do they sound? Find out in this review.

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The Huawei FreeBuds 3i supports the Bluetooth codecs SBC and AAC

Simple design, comfortable fit in the channel of the Huawei FreeBuds 3i

While we’ve seen a bit of adventurous design and eye-catching designs in true wireless headphones in this price range, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is different from most of the other options. The earbuds look simple, have a glossy plastic surface, and are shaped like the Apple AirPods. There are no logos on the earphones at all. You get a correct fit in the duct, which ensures effective noise isolation and thus enables functional active noise suppression.

The Huawei FreeBuds 3i earbuds come in two color options – black and white. They each have three microphones that are used for active and ambient noise cancellation and voice calls. There is no IP rating for dust and water resistance or even a specific form of protection against spillage or environmental influences. Hence, you need to be careful with water with these headphones. Each earbud weighs 5.5g and I found the fit to be comfortable for long listening sessions.

The earbuds have touch sensors on top; You can control playback, call up the voice assistant on your phone and control the sound modes using gestures. The controls can be customized with the Huawei AI Life App (only available for Android). The app also allows you to update the Huawei Freebuds 3i’s firmware, if available, as well as view the exact battery level of each earbud and charging case. It’s a pretty simple app that does its job, which is good.

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The charging case is pill-shaped and has a USB Type-C connector

The charging case is neither too big nor too small and matches the color and texture of the earbuds. There are indicator lights both outside and inside and a pairing button on the back if you need to pair the headset with a new device. The charging process takes place via a USB Type-C port on the back.

What I didn’t like about the charging case is the way the earbuds have to be put in. They snap in magnetically, but are positioned on the side. I was often confused about which earbud went where, and while it wasn’t particularly inconvenient, it was definitely not as intuitive as I would have liked.

The Huawei FreeBuds 3i uses 10mm dynamic drivers and has claimed noise rejection of up to 32dB. For connectivity, the headphones use Bluetooth 5 with support for the SBC and AAC codecs. The claimed battery life is 3.5 hours for the earphones and a total of 14.5 hours for the charging case. I managed to get close to these numbers when testing with mixed use. This isn’t particularly good when 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 headsets with active noise cancellation. While such a feature is usually fairly straightforward in terms of quality and flexibility in entry-level headphones compared to premium options, the FreeBuds 3i actually offers very good ANC performance for the price. The three-microphone system seems to be very effective and audibly reduces the noise of everyday life.

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The active noise cancellation with the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is very good for the price

I have an Android smartphone that supports the AAC bluetooth codec paired with the FreeBuds 3i and used the headphones for music, videos and calls. I’ve also used it with my MacBook Air on occasion. The sound quality is not quite as good as some of our top picks in the inexpensive real wireless area, but pleasant enough for regular listening and calling.

Starting with high definition music on Tidal, I listened to a Masters version of Close To You by The Avalanches. The first thing I noticed was a twinkle in the sound, with the Huawei FreeBuds 3i skillfully reproducing the highs in this sample-based house track. The lows were refined and calculated, but didn’t sound as good as the Lypertek Tevi and Creative Outlier Air.

With Bruno Mars’ Treasure, I could hear the level of detail of the sound as well as the capabilities of the middle range. Unlike most other true wireless headphones in this price range, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i has a slightly balanced sound signature. The sound doesn’t sound as natural and uncomplicated as the Lypertek Tevi, but it is definitely less geared towards bass and treble than options like the JBL Tune 225TWS. The sound was pretty detailed, with a reasonably spacious soundstage.

Much of this is due to the quality of the source traces. Standard compressed audio streams from Spotify and YouTube Music sound a little less detailed and clean. Although the acoustic signature was the same, Treasure sounded a little less sophisticated and lacked a bit of finesse when it came to details. The acoustic signature also seemed to narrow a little, and the twinkle in the heights occasionally hit uncomfortable levels of sharpness. The Huawei FreeBuds 3i needs good input to get good output. Audio compressed by default brings out the weaknesses in the tuning.

While the sound quality is nowhere near the best in this segment, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i makes up for this with effective noise cancellation, largely on par with much more expensive options like the Sony WF-SP800N. Typical household noise, including the buzz of ceiling fans and air conditioners, has been audibly reduced. Even outdoors, the FreeBuds 3i managed to make things a lot quieter.

This helped with regular listening to music and making phone calls, and made the overall user experience much more enjoyable than real wireless ear-fitting headphones. Call quality was good in most situations as Active and Ambient Noise Cancellation worked well together to ensure good sound at both ends of the call.

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The earbuds look simple, but the sound quality and ANC give the Huawei Freebuds 3i an edge

judgment

While we’ve been exploring some impressive options in the real cellular market, the one below Rs. 10,000 Huawei FreeBuds 3i is the first to feature active noise cancellation in the past few months. Even if the sound quality and codec support don’t match that of the Lypertek Tevi – our current top choice in this price range – it’s still a worthwhile choice if noise cancellation is important to you.

There are a few other shortcomings, including battery life and lack of water resistance, but on the whole, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is a decent pair of true wireless earbuds that really use their core functionality. If you are looking for a comprehensive experience with good ANC, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i is worth considering. That said, the Oppo Enco W51 offers active noise cancellation at half the price and may be worth a look too.

Price: Rs. 9,990

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